Libya: News and Views      LibyaNet.Com      Libyan music       Libya: Our Home
Libyan Writer Ghoma
الكاتب الليبي غومة

More Articles Written By Ghoma

Saturday, 24 July, 2010

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

APPROACHES TO DEVELOPMENT:
No Development Without Creativity and Originality!

(Part V)

By: Ghoma

"It's all so arty there's no art left in it."
                     Alexander Solzhenitsyn



        On first contact with Europe, 'the generation of awakening,' was dazzled with the West's sense of order and prosperity. They took notice of modern civilization's flair to give humans the ability to manage themselves better than in anytime before. Nevertheless, they were also appalled by Europeans relaxed attitudes to what Easterners had held dear particularly in matters pertaining to the spirit! Hence the puzzle and hesitancy! How to use products of a civilization without being drowned by the flow its springs. Hence the reasoning went in the direction of finding a way to split the body from the soul, of Western civilization. Thus they hit upon the idea of reducing modernity to its basic two components: tangibles and intangibles, or material and immaterial. And the door was open now to advise picking what would be deemed neutral - material products that won't contradict the basic tenents of Islam- and to spurn those sticky parts pertaining to the soul and culture. The approach would have worked if there was a parallel effort to renew and modernize. Since the pick and choose method had not only compromised the sense of wholeness of the borrowed products but also had misrepresented the genesis of their origins. Such a clearly biased attitude had distorted and neglected the soul , so to speak, which drove such a civilization: Reason. This tour de force, of 'deconstructing a civilization' was no other than a sleight of hand by which a complex and complicated issue had been dealt with on the go without much pondering or ado. It sidestepped the brooding and mulling over what modernity meant, and a real critique of what it means to be modern to a half-savage and colonized culture. The 'enlightened' instead had opted for the easy way out by sanctioning machines and goods, separating them, in the same time, from what meanings they'd have and from what was inherently behind these products. Thus the Arab World, for the last two centuries, indulged itself in the exterior superificialities the West was able to produce without ever coming close to what made the West what it is. Henceforward, the literati have continued avoiding to immerse themselves in the knowledge and kow-how behind the West's success as well as its means and ways of doing things. Arabs have warded off their anguish by a bizantine ditherings to find ways to veneer modern technology with some islamizing kitsch or to indigenize its uses. In so doing, they've only confirmed Rudyard Kipling's controversial bromide; "East is East, and West is West, and never the twin shall meet."

        Without the much needed critiques to both Arab culture and Western Civilization, a symbiotic synthesis would be close to impossible. A culture, like the Arab one, which has been dozing for so long, satured to the hilt with religious tones and afflictions, pratically still stuck into the Middle Ages' lore, has no room for modernity and in its essence couldn't and cannot be reconciled to a civilization based in gran part on reason and its byproducts of skills. The irony, this warding off of anxieties -and the accompanying pangs of guilt- brought about by the avaracious appetite for anything material modern civilization could produce, have resulted in added stultification of the culture as seen in the radicalization of Faith and in the xeophobic rejection of anything pertaining to the Secular. Furthermore, the political groups have traded their illigitimate hold on power by caving in to what they thought the populace valued most: chauvinistic traditions, Religion, and tribalism. Thus the process of domestication of an 'antagonist and alien' civilization has been conducted mostly through ignoring its philosophical and ethical roots. This bizarre operation was carried on in the attempt to parry off the perceived threats from Western civilization to the essence and the autonomy of Faith and culture. Once again the culture was saved by encapsulating itself in its traditional garb when its core was rotting, and its practioners indulging their bodies in the material prducts of the West and now the Orient

        There's no love lost between modernity and its pre-modern ways of living and thinking. Modern civilization's march was charaterized in addition to utter destruction to ways of life not consonant with its premises has also another feature, i.e. having additctive consequences. "The medium is the message" was Marshall McLuhan perceptive summation, back in 1964, to the symbiotic relationship between form and content. And thus the notion of using modern material products without coming to terms with the values which underlied their producion, is a fanciful bunk. Whether it's a car or a cellphone, a Tv or an airplane, all have the potential of empowering their users -to live different lives- but in the same time also affect their perceptions of not only themselves but of space and time. All products carry embedded values above and beyond their exterior forms and immediate use. Th values of machines bending humans to their logic.

