This is a new tale from the “Orient”, but an old tale for mankind – and very old for the universe, I guess. It´s also a tale about differences, rebels in Jemen and the concepts we make from perception. But what has “the one born from the foam of the sea” and a planet we call Venus to do with it?
Already the Orient / Occident distinction feels like from the Ottoman wars of the “Sublime Porte” trying to expand their influence past Vienna into the fortress of Europe – at these times an array of kingdoms and Empires bound by more or less christianity and Royal family ties, wars and the attitude of opposition to that. Is the present so different? Well, the Sublime Porte is gone as a power, Istanbul still the door to the Orient and Turkey not yet a member of the EU. The struggle does not seem to start or stop at Konstantinopel or the isthmus of the Bosporus – nor at Vienna or Dresden. Northern xenophobia and islamophobia, Southern radicalisation, revolutions and civil wars – as well as thousands with various religious backgrounds risking and loosing their lives to enter the fortress of the EU seeking jobs and a better life. Is the Occident in danger through armies of refugees who often do not survive crossing the mediterranean sea? What do we know about these sides which get created, front-lines pointed to, differences we get told about, distinctions to be alarmed of – the opposition of “we” and “them”, of “the one” and “the other”?
Let me suggest to denounce our earthly habit of quickly drawing borders, establishing groups and knowing where they come from and what they want with a astronomical metaphor: in considering the planet Venus being the culprit in the century-old question: who or what actually is the morning or the evening star – and are they different entities? A planet is the solution – and not a star – and we created through temporal and geographical perspectives different denominations. For a poetic side, read Christian Morgenstern (Morgenstern = morning star in German). So, essentially taking a side, morning or evening seems to be a highly local and temporal distinction, finally a language-driven one. The same can be said about Houthi, Zaidism, Shia, a refugee or the construct “Jemen”. Stumbling upon concepts like these in the morning made me think of not even knowing enough about the “cold war” of confessions in the Middle East that I would be able to pin-point their meaning or location in my northern Europe perspective and consummation of common news and media filtered stories…thus giving rise to the urge to clarify them a bit – or paying tribute to my confusion. This is not the best article in the world, still Tenacious D with “Tribute” comes to my mind: “Be you angels? Nay. We are but men,…ROCK!” (for all those, who are not familiar with the tribute to the tribute of the tribute watch www.youtube.com/watch?v=uryLhOT9jiI)
Where was I? As Hicham Ben Abdallah El-Alaoui denotes in his article “Oil To The Fire / Öl ins Feuer” in Le Monde Diplomatique (p. 14, February 2015) the Ansar Allah are the military arm of the Houthi fighters in Yemen, who control the capital Sanaa since September 2014. The Houthi are Muslims essentially of Zaidi confession, a branch of the Sunnites. Zaydis (Zaidiyya or Zaidism) are the oldest branch of the Shia (the Shiites represent the second largest denomination of Islam), the largest group amongst the Shia before the Safavid Dynasty in the sixteenth century and currently the second largest group as well as the closest to the Sunnites. Zaidi Muslims make up about 35-40% of Muslims in Yemen and are currently the dominant political and armed force there, following a successful insurgency that toppled the Sunni-led government in 2014 and 2015. Ansar Allah are not to be confused with Ansar al-Scharia a Sunni group close to al-Qaida. Those poles of Islam interpretation are not the same and their differences not to be neglected – but choosing one side, or uniting them into “the Islam” and picking a frontline may deepening the trenches of what separates people rather than what does unite them.
That Iran and Saudi Arabia seem to be rivals in choosing to support one or the other side in Syria, Iraq or Yemen is another factor to a highly complex story which is not easy to break down to an opposition of “the West” and “Islam” or a dichotomy of war between two Islamic confessions. Yes, they are in war with each other. In each of these countries, including Europe as a zone behaving like an ivory tower, there still rises the bright planet of Venus each morning and evening – too far to act like a unifying force, but essentially the same spectacle for all humans who see it.
The human reflex to differentiate things and exploit the decisions and differences we CREATE is what we normally cannot let go easily…this might be described as the “broadening of the battlefield” the French writer Michel Houellebecq talked about in his debut novel of 1994 (originally in French: “Extension du domaine de la lutte”)- titling in the English translation simply: “Whatever”. Respecting differences is a choice – neglecting them, too. Ignorance is not respect but turning away from values or actions of others putting them in one pot to minimise effort of differentiation – usually a melting pot of prejudice.
Maybe there is an evening star and a morning star because we SAY SO and care about time and place, sometimes. The Venus, closer to the sun than us, only plays the role of a stage for our projections. “Venus in concepts”, as Sacher-Masoch would have stated it, maybe. A common denominator, a tribute to what others say…