I am dating a Syrian guy I met on tinder. I don’t remember why I even swiped right. I guess it was his beard and hair bun, things I gladly like, becomes handy in universal hipster times. We didn’t speak much, because we started our conversation with the question:
Do you wanna come out for a drink?
And just because he asked me in English, I asked him where he is from. He said:
Damascus, Syria. Now you are interested in a time with me?
I had to smile. Offcourse. How could I say no now to a guy, who looks like any other men in Berlin, but is born in a country suffering most from global politics we all part of by our democratic vote, our non-interests, our fears and consuming behaviours?
Well played. I chose a shitty bar as close as possible to my place and told him I won’t have much time, that was the truth, I already had another tinder date later that night - because what the heck, it’s tinder.
One of my first questions was:
„Is it ok if we talk about what’s happening in your country?“
He laughed and said:
“Of course it’s ok! Cheers!“
He invited me for a drink. Hm, so not a Muslim, or at least not a very strict one. Indeed he was funny guy. He wasn’t a refugee, he wasn’t speaking German (as most of my friends in Berlin) he was a visual artist (as most of my friends in Berlin) who was looking for an PhD in Germany - analysing Islamic propaganda in posters, aesthetics and letters. Indeed he wasn’t religious at all, we even joked about the fact how ISIS would still prefer me as a baptised Christian, than him as a non-believer. We figured ISIS would kill me more gently then him, regardless his nationality or status as man.
Later he told me that he suffers with the state of mind that everybody has to say something about his identity as a Syrian, even it is just “Ohhh” and “Puhh”.
”They know nothing about me.”
True, it is his identity and none else’s. He survived a bomb attack right next to him, but he likes Damascus and showed me beautiful pictures of an untouched city, the centre where his parents live. He told me about his grandparents, who would still not want to leave Damascus. He showed me a picture of his mum who has the same hair colour as me in bright red, wearing a shoulder less top on a picture his gallery opening, where he presented his art. Also a painting of a silhouette of a naked woman.
He often laughed about my questions and I met him more than once. We went for Syrian food, watched Syrian TV soaps, which he translated simultaneously to me, he sometimes spoke in Arabic words to me and refreshed my mind how to write. He told me about his ex-girlfriend, who is Christian and how the relationship broke, because he wants woman more independent and doesn’t see himself or men in general as the money maker.
We often spoke about Israel and how similar he was in his behaviour and culture to my Israeli friends. A lot more similar then he was to my friends from Iran. And still, he struggled with his liberalism about Israel. It wasn’t about their religion; it was because he didn’t wanted to believe in any political power build on religion. I kept watching the Syrian TV show where they jump between times: before war and now. I didn’t understand, but the pictures were so fascinating that I couldn’t stop. I shriek more watching that as something I don’t understand, than watching Stranger Things. I wonder why something like this is not translated, while the White Helmets went around the world.
I read his PhD thesis and was impressed by his choice of words, describing colonisation impacts on culture in the Arab world and generally Near East. I found myself seeking for what he had to say about ISIS and told him to not exclude it. I was fascinated how the simple choice of words in an introduction already opened my eyes for my guided mind. We went to university together and while I did my research in Jewish history I became more and more embarrassed, how scientific papers I read at Humboldt University are formulated - All these small words that indicate “normal” and “the other”.
Today after class discussing Jerusalem’s meaning in history starting in neo-Syrian age and often mentioned as the centre of the world, I texted him:
Funny how everything ends up in one: I am learning a lot about Neo-Syrian age at the moment. I find it wired that I had to become 26, before I even slightly touch knowledge about something, which is still the reality you are born in. It’s wired how politics can hide history sometimes and then two people meet on tinder and suddenly everything we believed in means nothing.
In my studies at the Humboldt University I took courses called Religions in Europe, Introduction to Mischna, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that I wont forget you, Theology & Digitalism, Disaster Rituals, Craftmenship and Secrecy, The power of Holiness and I am learning Hebrew as a language. I pretty much learn about the times before Christianity. Of course, Christianity has its origin in this history. But as my lecturer said today: “People who lost their history are the only ones who think they know the entire future.”
In one class I learned about scribes as the first craftsmen in “something with media”, but more than 3000 years before me, in times of Mesopotamia in neo-Syrian age, who conserved and created knowledge and science already. The first text we analyzed was advertising on clay. Actually the perfect PR propaganda for learning languages and becoming a scribe - The Coca Cola PR department would have offered that scribe a job right away. So great to know that us humans - we always tried to manipulate each other - it’s natural, it’s human. I feel a lot better since I know that.
Now studying the meaning of Jerusalem and reading Jewish writings with complains about mass-tourism under Christian and Moslem authorities, with capitalistic interests and all their trading boats, destroyed nature and, of course in these texts most importantly, holy land. I get the pictures of India and every part of global textile industries back in my head. And remember how my Syrian tinder date complained about how the inventive, modern Damascus, as oldest city gets forgotten.
I am embarrassed when I think about the way I would have to explain my own history, religion and culture around something that is called the western world. How would I do it? Let’s try:
Ya well, Christianity conquered the western world with the values of peace, forgiveness and love until it hit the first king, political power protected it then by killing everyone who didn’t follow that believe, after this it’s easy to glorify history by selecting nice words over bad ones, controlling Art, architecture and any other expression of cultural identity, because America is great and everything before was simply “not cultivated”, just please don’t ask what that means, because we forgot our own history and focused on how great we are today and tomorrow, because power is great, everything around us says that, we are fair and that’s why we elected politicians who fight for peace with war for capitalistic interests - or at least, that’s what we used to do. The ones who started retired now or killed, or died naturally. Today we have representatives in politics, who represent (looking good in pictures, high reach, click rates and other valuebale measurements) what we decide in economy, I mean we have to consume, eveything else wouldn’t be fair, it’s called basic needs and more justice - more for at least my people - that’s the market, liberty and so on and that consume is highly influenced by interests of power, ya hey, that’s what they already did in neo-Syrian times, no? I heared oriental cultures are good in treading? Accepting a different view? Well, I can tell you my opinion about it and proof my opinion with a million other opinions, recommend by us in a million media channels and houses, who all say you are dangerous, because they say you will kill people that won’t aknowlege your state of mind, and if you say this is not true, then I will proof it by helping extremists of your kind, to gain power by simply being right, I always will find the right facts, we master manipulating history since the middleage and otherwise calculating the number of my people who died in your areas always works, this is clearly statistics, a hart fact, or at least what we call fact in our selective, populistic media world, which just belongs to the way we talk, the way he became heroes, that’s my cultural identity, so don’t fear me, adjust if you want our wealth, we worked for it, by surpressing you, but at least be happy that we allow you to join us and make us bigger, we also can kill you.