Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Philosophical Musings of a Human..being.

It has been a while since I endeavoured into the uncharted world of human behaviour, mostly due to a state called "The Idleness of the Soul"; the unaware slipping into the common state of indifference, launching the autopilot embedded within us all and functioning in a robotic fashion going about our daily errands.

I have no clue why I keep quoting authors and literature, but it probably has something to do with the intricate detail with which they reflect human conciousness and self awareness. In his radio play "Under Milk Wood", Welsh playwright Dylan Thomas captures the essence of solitude, physical and/or intellectual, where one's own mental conversation echoes within, reminding one of their existence, in the purely Descartes-esque fashion of "I think, therefore I am". Doubt in existence needs an assirtion, and that assirtion is thought.

Knowing that doubt exists, we can generalize and assert that conscious acts exist, since doubts are a kind of conscious acts. And so, if we are to reach Descartes’ conclusion, we must somehow show that the self exists, and not just the conscious acts.

The really interesting question, then, is whether or not we can show that the existence of a conscious act guarantees the existence of a first person perspective aka "I", and if some constituted self must exist as a result of this. The structure of consciousness, the fact that we talk of the conscious act as a presentation, certainly implies that the act is structured around a first person perspective. In other words, without a first person perspective nothing can be conscious; and thus, to doubt that the first person perspective exists would itself be a conscious act structured around a first person perspective, confirming its existence.

Why is it structured around a first person perspective? Simply because someone might insist that there is no real first person perspective, only an appearance of one. So all we can really say is that the conscious act, the experience, seems as though it has a first person perspective, the existence of a first person viewpoint is itself a kind of minimal constituted self, since the first person perspective implies that there is someone who is having the current experience, even if it doesn’t necessarily give that self any other attributes, other than being there physically and/or mentally, at that specific time, completing the elements of existance.

Now, back to Dylan Thomas' "Under Milk Wood":

"And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are sleeping now, Hush..the babies are sleeping, the farmers, the fishers, the tradesmen and pensioners, cobbler, schoolteacher, postman and publican, the undertaker and the fancy woman, drunkard, dressmaker, preacher, policeman, the webfoot cockle-women and the tidy wives.

Young girls lie bedded soft or glide in their dreams, with rings and trousseaux, bridesmaided by glow-worms down the aisles of the organ-playing wood, you can hear the dew falling, and the hushed town breathing.

Only your eyes are unclosed to see the black and folded town fast and slow..asleep."

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


"He had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth." Márquez; "One Hundred Years of Solitude".

It is odd, that despite the 100 years of rhetoric about the value of freedom and human rights, the right for self determination is a valid argument for all the peoples of the world, from East Timor to Southern Sudan, which took 72 hours to become a full UN member, not to mention the mushrooming self determination calls across the world as we speak, but in the case of Palestine, it becomes a matter of long negotiations about disputed lands rather than occupied lands.

One has to admit that the struggle for Palestinian self determination was never handled rationally, not that rationale was an option to people uprooted from their ancestral lands in a few months to make way for people who claim it to be theirs first; an argument that can easily be made by native Americans in the case of North America, aborigines in the case of Australia, and the list goes on, but having reached the point we're in today, one has to be pragmatic with the hopes and realistic with the expectations.

194 would be the number Palestine would hold in the list of nations at the UN, an interesting coincidence with the UNGA resolution 194 of 1948, which calls for the return of the displaced Palestinian refugees of the 1948 war, but being a General Assembly resolution, it has no legally binding power as those of the UN Security Council resolutions, it remains, though; an ethical bedrock of the United Nations' moral duty of justice and equality, not to mention its idealistic role as the peacekeeper of the world, at least on paper.

The fact of the matter is that the US position towards Israel transcends elections, the Jewish vote and democracy, it goes deep into religious belief; Israel is seen as the prologue to the return of Jesus Christ, and the protection of Israel in every way possible serves that purpose, whereas the Palestinians are Philistines, a pagan barbarian enemy of the chosen people eventually defeated by David, Goliath is their most famous historical character, the David vs Goliath story has become the embodiment of Good vs Evil in the collective psyche of the Judeo-Christian narrative. Evangelism in the US is fascinated by Israel, a tiny peaceful promise by God to the Jewish people to herald the return of Jesus Christ to establish the Kingdom of Heaven, threatened by the descendants of Goliath, the choice as to who to side with is as clear as daylight.

The World is a messed up place, truth and lies are meshed up with interest and gain, hypocracy is a human trait reincarnated through the United Nations, George Orwell's Animal Farm -written one year prior to the establishment of the UN- is probably the best representation of its inner workings: "All Pigs are Equal, but some Pigs are more Equal than Others". And yet, Benjamin Netanyahu comes to the UN in 2011 and says: "In 1984 when I was appointed Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, I visited the great rabbi of Lubavich. He said to me - and ladies and gentlemen, I don't want any of you to be offended because from personal experience of serving here, I know there are many honorable men and women, many capable and decent people, serving their nations here - But here's what the rabbi said to me. He said to me, you'll be serving in a house of many lies." [source]. I'm not entirely sure whether the rabbi was insulting the UN or praising it with that statement.

