Saturday, October 21,  2017

Politics

They Serve The West

BY Ahmed Adel

We have a long tradition of passive education, in which the teacher dictates to the student what is ‘right’, while everything else is by default ‘wrong’ and unacceptable. We are not trained to filter information, to decide for ourselves whether we should accept or reject it; unfortunately, we are not used to analysis and critique


Yesterday I was explaining to a revolutionary student why it is that many people don’t believe that they, the revolutionaries, are acting in the interest of this country without regards or expectation for compensation or gain. The conversation began when I saw that she was in a state of displeasure and disbelief after she read a tweet by a young man who said that he’s ashamed that there are people in this country like the so called activists who “are working for ‘Egypt’s sake’.” He described the activists as filth. I told my student that this issue has deep roots in the past. While readers may be surprised or dismayed at what I have written, I believe that this subject is important and deserves further discussion.

 

Ideologies are widely understood to be a set of ideas that form the individual, the society, and their way of thinking - this is therefore, a war of ideas.

To express it succinctly, I tried to explain to her that there are people who are incapable of believing that there are indeed individuals who selflessly work to serve others, without seeking reward from anyone for doing so. The reason some people don’t understand this behavior is because they themselves would never serve others without compensation. A person who doesn’t act without being compensated finds it difficult to believe that others would engage in such selfless actions. For example, at the school I work at, I used to receive a salary that was markedly higher than that received by any of my colleagues.

 

However, when we organized a protest in my school to demand equal wages for all, I was summoned to the director’s office. In front of the students she asked me whether the salary I receive is higher than that of my coworkers. I told her yes indeed, it is much higher, even higher than the salaries of many of my more senior colleagues. She then asked me something to the effect of, “Then why are you concerned about others?” I told my colleagues that she doesn’t believe that I would fight for the sake of my coworkers rather than for my own self-interest. It is because she herself wouldn’t do what I do.

 

We fell victim to a cultural imperialism that produced in us the feeling that the West, and especially the United States, is the master; the sovereign of all decisions

But the issue (and explanation) goes much deeper than my simple example. In my explanation to the student, I connected the issue to colonialism and postcolonial theory which I studied under my mentors, Dr. Radwa Ashour, Dr. Itaf al Bana, Dr. Ahmed Gamal, Dr. Sherien Mazloum, and others. For centuries, colonizers have implanted in us feelings of inferiority, self-pity, and inadequacy vis-a-vis self-determination, either during their colonization or afterwards via cultural, rather than occupational imperialism. It has become our collective feeling that we have no choice, that we are powerless.

 

We are always the subjects, not the actors. I told her that the theory can be summarized by the simple notion, “You are too inferior to determine your own fate and because we are superior to you, you are the slave and we will always be the masters.” Perhaps these words may seem shocking, but they are a reality that the colonizer has instilled in the colonized throughout history. This is why so many people were astonished when they saw young Egyptians taking fate into their own hands and deciding to control their own destiny without anyone ordering them to do so.

 

Since our educational system is in essence Western, it shouldn’t then be strange or unexpected for us to use this very education against the hegemony that the West is imposing on us. We see Palestinian youth blogging with a proficiency in English that matches that of a British or American native speaker. They use their education to disseminate awareness about the Palestinian cause and to tell the world about Zionist crimes. Education, even if it takes place or originates in Western schools of thought, is not a crime for which the youth should be charged or punished. I say these words to illustrate why I have chosen two Western philosophers: Louis Althusser (1918-1990) and Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), to prove the veracity of my point of view.

 

As for the war of ideas, the vast majority of people are not aware of it and don’t comprehend it - they simply fall prey to it. This is why purging the Ministry of Information from corrupt elements is no less important than purging the Ministry of Interior

According to Althusser, the individual and the people can be controlled with two primary instruments: the “state’s repressive apparatuses” and the “state’s ideological apparatuses.” The repressive apparatus of the state is represented in the laws, courts, the police, and the army. The state ideological apparatus is represented in the family, the media, the religious establishment, and, more importantly (especially in capitalist societies), the education system. These are the instruments through which the state controls its people. It is therefore not unexpected to find that the higher the illiteracy rate, the easier it is for rulers to control their subjects. An illiterate man can be influenced easily.

