Where Have All The Ideals Gone?

I’ve been consistently accused of harboring a ceaseless idealism by my most beloved, and as the years go by, increased accusations seem to reflect a growing fervor within myself for the ‘bad habit of setting myself up for a fall’, or better yet, of being ‘slightly delusional’. Rationality, it seems, means embracing the reality of flawed characteristics dominating collective behaviors, especially on the part of state actors who exercise policies that serve their best interests – propagating a global political (and consequentially, economic and social) atmosphere defined by ‘free-riding’ principles; self-serving, greed-riddled, power-hungry, money-seeking ends which permit a world of amorality to emerge and thrive. To such logicians of gothic advocacy, I say, how rational could it possibly be to accept a world of unabashed and unopposed sadism?

Over a lush serving of the finest beverages and platters of rolled-up fishy, cheesy delicacies, and with a spectacular night-time view of Dubai’s burgeoning skyline, I had a lively conversation last weekend with a group of young, educated professionals working in the finance sector. We spoke of politics mainly, our conversation inspired by the revolutionary times we’re living in. We reminisced over the days of nationalism and the upholding of causes such as Nasserism, Pan-Arabism, a free Palestine and the bringing of justice to those robbed of it (a displaced reminiscence perhaps, given that all of us at the table didn’t exist during those days – still, our parents’ generation have been so imbued with disappointment over the loss of those days that we reserve a second-degree connection to such experiences, and a first-degree hopelessness which I believe has enabled the construction of Machiavellian mindsets – but more on that later).

As I spoke with the voice of an excited child about the emboldened youth movement in Egypt taking to the street, the empowered Libyans and their megalomaniac (former) ruler, and the frayed hopes of poverty-stricken Tunisians led in despair to suicide revolts, my company at the table smirked politely, perhaps even jeeringly. “I believe its organic, I believe the people have reached their threshold and the tipping point has led to genuine regional uprisings which .. yada yada yada”, I said, my voice slowly mutating into muttering as I observed the facial expressions of my audience. One of the women at the table who works for an international bank, and another young woman in PR for a leading global corporate consulting firm, assured me with cool conviction that everything had surely been staged. They assured me that America was arming the Libyan rebels and leveraging their grievances for their own lucrative purposes from the start, that the British government outsourced agents to manipulate policy shifts and demonstrations in Egypt, and that nothing authentic could ever come out of the Middle East because it would forever linger in the abyss of an endless colonial existence, like a broken record stuck on the word bitch.

“We know how business works,” one said, “we write the press releases,” another said, all of them tooting the horn for the hegemony of neoliberal capitalism which they argued rules global propaganda, owning all access routes to the information industry that manipulates the minds of the masses into believing whatever it is that “they” want the poor, incapable, mindless masses to believe. Okay, I said, so who are “they”. Some said they are Masonites, others pointed to the American-Zionist congress, and some argued they were simply the abstract flow of global capital ebbed by Big Business and shored by the most powerful governments disguised as torch-bearers of democracy, with a warmonger’s heart beneath that veneer.

I do believe there’s truth to their claims. It’s the acquiescence behind their claims that unnerves me. It’s the melting into decadence that enrages me, and it’s that same defeatism which has cast millions of people into a state of financial, mental and spiritual poverty and has reinvigorated an institutionalized racism and volatile sense of religion that has both given birth to the need for the revolutions which we are witnessing today, and has sown a rotting and unsustainably polluted way of being. This way of being is the lynchpin upon which the Endless War theory is brought to fruition – this way of being is the scarred and blackened soil within which mercenaries hibernate and collect energy for war. This way of being is multiplied by arguments of a fixed nature; arguments assuming that humankind is genealogically predisposed to feed off of rational-utility-maximization – the idea that the world is anarchy, that each individual and each individual state protect their vulnerability to that anarchy by amassing the most material capabilities and imbedding fear in the hearts of the less fortunate to maintain their power. “It’s just the way it is”, the argument goes. We are all assholes, and we cant help it.

