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‘Mideast psyche fails to absorb democratic shift’ ‘Western ideas largely impractical’

I THINK that I am today among an increasing number of people who tend to see small hope for the establishment of real democracy in the Middle East. It is not because Middle Easterners do not deserve to live in a democracy or that they have no right to enjoy its wonderful promises.

The current problems associated with the Arab Spring Democracies seem to be rooted in the general psyche; which is, at least in the ME, a very difficult thing to change.

The following is of course not an overstatement, but an understatement: unless democratic ideals, civil liberties, and tolerant cultural values are established by the people of the Middle East in their daily life, no democratic institution can thrive in their societies.

Democracy fails when its cultural, social, psychological requirements are lacking in a particular human society. One for example, cannot force a particular people to behave differently from what they have been doing for the last few centuries, unless they do it themselves! In other words, democracy begins in nuances of daily life; in the tolerant tones of day-to- day human interaction; it gets rooted in the individual psyche first before it spread into the larger community. It is very difficult for example to imagine a healthy, constructive democracy to function immediately in a historically and culturally backward society. The process of democratization will take generations to become an integral part of daily life.

The Arab Spring therefore is an anachronism; largely an externally enforced hodgepodge democracy; a jumble of mediocre Western-influenced democratic ideas; a product of constructive chaos. One of the fallacies associated with the Arab Spring is that some Western commentators tend to evaluate its democratic development through Western perspectives. Yet, you cannot judge a people, or their cultural or social mores; or even predict their desire for democracy according to standards imported haphazardly from a foreign culture.

To an intellectual Western mind, democracy is supposed to enable a people to enjoy their liberties through free elections.

However, this Western democratic perspective does not necessarily apply in some parts of the ME. Our Arab Spring democracies may have reaffirmed instead certain historical socio-economic rigid hierarchies, instead of abolishing them for the sake of social “democratic” equality. The same people who used to control the political, cultural, business and media powerhouses will continue to gain an upper hand in almost all Middle-Eastern new democracies.

Finally, you cannot fight terrorism by continuing to assume that the establishment of democracies will reduce religious intolerance in certain societies. Perhaps, establishing a good functioning democracy in the Middle-East would mean funneling, instead of dispersing, populist rage toward the destruction of who is considered an “enemy” of the faith or the nation! It is much better sometimes not to interfere in the lives of other people, and just allow them to find their way out.

khaledaljenfawi@yahoo.com


By: By Khaled Aljenfawi

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