Tuesday 20 November 2007


Am sure all societies are sick, this is how they manage to survive this long. Manage to survive without real upheavals or major changes.
A common characteristic of mental illness and which acts like a safety valve too, is DENIAL and all societies are guilty of it.
Americans are known for having elevated the art of denial into a sublime form of worship...But Americans and the West do not concern me. I don't give a fuck about them - to be honest with you.
Just a reaction to centuries of Western -centrism, if you ask me.
Am concerned about the Middle East - the Arab world in particular. Israel can go to hell. Iran too. Turkey I have no quarrels with. So the "Levant" is my area of speciality.

I have studied these societies for as long as I can remember. And social scientists are not a very well accepted breed in the Arab World. Especially not critical ones.

Mind you anyone who rocks the boat a little is severly reprimanded. The castigation takes on many forms. There is the classical one- prison. Or exclusion from the group. Or disinheritance from the family. Or moral harassment from the society at large.

That is why writers, artists, poets and the rest who have leanings towards any form of individuality/ism are always marginalized. They think critically. Big sin. Never do that in the Arab World.

Yes of course, you can be critical of governments and keep repeating how corrupt they are and how dictatorial the regimes are ...but God forbid you should be critical of the societal norms, the given beliefs, the family structure, the religious discourse, the sexual taboos, the male-female relationship, the double standards... God forbid you should ever do that. Immediately it all becomes very "haram" and you are immediately an outcast. The clan must survive.

So yes, Middle Eastern societies have their share of denial and exhibit it differently from Western societies. They have not elevated it to the sublime form like the Americans, they just sweep under the carpet...

Anything that is slightly out of place or not in line with the general consensus and off it goes under the carpet... Nice and clean from the outside but rotting away in dust from the inside.

Arab Societies, the ones I know at least, are obsessed with maintaining the appearance of normality. Stand upright and keep on sweeping sort of attitude.

Their main obsession is "what will people think or say" if they find out...

It's as if each unit of this society, the family unit, the neighborhood, the area, is constructed in such a way to keep this "balance" of normality.

Since the group or collective concept primes over the individual, the duties and obligations are almost always outweighing the rights...

Since the collectivity is more important than the individual, this latter is virtually non existent unless he/she becomes part of the collectivity.

One way to do it, one entry "passport" is through marriage and having kids.
Marriage confers the status of "safety" i.e if you are married then you are part of the group. From there on, you can build your own little society that will merge with the greater one...

If you are not married for X reason, then you will alway be an outcast, for you have not contributed to that balance.

It does not matter how brilliant you may be or how much you have achieved...none of that matters. You are an outcast.

And if you are a woman, then there is something definitely wrong with you. You will never be given that "passport." A divorcee has a "laisser passer" though...but no passport. Like a refugee status, a travel document but no nationality.

The "norm" is ever so important. There is a norm for men and a norm for women.
There is a norm for singles and a norm for married ones. There is a norm for upper class and a norm for lower class. If you figure out what the norm is and stick to it, then you are ok. If by chance you trespass, transgress the norm, then you are screwed. It really is as simple as that.

Of course the more a traditional society, the stricter the norms. But it is safe to say that norms whatever the exact nature of the society you are dealing with, can be found across the board...with varying "intensity."

To be fair, the collectivity has also its advantages, things I have touched upon before, there is no sense of alienation like in the West, there is less of a problem of an existential solitude, there is a cohesive network that can act like a cushion should you fall...But then there is a price tag attached to it. Your individuality.
And especially if the latter entails breaking away from the norm- Your support diminishes or simply vanishes away.

You become an outcast. Not necessarily a physical outcast, but definitely a moral, social one...

Having been marginalized from the norm, you search for your place on the margins...

The reader needs to understand that all of the above is not done in a forcibly literal sense, but very much in a symbolic form. Which really amounts to the same - non acceptance.

Acceptance hinges on several factors...And if you happen to be a woman, then the list gets longer and more stringent...the do's and dont's of acceptance.

Will write about that in the next episode...So help me God.