Chapter59 Ra's al Ghul
Ra's al Ghul
Mohammed Hakim was born of a mixed union in Iraq, his father a Sunni Muslim, his mother Shia. His name in Arabic meant, 'wise or enlightened one'. They were mixed in more ways than one. His father and mother were from rival tribes. The young Hakim would always attribute his profound sense of justice and morality to his Muslim upbringing, but he was turned from religion by the whole maelstrom of divisions, arguments and slaughter, something he saw all too easily in the world of religion as a whole.
From the age of four or so, his life would be characterized by arguments and tension in the home, with neighbors and with other family members, together with a profound sense of rejection, as a half-breed. What he felt about religious sectarianism he felt equally about tribalism.
Hakim had seven brothers and sisters. One brother he was particularly close to. The first instance of 'prophecy' he could remember, was a premonition about his brother's death, when he was only eight years old, something which upset him very deeply. This upset was only to be magnified ten-fold, when his brother died suddenly in a car accident ! Not only was he smitten with grief, but he was also plagued with a profound sense of guilt. He should have warned his parents, and his brother. However, he had felt frightened that his family might have associated his vision with witchcraft !
Some years later, he had a similar experience with one of his sisters. He saw her dying of a terminal disease, after already experiencing bitter rejection at school in Baghdad. Thankfully, though, his sister remained in the best of health. The premonition proved to be totally spurious. By no means all of his visions and premonitions would come to pass.
He felt driven away from his homeland, as someone from a mixed race, unwelcome in all the communities represented by his family. He felt a stranger in his own land. Such an experience took him from the Middle East to the Far East, and his interest in Mysticism, an aspect of human culture he desperately hoped would heal the fractures in his soul, but not with just a blind belief in something. He was highly intelligent, and did sufficiently well in school to achieve all the grades necessary to study at a university in Thailand.
His academic life had always been his one true refuge, where he could shelter from all that life would throw against him, and would prove to be his ticket to help him finally escape the world that had rejected him. He was to discover what he believed to be the scientific basis for both religious and mystical experience.
His chosen career ? Archaeology. He had always been interested in archaeology, for some reason. There was no end of ancient monuments and fortifications around him, when he was growing up. Hakim had always had a more than vivid way of imagining what everything would have looked and felt like in those ancient times. Somewhat ironically, his first assignment, as a fledgling archaeologist, was to return to the Middle East, this time to Egypt, where he was granted special access to the Great Pyramid of Giza.
What followed was to prove to be his 'Damascus Road experience', something which was to crystallize everything for the young Hakim. For, it was while he was exploring the King's Chamber in the pyramid, that he had the strongest visions of his life ! It was most peculiar, and only in retrospect would he finally piece together an explanation for what he saw. It was an ordinary experience in the life of the Pharaoh buried there, but what Hakim saw, though repeated time and time again, was subtly different each time. Some detail, however small, would change - the appearance of Khufu, or whoever the Pharaoh was, that of his maid and man-servants, and what exactly they would do !
The Pyramid was serving as one great resonating chamber, amplifying the vibrations emanating from a series of parallel worlds, vibrations that he had always been sensitive to, for as long as he could remember. Perhaps it was the very fractious nature of his early life experiences that opened up what he believed to be an awareness of the existence of other worlds, and his sensitivity to them. But his experience also helped to explain why one vision he would have might prove true and another not. Sometimes parallel destinies might merge, and sometimes they might diverge, often in relatively simple ways.
There were always mystics in every culture and religion, people who wanted to cut themselves off from the World, seeking inner peace, seeking sanctuary in something else. They too had lived fractious lives, and were attuned to other worlds !
There was always a profound sense that there was something missing about the society around him. There was another society in another world that was better, and he knew it ! His attraction to Shariah Law encouraged him to think in terms of using law and justice to bring about such a utopia, and anyone who stood in the way had to be removed !
He would always remember the time he finally rejected the last vestiges of religion. Yet again there was a vision, a vision that Ghul would for ever analyze and re-analyze. He saw an ogre's head, staring back at him in his mirror, or was it a demon's ? Was this somehow something of a prophetic seal on what had just happened in his life ?
Saying no to religion is a demonic thing to do, in the eyes of many religious people. It is the worst thing a Muslim can do. Was he looking at himself, and seeing the Devil in him ? Or was it a reflection of the fact that, through no fault of his own, he had been treated like an ogre by so many proponents of religion, that he was finally saying goodbye to the ogre ? Was he finally embracing the ogre, and accepting the role of one, who would champion the cause of skepticism about religion ? Was it a warning from God not to turn his back on religion ? Or was it a vision reflecting the identity of his parallel selves, in a whole series of alternate realities ? Maybe it was a combination of at least two of those possibilities. Who knows ?
The irony of his situation in Thailand, however, was that, far from seeing a long-anticipated end to rejection and abuse, it all simply continued, and in some ways was accentuated. He was an Arab living in the Far East. He was a wealthy Arab living in the Far East ! In the early years of his chosen career, he had gained favor with some notable sponsors, potentates from countries looking to develop more prestige in the eyes of the outside world, with a greater sense of their history and ancient architecture and artifacts.
Hakim had taken advantage of such patronage to become successful and popular in the world of archaeology, but at a price, ... the jealousy of local Thais. He became the victim of active discrimination that soon became systematic. Then he fell foul to the gangster element in the society around him.
