By: Ali Dayyoub
Populist culture admixes description and judgment. It, therefore, falls into the trap of an ongoing justification of the public’s [read: the people’s] faults and errors, and further entrenching stasis and inertia within society. This happens firstly at the level of critical thinking, upon which all development is predicated. And secondly at the level of behavior patterns, wherein inferiority expels all else, thereby allowing mob culture to prevail—with all the contempt that it implies of lofty behavior, a devaluation of wisdom, and an affront to modesty. Not to mention a macho violence that annihilates all things delightful.
This is clearly and intensely clear and present in moments of historic transformation of societies—as is the case today, where the din fighting between men rises above all else. The feelings of femininity sink inside the bodies, and the voice of reason suffers decay. People enter a state of collective lunacy, that calls upon all the instincts of the herd to which they belong. They seek its protection, after having earlier shown how they had overcome it, and made their rupture with it.
What seems most ironic about this characteristic of the state of decay, is that our social elite lies in a form of self-suicide, and disseminates the culture of death. Rather than play the role of ambulance cadres for an injured people during a disaster, and provide urgent treatments—much like a field emergency team; we see them debase themselves to applauding the combatants [each of them standing behind his/her team]. They inflame them with a spirit of injustice, to raise the level of counter-violence. They derive victory from past legends; chant the illusory chants of evil defeated with evil’s own weapon. The end toll is a nihilist struggle, between the various components of the same society.
In such dark saga, the demand for the culture of hatred rises, placing a premium on values of subservience and herd behavior. Time leaps backwards to the abject darkness of an intractable tragedy, that makes finding a solution for the country’s ordeal, and ensuring the people’s salvation, impossible. Indeed, salvation seems a distant, elusive dream.
The sagacious ones, society’s elite, face their worst times. They are accused of cowardice, impotence, and defeatism by all parties alike. Their most menacing attackers usually are drawn from the elite itself. Accusations of hubris, arrogance, inferiority vis-a-vis foes—to the extent where it becomes much simpler to accuse it of treason, and threaten it with retribution.
If it [the elite] were to use the terms “ignorance” or “backwardness” to characterize its society, inundated in a maelstrom of violence; it is immediately accused of hubris and conceit. If it were to call for renunciation of violence, a stop to the fighting, a return to peace, or to demand rights and freedoms; it is immediately accused of silence to the other side’s violence. And if it were to draw society’s attention to the fact that it is part of the larger international community, impressing upon it the necessity of unequivocally declaring this fact, by employing its conditional evidence—i.e. adopting and embracing the declaration of human rights system, the separation of state and religion, as well as the arts of conflict and the affairs of politics and government; it is immediately reproached of being nothing more than Western stooges and foreign agents.
This admixture of description and judgment, is the most prominent feature of populist culture, in which Syrian elite intellectuals traffic today. It may even be the character most inherent to them, at all times. It merely never displayed itself, in the conditions of calm prior to the great storm, which the profound Syrian movement has come to represent—having wrenched the people out of their deep coma, and freed their tongues.
Do Syrians still have a need for someone to incite them to sink even deeper into infighting, and absurd and futile death? Or do they, rather, have the need for an intellectual elite, armed with a love of life—first and foremost?
It is my belief that five years of sacrifice and ruin, are more than enough to take a long pause and critique oneself. Searching for excuses to absolve one’s responsibility for oneself and project it onto others, will no longer be sufficient—starting with one’s partners in the homeland, and ending with "enemies" abroad [they are to be found the world over!]. Because this will only help Syrians to further drown in the swamps of injustices, thereby further preclude any solutions.
It equally does not suffice to surrender to rhetoric positing the intractability of a peaceful solution in Syria, due to their decision not being in their [Syrians’] hands. A decision has no will of its own, divorced of the will of [he/she] who takes it. Yes, it is the Syrian people who had put their decision in the hands of their “superiors.” It stands to reason these should not be more Syrian than the Syrians themselves.
Yes, again and again: We are part of this world. We can not impose local solutions incompatible with the international will. Let us then, present the world with solutions in harmony with the spirit of the age, represented by modern civilization. The civilization of peace, and the recognition of the other as an essential component of the self.
Opinion articles published do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Rozana.