Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

All This Violence | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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As I looked at the map of the world in front of me I set out to identify areas that have been inflicted with violence, finding hot spots here and there.

There were also points that were engulfed by violence that has thankfully come to an end in some parts.

Violence is part of the history of mankind. The humanitarian tragedy on this earth began when Cain killed his brother Abel. Violence is part of human nature. The Holy Quran says, “Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: I will create a vicegerent on earth. They said: Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood? Whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)? He said: I know what ye know not.” (Quran 2:30). In essence, building a civilization is the human attempt to repress their inherent traits of violence and governments are merely an attempt to suppress violence by even using counter violence. In a moment of anger, such violence could explode and surpass all barriers that try to control it in one way or another. Violence has been and still remains a companion to humans throughout history, as long as the nature of humans carries the seeds of violence and destruction whether on the individual or collective level.

However, simply because it is part of human nature does not necessarily mean that it should be a general or dominant phenomenon that governs all of human history. Violence could erupt at any given moment, but it should never persist as a lifestyle; this is the difference between humans and predatory monsters. It is true that man has beastly elements that may surface when provoked, however at the same time there is also an angel within that is capable of appearing as well. Thus the phenomenon of violence is associated to humans as long as there is humankind in contrast to what some utopians may argue. In fact, humans can be controlled and their energy for violence could be directed elsewhere to improve life rather than destroying it by acknowledging reasons for such violence and the circumstances that provoked it.

I continued to look at the map of the world and found most of the hot spots of tension in our region, the Middle East. Most points in the world have, at some point, experienced tension and devastating violence, however, there comes an end and things return to normal. Even though the assassinating terrorists do not represent the majority but rather a minority, violence in this part of the world creates a vicious circle. Each part of the region is almost infested with one or more hot spot for violence throughout our “contemporary” history. In Lebanon, tension and violence barely depart from the arena. The same could be said about Sudan, Iraq, Yemen, Algeria, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the rest of the region, to the point where it can be said that violence is almost a Middle Eastern phenomenon rather than being a comprehensive humanitarian phenomenon in our contemporary world. To illustrate on this current “Middle Eastern” characteristic, comparison may make the picture clearer. Although India and Pakistan, for example, share the same geographical location and its citizens are of a similar origin and share a common lifestyle culture, violence dominates on the ground in Pakistan in comparison to India where it surfaces every now and again, not reaching the level of a phenomenon. And despite the fact that India, Iraq and Lebanon share many characteristics, such as multi-ethnicity, violence had emerged. Once given the opportunity to appear, violence struck Iraq and Sudan whereas tension has taken charge of the situation in Lebanon creating an explosive arena in a similar way to what had happened several times in the history of this country. I have not chosen to compare the Middle East to European countries or America, as much as I focus on developing countries with which we share many common aspects, so as to make the picture clearer. Why does India, as well as other countries, enjoy this level of social peace and political stability, while our region suffers from all this violence? Is it because people from this region have different genes to other people around the world? Of course not. We are all human and we are all born as equals; there is no difference between an Indian, an Arab or a European but it is the political, social, cultural and economic environment in which humans live that form the character in the end. Violence is intrinsic within each human, regardless of their race, color or belief. But there are certain circumstances and factors that trigger this violence thus it devastatingly explodes; as in our region. Conversely, there are other circumstances that have managed to tame beast-like qualities thus it found no opportunity to surface in India and other countries. So, what are those circumstances and factors that stimulate and provoke violence in the depths of humans in this region? There is no all-encompassing answer of course; the reason and the result are not a simple issue when it comes to a social phenomenon. But there are factors that cannot be overlooked…

The first of these factors is the violence in the countries in the region; violence breeds violence and embeds violence within oneself despite of the inheritance of fear inside our souls which is more dangerous. The state came into existence to monopolize the tools of violence to put a stop to violence in society. But when the state itself goes too far in exercising violence against the society, it provokes counter violence on one hand and cultivates a culture in which violence is a main, basic component. In the current Iraqi situation, I believe that all this violence wouldn’t have prevailed had it not been for the practices of the fallen Iraqi regime and the institutionalization of violence through terrifying authorities. The case in Iraq is not a conflict between Sunnis and Shia or even a struggle against the presence of occupying forces in Iraq inasmuch as it is a case related to a culture of violence that had grown within characters through the practices of the former regime. It may be true that the former regime had caused disunity among members of the community. Some may have felt resentment towards the system, thus they have decided to retaliate now. It is true that occupation is abhorrent for people no matter how “good” it is or how good it tries to be. However, this does not justify the violence that dominates Iraqi society. The cruelty and violence that has surpassed all boundaries, is a key factor in spreading a culture in which blood is considered its holiest icon. The state’s violence may lead to the spread of superficial peace based on fear, but the greatest fear is that such violence would spread when given the opportunity and when circumstances are ripe.

The second factor is the dominance of certain illusions in people’s minds in this part of the world; their stance towards the rest of the world and their ensuing behavior is determined in accordance to these illusions. The problem is that such fatal fantasies are advocated by those who should expose such lies, i.e. intellectuals. These ideas are also strengthened by the state for immediate purposes, which would soon cause the state to burn. Perhaps the most important of these illusions is the conspiracy delusion, being targeted by other nations, delusions of grandeur and humiliation together. All these illusions can be summarized in one complex illusion of different symptoms. All of those in this region, except a few, believe that the entire world is maliciously targeting them and their nations and that they are hatching conspiracies against them at all times. This is because they are great and the world doesn’t want them to see them enjoy their share of luck. They are terrified and cannot compete with the wider world in any field, thus they feel inferior as well as humiliated despite their delusions of grandeur. From this intellectual and cultural angle, the ugly monster of violence appears from within, willing to emerge violently and destructively. Feelings of inferiority mixed with the sense of greatness and tainted with phobic fear, creates the suitable circumstances for violence that would explode after a while.

The third factor is the dominance of a static culture that does not want to change, believing that all its components entail elements of holiness that shouldn’t be tampered with. This is despite the fact that the first culture of Islam was tolerant in essence and in practice which is clear from the history of Muslims. However, culture in its largest part, is the accumulation of knowledge from beginning to end that results from the way man deals with his surroundings; thus culture is mundane in shape and content and sanctity should be endowed only to that that is sacred, which is clear and well known. But there is no desire for culture to change because change would entail many things and the interest of some parties is to leave all issues unchanged, because change would mean a loss in achieving their interests, thus nothing could be improved. Of course, preserving interests alone is not responsible for the immobility of culture, but rather it plays a key role in the persistence of the status quo. The immobility of this culture is reinforced by the despotism and violence of the state, which is often justified with precocious allegations of this culture and the aforementioned illusions so as to make this culture one that is conspired against and targeted. Thus the more those delusions are reinforced, the more immobility will prevail in a vicious circle.

People of our region are not genetically different to people around the world. In fact, in our region, people live in an environment that facilitates, intentionally or unintentionally, for violence in comparison to others. We will not emerge from the cycle of violence from which we suffer unless we were to change the environment of violence. Therefore we will we change or will we remain prisoners of violence for the rest of time and that is where the answers lie.