Wednesday, September 27, 2006

By comparison

As far as my opinion goes I do not try to judge or try to conceive a solution to a problematic geo-political position based on my nationalist feelings and my belonging. While I try hard to be objective approaching very controversial and emotionally charged issues, I feel compelled to strip myself from religious sectarian racial and nationalist loyalties.

Although I think a feeling of belonging and identity and even spiritual needs might be essential on a individualistic level, I try to remain very suspicious all exaggerated forms and declarations of one’s national belonging or one’s unconditional loyalty to a leader, a religion or a state. If all religions are to be treated as philosophies, from my knowledge of all the teachings of these philosophies which are at our reach in books left for us by their founders, I cannot think of a religion that asks of its adopters to blindly follow a leader. Each one of these philosophies left us a decent amount of ideas that we can apply to our lives and needs and societies within the limits of flexibility and moderation. Each one of these religions embraced and valued knowledge and freedom and individuality and loyalty and empathy and giving and understanding and unconditional respect to our bodies our nature as they did embrace the idea of a mystical sense or being or existence. The latter is an entity never having been defined and I like to think that this is where the strength of this idea resides. As opposed to the well defined gods in the Greek and Roman mythology, an idea of a vague existence may that be an omnipotent being or a spirit maintains an essence of unity and continuity with the non-tangible that is hoped to transcend the human spirit and to tame the aggressiveness of the human nature. Throughout history, man, a social animal, has witnessed development and evolution through creating the value of the family unit and then the idea of the community and the tribe. Incidentally, those same philosophies and spiritual feelings were the tools that helped bridge the divides in ancient civilizations created due to natural selections competitive natures and animalistic drives and political ambitions between tribes. As long as these values remain personal and in a sense even secular, a side product of society, a vehicle enabling the ‘soul’ of social capacities and of development keeping science and philosophy and art equally revered and valued, religion was not poisonous.

These same spiritual contexts and connections that man developed, however, have been the same values that led to the most efficient quarrels in human history. While the human nature remained the residual motive behind the human need to prevail, family ties, tribal ties and religious ties were the most efficient PR machines that drove civilizations to their doom throughout documented history. This was done ever so convincingly in the name of a god, a divine message and under the pretext of a spiritual or racial elitism. The same teachings that prayed for love and understanding and empathy were the tool to use one people against another in the name of spreading this same message (as in the case of Christianity during the Crusades and Islam) and securing a right of existence and prosperity to a chosen people (as happened when Moses and his followers after him guided the Jews as early armed forces to occupy the land of Caan, ‘the promised land’, in other words early Zionism). In most cases than none, these leaders chose to emulate the same virtues of the gods about which they preach for the purpose of political influence. A lot of so-called prophets only preached about goodness and understanding and forgiveness leaving out domination and human ruthlessness. The same human nature disregarded those particular examples set forth by those leaders and chose the values that serve their ambitions.

Based on the mere fact of the human nature, I can not but find nationalism, religion and any kind of social ties that become so stern and exclusive to the point of misanthropically answering to the needs of one sect, one culture, one society or one nation but not others to be very suspicious and dangerous. As in religion, too much nationalism and too much attachment to what’s immediately our blood and our land and our borders lead to the chauvinistic need of reducing our fellow human being to a less deserving less prevailing entity. In the bigger sense of things, ties between people on any level today, may that be family, community, language, society or country has the dangerous aggressive tribal motives at its heart. Even family ties that set the stage for inflammatory emotions of excessive protection and revenge are at the heart of tribal loyalties. I believe in the global human being. No color, no race, no religion, no language, no borders and no eternal historical accounts and paybacks. I always say that science is my religion. Looking around me and within my human apparatus I cannot but feel humbled and owed by the might of nature. The ancient human being reached out to his fellow human being for help and completion. While aggression ceased organization followed. It remains a challenge to the human nature to follow guidance without being blind and to give guidance without getting greedy. Even if the most successful democracies of our days and even in the most mundane exercises of these democracies we are faced with the fine line between total anarchy but intellectual independence and regulation versus totalitarian control. Winston Churchill once said, “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried”. How do you privatize and spread the wealth down while staying away from corruption (just look at the education system in America today). How do you think globally about your equal fellow human being and grant within yourself to remain fair and not abuse the wealth within limited sources and not to exploit those who at the time are weaker or less developed (check this link). How do you globalize and still fight conformity. How do you resist consumption in an ever developing world (look at the idea of globalization today)? How do you encourage competition for the purpose of development in science and health and the quality of life without risking greed and the need for destroying the opponent? (The cold war).

A nationalist would seek military development for self-preservation through maintaining a balance of power. A citizen of the world would seek development that serves all of humanity. Research to cure AIDS should be funded more than cancer, certainly more than nutritional programs, certainly more than space programs and absolutely more than national defense programs.

Having said this, I would like to talk about the contemporary moral issue by definition and regional and political crisis by exercise of our days. Having already promised that I try to formulate the crisis (the question that needs to be solved), the method and the answer separately from loyalties and belongings, I would try to do that here.