Alright, so where do we go from here? A US veto is on the menu, Palestine won't become a full UN member, despite the prospected use of the same course that was taken by Israel in 1948, it is -none the less- the beginning of a great annual nuisance to Israel and a cause for a great annual embarrassment to the supposed fair broker to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Tonight, a vote at the UN Security Council is expected to be made to propose sanctions on Syria, it's expected that Russia -which announced its backing of the Palestinian statehood bid- would use the veto to abort it, so in a way, a tit for tat ping pong game between the US and Russia, a US veto for Palestine, a Russian veto for Syria, and they're even. The quartet's envoy, the Right Honorable Tony Blair -on his part- turned out to be having an affair with an Israeli business woman, so that's also in the bag, we're set, we're back to the global city of mirrors -or mirages- Márquez was talking about, it's our 100 Years of Solitude this time around, though.

"Look at situations as contingent, not as inevitable, look at them as the result of a series of historical choices made by men and women, as facts of society made by human beings, and not as natural or god-given, therefore unchangeable, permanent, irreversible." Edward Said.

Saturday, 10 September 2011


Remember the Birth pangs of the New Middle East? The genius theory prophesied by Ms. Rice, who; on this eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, had ignored, underplayed and dismissed intelligence reports warning of an imminent threat to the US mainland, 2 months prior to the attacks, voiding her political wisdom obsolete since the first few months of the Bush Administration.

It seems that the number Eleven has an element of change embedded within it's identical straight lines, as was the case in 9/11's tsunami style change across the world, 2011 has proven to be a year of unimaginable change in the Arab world, Three regime changes in Eight months, Two others in the process. A whole mindset of defiance has risen from beneath the proverbial ashes of the Arab defeated spirit. Tonight, remarking on the attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo last night, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted that "The Middle East is now undergoing a political earthquake of historic proportions. Perhaps this can be compared to what happened a century ago at the end of the First World War with the establishment of a new world order."

Two of Israel's most relied on historic allies in the region -using the hip Facebook language- have "unfriended" Israel, even if this status change is temporary, the fact remains that Israel is as clueless as it's never been before in its history, Netanyahu's comparison of the current state of the Middle East to the era at the end of the First World War isn't a haphazard statement, the whole map of the Middle East was redrawn in the aftermath of WWI, Israel hadn't been born yet but it's probably the ultimate prize that came out of that "earthquake". Since its creation in 1948, Israel had always been the re-shaper/re-drawer of borders in the Middle East, through the series of wars from '48 to '73, not to mention the Lebanon invasion of '82 and the Lebanon war of '06 -which saw that first genius statement of the new Mid East- and the Gaza war of '08.

in 2011, Turkey's 61 year old strategic alliance with Israel is frozen, Egypt's 30 year old puppet regime has fallen, Syria's "good bad neighbour" is in the process of falling, and the whole political map is reshaping with Israel's helpless eyes fixated Westwards seeking protection and reassurance from its historic ally and benefactor across the Atlantic ocean, to guarantee its survival and to salvage the broken pieces of diplomatic tantrums in the Arab World.

Bottom line, Welcome to the new Middle East, The birth pangs of the New Middle East have returned; Israel isn't the only constant anymore, but rather the new emerging variable. History never accepts the status quo, even if the status quo conveniently lasts for centuries.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

When South Becomes the New North

I, for one; do not care what the official Jordanian position towards what's happening in Syria is, if -that is- there was indeed an official -or an unofficial- Jordanian position to begin with, for all the diplomatic etiquette, and all the elegance and eloquence in political communiqués become void of their meaning when five minutes across the Jordanian northern border, people's human dignity is being abused for the sake of one man's -cosa nostra style- narcissistic ego.

I won't go into the known facts of inter-familial ties between Jordan and Syria, nor will I remind you that the flag of Jordan was -at one point- the flag of the Kingdom of Syria, neither will I stress the unbreakable Jordanian historic sociological and cultural belonging to the Leventine identity more than its economic yearning towards the Gulf. But if I were to practice my talents in crystal-ball gazing and my world renowned supernatural powers in prediction and astrology, I would predict a firm Jordanian position towards Syria in the next few days, one that stresses the "importance of safeguarding the human dignity of the Syrian people, and their inherent human right of free expression void from the threat of physical harm, pointing out the sanctity of human life". A position that boasts with idealism and chivalry, as All our official positions are. We will, of course; add actions to words and seal this noble position by recalling our ambassador from Damascus for consultations.

You might be sly in thinking that this -better late than never- eventual expression of our deep inner feelings of humanity comes to you courtesy of our GCC membership hopes, or the unprecedented Saudi, Kuwaiti, and UAE financial aid to Jordan in the past and coming week or so, not to mention the official Syrian announcement of a drug smuggling bust on the Syrian-Jordanian border today, but you'd be wrong; in fact, it all comes down to our piousness and ever so clear consciousness, you see.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Má Vlast

What is Jordan's most recent assertion of existence? probably a shocking question to some, but I've been thinking about variations of this question for a while. This year, we celebrated the 43rd anniversary of the battle of Karamah of 1968; and despite the unfair historical hijacking of the first Arab victory post the 1967 war, it remains the fundamental proof of Jordan's ability to survive. Some would also include the September 1970 events, and they might be correct, but Karamah endures as the first straight forward Israeli defeat.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Jordan had a Message, one of insistence to succeed as a model of a modern Arab nation built from the ground up, one reflective of the diversity of the Arab nation both ethnically and religiously, a civilized model of Arab renaissance in the 20th century, this was fortified with the constitution of 1952 and the parliamentary elections of 1956, the 1st and last purely democratic exercise in Jordanian history, despite the subsequent regionally inspired political turmoil in 1957. The social and economic development in the 1960s and 1970s was another assertion of existence, so was the life and death of notable Jordanian politicians like Hazza' Al Majali and Wasfi Al Tal, although I would argue that our best example of the will and power to succeed was embodied in King Hussein himself, hence, the example could be extended to his own life, until his passing in 1999.

