Friday, August 23, 2013

National Illusion

The average citizen of the Western world, especially the political leaders, is quite disappointed with the Middle East these days.  The locals are not acting like (Western) civilized people!  True, the Israelis and Palestinians are talking to each other, sort of.  On the other hand, Israel insists on issuing building permits in the “Occupied Territories”; the Egyptian military successfully conducted a putsch and are openly repressing those democratic Muslim brothers; Assad in Syria is routinely bombing, torturing, and starving civilians, not to mention using forbidden chemical weapons; Lebanon is starting to join the fun of ethnic killing.  This is not to mention the [usual ]SNAFU  (situation normal – all fucked up] in Iraq and Afghanistan, but who wants to think of that?

This lack of respect for human rights must be quite frustrating and disappointing for right-minded Scandinavians and other Europeans, who so strongly believe in the universality of human rights.  Maybe part of the communication gap is the overuse of the word “country”  A nation  is a place where 95% of the population identifies themselves as residents of that country despite differences in religion, politics, and socio-economic status.  Lebanon is a collection of religious tribes thrown together by the French.  Syria has a history of a separate cultural identity, but politically exists as a reaction to French rule.  Egypt indeed has been an independent country for many centuries.  However, it suffers from a similar dysfunction as Turkey– a large cultural and ideological gap between the urban rich and rural poor, so wide in fact that the country is split into two, if not more, parts.  The urban, relatively liberal population views the Muslim Brotherhood as the enemy.  Therefore, it supports the Army’s oppression of the latter.  Assad knows that what will be his fate and that of his allies if he loses the civil war.  No holds are barred.  Even Israel has around 15% of the population, Israeli-Arabs and ultra-orthodox Jews, who don’t consider themselves Israeli.  Still, Israel is the probably the most deserving of the title “nation”.

So, if you wonder why Middle Eastern countries are so unstable, keep in mind that most, if not all, of them are countries in name only.

P.S. Having survived moving to a new flat, I'll be away on a family visit until mid September. I will then go back to writing once a week.