 

Many people can recognize the instruments of the repressive state apparatus that suppresses any attempt to break away from the narrative created by the state or from the state’s ‘legitimacy.’ Most people however, don’t realize how dangerous the ideological state apparatus is. Its instruments are hidden, subtle, and cunning. 

 

Ideologies are widely understood to be a set of ideas that form the individual, the society, and their way of thinking - this is therefore, a war of ideas. Education plants ideas in a person’s mind that are not easily uprooted and the media controls minds with a speed that cannot be measured. Therefore, if people want to glorify a ruler, they place him in their history books and describe him as a matchless, daring hero. Similarly, if a ruler wants to demonize his predecessor, he will only highlight his predecessor’s failings and will edit out all his honorable deeds, and so forth.

 

In my opinion, the ideological state apparatus is much more dangerous then the repressive one. Repression can be easily and clearly identified (regardless of some people whom God has tested with an inhumane nature that is not touched by the slaughter of a human soul, and instead tries to justify such crimes). As for the war of ideas, the vast majority of people are not aware of it and don’t comprehend it - they simply fall prey to it. This is why purging the Ministry of Information from corrupt elements is no less important than purging the Ministry of Interior.

 

It is no wonder then that people believe what they are being told through the propagandist media. We have a long tradition of passive education, in which the teacher dictates to the student what is ‘right’, while everything else is by default ‘wrong’ and unacceptable. We are not trained to filter information, to decide for ourselves whether we should accept or reject it; unfortunately, we are not used to analysis and critique.

 

In his book, Black Skin White Masks, Fanon uses psychoanalysis to study black people’s emotions towards whites. He points out that the white colonizer has inculcated an inferiority complex and a sense of submissiveness in the minds of the colonized blacks, to the extent that the black person wants to become white only to reach the same level of humanity as the white person. Therefore, a black person may act as if he’s white, only because he wants to feel equally human. This is why black people use the language of the ‘white master’ in their literature. This is why they dress the same as white people. This is why they try to sever their relationship with their authentic traditions. It is because they feel deep inside that the white/Western model is the one that all humans should emulate.

 

We fell victim to a cultural imperialism that produced in us the feeling that the West, and especially the United States, is the master; the sovereign of all decisions. It is often heard that “Egypt will not change as long as the US doesn’t want it to be changed, and, Palestine will not be liberated as long as the US doesn’t want it to be liberated”, etc. Even if there is some truth to this, such ideas should never lead us to believe that we, the youth who have decided to start a revolution, have taken orders from the US or any other party. Any observer of US statements - whether at the beginning of the revolution, in the thick of it, or at the end - would find those statements conspicuously and patently confused. 

 

Anyone who says that the revolutionaries are funded from abroad or are agents of the West, or that they receive commands to revolt from the US are disseminating depressing colonial ideas and giving credit to those who don’t deserve it

Dr. Tamim al Barghouti told me that he was in the US during the first days of the Egyptian Revolution and saw how the American media was trying to convince the world that they were the ones who taught us freedom and democracy, in fact, that they were the ones who created the revolution!

 

As such, anyone who says that the revolutionaries are funded from abroad or are agents of the West, or that they receive commands to revolt from the US or any other party, are only serving the West with such statements. They are disseminating depressing colonial ideas and giving credit to those who don’t deserve it. In fact, in spreading and repeating these false statements they are denying the brave youth of Egypt the ability to make their own decisions and determine their own fate. {Truly evil is that they have been doing}! (9:9)

 

Education is the solution…

Ahmed Adel graduated from Ain Shams University.  He teaches English and writes short stories and poems.  His writings are available at http://ibnadel.blogspot.com/ and @IbnAdel

 



READ MORE BY:  Ahmed Adel

 

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