( Part II )
Michel Foucault’s thesis in Discipline and Punish was: power is a relationship, not a possession. The Nation-State development, in the course of the 18-19th centuryies went from being a mere possession -clique-run, usually aristocratic- into a relational or democratically-run state. In the process the state had separated authority into various realms and spheres, and gave the various institutions, particularly, the political and military establishments different, yet complimentar, roles and tasks. Its transmuted and miniaturized version, the entity that was modeled after it, in the post-colonial world was seen as a ‘gift’ endowed by the giver, the departing colonial power, to be possessed by the fighter-rebels, when the colonial power’s marginal returns became negative and had to evacuate. Such a thinking led to an understanding, which, while may not have dominated in all regions in the same way, but the worst form of it has dominated the Arab region since. For a variety of reasons, some of them could be accounted for and others are still in the realm of mystery to be pondered, the Middle East’s withdrawal from civilization, in the late Middle Ages, was total and complete; an extreme turn about face beyond description. From Ibn Khaldun’s day -astride the end of the 15th and the beginning of the16th cenruries- to the mid-20th century, a cloud of darkness had settled on the deserts and kept them wrapped in total eclipse. The region went into a deep sleep; and poverty and ignorance had shed their shadows over the entire arc extending from the Ocean to the Gulf and beyond. Perhaps defeat added to a pessimistic religious view of life had turned culture into total disenchantment with the world! While the world went its way, Arabs broke with it to the extent of not even watching it from afar. What still had distinguished them from pure savages were the itinerant Qur’an reciters and what they could have imparted, through rote learning, of the rudimentary catechisms and the moral norms which went with them. By the time Europeans started mounting their campaign of invasions, after the Conquista, in the early 16th century and down to 19th and 20th centuries’ colonization, Arab were still caught in total eclipse and whatever little resistances they could have mustered were carried out under the mantle and banners of Religion and with the leadership of its clerics and preachers.
Unlike what had taken place in other areas, for example, in Asia, where resistance and independence were conducted and gained under enlightened and secular leaderships, such as those of SunYat-Sen, Chiang Kai-Shek, and Moa Zedong in China; Gandhi and Nehru in India; Kim Il Sung in Korea, and Ho Chi Min in Vietnam; in the lands of Islam and the Middle East in particular only tribal chieftains or religious figures were available to lend themselves quite easily to all kinds of manipulations by the invaders and colonizers ending up in bargaining their ways in some cases to some nominal independence. Comparatively ith other regions, and seemingly unique to the Arab region, the grip of Religion on it was more severe and stricter than any other area. The grip was so tight, it had suffocated culture and prevented it to keep pace with life’s other demands. Thus, without internal currents of competitive claims, culture had lacked those currents and tweaks which would have kept it afloat in lockstep with the rest of the world. Thus a toxic combination of a languishing culture and a disengagement from the world had resulted not only in forgoing the revolutions that had swept some parts of the rest of world, but also in total absence of enlightened and secular figures who could have led the area out of the abyss in which it dug itself in. The few non-religious affiliated figures who’d conducted some struggles and thus bargained with the powers-to-be, were soon displaced in the aftermath of the so-called independence. Without a civil life and its institutions, the area was ripe to fell into the grip of militarism immediately after the decolonization. What made it even worse, most of these army-men were of little education and with not much experience in the ways of the world as it was rather than as they’d imagined it to be. In view of the fact that almost all th post-colonial regimes have lacked any claim to legitimacy and the art of know-how, they found it rather difficult to challenge the status quo and thus caved in to the popular religious sentiments.
Arab States’s borning as ‘gifts brought by the stork’, made their citizen lack that grasp without which no clear understanding of, and the coming to terms with, those primary notions of: nation and nationality, patriotism and citizenship, State and Religion, State and Army, People and the State, etc. which could be had. In this way, the State found itself in the default position dominant in the area since time immemorial: the Family-Run-Establishment! From the get-go, the State had thus lacked what would have legitimized her in the eyes of its citizens and earned her the necessary loyalties not only to survive but more to get respect and grow. The upshot of all this was to leave the gates quite wide open for the most destructive of all human inventions: the Army! To wrack havoc with the fate and destiny of State and people with the only thing an Army owns: a humongous wrecker's-ball! In this way the State fell victim to an impoverished culture which saw power as a mere spoil, as in wars, ready for the reckless to gamble for her win as a reward. Qaddafi has advanced, on many occasions, the outrageous claim, which implied he’d gained the eternal right to own the Libyan State, to rule it, and to do whatever he pleases with it, if for no other reasons, it was because he and his companion plotters had put their lives in jeopardy by risking whatever they’d, to gain the rights to do what they pleased with their win!.
Lack of legitimacy, of culture of State, of tradition of sharing power, and more have resulted in the devious machinations which in some situations had destroyed the state completely and in others has been left it hanging in limbo, or even to sink further and deeper into a virtual chaos of inaptness, corruption, and mismanagement. Since the family-run-state is by definition, a nepotistic and monopolistic affaire, neither Government nor its bureaucracy nor administration or management had the chances to the self-critiquing necessary to develop. The State, as a family possession, had kept its secrets to itself and was jealous to not share any failures or misgivings beyond the strict circle of the members forming its inner core. With no development to, what in normal states, would have carried the enormous tasks of a modern state, that’s, the ‘mandarin class,’ the bureaucracy. People were left to fend for themselves, in a dog-eats-dog fight, whether in employment or services. That’s exactly what seems to have taken place in Arabs states, in the last half-century or so. With all the 'graduates from their universities' as well as of European and North American institutions, joining, in droves, the ranks of an ever bloating bureaucracy, the performance of the State in the Arab World, complicated further by population growth and dwindling of resources, was abysmal, and has even been deteriorating further into inefficiency, mismanagement and corruption beyond levels of recovery. Though, on the surface, the Gulf States seem to be doing better, but not so on closer look; where things rather seem to tend in the opposite direction. It appears they’ve been caught in a large scam to rip them off the windfall revenues they’ve been getting lately, if truth be said, without merit. Most of their real-estate bubbles appear to be artificially created, victim again to a rip-off campaign for "re-patriating back" and recycling the petrodollars. Thus what seem to be differences among these hapless statelets of North Africa and the Middle East - when in fact looked at closely turn out to be no more than skin-deep sheer cosmetic touches done for the sake of appearances rather than qualitative distinctions- were thus unified by their performances. Whatever else they may serve, the content of these dissimilarities still remain semantic quirks pivoting around names and figures -light years away from the substantive levels where a modern and consensual state should be, and indeed, must be at!