Sunday, July 04, 2010

"Please get impaled"

At the beginning, it was perhaps a coincidence; a pre-historic man mistakenly landing on a stalagmite or a pointed tree branch. But it's certainly no coincidence that impalement has become despots' preferable method of execution in medieval ages. And it's not only because it's a slow and agonizing and gut-wrenching death, not only because it represents a prolonged image of the ultimate disgrace in homophobic eras; it's because the condemned man (or woman) is denied the freedom of movement even while he or she writhes to death. There is a procedure in this brutality, a statement of deterrence and usurpation of the human soul. A formidable display of power, evident in the robbery of rectum control and the disturbance of bowels movement.


It's no wonder then that the action of impalement is one of the most metaphorically celebrated expressions in Arabic slang (at least where I come from): Tkhoza'et* (I got impaled): "I got impaled in the exam". "I got impaled in that transaction". Even in the inter-personal sense of the allegory, people impale each other all the time: colleagues rat each other out, relatives gossip, neighbors spray paint cars and slash tires, classmates come up with elaborate pranks ...etc..

I still have a vivid memory of our teacher of Arabic Lit at high school. One day we stood up in respect upon his entering the class, only to be met with his gruff voice telling us to "Get impaled" تخوزقوا (an endearing substitute for the timeless "Please be seated"). I also remember two conservatively dressed women in one of Aleppo's old souks, one of them telling the other: "tkhoza'na be hal sharieh" (we got impaled in that purchase). Nizar Qabani, the legendary Syrian poet, spoke of an impalement on a transnational scale after a certain defeat in our recent history; a huge pole, the size of Sinai peninsula, had been hammered up our collective asses....(apologies Fairouz, the Bells of Return won't be rung anytime soon.....).

The application, indeed, isn't limited to actions: there are personality types who are a constant reminder of an impalement pole. You know the person who keeps being contrarian for the heck of it? the sore thumb who defies consensus just to appear unique and exceptional? the lone motherfucker who thrives on obtrusiveness and gets off on being a pain in the butt to the group? you know him/her? well, that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Fountain Pole (خازوق البحرة) :



While the practice of impalement had ceased to exist ages ago (except in the modus operandi of the most psychopathic criminals), the disturbing imagery is still with us. Haunting us and reminding us of our primitive fears and our ability to screw each other over.

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*Takhozaqa (تخوزق) is a verb to be derived from the noun Khazooq (خازوق), which literally means "a pole".

2 comments:

Dubai Jazz said...

......after writing this post, the flat chair underneath yours truly feels like a blessing.

Allie said...

I just wanted to point out really quickly that the first picture looks more like a dancer on a pole than an impalement kind of deal. I'm guessing you knew that already, but I thought I'd throw it out there.