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Libyan Writer Ghoma
الكاتب الليبي غومة

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Friday, 14 May, 2010

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APPROACHES TO DEVELOPMENT:
No Development Without Creativity and Originality!

(Part II)

By: Ghoma

"Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be left waiting for us in our graves –or whether it should be ours here and now on this earth. "
                                       Ayn Rand, Atalas Shrugged, p.675



        Though underdevelopment, really backwardness, ain't a destiny, it comes close; not because of God's will or Nature's malice but rather out of humanly-imposed slumpness, out of stultification of social and cultural institutions. Thus in the flow and ebb of history peoples and nations rose and fell. How nations rise and fall became a veritable cottage industry. Philosophers and historians have and still indulge themselves in the shallow and deep waters og what made some people successful while others lost momentum. The aim was to find some clues behind nations' continuous metamorphosis. From Gibbson (for the Roman Empire) to Braudel (the Age of Phillip IV), to Kennedy, Kagan (for the America Empire), etc. There's still room for why some nations never rose while others rose only to fall, from grace, suddenly and precipitately as they rose. Why some cultures got jammed up in their own secretions, had lost their speed, and hunkered down to sleep? And how did such a state find its way to hold tightly the gears and axels supposed to induce the social body to move while clugging the whistles that would have warned of the impending catastrophe, is still the question which puzzles most of those who dared to pose it. Perhaps more than any other historical phenomenon on earth backwardness is the most severe and devastating challenge to face a society. A direct result of deposits of millennial work by the most corrosive of all agents: ignornace. When cultural illiteracy had found its way to a society, then, slowly did its devastating damage by gnawing at the pith, the core of the body, until hollowing it into emptiness. In the case of Arabs, what had helped this predictment to tighten its grip were a number of factors, perhaps scarcity of means was the most palpable –a subsistence economy leaves no surplus to be invested in human or otherwise capital. But scarcity of means couldn't account for the whole ordeal. Many a n nations with not much resources were able to race with time and kept themselves abreast with what taking place in other parts of the world. The notion that God had sent His final answers to humanity, through the Arabs, was as much, if not more, responsible for quitting the pursuit of of finding answers to human problems, than the panoply of other reasons and causes. Henceforth, scarcity of means in combination with ignorance had frozen the social structures so prevalent in the Arab World and the rest of the wretched world. Most of these societies, contrary to models and expectations, had experienced an arrested developement event, which, in turn has caused them to remain frozen in the tribal mode, even when most of their populations have moved into urban settings.

        No society had found itself in the grip of poverty, ignorance, and cultural decay suddenly and overnight. Rather its impasse had crept slowly and insidiously and was an accumulation of long acting forces and agents which were left undisturbed to their own devices to do their damaging work. Neglected, these forces dug deep into the bone of society to paralyze its ability to walk, talk, and in the end react, loosening its confidence in itself. Thus these long neglected effects of inactions fostered indifference too. The result was equivalent to dropping out of history, by the total absence of actions and actors, which, then had left these societies exposed to the vagaries of nature and time, and to the cruelty of their more voracious fellow humans. They'd reverted into societies without histories, and thus became victims to nature's bloody claws and fell easy prey to cruel ravages of other more adavanced groups. Lost in time's race to decide their own fate.

        Backwardness is a historical product. As such, multiple factors were responsible for its persistence. These factors became rooted deeply into the nooks, crannies, and interstices of every facet, as to be part and parcel of social fabric. Backwardness entraps society, like an octupus, in the most vicious of all vicious-circles: the circle of ignorance and poverty. A society caught in the loops and folds of this circle has very little chance of ever breaking loose out of the vise without some dramatic event(s) that would shake it from its foundations. Since the cumulative effects of backwardness (taboos, superstitions, dogmas, etc.) were never static, but rather actively multiplying their effects which would further sap the always diminshing energy to respond to them, and thus worsening the conditions that gave rise to them, progressivly and exponantially by the day. For example, poverty and ignorance are bound to produce more humans than the resources available to sustain them and this will prevent any accumulation of capital to occur, which further aggravates the chances of breaking out of the cycle- only more of the same.

        Some traits which can be found in most backward societies are, in addition to little resources are: antiquated social structures (tribal) and atrophied cultures (religious). What became relics of bygone ages in other societies became the mainstay in backwater ones. If these structures had once worked as mechanisms of control, in time have degenerated into an intricate weave of entrapments, of formal and informal codes made out mostly of myths, taboos, and dogmas. What made these systems lethal is their claims to self referentiality, which had caused them to close the loops on themsleves, turning them in turn from regulatory into oppressive mechanisms.