Jordan's enduring stable political identity's marking of its 90th anniversary this year is one worthy of note, and there's much to say about the virtues of the Jordanian model of government. But the political, economic and social map has changed massively since the passing of King Hussein, the fact remains; that Jordan's one time idealistic -bearer of arm/bearer of olive branch- image has vanished from the collective Jordanian psyche during the past decade or so, and was replaced by the materialistic image of singular capital gain through plural capital loss. Which brings to mind Ibn Khaldun's theory on The Rise and Fall of Nations, when, in the fifth phase of a nation's life, it suffers from the symptoms of old age, including national dementia, where the one-time single unit made of multiple compositions is fragmented into many, replacing collective national pride with factionalism, tribalism, and individualism, diminishing the capacity of diversity as the engine of the political unit. A negative socio-political evolution where decadence and decay hits the nation and sedentary luxuries over-ride the basic duties of government in safeguarding justice and equality among all citizens, regardless of their economic stature.

The mere recurring use of the word Reform, refers to infested deterioration, the only problem is that even if you get a facelift, or a botox injection, or any other cosmetic treatment called "Reform", you'd most likely still suffer from chronic age-related arthritis, increasing loss of hearing, and probably, at one point, Alzheimer's disease, despite the baby -blemish free- skin. Your best bet lies in your regular mental and physical exercise, in other words, the clear and constant engagement of all the proverbial colors of the social and political spectrum in the assessment of the national priorities, void from unquestionable hierarchical patronage, dismissal, or pastoral dictation.

Friday, 15 July 2011

On The "Re" In Reform

I have to admit, in the beginning, that I've been quiet for a long while for more than one reason, but mainly out of the void of something useful to say; Having said that, I imagine that today's events in Amman, are as about useful of a reason to speak as one could have.

I also have to admit, that despite my being a critic to many government policies throughout my not so brief adulthood, bearing in mind my on and off government service, I'm not entirely certain that the objective sought by those who take to the streets every Friday, and for the sake of the argument I'll call them the callers for reform is the same objective for all, and whether they're all calling for the same reform.

We acknowledge the need for Political and Economic reform, and as far as I'm concerned, all the elements of reaching an enlightened, fair and unanimously agreed upon form of government are on the table; Corruption has become pandemic in Jordan, and there has to be -and I'm not taking a shot in the dark if I assume that there really is- a genuine will in cutting the pipelines of corruption, as far as the system allows, bearing in mind the particularities of the Jordanian political and economic interdependant nature of relationship.

The center of Amman isn't the courtyard of the Bastille, and storming it like storming the infamous prison one day after the former's anniversary has to be one of the most dramatically orchestrated and least politically wise moves the opposition ever made, not because of the timing, but because the call for the protests didn't have a single specific demand shared by all the opposition, if; that is, we can call whomever was in the streets today an opposition. There seems to be a phantom of multiple interest groups with different economic and social claims: from those who are stating their claims in what's called واجهات عشائرية or tribal lands, to those who are looking to better their retirements, to teachers seeking the formation of a syndicate, to fading political parties and movements looking to return into the spotlight by riding the waves of all of the above. A rainbow of crossing interests with the least kind of interest in actual reform rather than economic gain for a certain few, however rightful their claims may be. Taking to streets every week is not going to change the facts, or the speed with which any reform is being achieved, nor will it change the fact that it wouldn't make a difference whether or not the political will towards reform is indeed genuine.

The Jordanian model of government isn't Plato's Utopia, and I'd be the first to admit it, but throughout the 90 years since the establishment of an Emirate East of the river Jordan, the term "Jordanian Refugee" has never been used, and that, to me -and to anyone who has any sense of justice- has to be the Apodictic proof of the benign nature of the Jordanian system of government. We've had Palestinian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Syrian, Libyan, Yemeni precede the term refugee in the past months and years, and almost all of the above refer to lands where government is irrelevant to the historical continuity of the social belonging to the lands they refer to, but that civilizational certainty hasn't saved their peoples from being displaced and become refugees -even briefly- as a result of a man-made circumstance dictated by the wisdom -or lack thereof- of the political system.

I'm not, neither will I claim to be more monarchist than the monarch, but to me, the respect of human dignity is first and foremost in any relationship, especially when it comes to the relationship between the ruler and the ruled. The social contract between any people and their government gives away rights as well as gains others, the protection of the human dignity is probably the single most important of all rights. Keeping in mind the style of government we've seen across the Arab World in the past 50 years; one cannot stress enough the importance of this little detail when one see's images of people being stepped on, kicked in the face and shot at by regime thugs bearing all sorts of lethal weapons and orders to use them at will in Syria, an hour away from Amman, for example.

