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Adonis Sings the Same Old Tune, Again and Again!

Picture source Al

Picture source Al

by Elie Chalala. Adonis is once again talking and singing the same, stale, old songs about ‘changing society.’ The latest refrain in this worn-out tune appeared in a 4500 word interview published in As Safir newspaper, which elicited sharp criticisms from multiple sources. Most publicized objections came from Walid Jumblatt, who described Adonis’s ideas as “causing one to vomit disgust.”

Earlier comments by Adonis have elicited sharp reactions, suggesting that the “poet” enjoys the spotlight. With considerable relish, he continues to rehash a Utopian notion that “revolution ought to start with the self, and changing society is a precondition to changing politics,” a claim meant not to create meaningful debate, but rather to provoke his critics and satisfy his vanities. I say this because Adonis has been repeating this same thesis for more than half of a century.

My problem with this claim has both a theoretical and moral basis. Theoretically, I wonder how one of the Arab world’s worst dictatorships could constitute the basis for a political movement supposedly designed to change society? Obviously, Adonis has been silent on the issue of these extreme methods of enforcing order and control and how they destroy lives and personal freedoms. Morally, how could Adonis allow himself to play such an “ideological game” with his critics when at least one-third of his people are displaced and a quarter of a million are already dead?

Consistent with my time-consuming habits on the subject, I collected and translated some critical responses to Adonis’s positions during earlier debates. These include a response by Dr. Ahmad Beydoun, a distinguished Lebanese historian, whose input I appreciate and would like to share. (I took liberty in editorially translating his citations).

“What makes Adonis, a brilliant man, attract accusations of stupidity by suggesting that ‘society’ has managed its affairs with complete freedom and independence during half a century of Baathist rule, while the ‘regime’ has watched in admiration from afar?” wrote Dr. Ahmad Beydoun in an old post.

He continues: “What makes Adonis ignore how, in the last three years, the regime and its powerful allies have faced the efforts of society attempting to bring about a change, and how the regime has fought this change by ‘engineering’ outcomes that suit its own desires which are so destructive that they have turned society upside down.”

What makes Adonis promote a regime which controls education, media, culture, the totality of political life, professional organizations, and religious institutions, not to mention its domination of the private and public economic sectors of this ‘society,’ as well as controlling intelligence services which commit acts of horrific violence? Why would he believe that a regime accustomed to exercising all these levers of power would allow, let alone aid Syrian ‘society,’ which is so precious to his (Adonis’s) heart, in changing itself free of interference or harassment? Dr. Beydoun addresses this question, asking: “What is society, Adonis; who changes what in it, and how?”

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