The Dark Times

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”
Bertolt Brecht

This is one of my all-time favorite protest videos from Syria. It took place in Aleppo on March 22, 2013, supposedly well-after the civil uprising phase ended. But even as the uprising increasingly took on an armed character, mass politics still existed. You can even see a few local armed rebels participating. But it’s the content of the chants that really makes this a beautiful protest:

“Mortar, another mortar
You are shelling your own people you traitor
I don’t care about all the shelling anymore
I have my freedom, it appeals to me”

“Syria really is for everyone, we don’t have any sectarianism here.”

Despite what the revisionists say, in 2011 a real radical social movement emerged. Against overwhelming odds, that social movement survived for months. It has all but been extinguished now. Those who participated in have either left the country, been killed, been imprisoned, or they simply grew disillusioned and joined an armed group. Nevertheless, despite all the machinations of foreign and local powers to stamp out this revolutionary spirit, this movement will re-emerge at some point in the future, for the social contradictions that spurred it have yet to be resolved. Resignation and despair may win in the short or medium-term. The civil war may continue unabated for a long time. A Lebanon-style sectarian power-sharing solution may be imposed on it from the outside, and elite politics may govern the country for a time. But no matter how dark things get, I am confident that this social movement will come into prominence once more, just like it did this year in Iraq after 12 years of invasion and civil war, in Lebanon after a century of sectarian elite politics, and in Palestine after 67 years of displacement and occupation. Victory is not inevitable: none of these movements have achieved victory yet. But it is necessary that we discern what is a step in the right direction and what is not, and to see through the haze of the dark times.

1 comment
  1. Well said.

    I wonder if Hannah Arendt was inspired by Brecht’s poem when she wrote “Men in Dark Times”, which engages on that soul-searching quest of what does one do in a time of horror. Brecht, of course, was one of the subjects in these biographical essays, along with Jasper, Walter Benjamin, and – of course – Rosa Luxemburg.

    “Freiheit ist immer die Freiheit des Andersdenkenden”

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