Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Return of the bête noire

*The story you're about to read is completely fictional and has no bias intentions to spite or appraise any of the characters described in it*
Photography by Joseph Osei-Bonsu

 How is it possible that he could be here? There are over 200 million, other Muslim Arabs like him, fighting against a mere, 6 million Jews. What were the odds that he would one day become a captive of  this small enemy, Israel? What is really incomprehensible, is that all the combination of the Arab-Islamic armies that dwarfed Israel’s were defeated time after time - humiliating to the Arab-Islamic world.
Reality couldn't have hit him any harder when he thought about what he was planning to do the next morning. Faisal was born during the intifada, the same intifada that made him fatherless. Since then, his uncle Tass, a prominent and influential leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, became his guardian. Faisal was sworn into the Muslim Brotherhood at the age of 12. And all his life growing up in Cairo, he trained to fight for the Brotherhood's cause; even to the point of death. Now, alone in this Israeli cell, he could only wonder what Tass would do to him if Tass knew the thoughts of betrayal that were tormenting his sleep that night. Tass was a sworn enemy of Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president whom the Muslim Brotherhood considered as a lackey to the Americans. Every evening, Faisal would overhear the drunken ravings of Tass, in which the latter described all the torture techniques he would subject President Mubarak to, should he ever lay hands on him. He cringed at the thought of returning home and informing Tass that, in exchange for his life, he had revealed top-secret intelligence concerning the Brotherhood to the Israeli army. As if it would be consolation enough, he started whispering curses to himself for agreeing to betray the Brotherhood. Unfortunately, the disgust he felt for being a traitor to his Muslim Brotherhood family, was not enough for him die a hero's death for the sake of loyalty. 26 years of being trained and prepared for this awesome cause, and now that the opportunity was presenting itself for Faisal to prove his faith, he chose rather to become an apostate. "We are more than they, and we have more than they have. Yet, our enemy prevails against us. Is it possible, that we have been fighting against God Himself, all this while? If so, then I must join the winning team.", Faisal thought to himself. With a heavy sigh of defeat, Faisal sealed his own fate. He would return to Egypt, to his uncle, and to the Brotherhood with a well-thought out lie about what he was going to do. And for the rest of his life, only he and his captors will know that he was really returning to his people as a traitor. It'd be the return of the bete noire. 

    The winning team: everybody loves the winning team! I am convinced that almost the whole world spends all of its human lives fighting to get into, and fighting to stay in the team that's winning the 'game of life'. Whether it's a young entrepreneur struggling to keep a new business afloat in the turbulent waters of the present economy; or, it's a High School 'loser' trying to fit in or out amongst her peers, the motive holds true for all - everyone wants to be part of the 'winning team'! We think that those who are able to make it into life's 'winning teams' are either: those who are naturally born into it, or, those who create their own 'winning team' through hardwork and effort. Betwixt these 'Naturals' and 'Creators' are the 'Tryers'. These are the people who (like the spelling of their name) cannot be naturally accepted, and, find it extremely cumbersome to create success at any level. This is so because 'winning' in the world is based more on quantity, rather than on quality. Be it in finances, sports, entertainment, politics, academics, knowledge, and even in social relationships, the amount of money, points, votes, information, contacts one has, is the ultimate determinant of success or failure. Nobody cares about the quality or the timing of Ben Watson's goal against the megalomaniac Manchester City F.C., in the F.A. cup final of the 2012/2013, English football season. All that matters is that, Mr. Watson's lone goal won the F.A. cup for his minnow-ish team, Wigan Athletic F.C. In this 'game' of life, the results are all that matters - full stop!

    Though so true, the above statement is also tragic. Tragic in the sense that, somewhere in the deep recesses of our beings, ALL humans 'know' that they have a right and a legitimate chance to 'win'. Unfortunately, the systems of our world do more to stifle than to encourage winning. To most people, the world is like a grumpy, old, college professor who deliberately plans to make life miserable for all of his students throughout the semester. The professor then finalizes this diabolical plan by failing nine-tenths of his students, passing only the remaining tenth. It's almost as if most of humanity was born to fail in order to prosper a select few. Hence, those 'doomed-to-lose' tend to adopt supplanting, cut-throat and undermining devices in the pursuits of their next 'win'. They want to be counted amongst the winning few at all cost. If the game of life is won by those with the most numbers; why then are the so-called, privileged few considered as the 'winners', and the rest as 'losers'? What could be more ironic?! As a result of this paradox, anyone who wins anything by fair or foul means, instantaneously becomes the bete noire of the vast, 'loser', population surrounding him or her. 'Jealousy' and 'envy' are some of the words we use to describe this animosity the losing team feels for this 'winning' individual. I believe that the source of all manner of covetousness is found in humanity's inability to accept the unfair nature of being on the losing side. Whether we accept responsibility for our failures or not, we still remain adamant that we don't deserve, ever, to 'lose'.

It is unnatural for the human soul to accept a loss.

    Therefore, when you do 'lose'(and you will at some point in your life), you consequently become your own bete noire. You only hate the 'winner' because you hate your 'loser' self. It is only in the oblivion of a defeat or a loss, that the mind plagues itself with these questions: "Why can't I be a 'Natural' winner?" "Why can't I be a 'Creator' of my own winning team?" "When will stop being a 'Tryer', and just be a winner?". The truth is, there are nothing like a 'Natural'-born winner, a Creative-winner, or a Trying-to-win loser in life. This is so because winning and losing is entirely based on your perception. What you call a 'win', what the whole world calls a 'win', becomes so because YOU THINK SO. What or who is called a winner changes by the day: today's 'loser' may be tomorrow's 'winner'. The interpretations of 'winning' and 'losing' are loosely based on the whims and caprices of numerical quantities, which keep changing everyday! Time and chance/change are the only two absolutes in the world: and both 'winners' and 'losers' are subject to them. Owing to this reason, there's no point in self-hatred caused one's misfortune or another's fortune. Some are not born to be 'winners', and no man can confidently say they single-handedly created their own success. In the absence of fictitious labels such as 'winner' and 'loser', what we have left are a bunch of humans trapped in time, each with at least one chance to display what they brought with them to the planet. This essay is therefore a clarion call for the return of all the bete noires: the 'winner' and 'loser' alike.

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