?https://www.traditionrolex.com/44 https://www.traditionrolex.com/44 https://www.traditionrolex.com/44 The Craving for Liberty in the Arab World, or What Happened to Us? - LEONIDAS DONSKIS

The Craving for Liberty in the Arab World, or What Happened to Us?

March 23, 2011

By Leonidas Donskis

It was with sound reason that the French philosopher Andre Glucksmann has just recently exploded with devastating criticism of the European Union for its failure to support the spirit of freedom and the craving for liberty so potently manifest in the Middle East and in the Arab world. Right before our eyes – on the Internet and in the global media which have become our home away from home nowadays – a unique global political change has occurred, most probably the second one in scale and importance after the Berlin Wall fall and the subsequent collapse of the former Soviet Union.

Yet it came to us as the winter of our discontents, rather than that of our joy. What happened to us, then? Why on earth should we have remained so complacent about, not to say insensitive to, the courage and resolve of the Arab peoples that revolted against their tyrants, thus creating a global chain reaction and a domino effect in world politics?

In Glucksmann’s opinion, the EU was totally unprepared for such a turn in world politics. In fact, neither was the USA. Glucksmann insisted that the EU and the USA were too fixated, for a long time, on regional “safety and security” allegedly provided by such “our thugs” and “our loyal and predictable” dictators as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf, and even Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi – especially judging by the affectionate relationship between Libya and Italy in their migration policies and security operations.

There is an even more unpleasant aspect of this hesitancy. To put aside all pearls of political correctness, the modern Arab world had long been perceived by Europeans and Americans alike as a realm of religious zeal, backwardness, bigotry, and fanaticism where the rule of law, political liberty, and democracy do not apply nearly by definition and where they do not have any chances whatsoever. Hence, the reliance on dictators who were smart enough to play the game with the West, instead of irritating and scaring it with the Russian- or Chinese-type scenarios of civilizational alternatives. Like in other similar cases of the disengagement and complacency of the USA and the EU, sweetened and softened with the endless tirades about the uniqueness of non-Western identities and cultures, what was and continues to be underneath is a profound disbelief in a simple truth that the Arab world is made up of people like us. A seemingly simple, yet a surprisingly revealing point, reiterated by the British historian Simon Schama over the past weeks.   

Therefore, the real discovery we made during the social upheavals or political revolutions, if you will, was that they are people whose dignity and self-esteem had long been hurt and violated by their own dictators, skilled at playing some petty power and economic games with the American and European elites, rather than by sheer American imperialism and Israel’s violent politics vis-a-vis the Palestinians, as quite a few commentators and politicians would simplistically assume.

More than that, we have to face the fact that it is them, not us, who defend the fundamental values of the West now. This is Francis Fukuyama’s time. Fukuyama should triumph and rejoice in the uncompromising defense of the idea of freedom undertaken by the Arab world, which was long humiliated by their modern tyrants tinged with European values, rather than deeply permeated by them.

In fact, the duo of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev in Russia, or Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine or Aleksandr Lukashenko in Belarus, no matter how profound are their internal differences (Ukraine is still a flawed democracy with much diversity and freedom of conscience, to compare with the hopeless situations in Russia and Belarus) or how much they differ from Arab countries, should observe these developments with uneasiness and fear. The domino effect is a remote possibility.

Needless to say, we should not overrate what happened and what is still on the way in the Arab world. However tempting it could be, a comparison of the Middle East and the Baltic States in 1990–1991 would not be plausible; nor would it be accurate. Human rights, political pluralism, and the rule of law are not something that the Middles East can hope to promote easily and immediately.

The absence of the traditions of democracy as well as the continuing critical role of the military and state security units in those countries as the only agencies capable of preserving the region’s more or less feasible pro-Western orientation do not promise a blue and cloudless sky for those countries’ genuine democrats. At best, they can hope for the Turkish scenario; at worst, they will face the Iranian one. And the possibility of civil war cannot be ruled out, either.
Whatever the case, this is what freedom is all about: unpredictability and uncertainty are its inescapable aspects. Those who wish to sacrifice them for the sake of “stability” and more certainty will always opt for the Mubarak-type enlightened autocracy, or Putinesque “managed democracy,” or any other similar grotesque variety of liberal democracy, instead of the unbearable lightness of freedom.

As far as the West is concerned, the EU and the USA got accustomed to safely dealing with dictators, instead of accepting the challenges of someone else’s freedom. Well, life itself will sooner or later force them to change or abandon this remainder of the colonial mindset.


Leonidas Donskis, Ph.D.. is a Lithuanian Member of the European Parliament.

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