The bottom line is that, despite the shortcomings of the political, economic and social policies, as well as the misuse of power against protesters we saw today and several times before, one has to be fair to one's own nature and acknowledge the fact that these abuses are not systemic, nor are they an integral part of the political system's composition and character, which makes it even more important not to underestimate the value of being a citizen of Jordan in 2011, and not a citizen of any other country where human dignity can easily be waived, misused and abused, for the sake of the continuity of one person's malignant political regime.

Update: There needs to be a clear definition of authority, particularly over the Police and the security apparatus, the removal of weapons only to be replaced by sticks, stones and barbecue grills to face-off protesters isn't a an exercise to restore order, it's official hooliganism under the pretext of keeping law and order. Not having control over anti-riot police voids the word authority from its meaning, it makes us a borderline Police state.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Mental Trips of Sinbad II

Less often than we'd like to admit, we're very fragile creatures; even if we overly portray ourselves as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. For the most part, we're hiding behind self-made walls of pride and prejudice, of vanity and greed, heading aimlessly with the stride of the knowledgeable goat being led by a shepherd's dog.

Our minds are our compasses, and despite them being shallow pools of rain, sometimes; they do reflect the stars a million light years away, and those stars, are our eventual destination, if we choose to engage all our senses in the art of "living". Humanity is best served by the act of leaving a trace remembered long after one's short "cameo" is over, otherwise it's a waste of space and time.

Live, Love, Loath -moderately- and most of all, Learn; and while doing so, be thankful for God's Grace.

Friday, 11 March 2011

On Arabs, Revolutions, and Conspiracy Theories

There's been a lot of talk about hidden hands behind the Tsunami-style revolutions across the Arab World; and although it's a fair assumption if we take the long history of Conspiracy Theories' relationship with the collective Arab psyche, it is also humiliating to the human spirit, which is the same all over the world, for no human spirit is more refined or capable of change than any other.

We have to admit; in the beginning, that Arab Will has been deficient since the beginning of the 20th century; the 400 odd years of Ottoman rule contributed to the dormancy of the free spirit of the Arab, partly because the Ottoman empire was seen as the House of Khilafah, the most divine rule in Islam, and revolting against it would be considered one of the greatest acts of heresy imaginable, and partly because the economic and social state under which Arabs were, made it increasingly impossible for them to think about anything more than earning their daily bread.

As of late 1880s, Arab intellects who've been exposed to the diversity of the world, through their travels to the West and East, such as Muhammad Abdo and Jamal Al-Deen Al Afghani to name a couple, began advocating Change as an element of Reform -Rather than Reform as an Element of Change- they taught and preached about the virtue of changing the Islamic self view, which roughly translates to looking into a mirror and changing one's own self before seeking to change the surrounding circumstances, a clear understanding of the Qur'anic verse:

إِنَّ اللهَ لا يُغَيِّـرُ مَا بِقَومٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّـرُوا مَا بِـِأنفُسِهم

"Allah changeth not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts"

This revolutionary vision, gave the responsibility of achieving Freedom to humans, rather than the centuries old silent acceptance of tyranny -in all its forms- and labeling it as a God-willed Destiny. The fresh breath of air the Islamic mind got during that period, made it possible for the Arab mind to recover the long lost identity of being an Arab, from Egypt to Syria to Palestine and Lebanon, Arabs began identifying themselves as such, regardless of their religious background, a revert to the thought of supremacy of humanity over taboos.

I'm not going to bore you with a long lesson in history for you all are more educated on the matter than I am, so to make a long story short, I would argue that the past five generations of Arabs have lived through one setback after the other, from the Great Arab Revolt's Utopian promise of a unified Arab state's ending with Sykes-Picot, to the creation of Israel and the loss of Jerusalem, to Saddam's lost dream of Arab potential, to the endless pointless peace process. Arabs got used to the thought of self degradation and finger pointing, blame became our favourite pass-time, and docking responsibility became our greatest sport, we've learned to enjoy defeat in a masochistic way affecting all aspects of our lives and driving us to revert to the belief that misery, tyranny, corruption and decadence is Fate only breakable by God, for which we have to wait as if it were a table of bounties delivered from heaven as we lay on our sides and watch.

Some would argue that the US has a role in the Arab revolutions, others would blame Aljazeera's Israeli agenda, other others would give the credit to the Muslim brotherhood. All of these hypotheses are deliberately or indeliberately underestimating the power of the human spirit, even if that human spirit belongs to people who have been misrepresented, ignored, deceived and oppressed for centuries. The fact remains, that these revolutions are of the people, by the people and for the people; they're the natural evolution of any human experience similar to the one the Arab world lived through in the past 100 years; it happened in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, in Latin America in the 1990s and in South East Asia in the past 10 years. And if one could borrow a line from the US declaration of Independence -without suggesting anything to anyone other than asserting the universal equality of man's aspirations- I would say that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" in their search for a better life, not only in the economic gain and loss meaning of the word, but rather through the embodiment of the supremacy of Freedom over Life itself, even if we've been written off as a domesticated breed.

Let Freedom Ring.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

The Battle for Tubrok 2011

In the aftermath of the Tunisian and Egyptian popular revolutions, and the role both countries' Armies had in their success, the question that begs itself is this: What is the Combat Ideology of the Arab armies? The combat ideology roughly translates to a clear definition of the rules of engagement; a clear definition of the "enemy", which can be as clear as a national existential enemy like Israel for example, or a local occurring threat from a neighbour or a group in the shape of a military attack or an act of espionage or terrorism.

