by Ghassan Kadi

Syria has never been a perfect place, and probably she never will be. Yet, those who truly love Syria, do not love her because they perceive her as of some fantasy, a Shangrila, a utopia or a paradise-lost. They simply love her because they know the wonderful aspects that the Syrian culture has.

Syrians are humans. Inherently, they are not any different from those who are Portuguese, Chinese or Canadian. If they are different at all, it is because of their acquired cultural inheritance; an inheritance that can have a significant bearing on their thought process, perceiving and evaluating events, and decision-making among other things.

To this effect, ancient cultures have much in common. Syria has been one of the cornerstones of ancient cultures. Long before pragmatism and obsession with economic growth, humans interacted at deeper levels, with valued virtues such as care, hospitality, gallantry, duty, accountability, honour and the like. Some of those virtues, especially in the West, look now somehow archaic and “primitive”, and they can become so when honour gets reduced to something that can be settled in a duel, but such misconceptions do not take from such virtues their true substance.

Those virtues exist in all cultures, even within the most modern of them, the most materialistic of them all, because people will always be by-and-large virtuous beings. However, in ancient cultures, those values are still alive and well and highly regarded.

What makes Syria stand out in the Middle East is the fact that those so-called “old-fashioned values” were well and alive within Syria before the “War On Syria” was launched. The polarization of the rest of the world that followed is still taking shape nearly five years later, and those who are standing against Syria, are giving clear statements about the nature of their own cultures and belief systems.

The reverse can be said about those who are standing up in defence of Syria.

The Russian culture, not quite as ancient as the Syrian culture, stems from the same “old-fashioned values” and remains to be a culture in which those virtues are alive and well. Whilst it is true that Russia has strategic interests in Syria, it is not however by accident that Russia came to Syria’s help and defence.

Syria and Russia are very different at the surface. They have virtually no common ethnicities, and very little in common when it comes to religion, despite Antioch (a Syrian city now in Turkey) being a cradle for Orthodoxy. The cuisine, the language, music, traditional attire, folklore, are all so different, yet at deeper levels, the cultures are very similar.

Syria is having a very tough time at present, and during tough times, one sees the best and the worst; from teen-aged Syrian girls taking up arms to resist invaders, to healthy young Syrian men fleeing to Europe to evade military service. Even worse, we see Syrian young men taking up arms to join ISIS and other organizations against Syria and her national army.

But Syria is still standing, and if she gets defeated, she will be defeated standing. She is still standing because the majority of Syrians opted to stand and to take the fight for better and for worse.

Russia has also had her share of misfortune after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The monumental turn around that Russia made in two decades, a turn around that brought her back from the doldrums of the worst nadir she had for centuries to that of world leadership; and almost overnight. At many levels, the “miracle” is attributed to the genius of President Putin. There is little doubt that without the wise and strong leadership of President Putin, Russia wouldn’t have been able to rise like she did, and as quickly as she did.

Having said that, President Putin couldn’t have performed his “miracle” without the Russian people and the culture that underpins their hearts and minds. Most Russians see him as the embodiment of their best qualities, and reciprocally, he brought the best out of them.

The Syrians who are standing up in defence of Syria are not at all different from the Russians who walked the talk with President Putin and put Russia back in the fore front of world leadership.

The West has become bent on destruction; including self-destruction. The level of citizen happiness and satisfaction is receding to unprecedented lows. Police shootings and public shootings in America are becoming daily events. Europe on the other hand is fostering foreign policies that have clearly encouraged terrorism and which only lead to the rise of ultra-right-wing policies. The sense of national and personal pride in the West is being eroded and there seems nothing on the horizon that can reverse this situation. After all, the “Yes We Can” Obama slogan failed to define who “we” are! The moment he gained residence of the Whitehouse, he and the people were no longer one, and “we” turned into me and you and him.

In contrast, in Russia and in Syria, Presidents are loved and respected. Westerners find it hard to believe this, but they do not know any better. They have lost their confidence in their own leaders decades ago. In Syria and in Russia, the army and the police are highly regarded, the elderly are treasured, and the ceremonies that honour those who have fallen are not mere ceremonial acts performed by officials, they are actions that involve heartfelt work and passion of each and every citizen.

Moreover, when Westerners take to the streets, they often do this in protest against their own governments. They know that their governments do not really represent them, and they therefore regard authority just like a prisoner perceives his warden. However, when Westerners see Russians and/or Syrians parading in the streets carrying posters of their leaders, they think it is government propaganda. They truly do not know any better.

Public property is sacrilegious (correction) sacrosanct in Russia and Syria; a stark difference from the graffiti-ridden West.

Morally, the West is unequipped to fight ISIS because it does not have its own moral anti-thesis to fight it with. In saying this, we must always remember that the fight against ISIS is not only military. If anything, it will have to be more ideological than military, but the West does not have what it takes to fight either war.

The fight for Syria is not simply a fight for a piece of land. It is a fight for decency and for cultures that uphold the good old-fashioned virtues that have almost totally disappeared in the West.

It is a war that can only be fought by Syrians who uphold the virtues of their culture, by non-Syrian supporters who have similar values, and by other nations who share those values.

It is a war of freedom of thought versus oppression, secularism versus sectarianism, duty versus laziness, respect versus disrespect, standing tall versus begging, enlisting versus desertion, knowing the difference between might and bullying, standing up against bullies, disallowing acts of injustice against those who are meeker, patience, resolve, steadfastness, dignity, pride and a huge dose of humility to cloak all of the above with the necessary human touch that does not allow those virtues to give rise to personal self-importance and egocentricism.

Some non-Syrians have risen to the support of Syria without having the slightest clue who and what they are supporting. Some have done this for reasons of vested interests, but unless those individuals and nations share those very same Syrian cultural ideals and virtues, they will either find out that they had deluded themselves, or others will find out that they have been deluded by them.

It is not by accident that Russia came to the defence of Syria. The similarities in qualities of the cultures are uncanny, and the role that Russia is playing now in trying to keep the West honest stipulated that she needed to make a loud and clear presence in Syria.

“The Orontes flows into the Tiber” was an ancient Roman proverb used to elaborate the then strong ties between the Levant and Rome. In today’s age, the Volga flows into Barada.

The Essential Saker: from the trenches of the emerging multipolar world