Barely six months into 2011 and I can hardly stand the excitement. The Arab Spring; the crumbling of the peace process; elections across Africa followed by…well…. massacres across Africa then followed by unprecedented international interventions – not to mention the hunt down of the number one “Wanted” man in the world much to the dismay of warmongers who will now have to brand and market super monster 2.0 to keep their jobs in a multi billion dollar industry.
Some have quietly retreated to that beautiful Saudi oasis, otherwise known as the Club Med for dictators, while others have held on, teeth clenched and knuckles white, chanting Al Queida …Al Queida …Al Queida, so as to scare their western “partners” into throwing more money and reinforcements to protect them against their…uh… own people.
As a startling twist in story line, the US has abandoned a few long time allies to stand with the demands of the street while refusing to speak up in other cases leaving some to scratch their heads hoping for a surprise ending and others to cry: “hypocrite!”
More confusing — past revolutionaries have turned tyrants against their own people while supporting the cause of the oppressed and the downtrodden abroad blurring the lines between the good guys and the bad guys.
Is the world going through enlightenment pains, shifting old paradigms as it strikes a balance between self-centric interests and the need for global justice, or is this all just a cynical recalibration by the same players to preserve their interests by other means.
I find myself also on the sidelines scratching my head, searching for an answer amidst the madness. Where I wish to take a clear stance, I see instead equivocation as the only truism emerging from the chaos where good and evil seem to morph into one another as companion actors in the same theater defying clear judgment and confusing efforts to pin down a culprit.
Here is the question I see emerging from the chaos: What is good and what is evil? In a Hobbesian world of existential threats and realistic responses how does the globalized new order craft its righteous narratives tempering human rights, strategic interests and international law to respond to future challenges that continuously test national, legal and moral boundaries.
Can an act in itself be defined as good or evil? To kill or not to kill for example. Is the killing of civilians in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of drones as heinous a crime as flying any other lethal oversized object into say… the World Trade Center, annihilating almost 3,000 innocent lives? Or is it rather the rationale behind the act that determines its nature: i.e. shining the light of democracy into the furthest corners of the world – by force if necessary; versus instilling divine tenants of right and wrong upon the same – also by force.
Is this a debate surrounding the merits of one rationale versus the other, irrespective of the means to the end and if so, how does one temper the cause of democracy versus the word of God, both mortal interpretations of human constructs, both collective responses to increasingly complex social challenges of their time, neither one having delivered a just world to its disciples.
In spite of the alleged flatness of the world as perceived by neo-liberalists, free market positivists and other know it alls sitting in the West; is it not arguable that while Western paradigms of democracy have lifted many out of poverty, they have also increased disparity, leading many more into dead end situations of slave labor and exploitation, exposing them to new forms of colonialism – effectively co-opting democracy as a tool of consolidation of power for the powerful in a world of finite resources.
Or is it the intention behind the rationale that determines the ultimate essence of an action. Do the proponents of “just wars” advance their armies under the banner of democracy knowing that they have ulterior political and economic motives? And do the Jihadists send their children to meet the welcoming virgin maidens in heaven knowing they are being used as pawns in their virtual empires? In other words — does power subconsciously internalize its intentions as just and good or can it hold within itself the cognitive dissonance that its actions run contrary to its words – that its designs may be less than noble, serving only its own survival. In which case, passing judgment would be a piece of cake – Chocolate at that!
To draw on recent controversies: Did the neo-cons invade Iraq under the pretext of a lie to secure the oil fields for domestic political gain or did they seize upon an opportunity to rid the world of a brutal dictator and secure a strategic region for the global good?
Do the likes of Mubarak and Saleh cling to power for the obvious benefits of one man rule, or do they truly believe in the imminent threat of state fragmentation resulting from ethnic struggles and Islamic fundamentalism? Or my personal favorite — Is Netanyahu haunted by the primordial trauma of Jewish persecution when he infuses every speech with references to the holocaust, or is he purposely manipulating Western guilt in order to maintain his fragile coalition with the hardliners in the Knesset?
Here’s more: Did Laurent Gbagbo refuse to relinquish power because he truly saw himself as the last line of defense between Ivorian sovereignty and French neo-colonial aspirations, or is the prospect of stepping down as the number one man of the world’s largest cocoa exporter in favor of a professorial position in the freezing cold at Boston University just not an option. Seriously — Boston?
At the risk of receiving hate mail from my Persian compatriots: Does the Islamic Republic view itself hero to the forgotten ranks; to the poor and the destitute in Africa; and to the oppressed in the occupied territories — in the process willing to exact a small sacrifice in the interest of Islamic solidarity from their “spoilt” bourgeoisie?
In other words, do internationally recognized evil doers see themselves as such? Parallel narratives in their own worlds sing a very different tune to that of CNN, TIME and CNBC. The lack of support of the African Union for the NATO engagement against Gaddafi and the indignant chatter on African social networking sites means that at least a large swath of his own continent views him as a pan Africanist — a nationalist hero!
If the Gaddafis, Bashirs and the Mugabes of the world view themselves as patriots standing against outside aggression, how then are they different from the Rumsfelds, Bushes and of late – the Obamas of this world. Does it matter that the former wage wars against their own people and the latter against citizens of others, both claiming righteous intentions? Does it matter that hundreds of thousands died of famine to keep Mugabe in Power, versus hundreds of thousands who died of disease and malnutrition as a result of sanctions — to dislodge Saddam? Or that the people of Tripoli will die so that Benghazi will survive?
Does evil know it exists? And for justice to be served — should punishment come as a consequence of intent? I wondered about the original culprit.
God created the Devil and he was his favorite angel. God created Man and asked his favorite angel to bow before him.
“I am of fire and Man is of clay,” said the Angel of Light, refusing to bow. “I claim allegiance only to you.”
Signed: Yours Truly Not Religious at all.