In both the Egyptian and Tunisian cases, the Combat ideology of the army saw the people as the source of legitimacy and the only constant in the equation, whereas the head of state was seen as the variable, despite him being the commander in chief as per the constitutional delegation within the presidential duties. This was the nexus under which the revolutions succeeded in their ultimate goal of removing the head of state. Without the backing of the armed forces, the people would've been mascaraed and the world wouldn't have known about it, or would've seen and heard about it and would've played the constant hypocritical role of calling for restraint.

Now that the Change Express has moved eastwards through Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, it's particularly interesting to observe the role of the military in these events, the tribal nature of the society in all three countries makes it extremely difficult to make a clear cross section distinction between the professional role of the army as the guardian of national interest and the tribal affiliation its members have, an element that might dictate their political position either with the regime against the people, or with the people against the regime.

Libya is in a league of it's own; the Authority of the people isn't admissible if the people doesn't want Gaddafi; in fact, the people is disposable if they challenge his anti authority.

The leader of the revolution is quite known for his clownish behaviour, a source of endless entertainment for those of us lucky enough not to be living under his glorious rule, but the fact remains that he's a thug, probably the worst thug ruler in the Arab World, he's had connections with international terrorists since the 1970s, from Carlos to Abu Nidal, for no reason other than keeping his name alive around the world; a severe condition of psychotic narcissism. he's been financing civil wars across Africa for decades, swindling his country's wealth on outlandish intellectual excursions and his sons' decadent pleasure. Gaddafi is smarter than he looks -as hard as that may sound- he's been walking back and forth on the tight rope of anti westernism since his rise to power in 1969, hitting and running for attention whenever he gets the chance.

The king of African kings is paying African mercenaries to crack down on his own people's revolt against him. In Gaddafi's dictionary, revolting against a life-time revolutionary needed across the globe is a cardinal sin. The Libyan army's reaction wasn't quite clear in the first few days since February 17th, its combat ideology is probably based on devotion to the leader, rather than the country, but we've seen some interesting examples of heresy against this ideology, several army officers and fighter pilots, as well as some high ranking officials within the military have announced their siding with the people against Gaddafi, a clear indication of their belief in the superiority of country and people over leader, even if the leader is the great Muammar. The turning point in the military's siding with the people was probably Gaddafi's seeking of foreign mercenaries, this will probably be proven to be Gaddafi's fatal error, he ended the people army's allegiance to his great leadership when he bought foreigners to fight the army's people.

Gaddafi's days are numbered, but his fall isn't going to be as graceful as those of Bin Ali and Mubarak, his psychotic obsession on being a loved leader makes it very difficult for him to simply pack and leave, even if he's known for travelling light and living in a mobile tent. He will set a precedent, as he does and either commit suicide or be killed, probably the latter.

It is probably a good mental exercise and/or an excellent fortune telling capability to sit and ponder on the combat ideology of the different Arab countries.

God Save Libya.

Friday, 11 February 2011

هنا القاهرة

هنا القاهرة؛ مدينةُ القهرِ المستحكمِ بأقدارِ الناس، هنا.. يصحو الفجرُ على أنّات الفقراء، البؤساء، التعساء، المظلومين، المحرومين، المنسييّن، المهفييّن على أطراف الأرض المنهوبة

هنا، تَمسحُ إبتسامةُ الرضا، الحزنَ الموروثَ من ألف عام، وهنا فقط، يُقهرُ الطغاةُ.. ولو بعد حين

هنا القاهرة

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Reflections Over The Nile

Revolution, is a Carnival of humanity, it brings out the instinctive good in humans. There's an Arabic idiom called "قهر", I've been thinking of an accurate English translation of the word and all I can come up with was Servitude, a moral oppression of the inherent instinct of human dignity. What is happening in Egypt now is exactly that, a deliberate attempt to break the human spirit, with the greatest force possible. Egypt's Tahrir Square has become a mini Egypt, a Utopian island of justice and freedom for all, within a land where justice and freedom was bound by participating in a false hierarchy based on loyalty to the Godfather through the membership of the ruling party, a key that opened the doors of heaven for the past 3o years to its holders, and soon will open the doors of hell.

If there's a lesson to draw from the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt it's simply this: Corporate Oligarchies are a threat to the stability of the political system. Since the early 1990s, and the rise of capitalist entrepreneurship across the world, a global phenomenon of utilizing the business mind into the mechanism of government emerged into the political scene, hoping it would create the momentum to modernize the bureaucracy into a slimmer more efficient organism.

This "genius" model was presented across the Arab World through western educated professionals with limited experience in the workings of governments and the political process of nations, they came in with a condescending mentality and a bloated ego, not to mention an appetite to use or misuse authority for their corporate minded benefit through government sponsored models with flashy titles across the Arab World, from Tunisia, to Egypt, to Jordan.

