Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Fools of April (and 11 other months)

By Bassem Hassan

Picture: http://beachblogger.net

Seriously, now, who doesn’t love a good lie? Especially if it is one of those lies that you tell to get people all worked up about something only to burst out laughing when they realize the joke’s on them. In fact we homo sapiens sapiens (yes, that’s our official name) love lies so much that we dedicate a specific day in the year- this very day, April 1st- to lie and laugh about it. And you know what…good for us! As long as it’s all in good fun, why not?

As long as it’s for fun…that’s the key. There are some lies you just don’t tell, even on April 1st. You don’t tell a father, for instance, that his child has just been taken to hospital after being hit by a car; or a woman that you just saw her partner kissing someone else (unless you really did of course!). You get the point; you don’t tell lies that can have profound effects on people’s lives. The vast majority of humans abide by this rule. It is strange then to see that when it is no longer a personal issue the very same decent people seem to have no qualms telling the types of lies that can ruin the lives entire generations. I refer of course to the profound lies we are told on a daily basis by a whole herd of neo-liberal Arab ‘intellectuals’, whose numbers- and the numbers of media outlets they speak through- seem to be rising exponentially by the second. Of course what is terribly funny-sad about this (and “the worst of evils is what makes you laugh”, as the beautifully elegant Arabic saying goes), is that the vast majority of these people used to be leftists until that well dried up and was replaced by oil-well media outlets.

Here’s a small sample of neo-liberal “April Fools” I personally experienced. The individuals perpetrating this nonsense shall remain anonymous, of course.

1- The American project in the Middle East is to support democracy in the region: Obviously, these pundits must be referring to the havens of democracy such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia… the list of US supported Arab democracies seems endless!

2- If Palestinians (or Lebanese) stop “attacking” Israel, it will stop “retaliating”: here our neo-liberal geniuses are referring to the brutal occupation of Israeli land by the nuclearly armed Palestinian State and the constant bombings of the civilian population, including 20 day-old infants, by the heavily armed Palestinian army and its fearsome air force. Truly…what are we thinking?!

3- Continued resistance undermines nation building: quoth the raven of the Vichy government during the Nazi occupation of France! Need I say more?

4- The problem is not sectarianism, the problem is the lack of democracy: this is of course why our neo-liberal friends oppose free and fair elections when they bring radical Islamists to power. What the neo-liberal does not seem to understand is that he cannot have it both ways. Yes, sectarianism is exactly the problem and it is exactly what the neoconservative fascist thugs running America’s military and foreign policy are encouraging in Iraq, Lebanon and the Gulf.

And now my top three favorites. Drum roll please…

5- At least Israel is a democracy: oh, yes, of course, because people vote there. Never mind that Israel is (not was, is), by its very definition, an apartheid state based on a racist ideology, founded on the transformation of a mythological religious narrative into a pseudo-national identity. But, wait a second, people vote there! They also vote in Iran, Morocco and Pakistan, you know, but we don’t call those democracies…do we?

6- We should accept any peace we are offered because it allows us to build our economic prosperity: why didn’t I think of that one?! I mean look at the prosperity that peace brought to Egypt resulting in a huge increase in per capita income, decreased infant mortality rates and the almost complete abolition of unemployment and foreign debt…or not!

7- Attracting foreign capital investment will trickle down to the rest of the population: Are you not in awe of the limitless genius of the neo-liberal brain? Trickle-down, supply-side, economics reinven…I mean photocopied (again!). Obviously since these policies failed miserably in Europe and the United States in the 80’s, they must- by definition really- succeed in the far more advanced, much less corrupt Arab world.

By now, you are wondering “what is it about the neo-liberal mind that allows it to be so insightful?” Of course, we silly leftists are incapable of fathoming the depth of the neo-liberal intellect. However, as some of us can actually read- and occasionally do- we have been able to gather clues to share with you. First, neo-liberals de-contextualize the problem. Second, they substitute analysis and evidence with example and anecdote. The combination of these two tricks is what brings out the most powerful neo-liberal voodoo: the irresistibly delicious, magnetically inviting, GENERALIZATION. You see, it is their capacity to generalize ahistoric, nonscientific nonsense that allows them to come up with theories like the “clash of civilizations”. Islam vs. the West they call it. Religion vs. Geography: good one! Or the “inherent irrationality of the Arab/Eastern mind” as if Al-Razi, Ibn Arabi, Ibn Al Haytham, Jaber Bin Hayyan, Al Khawarizmy and Ibn Sina, or the hundreds of modern Arab scientists, from Ahmed Zuweil on down, who practice their craft all around the world, hailed from Norway, Poland, Wales and South Dakota. Or better yet, their favorite baby “Globalization” as if it were a new thing. They forget that Capital has always been globalized and has always attempted to extend its global reach. From Marx and Engels to Teddy Roosevelt, thinkers and politicians across the spectrum have written about this fact more than a hundred years ago. Then again, I forget that the neo-liberal is the master of reinventing the squeaky wheel, because he does not bother reading the manual. Oh, the list of their “theories” is inexhaustible, but enough is enough.

So, the next time you come across neo-liberal venom spewing in your face, remember the old Arabic saying “the wise is not bitten by the same snake twice”. Or better yet, just pretend its April 1st and have a good laugh.


Anonymous said...

It is almost 10:00 AM in my office in Washington DC and I am laughing so hard I am certain my colleagues think I've turned nuts.

This is a interesting article in my view although I question your motives behind assuming that all neoliberals are from the male species (you refer to a neo-liberal as a he)!

On a more serious note, It has become annoyingly common for republics, whether they are the United States or the Republic of Lebanon to be referred to as democracies, without regard to the meaning of the word or the implications it brings with it. I do think however that in principle Israel and Iran are democracies because they are government by the majority. Of course there are rules and regulations outside that realm that promotes specific agendas such as Aliyah in Israel.

In addition, there is a serious disconnect between media, government, and the people especially not surprisingly in the Middle East. Some of the arguments you hear appear to be a justification for adopting views and policies that are non-sensical at best.

Marwan -

Arab Democracy said...

There is no question that the Left in the Middle East need to undergo a serious and painful auticritique before it can claim to address the challenges of the current situation.

This has not only not happened but the offsprings of this 70s leftism have split into two warring factions: The 'new left' which has kept the symbolism and the social liberalism while ditched everything itself to an extent that it is indistinguishable from any other mainstream political organisation. On the other hand The remnants of the 'traditional left' have abdicated and delegated the task of avant-garde to a national-religious alliance with whom they share little apart from the anti-imperialist stance.

My view is that the left should steer away from easy shortsighted solutions and look into etsablishin itself again as a major player within and between communities.

It might take decades but Rome was not built in one day