I’ve talked about this concept with friends for years, chatted about it with colleagues who often looked at me with bewilderment, and mulled over it as I read political theories which budded, blossomed and gently faded away into that dark night of confusion over why exactly – precisely, ultimately – the Middle East seems endlessly riddled with spheres of unabated volatility. What is that element that other English-speaking states in the Northern hemisphere of the international political order have, which keeps them within relatively controlled margins of social upheaval? The element we so desperately miss out here.
We’ve discussed post-colonialism, the game theory, balance of power, the fact that those same English-speaking countries have control over Glorious Free Trade, Islamism, local corruption, dictatorship – and all of the above is absolutely true, and crucial to include in the amalgam of reasons behind the Middle East’s web of regression, violence and dependence on other economies and militaries. One more reason I’d like to give a shot at thinking about is something called cultural mutancy.
I have friends from Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt, India, Korea, the US, the UK, Canada, and friends from other countries, as well as some of those countries all combined into one individual. We all grew up together in an international high school in the Gulf Arab region, and some of us were raised with a religious upbringing, and others with no religion at all (not one that came be named at least), and others still with a mystical understanding and mixture of several religions all in one. Each and every single one of my friends and larger circle of acquaintances, hands down, has a hard time answering, in a simple straightforward manner, the question: where are you from? what religion do you believe in?
Understandably, the latter question does not generally bequeath a straightforward answer in various places across the world. but generally, the former question might. Many of them have abandoned involvement in the current political affairs of our region simply because its tiring or overwhelming or seemingly loaded with bull crap. But all of us, in one way or another, are politicized by the fact that the countries that flow through our veins are reflected by the wars and tyrannical regimes and foreign domination that takes place in the outer world — even if we don’t read, tweet or FB about it. Or more poignantly, even if we do, we still carry on with our days and our socializing with groups of old friends who hold within them the beauty of mutancy. What if that mutancy were to speak for itself? What if it had a platform? An organized representation in the political order of things? What if Gray mattered? Would a middle ground be reached? A middle ground for the hot new middle east? A middle ground that is very much real, and very much alive, and very much neither Bush or Bin Laden; neither bland, white-washed Democracy nor unabashed orientalist Autocracy.
This lens is the one I primarily use to view the revolutions taking place across our region – most of them at least. They are revolutions for the right to self understanding, and to awareness of the reality on the ground of our countries in the geographical location termed the Middle East, and the identities that are strewn across them. This self understanding is the cornerstone to true autonomy – it needs to take place, and that is perhaps the main reason behind why so much international effort is thrown behind the suffocation of that understanding; despite the appearances of quite the opposite.
Globalization as well must be noted here – an acceleration of the world’s interdependence, and the blending of nationalities and intermingling of people and technology; it all contributes to our mutancy as well. And it seems to me that the trick is to look beyond black and white.
So I cant help but feel that, while Palestine struggles to throw Israel and its US sugar daddy off its back, and while Bahrain fights against economic disparity resulting from religious prejudice, while Egypt shimmies with military rule and stands up for social revolution, while Tunisia demands representation and economic development, while Lebanon calls for a fair government, period, that all of us and all our problems have seeped over boundaries. All of us and all our problems have transcended simple state structures. All of us and all our power have been waiting for a chance to be activated, stated, accepted and put to the test of suffrage. Now if we could only all sit down at a table without Uncle Sam, I wonder, could mutancy be our new sugar daddy?
– Love In A Box