Oh please. We have choices. We have the power to construct.

Neorealism argues similarly, stating that power of balance is all that matters in this world. This way of thought goes all the way back to Hobbesian philosophy, and even further back before predicates to modernity. Steven Levitt’s  Freakonomics is a beautifully written and well researched work on the deeply coercive role the most powerful governments and businesses play in determining the fate of our world. It’s all out there for us to read, even on WikiLeaks. And because of apathy, it can be out there for all to read and do absolutely nothing but chuckle at those who have the audacity to believe in another way of being. Perhaps its too painful. But how painful is it to sit by and watch our world burn slowly, slowly down?

Change has to come in the mind first.

– Love In a Box

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4 responses to “Where Have All The Ideals Gone?

  1. We have been conditioned to think the way we do. Even when something substantial happens in our part of the world, The “Conspiracy Theory” immediately starts kicking in!!! If we do not believe in ourselves, and our ability to change the existant “Status Quo”, how can we expect “others” to acknowledge our efforts, and endeavors for Right, and Justice???

    • Thank you for your comment, and yes, what you said is exactly right! We’ve been conditioned to think this way, and that means we have the power to condition ourselves to think in another way. It means that our condition is not a fixed nature, but that we own the means in our hands to make a change. Isn’t that all we need in order to take the shackles off our minds? The shackles which “they” wrapped around us.

  2. Since the break down of the Islamic empire, through the ottoman empire, through the world wars 1 & 2, through the modern wars, the successive foreign political powers that have ruled Arabs used oppression and manipulation to marginalise the Arab population in the global political landscape. Some powers even went so far and attempted and are still attempting to change our history, culture and even language of our youth to become and be followers rather than leaders in this world.

    Since realising that almost 1.5 billion people speak the same language, have a strong religion, have a deep common culture, these foreign forces have always felt threatened by us, and felt the capabilities and potential of our people’s power and have since then been leading a war against us. The tools of this war have differed over time and today, the most powerful tool that these forces are using against us, is their media. from History channels, to discovery channels to geography channels, to news channels, to movies, down to the music that we listen to, these forces are combating our culture, language and depressing the potential of our people. These foreign forces and their local representatives (the corrupt Arab systems) have thrived on conspiracies that carefully and meticulously planned to separate us and prevent us from joining our hands together because if this is realised, nothing can stop us. But I hope that our people are by now aware enough about these conspiracies and can thoroughly read through the daily happenings that are taking place around us.

    I am very hopeful and have been ecstatic since the wind of change started blowing through our people. However, the question is, how sophisticated, how mature and how ready are we to deal with the global challenges that we will face and are already facing post this storm. The foreign diplomatic chivalry has already started their attempts to manipulate the cause and leverage on these noble revolutions to safeguard their greedy interests by using economic, diplomatic and military strength.

    • Thank you very much for your reply to the post! You’ve hit the nail on exactly why it’s important for us to start to look and think outside of the box, and to realize that our power lies in not defining one another according to religion, race and class – but rather to understand that these categories and differences can be the fuel which empowers us to use our different assets for the common good, for the establishment of our autonomy as Arab countries away from the influence of foreign powers – be they Western, or of any origin; and most importantly, to fight to understand and redefine what the common good actually is. Globalization has made it difficult for us to assess what’s best for our culture separately from whats best for the interests of those who have for so long interfered in the affairs of Arab countries, yet that is a foundational task we have to take on. Its our duty to ourselves to discover that power, and not be afraid of it. The crumbling of the Abbasid Empire brought along a period of decadence in the Arab world, and that period has been marred by a hopelessness and inability to embrace our people’s needs and let them flourish. I also am hopeful, and truly floored that finally the people have awoken to their needs. I also hope we have the sophistication to realize the depth of the task at hand, and to carry through with the strength of mind it’s going to take to establish a forward thinking mentality.

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