I’ve been toying with the idea of creating this section for some time now. My blog is mostly about personal stuff. It is not surprising that my writings tend to dwell on life, death, and trying to deal with existence. I like to ponder about possibilities. But I also have this habit of reading about the affairs of the world.
Three years ago, I’ve taken a particular interest on the Syrian Civil War. As a Filipino, my knowledge about the Middle East is quite limited. History was not my favorite subject, at least not when I was at school. I’ve heard tidbits from my mother who worked as a domestic helper more than three decades ago; first in Kuwait, to a wonderful family who treated her like their own. Her stories about this family were told many times during my childhood that it feels like I knew them. My mom has a box full of photographs of the three children she looked after.
She told me about their everyday life there – how the youngest loved to fall asleep next to her, how they love spicy food, how they spend the coldest part of the year, how she has to record the football matches so the male employer can watch it after work, how the wife told her about Muslims and Christians having them same God but calling Him in different names. My favorite bit is about the overseas trip they took where they brought my mother along. They drove through Iraq. One time, they got lost and ended up in a restricted section where Iraqi border guards confronted the patriarch of the family. It was a good thing that they got away with a small admonishment only. They dropped by Syria where Baba (that’s what my mom call the male employer) was going to meet a family friend who is a Christian Syrian. They stayed at Damascus for the night. When the Christian man learned that my mother is also of the same faith, he prepared a special meal for her – something that she has not tasted for a long time since she started working. My mother’s favorite memory was that in Sofia, Bulgaria. But that’s for another story.
Anyway, my mother stayed with them for three years. They hated to see her go. The children took it the hardest. But she had to. It was the build-up of the Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Mama, the female employer, made my mother promise that she will go back once the war is over. But sadly, it never happened. My mother was sent to Saudi Arabia instead of Kuwait when she applied again. This time, she had problems with her employers and she faked an illness in order to be sent back to the Philippines after three months.
My mother’s stories never got me curious enough in order to discover and learn more about that volatile part of the globe. And neither did my history teachers who were too textbook-driven that history classes were never interesting. My college years opened my eyes to this subject. I think I’ve taken three history courses, two of them about Asian history. As a trademark of The University of the Philippines, we were not taught to swallow everything handed to us. Instead, we were encouraged to think outside the box, to question everything. My major classes draw my eyes into the role played by media in shaping reality. We learn all about agenda setting and many other mass communication theories. Information is a powerful tool. The one who controls it can control an entire population.
So what has all of this got to do with my interest on the Middle East affairs? Well, I read the news more often than before these days. They are splashed in every online newspaper’s home pages. In 2012, the mass hysteria from the Western press about the Syrian Civil War was hard to miss. They publish article after article about the evil dictator, Assad. I was surprised to find that the media can be blatantly biased. They were the last ones I expect to beat the drums of war. I guess I expected too much from them.
It is good to note that the free press we rely on for information have their own motives and agenda. They have leanings and commercial interests. And they are not consistent. Some mainstream media are owned by big corporations. Some are controlled by a single person.
It will also be wise to follow the news and retain your memory for more than five minutes. I find the developments more interesting than the initial report itself. Just look at the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, for example. The news went from “Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashes in east Ukraine” to “Malaysia Airlines plane MH17 ‘shot down‘ in Ukraine” to “Pro-Russia rebels accused of cover-up over MH17 atrocity” to “MH17: Ukraine claims ‘compelling evidence‘ of Russian involvement.” One year later, the investigation is still going on and the truth is not yet established. Sometimes, the media also resort to willful distortion and ignorance. As a precautionary measure, I take what I read with a grain of salt. Sometimes, I need a tablespoon of it.
This category will be all about the things I read from the news, mostly my reaction and two cents. I am not delving into theoretical, technical and in-depth analysis. I don’t claim to be an expert in geopolitical affairs, and I am not discussing the politics of it (maybe not in a way that some of you might expect.) This is meant for personal observations and opinions only. This is also one way of recording important and not-so important events that caught my attention. So if you are looking for scholarly materials, I’m afraid this is not the place to be. Some of the things I will post may not be popular among the masses. Some might be offensive to others. If so, kindly let me know in a civil way so I can amend it. Or we can agree to disagree. Some might not be conclusively factual. When that happens, please reach out to me and set me straight. That is the only way to curb my ignorance.
Any feedback is welcome, especially criticisms. I hope that this will be a two-way learning process. I can do with more knowledge. After all, life is a never-ending journey of learning and discovering. In return, I wish to impart something positive. Or at the very least, may this section provoke your thoughts.