The empirical method is the method I follow. I always like to compare the Lebanese situation to that of the Palestinian one with regards to Israel. I do that exercise not because I want to get more experimental comparison of the effect of one entity (Israel) based on a broader scope of reference but because in the midst of the Orwellian crisis of defending the contradictory Lebanese demands and needs, I find the problem of the Palestinian people to be undoubtedly solid in my mind and conscience. I view it not as a problem of territorial needs and conflicts but as that of a human crisis (I have previously gave numerous examples of the maltreatment of the Palestinian people). This is my own personal human cause regardless of what the politicians representing the Palestinians preach or demand and regardless of the means through which those same people resist and react.

The crisis had originated in response to an act that contradicts all the values that I talked about and that I stand for. It is not valid to accuse a defender of one people who happen to be weak against their strong oppressors of racism. This is mere humanism. The founding of the Israeli state required endless acts of terror and injustice that remain to our day. This was done based on a moral obligation on the part of the Jews and remains to this day opposed to legal obligations. A moral obligation is based on a fundamental system of beliefs that give a certain people the right to act in whatever means they possess against all others as I have previously mentioned. This answers my first question about the moral validity of the erection of the state of Israel. This has always been a question easy to answer for me since I do not believe in religious drives and in the right of a group of people at the expense of others.

Even when I condemn the original act that led to the formation of Israel, I am against the principle that all the land should be returned to the Palestinian (regardless of the practicality and politics and accord and UN resolutions). I refuse the idea based on the same standards I ask to all human beings and based on the same respect to all humans and disregard of borders and historical rights. I believe in coexistence irrespective of our religions (and this seems to be the only separation between Jews of Israel and Arabs of Palestine who some of happen to belong to the same Semite race). I find it to be ironic that the same people who call for secularism in the religion that took the shape of their opponent base their own elitist existence which is policed by fascist methods on religious belongings and loyalties. These loyalties give them a fake right and a feeling of superiority coming from their own personal religious beliefs (some extreme examples here).

I asked this question earlier: If you support the state of Israel today, where do you stand on morality. This question came out as a reaction to a lot of Israelis who claim to act out of a higher moral compass. Let me rephrase my question based on the ideas I have presented earlier: if you support the methods through which the Israeli government is treating the Palestinians today what is your stand from humanity?

Finally, since the method at hand is scientific, since we draw from experimentation and proof and not from a priori experience and beliefs, if I am to condemn the actions of the Israelis towards the Lebanese society I think this recent war gave me the data I need. One can always argue that all the systems in the Middle East today are tribal and that the war in Lebanon was about politics and not mere oppression, aggression, greed or exploitation. Using the same method and seeking tangible data and proof and not relying on beliefs, not anticipating injustice, not extrapolating possible scenarios based on the situations of other people, I will give Israel the benefit of the doubt when I come across such ‘evidence’ here, here, here and here.

Not a cliche, it still stands!

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Anonymous said...

I will re-read your post tomorrow. It is actually a quite important statement. So my comments tonight are no comments at all, because I believe you deserve better than me rambling about spontaneously ...

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Ostfen said...

interesting analysis

gitanes legeres said...

mirvat, interesting as usual.
anon, next time please refer to blogs in english. arabs in general don't like hebrew. it brings back traumatic memories.

FZ said...

mirvat, well said... I agree 100%

palo-girl said...

hey mirvat,
owch!! that post was definately a mind-squeezer... i'm not sure i could strip myself of my religious and nationalist loyalties as effectively as you did though.. everytime i try to do that my mind just shuts down... it's too difficult to let go of the very fibres of my character and my personality, and everything i am and stand for. i can't help but be biased when i think about issues to do with my country, and my beliefs, and the people i care about... and since that's so it goes to follow that that makes me less sensitive to everyone else in the situation.. but why is that so terrible?

Mirvat said...

palo-girl, i completely understand what you mean. it is not terrible, it is our identity. it happens that when it comes to the palestinian issue, being biased towards our cause is only fair because we are the victims (as people) so there's nothing dangerous about that. it becomes terrible when we're not able to strip ourselves from our nationalist identities to see beyond what's immediately to our favor and interest and our interest alone, especially when we have the power as a nation. like the booming of the american nationalist feelings after 9/11 to a point where people find their disregard to the suffering of others to be justified in the name of their nationalism

Chas said...

Hi Mirv,
Very interesting and thoughtful post.
By a strange coincidence your "evil twin" is discussing the same subject. I posted one of my very few angry comments in response.
When I made the decision to support peace in my homeland, I too had to struggle with my national identity. I had to distinguish between the positive and negative aspects of that identity, I had to endure a degree of alienation from my own people while I went through this period of readjustment. Was not easy. Palo girl you have my sympathy and understanding.
Israel has to exist. There is no other way. However painful, the palestinian people have to realize that and come to terms. The longer the current situation prevails the less they will have to negotiate either with or about.
Time is not on their side. It is not either fair or right but it is the way it is.
Peace, Chas