Now that this model has proven its naivety, not to mention its immoral justification of greed as ambition, and embezzlement as investment, the question begs itself, now what? They say business and pleasure don't mix, it is even wiser not to mix business with government; public property never was a means of private gain even for long-term political players, it's called public service for a reason, the service of the public rather than the service of the private. It is time to re-evaluate the whole fascination with the western capitalist model, not because it's proven its failure or because socialism is the inevitable economic conclusion as Marx predicted. Both have their stories of success and failure around the world and throughout the years, but because it's not fair for the larger bulk of the population in developing countries such as ourselves to become pawns on a big chess board of financial gain and loss played by the financially able few. The minute you put public property on the market, the political influence that runs through the veins of civil society would swallow the public interest for the benefit of the few, examples of this are mushrooming across the Arab World, including but not limited to Solidaire in Lebanon and Abdali in Jordan, to name a couple.

I'm fascinated with the Egyptian revolution, and I insist on calling it a revolution and not a movement, an uprising, or a protest. It's a social revolution that has already begun redefining and elevating the moral standards and intellectual aspirations of all Arabs in the 21st century. it's the first true exercise of the true nature of the people in the Arab World, breaking all the clichés of religious tensions and gender inequalities -both do exist- but when the national interest is at risk, everything else dissolves into a melting pot of the basic unifying identity; one of the greatest, most noble feelings of humanity. The fighter-jets of the political regimes can't break the spirit of freedom seekers, nor can its camels, horses and mules match the speed of the internet; a lesson to be remembered by all, on both sides of the political fence, across the Arab World.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Welcome to the Arab World: "Under New Management"

On June 9th 1967; and in the aftermath of the six day war, President Nasser of Egypt went on television and announced his resignation from the presidency to the Egyptian people, holding full responsibility of the Arab defeat in the war; even before he had finished his speech, thousands of Egyptians invaded the streets across the country expressing their rejection of that resignation and their collective trust in Nasser, even after his leadership caused The worst and most humiliating defeat in history.

On the personal level, I'm not a great fan of Nasser's school of politics, but historical credibility has to give the man the justice in noting his personal integrity. The reason I'm mentioning this piece of history is its contrast with what is currently taking place in Egypt; Thousands have been protesting across the country for the 7th straight day calling for the resignation of Hosni Mubarak from office, and yet; he's refusing, despite the increasing number of protesters, and the joining of multiple representatives of the Egyptian social mosaic in the calls to his resignation: from representatives of the judiciary, to academics, to artists, to religious leaders, which gives a greater momentum to the movement with every passing day. There's a popular consensus on the rejection of Mubarak's remain in office, and this consensus is a declaration of popular divorce with the political system, The Egyptian regime lost the popular respect long before the events began last Tuesday, but it has sealed its fate -inadvertently- when the social contract between the people and the government was broken with the abandonment of the police and public security personnel of their responsibilities as soon as they felt their own security was at risk, rather than the people's.

The marvel of this revolt is that it is a totally spontaneous outburst of over-bottled feelings of injustice, fed across generations of political destitution, it was impossible to predict, nor does it have a limit to its aspirations; it is not the revolt of the political elite in which political bargain is laid on the table for the parties to discuss, but rather a revolt of the inexperienced youth on the status quo, with the full intent to change everything and everyone within their definition of the "status quo" which includes whole regimes, a historical precedence in Arab history. In 1968, the student revolt in France caused an infection similar to the Tunisian revolt across the world, despite France's historic pride in being the cradle of popular revolutions; that revolt managed to rock the stable boat of De Gaulle's 5th Republic, to the extent of forcing De Gaulle himself to briefly flee the country -which I think was what Bin Ali had in mind for a the first 5 minutes- and the dissolve of parliament and the call for new elections.

They say that History is the cruelest of all judges, Mubarak's days as president are numbered, and he's certainly not helping his own historical biography with his mulish behaviour. But the bottom line remains that 11 years into the 21st century, it's about time for Arab change to begin, from the least expected sector, in the least expected manner, taking the least expected amount of time, answering yet redefining Condi Rice's prediction of the emergence of a New Middle East, with the Lebanon war of 2006 as its Birth Pangs, but the new born seems to have surprised even the best doctors in the world, with its belonging to its biological parents, rather than its prospective adopters.

Friday, 28 January 2011

The Winter of Discontent

The opening line of William Shakespeare's Richard III reads "Now is the winter of our discontent, Made glorious summer by this sun of York", and if one is allowed to borrow the phrase, I would replace York with Tunis, Cairo and any coming cities where the Sun of glorious change is yet to shine.

There's a concept of political thought called Popular Sovereignty, it's simply an exercise of popular will, and although it's a pillar of western democracy explained through the writings of the fathers of the Political philosophy; Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, it's a universal act of human behaviour against dictatorship and oppression of human dignity; it was used during both the American and French revolutions 200 years ago and has gained its practical meaning through those two examples. But the most important reason for the exercise of this popular power is the belief in the failure of other more conventional forms of sovereignty; nations usually legitimize their political system through parliaments, which -theoretically- are chosen by the people to represent their interests through the various channels of the political process through what is called parliamentary sovereignty, which -in most Arab states- is a puppet in the hand of the top ruler and an extension to his sole power, giving false legitimacy to the regime. but when the people decide to deny that trust and break the fortified barrier of authority, popular sovereignty becomes the delegitimizing force to any political system and the engine that powers the collective will of the people, and through it, people express the long forgotten cliché printed in most constitutions "The people is the source of all powers" and it actually comes into play, with calls like "الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام" The people wants to overthrow the regime, used in Egypt as we speak, a reuse of Tunisia's original call to overthrow the post Bin Ali government.

