The Magical Self-Cleaning House of Al Twani, Occupied Palestine

Posted on 26th March 2014 in Notes, Reflections, Stories

for Luna

by H. Gibrain

 

Sometimes the strangest things happen in the most ordinary places. Normally such happenings would be classified as miracles because they seem to defy logic and the laws of nature, but there are no miracles; there is an explanation for everything, sometimes it is just so foreign to the capacity for understanding and located in so remote a region on Earth that it is experienced by so few within that context it seems so entirely normal to the indigenous. Yet, it is never elevated to the status of miracle because only a handful of people – in the hands of god, of course – bear witness to it on a regular basis so to them it seems entirely normal and it requires that more than one person at a time experience it to qualify it as such. This is the case in the remote village of Al Twani, Occupied Palestine.

 

It was on such a rare occasion when a small group of unsettled people came to occupy a space in this place, albeit for a very short period of time. These people fit into the broad category of “people who know things are not right.” They know, somehow, that there is a way to change the shituation and they are looking for that magical key to open up the door to the past – the door of to the house of return, discovering the twisted history of a land, a peoples, a narrative and so much more than those things: a reality of collective trauma and suffering injustices imposed upon them by another tribe of collectively traumatized individuals so entirely disconnected from their karmic debt they created a story of triumph for their future to convince themselves they were not victims but victors. This is one way to deal with the past sufferings of a people. There is no justice in this method since, by the very same laws of nature that prevent miracles from happening, such stories require a new victim.

 

An alternative would have been the long and arduous process of understanding what went wrong, where and at whose hands were they bloodied so when their time came to assume a position of power their hands would be clean of the guilt and shame which brought them to this place of despair they had to dissociate from. It would be odd, and violent, to say that their success required someone else to suffer – though this is the story of the collective trauma of human history, there are alternative paths to a peaceful resolution absolving anyone and everyone of the guilt, shame and blood that have soiled the collective hands and lands of human history – perhaps elevating the species to a collective status of demigods and goddesses running wild and free in the Garden.

 

In the world of theater objects can speak, breath and take on lives of their own. “All the world is a stage,” it has been said so you can imagine that when a group of weary travelers seeking to unlock and unleash the past from the enchanted prison there is not limit to the mysterious, fascinating and frustrating things that one, or a group of ones, may encounter. To arrive at such a place as Al Twani there seems nothing mysterious at all. One might measure a simultaneity of humility and generosity wrought of the kinds of humiliation that an inherently peaceful people, thinking as one mind and breathing as one body, are subject to. To walk into an unwitting house in such a place seems normal enough: gravity is the same, floors are horizontal, there are sinks and beds and chairs and windows. The real magic comes in the middle of the night when most normal, decent, god fearing people are sleeping so the village dogs and cats can do the dirty work of restoring the loving order of the confused psychic energy that occupies the small spaces between olive trees, chamomile, cactus and clover; diffusing the air around goats, sheep, chickens and millipedes that accumulates as a result of peoples unaware enough to attribute the blood sweat and tears of loving hands and lands – working behind the scenes – to miracles. Such people are fools.

 

To wake up in the morning to a clean kitchen, for example, would make it seem like the kitchen cleans itself. After all, when some 30 people are occupying such a small house, each of them leaving their little item behind thinking, “hmm, there are some olive pits and a candy wrapper in the sink, the sink must be the garbage in this magical town” or “yesterday that garbage pail was empty and now it is full and I will now place on top of this pile the critical mass from my ass that will make it all magically disappear.” Cigarette filers, empty bottles and cups – no problem. There are little faeries which double as hotel servants in first world countries who, in their spare time, flit their wings just once and will themselves across oceans, through valleys, over mountain tops and through the vast network of caves carved from time immemorial to come to towns like Twani to do the dirty work of mischievous fools who are traversing the nether regions of their spiritual life somewhere between lost and wandering. These faeries, if they could, they would no doubt wipe your ass for you but most of you have figured out, since a time not long after birth, when the diaper was ready to come off, that the ass does not clean itself. In fact, it requires some semblance of careful attention, a gentle hand and a versatile wrist skilled in the martial art of wiping. So you get to your ass before the faeries leaving them to clean the mound of human waste accumulating next to the inadequate toilet that somehow seems to be enough for the peoples of Al Twani.

