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No Development Without Creativity and Originality!
The approach of Arab states to development has been, so far, disappointing. Its shortcomings were many and could be attributable to perhaps an emphasis on the belief in incremental accumulative effects. But by large the failure was due to the lack of a consisting agenda with a guiding radical narrative, both of which would have laid down and specified what was meant by modernization and what objectives development should work for. Hence the approach followed was mostly a mish-mash of 'development' projects without long term ideals. Basically to meet the pressant immediate demands. But meeting the immediate demand is no substitute for investment into the future. The teaching of how to fish instead of giving fish, thing!
Development as a historical process has revealed a consistent fact: The extirpation of backwardness could only be carried out through total social and cultural renewals. To that end no developoment plans which were comprised mainly of an ecletic hodgepodge melange, without any organic coherence or internal logic, would have awaken the populace nor would have set the goals on a consisting and clear path. A drowsy population wouldn't be kindled by some volleys of sporadic atttempts -consisting mainly of blind wholesale copying of second rate plans- to climb out of the hole of misery. Nor some bureaucratic sallies, privy of the force of ideas, would somehow turn into a national approach to development. As a result, the outcome to 6-decades of such haphazardic attempts was an utter failure to take-off. And, the failure will persist as long as the main agent of change, the individual is still missing, never was called upon to carry on the burdens of renerwal.
What has underlied this failure and still satnding on the way were the many barriers and obstacles that had stood against a radical and lasting take-off. The hardest obstacles still to crack are the structural ones, that go from cultural decay, tribalism, dispotism, nepotism, corruption, lethargy, etc. While, the ones usually much talked about impeding the change, as population growth, inadequate education, etc., were/are merely the visible ice-bergs of much more stubborn hidden structural deficits. Even economic and political problems can be seen as froths floating on the surface of much deeper and insidious quagmires.
The attempts to address secondary causes without first dealing with the structural ones -that gave rise to them- were doomed to failure and have only exasperated further the existing conditions. The common denominator among all Arab states' was/is their attempts to modernize without true committment to overcome their histories. No nation, so far, has changed without first going through a period of an agonizing soul-searching of why and what had brought her down on its knees. To this date, no state in the Arab World has ever declared war on backwardness, with a campaign to uproot its causes. Take Libya, for instance, where the most persistent obstacle to overcome is still the one insulating the culture from confronting its own internal contradictions and thus reconciling it with modernity's requisits. Libyans, complecit with their circumstances, never mulled over questions: Why Libya still denotes a geography more than a country? What went wrong with its inhabitants? How to overcome the stagnation? What is self-renewal and how to go about it? Even if questioning, by itself, wouldn't implant facts on the ground, at least will clarify and thus prepare the grounds for the next step.
Some of the major barriers to development have been mentioned before, but it's good to repeat them once more. In all and each of the Arab states, two major structural deficits were never addressed: The inherited colonial-state design and the decaying culture! At the wake of the colonial period the colonial-state morphed into the neo-colonial state. this inherited legacy suffered both in design and legitimacy. Since the colonial-state had only two tasks to perform: control the population and exploit their resources. Its off-spring, the neo-colonial state, if it intended to bury its past, wouldn't have maintained these same tasks at heart. But in view of the fact that no Arab country had the opportunity to choose its social contract and thereafter built its state according to the needs and aspirations of its people, the deformed and bastardized entity, the neo-colonial state, had affirmed itself by default. By some sleight of hand was accepted, actually imposed, as the national state. Thus it was doomed from the beginning to have a setup and logic in straight contradictions to its people needs, if not wishes. If for no other reason than what the colonialists had designed their state, as a self-centered entity (with little concern outside of itself, and no other goals except its own survival) to subjugate fisrt and the oppress, control, and exploit the inhabitants. Therefore, this state in the form and setup in which it came, has at its core an irriconciable trait, from the get-go, to the needs and aspirations of its people. Even after indigenization, this state had never lost its primary mission, that of being an end to itself, and as the current crop of Arab states have widely shown. True to this lineage, and persistent with its traditions, the Arab-state, therefore, has difficulty legitimizing itself or using legitimate means for its operations. Its oppressive apparatuses have made it almost impossible to carry on ordinary tasks without stepping on someone or another's toes. An oppressive machine which was never meant nor was intended to get into the business of solving problems. Thus from the start the Arab-state was hampered in its ability to face the chronic diseases gnawing at its body politic. Whether to ward off anguish or to fend off social angst, the Arab state, therefore, had no other choice but to opt for the easier approach to survive, and import whatever deveploment plans thought would improve on its image. For the last half-century or so Arab statelets have hired throngs of contractors and their workers to do what the local labor force was never trained to maintain. Incompetence aside, underlying this approach, was a more insidious notion: the indigenous are not capable of thinking for themselves. An 'Orientalist construct' has been elevated into the rank of an absolute fact. What has helped enshrine such a notion was the idea that has been around since the "generation of awakeness,"- which says: civilizatization's constituent parts, could be broken apart into their major components: material and cultural. Once split apart in this way, the next logical step was to argue that these two components can live separately, that's each could live on its own and thus could be chosen by itself. This view had made it easier for non-Westerners to pick what component they deemed to be beneficial to their countries without necessarily worrying about the whole package. A country, therefore, could choose to be half-modern in its exteriors, while in its material aspects could still maintain its traditional habits, bahviors, and outlook intact. The twisted logic has made OK for a country to forgo the complete turnover. In other words, it made possible, if not unnecessary, to postpone the complete make-over. The end result to this line of thought was, products deemed not threatening to the collective consciousness were imported in abundance while the principles and ideas behined them, if not banished, were obstructed. Machines and their needed infrastuctures, deemed innocuous to the mores and values of the country, were, if not welcomed, given an entry visa, while notions of freedom, ideas of rights, etc. were banned.
A variety of projects, of all genres and kinds, regardless of their adequacy or fitness to the economic stage, have proliferated, sometimes literally without reason or rhyme, in all corners of the impoverished Arabstans. These projects have lacked both in strategic depth and in the metrics by which to judge and evaluate them. The only connecting thread to such myriads of "swaps of derivative projects,' was, perhaps, the belief of the dictators and their henchmen, the technocrats, kept ,of course, secret, in that old Marxist recipe: dialectics, by which and through which disorder will eventually turn to order, quantity, sooner or later, will turn to quality, and the matter would enforce the spirit. Amen!
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