The Egyptians are the barometer of the Arab conscience; for the better part of the 20th century, Egypt was the center of Arab nationalism until the Camp David accords of 1979, and the public movement of the Egyptian people has always been the trigger for other movements across the Arab world, but this time; Tunisia took the world by surprise and heralded the era of popular sovereignty conquering rusty regimes that have been in power for decades; powered by youth with ages averaging the age of the regimes themselves and powered by their sheer enthusiasm to change using the Internet and social networks to organize their movement.

The most notable hallmark of these movements is their lack of defined leadership, despite the existence of the multiple colors of the political spectrum in their midst, the youth movement is reminiscent to the movements witnessed in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s which resulted in the collapse of the Eastern block, the other notable hallmark is that they're not by any means the movements of the less advantaged, but rather of those belonging to internet savvy, educated middle class backgrounds; the backbone of the economic and social movement in any given nation. On the other hand, the main players in the political system are known for their old age and long-term chronic physical illnesses; experience can never match enthusiasm, it is physically incapable of matching the speed with which the will of change sweeps across the streets, they can oppress it with force, but this will only cause it to explode with greater vigor. The strength and power of despotism consists wholly in the fear of resistance.

The lesson always overlooked by authoritarians is that sovereignty does not belong to the greater or stronger, it belongs to the people; to the daring small and the fearless few, and those who dare challenge their reality, are destined to control their future.

It is especially entertaining to read the clueless reactions of the US and Israel.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

On The Demise of Nations

There's a certain inevitability in the cycle of life of all living things, and since man is a living thing, everything he creates is affected by a Medusa kind of curse, one which condemns its fate, and seals it with a predetermined life span; it is us humans, who have the power to prolong or shorten the life span of our creations, whether these creation are materially tangible, like buildings or railways, or intangible in essence but existent in reality, like companies, banks, or nations.

I've come across an interesting article by an Indian Doctor named Gaurang Bhatt titled "Idiot Leaders Cause Demise of Nations" a straight forward title that needs no introduction or interpretation; The article tackles the political history of India from the rise of the moguls to the partition of 1949, but since human nature is one and the same, it can be used to draw lessons and/or find similarities across the globe. He argues that there are clear tell-tales of any given nation's ominous fall, and these include The lust for power, delusions of grandeur, lack of foresight and indifference to national cohesion, among other factors.

Some nations are to an extent immune from the follies of their leaders, and those are old world nations which have existed for millennia, and passed through the hands of dozens of leaders, decent and decedent, and yet rose from under the proverbial ashes, because their anthropological and geopolitical circumstances have willed them to be constant nations, rather than temporary states, but the game of ethnic or religious tension is always a tool of creating a schism through any society; it happened in Europe throughout the 19th century, and in the Middle East in the early 20th century, and today it's happening in Iraq, and is taking shape in Egypt as we speak, and I'm afraid of it spreading further.

Debt, corruption and collective lack of respect and/or fear of national authority and its symbols are certainly signs of national dementia; economic security is the glue that keeps any society together, it is the single most important component in social cohesion, and any tremors that hit the base of economic security of the average street man, would cause even greater social tremors, crime rates would rise, and collective disenchantment with any symbols of authority would increase, resulting in a chronic state of lawlessness, one which would appear and disappear more often, and become more malignant as they grow. The recent events in Tunisia are the freshest, most striking example of this; a young man who's been jobless and trying to make a living through selling vegetables on a cart was denied from even that, and he became the trigger to a national uprising that overthrew a dictator in 3 weeks.

Nations are constant if their social cohesion is stabilized through a long history of the existence of a civil society; and the existence of a civil society void from the interference of national authority is almost exclusive to "old world" cosmopolitans like Damascus, Baghdad or Cairo in the Mashreq; and Casablanca and Qairawan in the Maghreb. The Tunisian historical precedence of popular regime change is actually an example of the supremacy of society over the political system, it is a clear indication of the social hierarchy -despite the former existence of parallel hierarchies made by the overthrown regime- which puts The People on top of the pyramid of identity, followed by any temporary characterization like political affiliation or regional background, which caused the -also temporary- economic and social supremacy of the selected few, in the example of the ex-president's wife's family and co.

The Arab world is riddled with similar examples of the rise -and not yet fall- of the corrupt few political and economic hierarchies over the rest of society, Egypt is probably the closest and the one with the most similarities to the Tunisian example in terms of the social structure of both the nation and the regime, but that doesn't mean that other examples do not exist, the difference is the composition of the societies; some are more homogeneous than others, and some are more prone to the ancient wisdom of "divide and conquer" especially if the components of division are right there waiting to be used or misused to the favour of the junta be it in the form of a government, or a whole political system. Ibn Khaldun -a Tunisian born- comes to his greatest relevance in the increasingly multicultural societies of today: What is social solidarity, and how does a society achieve it and maintain it? He argues that no society can achieve anything—conquer an empire or even survive—unless there is internal consensus about its aims.

Speaking of Ibn Khaldun; an interesting footnote to all the above would be the reminder of his theory of the Rise and Fall of nations, which ends with the collapse of the nation, and is only preceded by a stage of inflated bureaucracy, increasing taxation, and exaggerated expenditure on the ruler and his entourage, rather than the people.

