* Find my original Facebook post here.
** Illustration and drawings by Sara El-Yafi
So it’s World Book Week where we celebrate books and stuff. You see, when I was a child the best form of entertainment was kicking my brothers or being kicked by them, which certainly kept us in shape and flexed our extensor retinaculums plenty, but also gave our parents the fear that we would grow up to become uncultivated, damaged street kids. Their answer? Books!
For our birthdays, spearheaded by aunt Nawal and mama, grown ups would offer us books. Damn books. I wanted a dog for about 14 years of my life, and one day I finally got a book about chihuahuas.. Done deal! I wanted to travel to Hawaii, they got me an atlas book.. Nice! I wanted to go out and party, I got a book called “Monsters eat whiny children”.. Great. They said, “Knowledge gives you wings.” Indeed! Maybe by force-feeding us books, the wise butterfly child in us might emerge from underneath all this savagery and chant Zarathustra verses as we flap across the living room. Well let me tell you, it worked! because the books were flapping alright as we used them as ammunition against each other, tossing them across the room in direction of the sibling’s cranium. Game over. Well done knowledge!
Looking back at our journey though, I can safely say that the results turned out to be sublime. Parents were right, books did us a lot of good, and we did well. So today, in honor of world book week and to help solve some of the savagery and violence in our world, I decided to use the same tactic and offer (downloadable) books to some of our world’s purported leaders standing at the forefront of all the savagery taking place today. Perhaps the knowledge may give them wings to flap to some extraterrestrial planet and stay there.
1. US President Barack Obama: A copy of his favorite philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr’s The Irony of American History. Yes Niebuhr (“nee-boor”) is Obama’s favorite philosopher but don’t get all insecure if you don’t know who that is, he’s not really famous. He was an American theologian who basically stated that Americans must “nurture a modest awareness of the limits of [their] own knowledge and power.” Indeed. By coming to terms with the hypocrisy of American hubris, the pretentious self-congratulatory claims of American superiority may allow them to get a real understanding of their problems, and will perhaps be forgiven by the rest of the world. False American claims have caused you and us much pain and suffering, and this book explains why it may be necessary to stop doing that. It is worth another read, Mr. President.
2. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: A copy of the holy ten commandments with special fluorescent highlighting emphasis on the 6th commandment “Thou shalt not kill” and the 10th commandment “[…] Thou shalt not covet any thing that is thy neighbor’s.” Worth a reminder I figured?
3. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey’s Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization. Here’s the gist: “A recent study showed that when doctors tell heart patients they will die if they don’t change their habits, only one in seven will be able to follow through successfully.” Surprise! Even when your life is literally on the line and the choice of survival is yours, the ability to change remains exasperatingly difficult. Well, in geopolitics, it’s not different. All death, nuclear war and its deadly consequences may not be enough of a deterrent to the defiance of self-destruction. In this book, the authors take a shot at finding a general way to unlock our potential and finally move forward instead. Ahmadinejad should give it a read.
4. North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un: You get this super best-seller Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life. Let’s set this straight: The sons of powerful male figures conventionally have a hard time shining as bright as their dads because the challenge of filling their father’s shoes is an overbearing weight that swells them with intolerable insecurities of not being up to par. Thus, the odds that they grow up to be -comparative- failures are fairly high. It’s hard for a son to excel in the same field that his father exceptionally mastered because there is not much space left to creatively fill. Look at Jon and Sean Lennon. Bob and Jakob Dylan. Martin Luther King Jr and Martin Luther King III. Bachir and Nadim Gemayel. Winston and Randolph Churchill. Bugs Bunny and Pugs Bunny etc. They must go through life living in the shadow of the prowess of their fathers and trying to prove that they are “worthy”. There are a couple of scenarios for them: Either they become self-effaced, or they do the brutal opposite: they resort to violence and abuse to prove to their judging surroundings that they too have power and that they are valiant warriors dripping with masculine intimidation worthy of respect. I believe Bashar El Assad did just that. So it might be worth trying to save this supreme leader from his insecurities, because hey, it might save us too.
5. French President Francois Hollande: A copy of the book Befriending your ex after the divorce. It’s difficult, we’ve all faced a version of it, sometimes it’s not necessary but in this case, it’s necessary.
6. Lebanon’s March 14th and March 8th: A copy of Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson’s Why Nations Fail. One of the most highly praised books recently written on economics and politics is “Why Nations Fail” where the authors brilliantly answer the questions that have baffled experts for centuries: why are some nations rich and others poor? Why are some nations stricken with poverty, disease and famine while others glow with wealth, health and riches? Well guess what, it turns out that it is not culture, it is not weather, it is not geography, it is not divine destiny, but it is “man-made political and economic institutions that underlie success.” There, 678 pages summarized! A successful nation is a product of the people, and the people only. People who love their nation, who create incentives, reward innovation, allow everyone to participate in economic opportunities. People who create governments that become accountable and responsive to its citizens. People who respect and understand each other even when they disagree. And guess what, this formula has given the same results throughout the centuries: those nations thrive and thrive and thrive and they are the leaders of the first world. Read this book, then retreat to some island and let us build this nation.
7. The Lebanese people: The book I love you but I don’t trust you: The Complete Guide to Restoring Trust in Your Relationship. I’ve said it before and I will say it again and again, it is only after we understand each other’s fears and pains that we shall finally get along and start this serious work of nation-building.
8. The Syrian people: This cute book called Time for a Hug because although the majority of us don’t want to give you our attention, nor our solace, nor our time, nor our resources, nor our saving, nor our concern, we may be able to spare a hug sometime maybe next month after we finish watching Game of Thrones season 2. Til then, you may try to find internet somewhere and download the hug on amazon.
10. My readers: Well. You get my posts and my specially-made illustrations. I love you and thanks for all the support.
Happy book week.