Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Myth of Centres and Margins - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Do ranks still exist in our Arab culture as they were in the sixties and seventies? Are Cairo, Baghdad, and Beirut still the centres of that past blissful time, and are the margins that once included other Arab countries like the Gulf and Morocco, still the same?

Even at the level of the same country, are capitals still the centres which intellectuals from other cities dream to reach in order to spread their fame through newspapers, publication houses, and even friendships and “big names” that grant praising and lauding?

Unfortunately, reality is completely different.

More importantly, did we, the well-educated people of Beirut, Cairo, and Baghdad, know well-enough the culture of Maghreb and the culture of the Gulf or the desert, as some call it? Did we read the whole cultural history of these countries located on the margin?

The centre culture, which is that of the middle class, overpowered the national culture of our countries throughout the thirties and forties of the last century, however, it missed an intellectual, cultural, and literary wealth that was generated in our margin cities.

“Writers of regions” like those of Najaf struggled to prove themselves to the writers of Baghdad; For instance, no one could have heard about Badr Shakir al-Sayyab if he didn’t write in Baghdad the “centre city”.

It may seem that these flaws have remarkably shrunk thanks to the telecommunication revolution, however, thoughts don’t easily change despite the alteration in the materialistic reality that generated them in the first place. Experiences have proved that the change of conditions is not sufficient enough to change a certain phenomenon. It takes a long period of time of education and reeducation, and bitter individual and social struggle for change to take place.

The European centralization, which created the modernization movement, succeeded in dividing the world into ranks of centres and margins, due to its financial and social influence. Nevertheless, this centralization has lost its real defenses in our time, which has led to the emergence of the opposing post-modernization movement that depends on lauding “the other’ and his culture and even praising it.

Yet, many Arab intellectuals seem to reject this post-modernization movement, and insist on repeating and reflecting in their writings and theories the nastiest of what Eastern and Western centralization have generated by excluding the other, whom they consider as a margin-member.

However, we have all learned that the exclusion of others is nothing more than an illusory expression of a sense of self-minority.