In Lebanon, there is a saying [that loosely translates as]: Ember only hurts where it burns. In other words, pain – or harm – is only felt by those who are directly affected it by it.
Everyone in the Arab world believes that he is alone in feeling pain. The Lebanese, Syrians, Egyptians, Yemenis, or Tunisians can only see their own calamities, or their calamities to come, but fail to see other people’s trials so that their own may appear lesser in comparison, as another local saying argues.
In the weekend, I was reading the London papers, including the Financial Times, a sober and prestigious economic newspaper. But as I turned its pages to read financial and business news from around the world, I noticed something else: Between one page and the other, the paper ran news about wars, conflicts, killings and protests of the kind that every Arab thinks he alone is afflicted by it.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, there is a civil war that has been raging for 20 years perhaps. Now, the war is threatening gorillas in the Virunga National Park, as the rebels have reached its outskirts, with the help of neighboring Rwanda, according to United Nations reports.
Gorillas, the origin of the English language term guerilla warfare, became victims in turn. There are 800 gorillas protected by about 300 rangers in the park, and both animals and guards are at risk now.
On the same page, there was a story about protests in Pakistan against the foul anti-Islam film that insulted the Prophet, in which 20 people were killed. I had condemned the protests since day one, and I condemn them again today. The producers of the film are getting exactly what they wanted with the help of protesters blinded by ignorance.
Is there any better news for the enemies who produced the film to provoke Muslims, than to read that 20 Muslims here, ten there, and five elsewhere were killed while protesting their film, which is as vile as its producers are? The victims of these protests were Muslims, who were killed by Muslim policemen in Muslim countries, and did the exact bidding of the enemies of Islam and Muslims.
On the following page, I saw a picture that at first, I thought was of an air raid or a fire. But it was a picture of the supporters of a party that had entered parliament for the first time after the elections of June last. The picture showed them carrying torches in support of their far-right party, whose members are infamous for assaulting their opponents - as though Greece’s insolvency is not enough by itself.
Things were not much better in another story ran on the same page, this time about Belarus. There is a standoff there between the government supporters and opponents, and the latter pulled out many of their candidates in the parliamentary elections on Monday. These elections are a test of the popularity of President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country solo for the past 18 years.
On the following page – and recall again that this is in an economic newspaper- there was a news story about the ongoing feud and mutual challenges between China and Japan, over the Senkaku islands in East China Sea. Japan controls the islands but China disputes them as its own. The two big neighbors are exchanging threats and they are refusing to negotiate, with protests in each country taking place against the other. Observers believe that the dispute has stoked old dormant conflicts between the two countries.
Before I forget, I want to note that the weekend edition of the Financial Times had published a story about Mitt Romney on its first page – the Republican candidate for the White House. The story angered me as much as Romney’s hawkish foreign policy and his alliance with war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu have done.
Romney is a multimillionaire. He stands accused of paying less tax than his junior staff. To respond to the accusation, he decided to release his tax returns for 2011. But he ended up doing nothing else than to prove the accusation, as it was revealed that he had paid only 14.1 percent in tax on his extremely high income.
I live in London, and I have paid the top tax rate of 40 percent for 25 years, although all my income in a quarter of a century is less than the interest on some of Romney’s investments in one year.
The embers of taxes have burned my pocket and the pockets of millions of people like me, but they do not burn the pockets of the millionaires and billionaires, it seems, especially in the United States.
The writer is a columnist at the London-based al-Hayat daily, where this article was published on Sept. 25, 2012