        These systems' strength resided in their bent towards the group's survival. All were subjugated to the will of all. Universal slavery without the benefit of a master. Slaverhood to slavery. This took the form of an inherent bias against the individual. The codes'traits of condescending and mistrustful have treated people as unreliable minors for life – as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice is! The thrust was always to perserve social cohesiveness on the expense, and restraining of individual initiative. The upshot was the almost total absence of any meaningul role for the individual. The individual never made it to be recognized as the true agent of history. If collective survival limited the group's horizons, taboos and rituals crippled the individual's imagination. Tribal-blood-relations, built on a set of loyalties, that went from God to the chief [modern day leader], relied on consensus and dealt firmly and negatively against any form of dissent. The 'otherness' was always seen with suspicion, as a stranger and an intruder, a non-trusted and thus must either conform or perish. A code of calcified conduct, part mundane (costumary) and part sacred, reigned without challenge. The rebels and breakers, to the code, were ostracized in the best and exorcised, one way or the other, if nothing esle worked.

        Backwater societies' fabric coalesced in an intricate weave of informal relations with elders, clerks, notables, and chiefs as enforcers to a code centered on conformism. This network, driven by consensus, rarely took initiative, but rather reacted at the wake of threats to social calm. What helped such forms to persist was their limited yet simple set of loyalities. The pillars of this arrangement are: local (tribe), and universal (religion), with nothing in between. As opposed to modern social structures that mediated the local and universal or abstarct through the state and its subsequent set of political and civic institutions -the bricks and mortars of the social-contract-edifice- in backward societies relations were fewer and far in between, relying on family, clan, and the tribe with religion acting as the cementing glue. What gave such relations their permanence was perhaps their folkloric simplicity and informality. However, one important factor has contributed to the stability of the arrangement's long survival was the powerful control and preventive mechanism, namely neophobia, or fear of novelty. Neophobia was the sedative which gave social arrangement an atavistic flare, and as such it worked to suppress any new voice and therefore any initiative. Consequently the individual was never counted on as the backbone of the edifice, but rather a minor and minute agent. Individuals were never found at the forefront, but were relegated to back tail of the social order. Thus his role (her role was never even admitted) and contribution, if were there, were burried under an avalanche of bogey claimants: knowledgeables, notables, holy men and the likes. The bricks got covered up by the cured mortars of social conventions, to keep them hidden in their firm places.

        If there's a persistent trait in human social evolution which could account for the dynamics of some societies, or lack of it in others. must be how strong or weak the position and role of the individual in the social arrangement. How narrow or wide the margin of freedom allowed to the single component would determine the vitality or lack of it of the whole. In fact civilization in general and history of development in particular, were no more than the march towards more progressive widening of the margins of freedom and the weakening of the bonds which shackled the individual to the oppressive social norms. History had shown repeatedly in freeing the individual a society frees itself by unleashing individual creative potential, and thus enabling itself to start the take-off. Which one came first: reordering of society or freeing the individual? It's an egg-chicken sort of conundrum. However, one thing remains crucial, as an individual became master of his/her destiny and captain to his/her own ship was and still is the alfa and omega, the beginning and the end of development. The stories of nations' approaches to development, which have made it to the developed stage bears the prove to this assertion: without a free and creative individuals no development is possible. Peasants, serfs, and slaves had first to be freed in order for them to pursue the dreams of a better life. That was how the urban revolution first started down the river of time, which was then followed way later by the proletariat revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. Proletarization and urbanism were the transitory stages through which individuals came to lose one identity and to acquire new one. That process drove the sinking of the modern notion of self-actualization through vocation (Max Weber) in the here and now. The training school in which teeming masses of peasants were huddled together to be tamed and turned into full bown citizens.

        Proletariat, intended here in its sociological rather than Marxist connotation, was the force behind the industrial civilization, in molding the wretched, the weak, and the huddled masses into the melting pot of the modern metropolis. Its dialects was bound to produce, not its antagonist as the classical model had postulated, but rather that concomitant breed of intellecual-workers –the so-called middle class- was kept always on the edge by fear of falling, unleashed its creative energy to keep the system running and productive. The history of the 20th century had shown that any time there was an attempt to short-circuit this dualism from following its due course, a failure to the project of development had been inevitable. The collapse of Nazist and Fascist regimes was due to their attempt to subvert the process in favor of the proletariat at the expense of its twin sister, the middle class (the petty bourgeoisie), the intellectual beehive. Where Fascism had succeeded in taking the reins of power as in Spain and Portugal, those two societies experienced an arrested development for the durations of Franco's and Salazar's regimes. While in the Soviet and Eastern bloc states the monopoly of power by the bureacrats of the Communist Parties had prevented, after the death of Lenin, the normal growth of the middle class, and thus the experiment slid slowly to a standstill, later to be aborted.

Ghoma
Ghoma47@hotmail.com


Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8
Part 9 Part 10

More Articles Written By Ghoma

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