The Arab Malaise
Posted by Exile on August 18, 2007
If you really feel the need to set about a frustrating task, try googling, or yahooing, or anything else-ing for “Arab Malaise”. The phrase has been bandied about for the last half century and I thought it might be rewarding to try and get it defined somewhere, or somehow, by anybody in the know. I would love to have a ready definition for this sickness that has bred islamic terrorism and religious madness, not to mention the total retrograding of the arab mindset. Unfortunately such a definition does not exist. Or if it does, then it isn’t to be found on the millions of pages on the internet. There’s a lot of history, but no description.
One name that did pop up innumerable times was that of Samir Kassir, who wrote for the Lebanon based Daily Star until his assassination in Beirut on June 2, 2005.
Samir Kassir described the “Arab malaise,” as “the political and intellectual stagnation of the Arab world.” Very succinct. In fact he managed to write and publish a book, which is basically a 92 page essay, before being blown up in his car by his fellow arabs, who were perhaps not quite so politically or intellectually stagnated as he would have liked them to be.
This is most probably a result of him exposing the arab blood lust and victim ideology that has bored its way deep into the arab identity, but they don’t really want us westerners to understand that, or we’d cut off the aid payments. Kassir was not too popular with his arab brethren, he was far too honest. So, boom. Which may have been a bit of a shame. From what I can find out about the man, he was both a champion of the palestinian people but equally against anti-semitism, honest and not shy about pointing out arab failure to grasp modernity.
Another name that cropped up was Rami G. Khouri, Kassir’s former colleague and executive editor of the Lebanon-based Daily Star. He has quite a bit to say about the phenomenon;
“The Arab silence on…Darfur (and) Sudan…reflects a wider malaise that has long plagued our region: Arab governments tend to stay out of each other’s way when any one of them is accused of wrongdoing, and most Arab citizens have been numbed into helplessness in the face of public atrocities or criminal activity in their societies.
The modern history of the Arab world over the past 50 years has been defined by two broad trajectories that are intimately related: the concentration of economic and military power in the hands of small numbers of people who form the governing power elites, and that governing elite’s steady provision of basic services and job opportunities to the citizenry.
This basic governing contract explains much of the silence and acquiescence by otherwise decent Arabs in the face of atrocities or criminal activity carried out by fellow citizens, or even by their own government. Darfur in Sudan is only the latest in a string of violent domestic episodes within Arab countries that have been largely ignored by other Arab countries. The long and depressing list includes rebellions, civil wars, repression and other forms of violence in key Arab countries like Algeria, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Palestine, Iraq, Egypt and Libya.
The more troubling consequence is that small groups of bombers and terrorists have exploited this state of Arab helplessness, seeking public support for their militancy. Thus large numbers of ordinary, decent Arab citizens instinctively reject the atrocities against fellow Arabs in Darfur, but do not speak out or act to stop them; and equally large numbers of Arabs – majorities in troubled lands, the polls tell us – similarly do not speak out when Arab terrorists bomb Arab, American or other targets.
A troubled Arab citizenry’s silent acquiescence in violence and passivity in the face of homegrown atrocity, is today the single most important, widespread symptom of the malaise that plagues this region…a troubling sign of Arab mass dehumanization and political pacification at the public level, which are largely our own fault due to our acceptance of poor governance and distorted Arab power structures over a period of decades.”
Both these men are looking hard to pin “the malaise” down. They have similar arguements for and against and think on similar lines regarding the causes and effects. At least they didn’t just point at the western world and say “It’s all your fault!”
I look at it, perhaps, a little differently. I can see what is going on in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Darfur, Lebanon, Gaza and all the other middle eastern hotspots. One thing these two men are missing is what I like to all the “tribal” angle. This is equally related to religion as it is to heritage, Sunni vs. Shiite, Hamas vs. Fatah, and so on. Little warlords all wanting to be the big fish in the pond, spurred on by religious maniacs who can use them here and now. For example, the Iraqi parliament is slowly dissolving itself due to these tribal differences and meglomania, with groups of various tribal parties walking out in puerile gestures of “if we can’t have more than our fair share of power, you’re not having it either”. About as democratic as a dog pound. They just don’t get it. Compromise doesn’t exist in their mindset. This is probably true in areas of Africa too, but that is for another day.
Add to all that the “Insh’ Allah” effect and you have the silence of the lambs with their sheepish heads stuck firmly, and deeply, in the sands of their desert homelands, and you have the arab malaise as I see it. And until they get their heads out of the sand, until they get away from tribal differences and until they get a handle on a stone age religion, which is designed by default to stop any development unless it is brought about by Allah and not by rational intelligent men, then they will remain in the dark ages.
I can understand that some try to escape this by fleeing in thousands to the western world. What I don’t understand, is why they can’t leave what drove them out behind them, in the lands that have apparently not lived up to their expectations of life and the living of it.
You can take the arab out of the arab malaise, but you can’t take the arab malaise out of the arab.