        A country like Libya wants to have its cake and eats it too. With voraciuos appetite, it accepts the material products of modern civilization, while still refusing to come to terms with the premises underpinning those products: the values of cause-and-effect inherent in them and the principles on which they were based, as the ethic of hardwork, acquiring of skills, pursuing scientific research, etc. the values which these products must have required in their produce first and to their use later. The non-apparent gap, implicit, between the product and its content, what it's about, has led perhaps to the outrageous misuses these products have gone through once they crossed their original territory, for example, as in the backwaters of this world. In these countries products were not seen nor ever have been used as concentrated forms of human intelligence, thought, and skills but rather as ready-made objects to be used at one's whims. These gadgets and gizmos pnce removed and abstracted from their cultural miliues and historical contexts, were thus ready to be used as mere neutral objects, as objets trove', privy of any sense or meanings. Once divorced from their original context and abstracted from the designed purposes, their uses were freed from any social bias or cultural obligations.

        So these products far from entering into a symbiotic relationship with their users and induce the to raise at their level, technology instead, in some forsaken parts of the world has taken a turn towards indingenizing itself, by performing different tasks from those originally designed to carry on. A fake sort of assimilation process has been taking place. Thus the abuses of technology have caused incredible damages, instead of elevating and enriching its users, it devolved itself more and more further down into the ranks of toys to play with. The dumbing of technology was perhaps one of the reasons the folks in 3rd-world have until now missed not only the premises which have sustained the modern world, but also never appreciated the extraordinary efforts needed to bring these inventions to fruition. Only by realizing these products and techniques didn't fall as a manna from the sky, but rather were painstakingly sought after through a long arc of time. Modernity even in its original lands was never a given or a treasure trove', an arbitrary act of chance, or an historical happenstance, but rather was a painful and slow slogging from the dark wastelands of the remote past across the Renaissance and on to the modern world.

        Therefore, any society which still insists on its ability to manage the cohabitation of the old with the new, like that of Libya, is sidestepping the contradictory natures of both, and plunging head-on on a dual and conflicting existence, which only will widen the chasm separating it from the rest of the ways and means of the modern world. If left to its own devices this gap will evetually become unbridgeable. For example, Libya with a population of 85% urban and 15% rural, urban way of life should have overtaken the village manners and behaviors still rampant among its tribal infested population. This modern paradox has once again pointed to the recidivist trait of tribal and bedouin culture andf its threat to nascent and fragile cities. Thus Libya, while on the surface appears to have broached the modern era, on a careful look it is still mired deep in its age-old ways of thinking and doing, customs and habits, from those of the sufis to the saints and dervishes. How to explain this anomaly: of an urban society still teethered to tribal and village habits and mannerisms? Were all the classic sociologists wrong or just they had missed some traits not consonant to their perviews or methods? And if urbanization in the context of 3-World is to be taken as a form of modernization, then, wouldn't such broad sweeps of deformed and distorted manifestations of modernity, be condemned for coming short on their promises? To transform and liberate those who got touched by the whiffs of modernity and its charms! And what to make of modernity's byproducts, of cities, infrastructures, etc. in uring their users to hypnotic gratifications, without nary of a guilt?

        Perhaps this anomaly is due to the process of 'unconscious borrowing' which has crept through the social interstices with such damaging and unintended consequences. The process that had emptied products of their contents, and sold them as mere shells for 3-World consumers has also deviated the phenomenon of urbanization from its historical path. Maybe because active and dtnamic products, such as institution's forming habits, were never imported -or exported- and the few that had crossed the borders have taken the form of mere shells, commodities and passive goods, brought merely for their immediate gratification, brand utilities, or their perceived prestige. Products without ideas behind them are no more trhan mechanisms without souls. For example, mega-polis have morphed into humungous villages, communication means became propaganda tools, education facilities turned into brainwashing centers, and so on and on. Perhaps modernity's ultimate betrayal was in packaging its products in mummified forms, and selling them as souvenirs to gullible buyers!

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

Libya: News and Views      LibyaNet.Com      Libyan music       Libya: Our Home