How many contemporary example of the above can you think of?

Monday, 3 January 2011

Avé Maria

Almost three years ago, I wrote two articles "here and here", on the effect of Identity and Faith on the collective mindset of people, and among what I wrote was that All aspects of human interaction contribute to the creation of culture, and before settling; the storm of culture-building acquires and sheds many aspects of the life of people as it takes the shape of Identity; language, Faith and even tolerance or ethnocentrism.

I'm mentioning this in the aftermath of the heinous crimes against Christian citizens of the East, namely Iraq a couple of months ago, and with the passing first few minutes of the year in Egypt.

Whomever is the perpetrator of these crimes is very much aware of the idea of National Identity, and as I have explained in the previous post, Nation states are extremely hard to fragment, with their solid backbone of historical -and in many cases genetic- composition, they're almost impossible to destroy, both Egypt and Iraq are in more ways than one considered to be Nation states; both are the cradles of the oldest civilizations in humanity, which has guaranteed continuous existence of a "nation/أمّة" with a distinct identity on both lands for thousands of years, and both have the sociological potential to survive as independent nations in the present and the future. I've chosen the term sociological, and not political or economic; since society is the heart of any human endeavour; it's the most consistent element that keeps people together through time, social contracts are the basis of constitutions; a collection of unwritten agreements to build -together, regardless of primary differences- an organism called a society, which in turn is the seed of collective identity, as it evolves into a melting pot of cultures and traditions, and eventually, distinguishes people with their unique texture, by it -the society- being One, among many.

The targeting of Christians in the East is a direct premeditated blow to an integral component of the Near Eastern societies of the Levant, Egypt and Iraq; the Christians of these lands are the descendants of the disciples of Jesus Christ and represent the longest continuous existence of Christianity in the world. It's an aware attempt to stir never before seen -or long forgotten- feelings of animosity and disengagement between people in the Holy Land; which can extend to include both Iraq and Egypt in both the Islamic and Christian narratives. It's been brewing in Lebanon for 30 years with a hit and miss approach, but has never seized to be instigated. Lebanon too, despite its size and limited resources, has the historical and human potential of survival as a singular nation state, at least in theory, and the survival of Lebanon despite all odds in the past 50 years is an indication of the above mentioned long-term potential.

In his book "طبائع الإستبداد" The Nature of Despotism, Al Kawakibi argues that the only way to achieve political reform is to achieve religious reform; this came from a man who was a religious teacher by virtue of his education, and a nationalist philosopher by trade.

In the 100 years since Kawakibi, nationalism has mutated into sub-genres of identities which in the eyes of their advocates are called national identities; the 22 nations of the Arab League each have their own version of that mutated national identity, but the fact remained that multi-denominational societies like Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon and one can include Jordan, Syria and Palestine for the sake of scientific accuracy, have seldom had religious identity used as the primary means of self identification, -except for Lebanon due to its complex political composition- this diversity always complimented the pride of national affiliation to the land they're from, an Iraqi was always an Iraqi, so was an Egyptian, and certainly the Palestinian, even when he's faced with a counter identity called the Jewish state which has made a sudden but not surprising come-back in the Israeli political literature. When that national identity began to rattle under the feet of Iraqis, Egyptians or even the Sudanese with their imminent referendum of the cessation of the predominantly Christian south, Religion became the more concrete first line of defence -being part of a religious group- aka society, took over, and has become the means of finding distinction.

I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel here but this is merely an attempt to comprehend; Why is it, that Christians are the target of whomever is targeting them, and why now? I would answer the first question with the following analysis:

Some disillusioned ignorant Muslims see Christians as an extension to foreign invasion, many of these suicide bombers come from societies that do not have Christians to begin with, like the gulf states for example, so to them Christians are alien infidels by default, or they're an extension to the Western Crusade against Islam, and if the recruits come from multi religious societies, they're brain-washed into believing that redemption begins with the cleansing -both ethnic and physical- of the land of Islam from "The Other" with an eerie reminder to the Jewish term Goyim, using misinterpreted Muslim narratives to prove their point, including the expulsion the Jewish tribes from Arabia when Islam conquered Mecca in 630 AD, for example.

We're facing a sociological crisis, which can only be resolved with democracy, and that is the key to economic progression, even with the involvement of the public sector, social justice is the key for economic justice, and political justice in the shape of equal opportunity is the key to civic peace; for as long as there's a group of people that feels that it is discriminated against with the power of the law, or another group that believes that those who are of a different faith are destroying the Islamic identity of any given nation; any loop hole of this kind which allows the passage of bad elements, or as they're known in our genius media "The Few Rotten Apples"- to invade and feed hatred between compatriots, will have us fall and never rise from our own self burned aches; The Nature of Despotism -the human behaviour, not the book in this instance- so predicts.

In Jordan, the religious card isn't really viable, but rather the one based on the cardinal directions of Earth, a compass is all you need to stir tensions in Jordan, with the likes of the paper doll leaders of the Faisali-Wihdat incident who would ride any wave to achieve their 15 minutes of fame, which is another story for another day.

The enduring rule of thumb remains, that the Illusion of knowledge is far more dangerous than Ignorance itself.