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Walking on Arab Street
Highly improbable that an entire race should be deprived of the minimal common sense

December 24, 2003
The Iranian

Professionally, it is a very bad time for me. My revenues have plummeted. As a stock, I have plummeted. As a prospect, I am as bright as a Monday morning in Minsk.

My digestive system is busier than my brain. Frankly I'm not surprised: the day begins with a large coffee and croissant (once I axed the kitchen door down to get the coffee, shrieking, "Heerre I Come"), followed at noon by pizza preceded at 11 by a bun ("Doktor, ven I march past ze Reichpastry shop, ze donuts, zey shout unt shout 'ett me'" "Waddadey shay," asks Barbara Stroudletank, my shrink, "zey say 'Hey looser eat me', or sometimes, 'Try Me Big Boy'?").

Then it is afternoon tea (Panettone and tea "chillout"), perhaps with an apple turnover ('dollop' goes the cream) or baklava to block that "crash-of-79 feeling", and for dinner, something light - bean sprouts, say - followed by eight Ferrero Rocher chocolates I eat while staring into space. (I recommend the book, "Mein Shtruggle" by Ferrero Rocher, a story of tears and laughter and one man's fight against tragic Cream-Puff 'Gaseous Vortex' Syndrome).

International affairs at least are going my way, and several items have recently brought me close to tears.

I was moved listening to George W. Bush and Queen Elizabeth II address a state banquet in London. The monarch concluded her speech with a quote from the elder Bush: "We know what is right, freedom is right." Wonderful: I had a stinging feeling in my nose.

Then there was the moment L. Paul Bremer III told a Baghdad press conference, "Lladies and gentlemen, we got him." The Iraqis burst into cheers: the American viceroy was visibly moved. Was he moved by the triumph of American arms? That is what a malicious former socialist would say. But watching the news item you could see that he must have felt an élan, as the French say, a pang in the heart, on seeing Iraqis in the audience jump and shout for joy.

I was an assiduous student of geography at school, scrutinising the map of the Soviet empire for hours, redrawing borders, pushing the evil state back to Siberia, some days pulling the Ottoman Empire back into Europe, at the expense of communist Bulgaria and Rumania. They should have left the Austrian Empire in 1918, a polyglot land of waltzes, cakes and contented people sipping coffee. (So happy they lost their wits it seems: an Austrian official was warned about the Bolshevik exiles in Vienna before World War I, plotting revolution in Russia. "And who is going to lead that revolution," the official reportedly scoffed, "Mr. Trotsky sitting every day at the Café Centrale?")

Iran, I would expand back into the Caucasus, but I wonder now, do we want our former subjects back? All those mourners for Aliev indicate a less than satisfactory level of intelligence among Azeris, dimmed by 70 years of communism and 15 years of Aliev. The Georgians knew what was best, with a few hints from CNN and the BBC. Why would anyone mourn Heidar Aliev, when he was no better (and we may guess that you, Alidad, consider him far worse) than General Pinochet?

("Aliev, khe was a great man.. akha..akhaa.." Weep. But why, what has he ever done for you? You queue all day for a sausage. "I no mind da stinky sausage.. akhaaahaaa
Papa Heidar, he gone.. we luuv khim... akhaa.." ).

Some might say again that I am abusing and caricaturing a nation to amuse myself: I say, "Up Yowrs Guvnar," if I may quote the philosopher Dick van Dyke.

And what of the stupidity of those Arabs who have not cheered the arrest of Saddam? Trust the press to put a negative spin on this little triumph: he was a symbol of Arab resistance or affirmative action, you read and hear. What rot. The Arabs are a miserable bunch if they prefer symbols to freedom, lawful government and private enterprise -- is my message to the "Arab Street".

I also have an Arab Development Manifesto ("fixit awright?") my secretary is typing out, soon to be published and distributed across the Middle East. Here's an extract from Article 2, "Shake yar fat ass Mr. fuzzy bureaucrack: Yaw-wake up -- smell da mean mother coffee." No, just kidding, I'll do a spell check before it goes to the printers.

The Arabs know better of course: simply because the law of probabilities makes it highly improbable that an entire race should be deprived of the minimal common sense needed to recognise a good thing when they see it.

I saw a wonderful poster for a play or show in New York last year, called something like: Since the End of Communism My Life Has been Empty. I wouldn't go so far. I keep busy. I am making a giant rabbit out of my Ferrero Rocher wrappers, and there's Barbara once a week.

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By Alidad Vassigh





Book of the day

The Clash of Civilizations
The remaking of world order
By Samuel P. Huntington

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