 

Different cultures have different customs. Humans are amazingly adaptive creatures. One can move from, say, a modern full on exquisitely decorated bathroom built on the occupied lands of North America – where the indigenous peoples once live freely as inhabitants of the land – to modernish yet humble hills on the Occupied Territories of the West Bank of Palestine, come across the need to cleanse themselves of the dust and dirt that inevitably accumulates on human flesh, and re-figure out what soap is. This is an easy task. Soap has both a universal appeal and a small set of universal shapes that make it highly identifiable as soap. However, certain structures are seemingly so out of the realm and context of privileged peoples that common sense seems to catch a ride on the rising smoke from cigarettes and the vapor from coffee and dissipate into the air we all breath. Where in the lands named after an Italian explorer, collecting land for Empire abroad – stolen from the indigenous, not a single soul would spill a bottle of olive oil on their kitchen floor and walk away thinking it, too, would magically vaporize into the air we breath or somehow sop itself up and find its way to dress their salad; these same people will, when they come to the occupied lands – collected for Empire abroad from where they began their lost wandering, come to the conclusion that wet floors will mop themselves, that shelves will self organize and replace absconded goods. The only way for such things to occur, of course, is that such a house, such a small house occupied by such a small, intelligent, and good willed people, must be a magical house.

 

Where magic fails due to little flaws in the divine plan, simple tools can be used to accommodate such inconveniences as wet floors, soiled toilets, garbage piles, dirty dishes, blood stained floors and any matter of clutter, accumulation and a lack of organization. Where magic fails, common sense mixed with a little logic and extrapolation can remove hard to get out stains, dry wet dish towels, empty dish racks stacked with clean dishes, and evacuate the foul air of human animals splayed out on cushions clustered into corners of rooms as they sing their midnight madrigals. When all of the faeries have gone back to their hotels to serve Wasichu (“white man as occupier”), when logic has returned to its rightful place in the sky, when the people of good intention decide to step out of the enchanted prison to which they, themselves, hold the key in the palm of their hand and decide to realize that they are not lost and are only wandering amid the endless beautiful diversity of beings and spirits, the collective shame, guilt, trauma and discord will rise into the skies on the back of mister nice guy and humiliation will be restored to humility, the hatred and anger wrought of denial will be replaced by love, the occupied land will once again be inhabited land and all of the magic that took care of the shit people were too lazy or too stupid to come to terms with will be replaced by gentle hands skill in the art and craft of caring for the land and each other as if everything were a baby just born and still covered by whatever it is that covers babies when they leave the comfort of those wonderful substances that keep us comatose as we get ourselves ready to prepare for a life in the enchanted prison.

Wall Vaulting: The New Fad Sport of Nonviolent Popular Resistance in Palestine

by Enchanted Prison Guard

 

There are many forms of non-violent popular resistance – of which there are many types. There is the type in which civil society is simply rebuilding its own identity through the forms. There is the type of direct confrontation between belligerent occupier and the occupied. There is the type in which individuals educate themselves and act with the intention to educate others of the forms and types of non-violent popular resistance. I’m sure there are more. Please send me your thoughts.

Of course, some forms employ a mix of types. Sports for example, no matter where they are played, tend to build relationships of many types, some cooperative, some competitive, some mutually inductive and some mutually restrictive. In any case, so it seems, a new fad sport appears to be evolving in the West Bank of Palestine incorporating a study of the forms and types of Nonviolent Popular Resistance using sport, education, team building, media outreach, and communication with the police and military on both sides which directly engages both occupier and occupied with the intention of having fun and making a point. As you can tell from the title of this piece, pole vaulting the wall/Wall appears to becoming a popular sport in the West Bank of Palestine.

