By Tareq Neman
Walking on the streets of old Damascus is an adventure. It is like using the time machine and travelling to another period of time, another period of history, any kind of history. It helps us to relax and train our imagination, picturing the old life of the Damascenes and trying to imagine it in reality. Just the point is that we were not there, so how should we imagine their shapes, their custom, their way of walking, their expressions, the way they were acting or fighting, hugging each other or pushing each other. According to the Psychology and Physiology, our brain uses collective memory to recognize things that we see and the selective memory to recognize things we haven’t seen before. The brain matches and creates correspondence between what we have in the selective and collective memories, giving us the image that we are asking for. Therefore, our visual history depends on what we have seen, collected, learned. Our visual history is something what we make. Back to the street of old Damascus; 99% of the new generation will imagine the people of old Damascus in a loose, black pants (sherwal), wearing a scarf or a small hat and jacket without sleeves, with big and well-combed mustaches. We will imagine them walking and making some special noise, while moving their feet on the ground and saluting everybody around them. This image is not something originated from our DNA or a thing that we are born with. It has been planted in our imagination by unlimited scenes from TV series that we got used to, and we remember it each time when we picture an old Damascene. And now let’s say that we are in one of the Gulf countries… Or let us not go that far. If I want you to imagine a man from one of the Gulf countries, our brains will probably evoke the image of white-dressed man with red or white scarf (keffiyeh) and a headband, sitting in a desert or among a number of people wearing the same thing. Sometimes we will imagine them riding horses, sometimes shepherding the sheep. But is that the real picture of them now? Another picture we evoke, when we remember or try to imagine an American, will be one of the three main characters: the ‘super hero’ soldier, the business man, and the adventurer. None of those characters is a loser or ignorant. While when we want to imagine a Russian guy, we will rather see a gangster, a well-dressed man, whose major feature is that he is a member of mafia or invincible dual spy. All those images were planted in our heads. Most of us have never been to Russia, America or even to the Gulf countries. But we watch TV and movies, which are the main source of our collective and selective memories. Therefore, the question is what the others may think about Syrian people? The picture of the Syrian man that others could have, using the data that we, Syrians, give to the others, will be an answer to the question why others think that we are easygoing people.
All what we are giving to the others is the information about the traditional, close-minded, historical men; people with all kind of criminal minds; radicals; very social women; hopeless lovers; men that cheat women and girls; if we want to show that we are successful, we will show some business men. Is it the right image of us? If it is not, why do we use it? But if it’s real, so why should we present it to others? Why should we show our dirt to the nations that are spending billions to hide their faults and weak points? Someone said: “lie, and keep lying until they believe you”. So what do we want others to think about us? Do we want them to see that we are nothing but history and that our society is full of contradictions? Syrian people belong to the most reasonable and successful people in the world, but those who are supposed to plant the idea about us in the minds of the others (the actors, directors and scriptwriters), seem to be working without purpose to change our picture. I think that we are making an unbelievable mistake by not lying, because it is illusion that makes everything real. Believe your dreams, so they it will become true. Dreams come from the same source of imagines, which is the collective and selective memory.
Let us dream, let us imagine the best for us! Let us impose our dreams on the others! We deserve to lead the nations and we have the abilities and the tools needed to do that; we have the historical background, the power of the present and the hope for the future. We have the ability to lead those who are grazing sheep and the ability to control those who are ruling the world.