Freedom and Delirium

“take your family to Burger King or for Fried Chicken, and choose any carbonated drink you want, that is your liberty, and no one will interfere with it.”  — Ibrahim Nasrallah, Balcony of Delirium

Ibrahim Nasrallah’s Balcony of Delirium, the first in a trilogy by Palestinian novelist and poet in Amman, deals a lot with the idea of freedom, what you can do, what you can’t do and the gap between what is free, and what you think is free. Its got me thinking.

The book is about a Palestinian in Amman, but the discussion on freedom is hauntingly poignant for a rather wider audience.  In fact, I read an article the other week about a former classmate detained on his way from Canada to the US, a PhD researcher in Islamic studies, he had his computer confiscated for no reason other than what he studied. He can buy whatever kind of soda he wants though. 

Begs some tough questions: what is freedom? You can choose to study what you want, or go to the store when you want. This woman was harassed, so was my colleague.  They both are still free to shop or study, but are they really?

To wit, an excerpt from Balcony of Delirium, released in 2005, about a year after the April 2004,  publication of torture images from the American prison in Iraq, Abu Ghraib. That’s where the “naked mass” reference comes from. 

The First Song

Yes, you have the ability to close your eyes and turn your back, you can lose your patience and search for the remote control, find another channel that will put out the fire you suddenly sensed, and the bead of sweat that you felt roll from your neck all the way down your last vertebra.  

Yes… you can curse the language that gave you nothing more than the two words: terror and hell, and vanish in moments your dead children for unknown combinations and programs to pass the night. You can continue the lie on live air the moment you need it, like a reassurance for the future, spending the night with any film you choose. Don’t worry, they want nothing more from you than that. 

You can go far: go face things that are difficult, and discover the strange coincidence that your ability is dead just like the others, because they want nothing more from you than that. You can kiss your children before bed or not kiss them, you are at your liberty and no one will interfere , or sleep on your left or your right side, and dream about the most beautiful uncovered actress with eyes like moons made of magic, that is your liberty and no one will interfere. You can prepare breakfast at seven or at ten, and you can prepare white bread or black bread, there is no difference here, that is your liberty, and no one will interfere with it. 

You can worship the moon without them asking for your ten fingerprints, or a blood sample, or a genetic map, this is your liberty that no one will interfere with. You can love your wife, or remain faithful to the memory of Marilyn Monroe … take your family to Burger King or for Fried Chicken, and choose any carbonated drink you want, that is your liberty, and no one will interfere with it. 

You can have a simple home and stay in it or think about red bricks, or put a roof on your house of clay, or look forward eagerly to new marble entryways, this is your liberty that no one will interfere with. 

You can … but when they come … remember: You will not be more than that naked mass, atop a naked mass that was underneath … on top of a naked mass that is underneath; and perhaps they will mumble with humility, and they will see the bead of sweat that flows from your neck to the very last vertebra of your spine, and if so, you listen to their whispers!!! And they laugh …

Look forward to the darkness

Your Small

Cave 

(Translation by me. Apologies for roughness or errors)

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