Teams are training in class rooms studying the principles of peaceful beautiful resistance: Gandhi, Sharp, King Jr., Galtung and international law are just a small part of the required reading material for the curriculum. Then of course there is the rigorous training in sport employing a mutually inductive cooperation through competition. These people are strong. Intellectually. Physically. Morally.

People are reaching out to the media to inform the world of who they are and what is their intention. To put it simply, in the words of one of the participants, “simply stated, the wall is not impenetrable. We penetrate it with love… in our hearts and we make it known that we are non-violent and this has a profound effect on any act of physical violence the Israeli Defense Force or Police might take against us. We get arrested. We have lawyers. Some of us spend time in jail. Some of us get tortured. A few of us have been brutally wounded. One of us was killed. We know the risks. We’re Committed. We just turn around and do it again. The word is getting out and it’s making it difficult for the Israeli Army to do anything in terms of physical violence at this point. We have a lot of international support through the media, the internet, and even the Secretary General of the U.N. Has commented in support of our actions.”

The group, of course, calls themselves Palestinian Wall Vaulters for Peace and they work with a group affiliated with security called Fighters for Peace which is comprised of former Palestinian and Israeli combatants who act, essentially as observers and human shields. They also work with “Doctors Beyond Boundaries” for obvious reasons as well as Free Legal Aid, an array of international lawyers working pro bono publico for other obvious reasons.

I am told there is a website in the works. Apparently some one bought the best combinations of domain names when they heard of the group and the group is not yet in a position to purchase any of them (for not so obvious reasons) and is reluctant to choose amongst the list of poor combinations that might be available.

Needless to say, they’re looking for support. They’re not asking for any money. Poles are cheap and the attire is not well defined yet. The wall/Wall is where it is and it is what it is so there are many locations for practice and performance.  The type of support they are looking for is in the form of acknowledgement (if not solidarity with the same forms and types they are engaged with): that they have the inalienable right to self determine, to human rights (at least at its current theory and practice) and to provide for their human needs unimpeded.

At the moment they are asking not to take or expose any pictures since it just makes it easier to be spotted as they usually set up “flying break points” spoofing on the “flying checkpoints” the Israeli Defense Force might set up. “We hope people will come to Palestine and experience our beautiful culture and experience all there is to experience in the West Bank,” says one of the organizers for the group.

Political Asylum in Palestine

Posted on 10th March 2014 in Poetry, Reflections, Self Determination

I don’t mind the too much smoke too much
the tiling and counter tops are exquisite
the rubble from house demolitions
and pulverized minds
everywhere barely noticeable
stray dogs disinterested in human flesh
in the Ghetto of Ramallah
a dusty place I am told
human skin meteorite and white phosphorous
nose food du jour
waiting for the next incursion

 

pole vaulting the wall
new fad sport
keeping the occupiers preoccupied
sipping pomegranate fresh
from the skull cup of your monkeyed child
lemon and mint overlooking Nablus
your guilt becomes neuroses
Shiraz from Ksiesh
sick on your own medicine
planning the next excursion

 

you’ve all become the victims
cut off from each other
you no longer know yourselves
the plan to prevent
civil unrest east and west
Damscus gate Jerusalem
ancient place of restructured history
occupied colonized uncivilized
there are no sweet angels
on stolen land

 

even the artists forgot the art
the politic an inescapable reality
all fighting amongst themselves
don’t have to talk to each other
coexisting the next best thing to killing
on the front lines of UN borders
where the felafel is always fresh
sustenance for the soul of combat
through dance music theater child
feel the warmth of the coffee and culture
homeless in the homeland
the bitter tide of privilege

The Last Revolution on Earth

Posted on 4th March 2014 in Notes, Reflections, Self Determination

Foreword: I want to be perfectly clear, since I’ve already lost a few friends over this prelude to a short story, that I am in perfect health (to the best of my knowledge). This piece is a back-handed thank you for all of the well wishes I’ve received for completing another revolution around the sun; it is a call to loving arms of non-violent popular resistance of internal revolution – a transformation of self loathe to self love so that all of us can begin to do the dirty work of loving everything around us from seven generations into the past into the future. Aho Mitakye Oyasin – All of my relations.

