Thought Archive

Monday, November 12, 2007

The People's Choice

Something caught my eye the other day – amongst usual TV fodder there was a report from “democracy week in the provinces”. Just another pathetic initiative, thought I , sponsored by European Union and supported by keen –for- funds local governments – these “hypocrisy weeks” happen by dozen in a week. All are happy in the knowledge which leads nowhere - we are taught principles of democracy and shake hands with our European advisors - Europeans are happy with funds being spend on future “never-will-be-a-member-but-let’s-pretend” program. But what made me think was faces of people in the provinces listening to the gibberish of yet another initiative to teach them how EU works, and how Europeans are multicultural and how press is free. Looking at me were the faces of peasant men and women, old and withered as the soil they work on, like the carpets they weave, unkempt and unbothered by all the madness around them. For seventy years these were the nodding heads in the party meeting to support this or that initiative against “rabid imperialist dogs”, for hundreds of years before that – they were – if touched at all – preached to by an imam about this or that jihad, and before that, maybe by a Christian priest. But those faces and those people with the faces – the soil of the land – they stayed the same, they have not changed - and they are what we call “the nation” – Millet or Khalg. Real nation that I designated by an Azeri world Khalg (it is a better term to use than “nation” which I find a bit limited: maybe “the people” is better), not the nation of nationalist dreamers, communists or puritanic preachers. They kept their clothes, they toiled their land, they kept to their music and their customs. Khalg are a force yet untamed by anyone – they live by their own laws, always adopting to forces outside their control but always surviving to give our culture to a next generation, for no city folk can preserve an oral tradition, beyond studying it – once its dead and gone - in university. Everyone is upset, fed up with “the people”, wanting to change them for the better, for they are conservative lot – they don’t want to change, stoically keeping “the old ways”. For some they are backward force to be educated, for others – they are pagans – not Islamic enough. Seventy years communist city folk wanted to make them model citizens free of prejudices, and yet they still come back to the land, to live among the olive groves, to make bread and sing merry songs during the springtime festivals. They still visit shrines of saints, protect against the evil eye, and marry their girls young. The people – they never disagree with their tutors – inside one ear and out of the other. They will continue to live a true life, which is just this – a life worth living.

8 comments:

Riri said...

Yes, most people are completely desillusioned about poolitical crap (that was an intentional mistake but I shall leave it there for I think it is quite fitting). Here is Algeria we have local elections at the end of the month, but according to people's speak, nobody is that bothered about voting, they somehow are convinced that their vote will not be of any value. I myself prefer to fight this kind of thinking within myself as I think it is too passive. Even if my vote really does not count, if I do not vote it will make it even less than that, it will mean that I do not exist all together. I wish my people shake off their political apathy and try and be more proactive, even if we fail once, twice hundreds of times, there will surely come a time when we will hit the jackpot! If the people, the real people who care about the land, leave the way open for the greedy corrupt bandits to get to power, then nothing will change, the carpets will keep being woven and the land will keep being farmed and the faces will keep looking exactly the same....

Anthony said...

An interesting story

NoolaBeulah said...

I fully sympathise with your cynicism about these events. The match between rhetoric and reality is always a little shaky, but for these people, the language they hear must have a peculiar meaninglessness, and become yet another burden to bear before they can get back to reality.

What do you think will change them? How will you recognise the tipping point?

Hazar Nesimi said...

Agricultural Country folk are very conservative - the holders of Tradition. This is true even in Europe, now less so. Now wonder revolutionaries like Marx, despised peasantry and opted for city or slum-dwelling "proletariat" - for no revolution can be made with people who are "socially unaware". They care about the land and harvest, or fattened sheep, and the link with the piece of the land they live on is hard to break. When societies urbanise this introduces great social change, which is unstabilising but also reforming, which creates instiutions of power beyond the land, creates an idea of the Nation, the State and the responsibility for the Nation. Yes, England had gentry and yeomen, but this was pretty unique cituation, that only indirectly led to self-awareness about the rights. Mostly education is in the cities. Country people do not believe in the concept of their rights, beyond land. Nomads even less so - Nomads (wherever they are) are communal and do not believe in sanctity of private property. Nomadic culture is even more clash with institutions than settled farming one. Just ask a gypsy or a beduin. Tipping point - when majority of people become urbanised and ideas other than their own community protection start to really spread amonst them.

Riri said...

You present some interesting ideas Nazim, however am not sure I totally agree. From the example of the Algerian revolution for liberation I can tell you that it was peasants who went to fight, most educated city folk hid behind political (in)action and some even supported colonialism right to the end. The bond with the land is also present in urbanised people. The clash is between two life styles sedentarism and nomadism not between urbanism and ruralism. When people settle somewhere, start owning property they will end up being interested in everything that might affect the comfort of their settlement, anything that might "threaten" their ownership, it starts with communities then spreads to nations and then the entire globe. Hence, I very much doubt that urbanisation would bring social awareness. In fact, I think everybody is only as socially aware as far as their "private property" is concerned. The trouble with most policies is that they focus on cities, rural areas are more or less self-sustaining. In the west for example, farmers are more aware because there are policies which directly affect their "properties", hence they are politically active and socially influential. In Third World countries, everything is so unorganised, rural sector is somehow given less value and importance than inudstrial and urban sector. In fact, developmental policies seem to favour urbanisation, obviously you will get resistance from rural communities. In algeria for example, in the communist era, the State self-appropriated all agricultural land, this was disasterous for the agricultural sector. There was mass urbanisation and now there is a sense of political and social apathy never before experienced on the national scale. Things will only change when people will feel they have a stake in the Goverment, rural or urban. Nomads on the other hand have no such ties, they are immune to the charm of "property" and that is why they will never abide by any Law but their own.

NoolaBeulah said...

I think Riri's point is a very important one. Private property (and the laws that protect it) is absolutely essential for any growth of awareness and of freedom, at least in the Western form.

This is true for the reasons that Riri gives and also for some others. It changes the relationship between the governed and the governors, and between them both and the law. The function of the constituted authority and the law becomes one of guarding the rights of the individual people of that society, who are, in some sense, independent of the authorities. Power goes upwards, not downwards, and can therefore be withdrawn.

This is why public ownership always tends towards totalitarian rule, and why, as Riri says, nomadic peoples do not fit in.

Riri said...

Yes, but the challenge now is whether we can come up with a refined version of capitalism to avoid the pitfalls of the West - I wonder if religion could help maintain a sort of counterbalancing spiritual awareness, but it must be accompanied by intellectual freedom. This is paramount.

NoolaBeulah said...

That is indeed a challenge. If you find, or make, any steps made in that direction, let me know.