It all started with break-ins at his luxury new apartment. Selective items of ancient pottery, not the most expensive, were broken, others stolen, with written threats left behind, from those wishing to extort much more valuable artifacts, that could be traded on the black market. He was to acquire the most valuable treasures of antiquity by whatever means he could, then pass them on to anonymous hoods on the street. Hakim was absolutely distraught, and went to the Police, but got no joy out of them. He came quickly to the conclusion, that they were in the pocket of the local gangsters responsible, and so they were.
Hakim refused to comply. He was beaten. More valuable possessions were destroyed. The Police did nothing. He took a prolonged course in the art of self-defense, to no avail. The beatings continued. His assailants were better at self-defense ! He was incensed that, after all the struggles he had suffered in life, and all the hard work it had taken to achieve his success, here were people trying to take everything away. As he walked around the surrounding streets, he saw the same look, in so many faces, as he saw every time he looked in the mirror, the look of the persecuted and downtrodden.
Hakim, perhaps out of a sense that, in other worlds, he was already a gangster for justice, or maybe coming to the conclusion that the only way to 'fight fire is with fire', decided to become a gangster himself, and target the very bigots and hoods, that were persecuting him ! He soon realized that he needed to instill fear into the minds of his enemies. He needed a name. He needed a symbol, too. Many gangs used tattoos and symbols. So would he. He needed to look no further than what he had seen in his last vision, 'the Ogre's Head', in Arabic, Ra's al Ghul ! Never again would he be known as Mohammed Hakim.
At first, he would be a part-time gangster for justice ! He still pursued as much of a career in the field of archaeology as time and stamina would allow ! He needed to enlist a team around him. He found a reservoir of potential recruits among the persecuted and downtrodden. They all worked excessively hard on their martial arts skills, both physical and psychological. Soon, they were terrorizing the major gangs and gang leaders in their community, the very guys who had terrorized them. They put them out of business !
Then Ghul reasoned, that, if the very Police could be in the pockets of gangsters, why not have them under HIS control, and offer ranking officers certain financial inducements to take a tougher line with criminals in the neighborhood ? He used his own money to finance the operation. The success of this enterprise was undeniable. It soon expanded, to include the entire city ! It proved so successful, that the local Police Commander suggested that Ghul go legitimate, and start an anti-corruption company, that would offer this radical approach to gangsterism, at a national level !
This idea strongly resonated with Ghul, since it closely correlated with everything he sensed about his parallel selves, and the rest is history ! Ghul and his team were employed, and went full-time. Most reluctantly, he said goodbye to the world of archaeology, at least at any formal level. The Thai Government thought that he was heaven sent. This was their big opportunity to turn their entire country around, and free it from the shackles of fear and corruption that had prevailed at every level of their society. It involved beatings and the strongest of strong-arm methods, but it was the gangs and the gangsters, including their richest paymasters, who were on the receiving end of the beatings and strong-arm methods. The entire country WAS turned around.
The success of the Company, now known as Ghul Securities, led to his operation going international, and finally global. Ghul developed the very techniques and approaches used by people, at every level, in the areas of gangsterism and corruption, to combat the perpetrators of organized crime throughout the Far East. Eventually, his operations would encompass China and the United States !
But things were to take a most sinister turn, when, back in Thailand, the Chief of Police, himself, proved to be the last key player in the web of corruption, Ghul had all but destroyed. Under him, corruption revived, and people died quite unnecessarily. He had trusted the man implicitly, and worked with him most closely. Ghul had him executed in private, at the hands of one Yang Sun Yu. The official story was that the man disappeared mysteriously without trace, probably dying at the hands of those remaining gang members who had not been arrested and imprisoned, in a revenge killing.
Never again would Ghul leave a country like that, without first leaving someone in charge at the heart of things. Dhul would always insist that one of his nominees be placed at the head of that country's justice systems, as an Administrator of Justice, almost always a respected wealthy individual, who had also suffered greatly as a result of gangsterism and corruption.
That marked the beginnings of the slippery slope to thought-control, that would come to characterize Ghul's philosophy of justice. I personally attribute it all to his enduring admiration for Shariah Law, with its emphasis on the household, the role of men and women, and its all-pervasive inclusivity. Initially, Ghul was torn when it came to the equality of women in society. He didn't want to see anyone discriminated against, or oppressed.
But there were advantages to it. The problems of over-population, unemployment and low wages provided a breeding ground for crime, social injustice and poverty, and to the point of starvation in the developing world. If most jobs were available to both men and women, and wages were on average low, then some households might have more than one income coming in, while other households would have none.
Better, he thought, if women were excluded from the workplace, and wages were fixed at a sufficiently high minimum, to provide adequate support for the household, then there would be much less unemployment, especially among young males, the primary candidates for crime in any society. And retrospective of his early life experiences, no religious or tribal sectarianism of any kind would be tolerated, from whatever source. Increasingly, this was to be the role of his Administrator, to fashion each country's society along these lines. Those businessmen, politicians and women, who failed to comply, would be subject to increasingly greater pressure to do so, or they, too, might just simply disappear !
There was no doubt about it. Ra's al Ghul did a lot of good in the world, but at a price !