Hussam Itani

'Brave New World'

Hate speech is reverberating from India to France, and victims of ethnic and sectarian violence are falling from Ethiopia to Myanmar. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya and Uyghurs have been expelled from their homes, and the Amharas and Muslims of India are being persecuted because of differences in religion, language, and color. Delusions of purity and superiority are building a “brave new world” on top of the rubble of pluralism, divergence, and peace.

In Brave New World (1932), Aldous Huxley presents a bleak depiction of humanity in the future. People are segregated into separate groups based on their intelligence, which is predetermined by group leaders. The lucky ones spend their lives enjoying whatever they are offered and lack the capacity to think and innovate. The lower classes are fated to back-breaking physical labor and enslaved, deprived of the capacity to assemble public or rebel because they are less conscious of their suffering and the exploitation and contempt they are subjected to. Totally alienated from their environment and land, the future humans live within a closed complex in which dividing and dominating the weak are the norm, as their moral system has nothing in common with the morality that today’s humanity recognizes and affirms. The new society’s goal is attaining happiness through science. However, this is a happiness that kills innovation and our capacity to liberate ourselves.

In India, the advocates of a pure Hindu state are skeptical of what it means to have a secular system in their country while Pakistan declares itself an Islamic republic. Muslims- they argue- accordingly have no place in India; they must go elsewhere. Eric Zemmour, the far-right candidate running in the French presidential election, has vowed to ban every Islamist group and send refugees back to the countries they came from if he wins. A similar position has been taken by forces, whose influence has been expanding in Turkey, demanding that Syrian refugees be forced back to Syria, regardless of whether that leaves them fated to fall into the hands of the Syrian regime’s apparatuses or the clutches of groups linked to al-Qaeda and those that resemble them. The Lebanese say the same about the Syrians and the Palestinians. Americans express the same view regarding immigrants from Central America, and for Europeans, it is Africans and Afghans.

Refugees have turned into the focus of this popular hateful discourse, but they are not the only ones experiencing the wrath of these raging hoards. Every form of difference is condemned in today’s world. All must return to their “country,” where, in many cases, everything has been destroyed and looted, and life has become impossible.

And if “behind every fascism is a failed revolution,” the question here is about the failure that propelled this wave of hatred, violence, and discrimination. It has been rising at an equal pace in countries that are supposed to have gone a long way on the path to addressing the sins of the past and countries where the logic of communal infallibility and survival can still be exploited by political elites. Here, the Danish Socialists hunting down refugees, turning their lives into humiliating ordeals, are on an equal footing with the BJP Hindu nationalists turning a blind eye to the escalating attacks on Indian Muslims. All of them promise their group a “brave new world” where they lead copious, happy lives while “others” are deservedly assigned lower ranks, not even appearing in public to avoid killing the joy and contaminating the blood of the chosen races and classes.

In all likelihood, the failure standing behind the rise of this wave of hatred is that of the broken promises of the post-Cold War neoliberal order and the illusions about the globalization of capital and capital’s total domination of economic life, which followed the flattering of the promises of “scientific socialism” in and its Soviet, Maoist and Cambodian variation. Looking about in the early nineties, one finds projects promising that open markets and financial transactions that are unimpeded by obstacles, borders, or countries would create prosperity. However, history took a different view. These projects hit the wall of solid reality, which drew a line between what is feasible on the one side and illusions of achieving generalized material comfort within frameworks deliberately designed to allow a small group to amass wealth at the expense of the majority. That was before the COVDI-19 pandemic hit, adding a total unexpected disaster that exposed the fragility of social security and welfare institutions.

That was inevitable. So is resorting to “oratory charm” and saturating the minutiae of daily life with endless speeches of hate against the other, who took away job opportunities, undermined religious purity, and disrespected religious rites.

Hannah Arendt had once warned that the program presented by totalitarian propaganda campaigns, according to which enemies’ fates can be predicted and their extermination is carried out... is not fully operational until the movements take power. Discussing dictators’ predictions becomes futile, as futile as discussing with a murderer whether their new victim is dead or not. When murderers slay their victims, they swiftly provide proof to attest to the veracity of their claims... And before those leading the masses take power to twist the truth, leaving it aligned with their claims, their propaganda campaigns are marked by radical contempt for facts themselves. For the facts, in their view, depends entirely on who calls the shots and creates these facts.