Thought Archive

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Better World...

Humans have an overarching need to satisfy their spiritual matters -and Religion (here I want to avoid a discussion of a a particular Religion, for in my understanding the core of all religions is one and the same – even in polytheism) quenches the humanity’s thirst. Whatever the criticism of religion says about it, it is right in one thing when defining it as “backward”. Religion is a Faith in One Deity married to – or even better said - grounded in a Tradition, and as such it is always inward looking rather than a forward looking. Some impatient madmen who want to separate from the flock attack Tradition, considering it to be a chain to break free from, but Humanity appreciate its cohesive power, its soothing comfort in the time of need, its healing quality.

Modern life is full of complex questions to which no science can ever prescribe an answer to. Governance based on the Spirit of God, can help people to feel their lives with meaning, if they so choose, - it can help but it should be no overbearing parent. What is spiritually guided government in practice is hard to define for this is a matter of great concern for those irreligious people who consider it a threat to their freedom of conciseness.

In the next few paragraphs I will try to emphasize several key points associated with my concept of what this could mean in practice. I believe that the value based society should be about 1) Harmony, 2) Charity and 3) Manners. I will explain this strange choice.

Harmony as Conflict Avoidance

Harmony is a most important aspect of a morally guided society. Harmony emphasizes individual and communal responsibility for actions and thoughts expressed in an unwritten code of behaviour. (emphasize unwritten).

Harmonious society evolves around the principle of conflict minimization, recognizing that a degree of conflict will remain – and maybe even be beneficial. Members of this type of society are distinguished by a certain degree of conformism that comes from adherence to a set of community values. Hence, the dominant community will define set of values to conform to – in Muslim countries it is Islam, in Christian ones – Christianity and so on. This could be called a positive hypocrisy – both majority and minority recognize boundaries they can and can not cross and behave accordingly within the cultural orbit of the society.

Majority should take great care in protecting and truly befreinding minority populations – friendship being a next step from tolerance towards love. Respect does not imply acceptance – nor does it imply surrender but simply an understanding of diversity. Protection against provocation from within to destabilize harmony should be build into the fabric of dominant society. This can and should be done through propagation of the maxim “To each his own” as opposed to fundamentalist oppression. This should again be taught and emphasized time and again.

Minority, however also has a responsibility towards maintaining self-censorship against the wild and dangerous elements within it, who are intent on destroying the delicate balance - unless, and only unless the communal rights of the minority are truly in danger. In this condition it will be imperative for a minority to be vocal, because it is physically threatened. By this time, however the society had ceased to be in harmony.

Charity and Respect

In the West many of the societal and racial inequalities are only hidden by a veneer of correctness, and glued by law enforcement.
There is no mechanism in which this translates into individual and communal responsibility.

In the spiritually guided society so called family values will be emphasized. Charity towards fellow humans is a basic need that is important to fulfil as the first step in building communal relationship between the weak and the strong, between possessor and dispossessed. Respect to private property is another key value to instill – It is still sadly lacking in formerly socialist countries.

Proper Conduct

Modern society deemphasizes importance of good conduct putting formal education ahead of “making a good citizen”. To me manners and politness are not just nice to have – they are what glues the people together by an unwritten law of respect. Muslims are supposed to follow this conduct which I call “adab” – although good conduct and politeness are sadly lacking in us, probably due to Mediterranean temper.

This creates all sorts of conflict, which has long moved away from a generational conflict into adult scene – where politeness is viewed as old fashioned bollocks. Things unacceptable years ago are deemed .de rigueur now – like profanity -and discussed on the TV. Take teenage sex – which existed at all times - teenagers being sexually active, but it was never preached as virtue. It is now. I don’t think there is good evidence that acceptance of a certain problem as a fact – like teenage pregnancy – leads to the diminishing of thereof. If anything it probably does the opposite (and don't cite Holland as an example) as permissiviness opens many barriers.

Break-down in human conduct is the first step along the slipper slope to breakdown of law and order. This can not be tackled by tough policing as Britain is sadly finding out – but only by nurturing a different culture.

All of this will take time – a lot of time and this is not a place for an impatient policymaker.


Riri said...

I agree with all you said, and your last sentence about lack of time is the source of my nervousness, I fear our policy makers are forced to be too quick in making policies, not only because they are under pressure but maybe also because they're not that bothered and more dangerously some of them are even making power alliances with religious authorities in order to fulfill their dishonest political agendas by conditionning the masses via "preaching beards", which seems to have become a phenomenon that exerts a strangely persuasive effect on Muslim masses.

I think your proposal is very much to do with re-educating people and instilling a new culture, which a lot of good-natured citizens are already trying to do via private initiatives in the form of associations or privately owned TV channels for the more wealthy of them. In this sense, I think that this Information Age we are living in offer huge opportunities for us as people to try and do something for others who have not been fortunate enough to get better education and see different worlds. It can provide us with the time we need regardless of the "badness" of our policy makers.

From my own experience in Algeria, I can say that I have met lots of people, especially young ones, who are really quite motivated to make things better, their problem is that they have not been equipped with the tools to think out of the box on how to achieve these goals. After the black decade, lots of people have woken up to the threat of extremist groups, not least those who preach religion. Like I said in another blog, I think it is a challenge of education and cultural paradigm shift.

Hazar Nesimi said...

Time is most important element in all this. And again I am not trying to force anybody to do things - education should be subtle beast. We are not trying to change person from the inside - it is between the person and God - we hope to improve the societi's ills so that life is pleasant for all and there is less conflict. I was mostly talking about the West here and failures of self importance, narcissism, greed and egoism - despite of Christian teachings - but problems of Muslim countries are different - they are about lack of education and opportunity. Ill-willed people use that to their advantage - religion in these conditions can only be a tool to mobilize masses. People at the head of these parties offer no solutions, only more problems.

Riri said...

I know what you mean, this is why I think normal Muslim citizens with no power ambitions who benefitted from better educational opportunities have a key role to play in Muslim societies, they can use modern Information Technology to inform the less fortunate masses. There are many people who are trying to do that through media and internet, but it will still take time and patience because the people you are trying to reach are very slow, they are intelligent in many other ways, but when it comes to processing complex information and projecting concepts towards the future, they need a lot of help. It is very challenging because the only lingo they seem to be receptive to is simplistic religious lingo, it comforts them somehow, anything else raises the deepest suspicions and untrust. The challenge now is how we can use this to awaken them and imporve their analytical ability, in order to empower them to fend for themselves.

I think the people need to change first before they can be expected to be able to change their governing systems. Forget about good-willed rulers, they are not going to materialize from thin air.

NoolaBeulah said...

"To me manners and politness are not just nice to have – they are what glues the people together by an unwritten law of respect."

That is so true. Over here, that idea was destroyed by the cult of autheniticity, which, truly romantic as it was, did not recognise that "expressing yourself" is the last thing we need given the 'self' present in most of us. It broke down the distinction between private and public, and the authority of public opinion to regulate public behaviour. Thus, CCTV everywhere to take its place. (People are talking about it in these terms now. At last!)