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Stable Chaos | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In this Tuesday Jan. 25, 2011 file photo, Demonstrators deface a poster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Alexandria, Egypt. (AP)

The most fitting description of what is happening in the countries of the Arab Spring is that they are now experiencing a state of ‘stable chaos’, whereby chaos is prevalent and influences all manners of conduct, despite the variations in the currents and trends of each country.

In Tunisia, we are witnessing a phase of political assassinations and government resignations. In Egypt, chaos prevails at all levels and in all areas, with the ruling regime staging demonstrations in an attempt to mimic the opposition. The Egyptian presidency issues decrees and then fails to accomplish them, and the judiciary has become besieged by ideological groups seeking to prevent it from doing its job, under the very nose of the new Islamist authorities.

In Libya, each political faction has an adherent armed force that can disrupt the government, besiege MPs, block roads, and establish contact with extremists at will. In Yemen, the ‘stable chaos’ is not only hindering political solutions or causing parties to clash, it is also paving the way for A-Qaeda to operate and carry out acts of subversion.

The stability of chaos runs completely contrary to the stability of the state. The state’s stability relies on several factors in order to maintain the prestige of the ruling authority, encourage economic growth and effective management, and meet all of society’s needs. In turn, these needs range from security to safety, the spread and expansion of education, the distribution of health services and job opportunities, and the enhancement of production and development rates. On the contrary, a state of stable chaos seeks to undermine and demolish the stability of the state in its entirety, and this is being reflected by the news and events taking place in the countries of the Arab Spring. In fact, the stability of the state has become something of a distant dream for Arab Spring citizens.

This reality has caused all dreams to be dashed; dreams that the masses and protesters have long cherished, and which the intellectual elites have long promoted. These elites seem to have lost the compass guiding their intellect and knowledge in their brief flirtation with both the ruling regime and the people on the street. Now, divisions are occurring, allies are quarrelling, opponents are taking sides, and chaos is setting in and stabilizing.

In a state of ‘stable chaos’, everyone is faced with failure and hopelessness. Their will seems to be of little difference when pitted against the desire for power stemming from both the ruling Islamist currents and the dispersed opposition. Everyone is lacking in visions and projects for the state, while the Islamists continue to lead with the mentality of a clandestine group, and the opposition persists in rejecting the status quo but provides no alternative. The West, which condoned these transfers of power in the first place, remains a mere bystander awaiting the outcomes of the struggles, albeit with the inclination that democratic political Islam can be the salvation. The West has relinquished its fundamental criteria and values in order to help a project succeed which it admits it has no idea of the final outcome.

The ‘despotism of freedom’, the ‘tyranny of democracy’, and the ‘mob rule of the masses’ are all terms associated with ‘stable chaos’. In such a situation, everyone has their own agenda, and coalitions and alliances are formed to continually ‘demolish’ others and their programs. At the same time, these new alliances often lack any constructive ability; they are almost always a negative force.

For example, the term ‘freedom’ in the Arab mindset brings connotations of the emancipation of slaves; it does not have the same dimensions as it does in the West. We do not have Rousseau to teach us that democracy means “being subject to the laws”, nor do we have Montesquieu to tell us that “where licentiousness begins, liberty ends.” On the contrary, we have those who believe that ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ are infidelities, but nevertheless they advocate them in the political sense because they serve their interests.

In the countries of the Arab Spring, we have seen some of the biggest lies in contemporary history: Major concepts such as ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’, ‘justice’, ‘equality’, ‘human rights’, and other terms have all been hijacked and given meanings that are totally different to the Western context in which they originated. This distortion is a major pillar of ‘stable chaos’, and the responsibility for interpreting these terms must lie first and foremost on the shoulders of the elites. It will take time for these Western concepts to be clarified and examined, and it will take more time to convince the public of what is correct and what is not.

In the shade of ‘stable chaos’, conspiracy theories not only grow, they also represent a refuge for whoever fails to understand what is happening or is unable to gain control. The promoters of such theories quickly become experts in playing on their different and contradictory tunes, and the door is left open to whoever wants to outbid them. ‘Stable chaos’ allows such conspiracies to actually get the better of intellectual opinions, rational visions, and the logic of reality.

‘Stable chaos’ erodes all criteria, measurements, and balances of the intellectual and conscious reality. It creates its own atmosphere where contradictions prevail in all discourses, ideas and principles, and slowly become a permanent feature.

A situation such as this can only go from bad to worse. ‘Stable chaos’ serves as a warm incubator expediting the spread of decline, rather than progress, and the spread of old ills, rather than modern ideas.