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On Satire of the Clannishness that Strangles Us...

On Satire of the Clannishness that Strangles Us...

Sunday, 28 November, 2021 - 09:45

It is sectarianism. It is ethnicism or factionalism. To use a broader term, it is clannishness or the extended kinship system.

We say this as though we are discovering something, and we may slap our hands together in lamentation for what we are saying. We discover this truth whenever a civil war breaks out, a revolution fails, two sides find it impossible to reach some kind of settlement, a modern party collapses, shrinks or regresses, and age-old loyalties emerge behind the facade of a political facade that gives a modern appearance…We repeatedly discover them because we had spent decades denying this clannish solidarity’s existence, downplaying their impact, or tracing them back to this or that factor. What separated us from one another, according to our culture’s most broadly accepted narrative, is nothing but the colonizers who pursued a policy of “divide and conquer,” a scarcity of awareness, education, and refinement, or some class interests that hate to see those who toil united. With that, we, at the end of the day, are brothers, and brothers will inevitably heed brotherhood’s call, if not today, then on a day that will surely come soon. Thus, there is no need to put any effort into fighting this fleeting symptom that will die on its own. As for our efforts, all our efforts should be directed against imperialism, Zionism, and all kinds of large and small demons.

This is what we were told by both conservatives and revolutionaries; they continued to reiterate it for tens of years, and they still do.

The United States, on the other hand, has made its simplistic contribution to the discussion: democracy and elections. Since the crime of 9\11, especially after the 2003 Iraq War, this tune has been playing: insufficient democracy is the reason for terrorism, as well as being the reason for backwardness. The experience of using democracy as a remedy worked in Japan and West Germany after the Second World War, and in Central Europe after the Cold War, so why wouldn’t it work in the Arab world? This text came with many footnotes, which international organizations were particularly well versed in empowering civil society, empowering women, and empowering youths...

There is no doubt that democracy and its elections, as well as the empowerment initiatives that come with it, are like national independence, improvements to education, and bridging the class divide… They are all gains for the country that enjoys them. However, too many experiences to count undergone in our region teach us that the capacity of clannishness for containing those principles, or to distort them in practice, is far greater than that of these principles capacities for subordinating clans or suppressing them. Of course, this does not stem from a particularity of the Arab world alone. Indeed, minor identities have been striking an uncountable number of countries around the world, and even advanced countries, industrial and post-industrial, have not eluded them.

Nonetheless, here, this (clannish) form of communal solidarity almost operates solo. They have the entire arena to themselves, with almost no political, technical, economic, or development competitor. No ideas. No policies. No parties. No wills. No industries or railroads… It is our difficult malady, one that poisons every value of our politics and consciousness and any social bond that could one day compete with it: these solidarities do not merely make the emergence of a national sense of belonging more difficult, it destroys this sentiment by creating transnational alliances with the members of the same group in another country.

These forms of communal solidarity also prevent classes from becoming conscious of themselves as classes, and thus, from turning into political actors. Education comes to create more modern and effective cadres to serve the group those receiving the education sprang from…Even elections, as the experiences of Iraq and Lebanon, have shown us time after time, and Libya and Algeria are currently showing us, are recycled into a process that presents new opportunities to entrench this solidarity, strengthen communal loyalties, and reinforce their drive to confront other communities:

To this record, which could perhaps be called the deceptive effect of modern ideologies, we can add two factors:

- The tyrannical legacy of the majority of the region’s countries, with factional governance widening the inherited schisms between local communities. Furthermore, as it reproduces them in stronger and broader forms, it forbids them from expressing themselves, pushing them only into greater radicalization and frustration.

- The extent to which, owing to the void in national politics and its failure to take solid form, our fates are influenced by external conditions and foreign interventions. As for the worst-case and most recurrent scenario, it is when the interfering countries are undemocratic, if not to say anti-democratic, powers.

With the blend of all these factors, their abundance, and overlapping, there are, of course, things that are difficult to influence. However, on the level of political culture, we can, at least, start by recognizing this dangerous given and strive to contain it. Past experiences, as well as the catastrophes we are currently witnessing and the bleak prospect for the future, all compel this. Taboos, in this regard, should be considered the only taboo.

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