*      *      *

Preludium

It will come as no surprise to you, in the most general sense, that we are all mortal. You will die to feed the crumbling Earth. You’ve seen your parents go. An occasional sibling or friend carved out of the picture a little sooner than you expected. You mourn and you carry on with all of life’s enticements, distractions and the things we dedicate ourselves to under the impression that it makes a difference for the general state of affairs on Earth: ease the pain maybe for some or increase the level of violence and destruction for others depending on what your god sanctioned or how brutally you were raped of your capacity for compassion and empathy. So how will you deal with this news I am about to tell you.

This is my last revolution on Earth – around the sun. I didn’t chose to be here – to the best of my knowledge and recollection – to begin with. And I certainly was hoping I might have the opportunity to die healthy in some field in Upstate NY laying in a bed of sweet grass, heather, bedstraw, cleavers, clover and queen anne’s lace. Maybe I’ll make it back there in time. Maybe time will take me back before I get to kiss my sweet friends goodbye, visit the burial sites of my family who, too, were taken too soon or gave of themselves the ultimate sacrifice out of humiliation before the eyes of the divine. In my case, it will be a creeping death until I can’t take it anymore and decide to end my life when the pain becomes unbearable. When my disease ridden body can no longer maintain its physical integrity and I start bleeding from the inside out, my flesh rotting, my friends and family – the few left, can no longer bear to look at me when their suffering becomes greater than mine.

I’m telling you this because I want you to know that I love you. I have always loved you and was too afraid to express it. I was unable to share with you my deepest feelings and desires of love. Had I been bold enough and, maybe, not struggling with mixed messages of superiority and utter inadequacy I would have given of myself selflessly as I had always felt the need to do. As I have always felt compelled to overlook any intrusion of fear and simply give of myself what I wanted to give to you without inhibitions as to how you might perceive what is really nothing but generosity. Yet this sort of giving, this style of generosity is biblical and has no place in a modern western society where big brother is too busy watching us watching him watching us missing the point. Love has no place in a world phased on egotistical projections of narcissistic assholes whose inculcation was a message of rape, estrangement, dispossession disguised behind the mighty dollar and dogmatic regimes.

I realize I sound cynical, angry, twisted and without love or joy and this might well be true as I have spent my life learning and teaching compassion with the realization that we are all subject to the very same conditions and that the very core of our humanity is comprised of a simultaneity of utter despair and confusion of being too scared and afraid to accept what we know as deeply imprinted in our DNA and superficially masked by any number of devices we’ve designed for ourselves to pretend there is anything divine in existence- our existence. Our mortal existence. Yet I know there is not one soul among you who can look me in the eye and pretend that you know anything other than the fact that what we do here on this earth, how we live, and how we die, stays here. Unlike me, you shall have to mourn my death as I will be leaving here relatively soon. I will not mourn your death. I mourn the lives of those of you too scared and to traumatized to let go of the language that enslaves you in the cowards dream; in the oppressors nightmare that was created for you that you somehow came to believe. Even those of you who challenged the nightmare were still owned by it. You should have walked away smiling without a fight leaving the perpetrator to languish alone.

I can say that I’m happy to be leaving and if I had the courage I would do it now but after what I’ve been through and, more importantly, what those few remaining family members have witnessed and what my dear friends have each suffered alone, I don’t feel its right to put that burden on them – on you. Indeed, this letter is enough of a suicide threat to bring some to their knees and I don’t want to be responsible for any ones suffering as I have lived a life trying to avoid that: causing the direct or proxy suffering of any living being that wasn’t for the sole purpose of my sustenance and vitality. Now things are quite different and I don’t have a great deal of time to fret about niceties and to ponder ad nauseum what the right thing to do is based on every ones unique experiences and perceptions dancing on a mantle of thin ice for a race of people who will no doubt cross the finish line huffing, bleeding, drowning in their own love and loathe; your own. I know some of you get it and will read this farewell note as the blessing I intend it to be, seeing through the words themselves to embrace the essence of our collective mortality as something to dance macabre.

In reality this is a call to action. Not for me. I’m cool with my fate but I’m tired of your cowardice. I’m tired of watching people when they are needed the most to give of themselves shut down and close off to the people who are asking in silence to come to their rescue, to come to caress them in their time of greatest need when they are most vulnerable and feel most humiliated when their vision degenerates, when they become incontinent, invalid, and too damned ashamed to expose their base humanity as a result of foolish pride and vanity that we re somehow supposed to die a glorious and beautiful death that when we’re lain in our caskets people will tell us we look peaceful knowing full well that is only what they, what you, hope for yourself. That you will suck it up and live as a slave to anything that will buy you out of your inability to simply shed all of the mythos that drives your subconscious and steers you like a dangling marionette – a hollow ghost of the would be you that is both raging inside against the injustice teeming around you as you are cowered underneath your manger hiding from both the brutal warlord and the fanatic revolutionary.

Think about it. My fate is sealed. I will not be here for you to love or to hate within six months time and you will, like you have your grandparents, your heroes, untold child victims of war, forget not about me, but about yourself. You will forget that you are not living as a brave. That you are not living as this day meant something more than fulfilling some bogus mandate carved out for you by heartless oppressors. That beyond the dome above your head there is an infinity without questions or answers or meaning except what you decide for yourself and the rest them/us. Or will you?

Interview on WVKR’s Activist Radio about Peace Studies, the Arts in Transforming Conflict and the Arts in Palestine

Posted on 10th January 2014 in Interviews, Peace, Self Determination, Theory

Fred and Gary of Activist Radio, a primetime program on WVKR, had me as their guest to discuss my academic studies in Peace and Conflict Transformation and my interests and intentions working in and with the performing, literary, display and culinary arts as a common ground for dialogue in healing trauma, transforming conflicts, rebuilding personal and collective identities and creating a new common narrative for building a future of reconciliation and engagement on the playground of our commonalities.

Listen to the interview >>

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Listen to the entire program >> 

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Here are some links to important articles and interviews:

Interviews: Youth, Art & Levante – Dance in Palestine: Spotlight on the Differently Abled

Posted on 26th December 2013 in Interviews, Self Determination

I hosted Activist Radio on WVKR on Thursday December 26th, 2013 to feature the work of Yante – Youth, Art & Levante  and the remarkable work they do. Yante is a Palestine based dance troupe and teaching center whose work fouses on transforming personal and social trauma into personal and social growth. I spoke with  Yante’s founder, Nadia Arouri, and program manager Nora Markt, as well as DanceAbility Internacional México’s director and choreographer Lulú Arroyo Menéndez and Palestinian/American Composer Tareq Abboushi to discuss the upcoming collaboration with Yante, Lulu and Tarq in April. Please take a look at the indiegogo campaign to learn more about the upcoming performance >>

Interview with Nadia and Nora: 

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Interview with Lulu: 

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Interview with Tareq: 

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A reading of an excerpt from “Rethinking the Palestinian Future” by Richard Falk from a lecture delivered at the The Institute for Palestine Studies in Beirut, Lebanon on 25, April 2013 (reproduced with permission from the author) >> 

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Again, check out the Indiegogo campaign here >>