On political writing
He says political writing has become more like a form of armed combat than of civilized debate. The principles of tolerance, admission that true assertions can contain mistakes and vice versa, that circumstances can change truths into falsehoods--all of this tends to be forgotten in the heat of battle.
Let's distinguish, he says, between evil and error, the one being subject to correction by force, the other not.
Within all of the political currents in the region--state-nationalist, Arab nationalist, Islam-nationalist, Marxist, Liberal--there are parallels and cross-currents, and there is no reason why the proponents cannot live together in peace, provided that those above-mentioned principles continue to be respected. On the other hand, in all of them there is or can be an absolutist strain, for instance Islam-nationalism can degenerate into the intolerance of the takfiiris; Arabism sometimes risks consorting with racism; and so on.
The extreme case of absolutism is contemporary Egypt, where the group that holds power has build built for itself a systematic structure of corruption and self-interest.
Summarized in this way, the piece sounds like a string of liberal cliches. Particularly if you are not Egyptian and not Arab and have the Western homogenized picture of that region. Why would a big, radical paper and a regular columnist waste time with platitudes? I think the answer is that platitudes are in the eye of the beholder. When Diab says: Let's distinguish between those wrong positions that have to be dealt with by force, and those that can be dealt with in other ways, I think he is doing us the favor of burrowing his way back to the source of what we all think we hold in common: And it is that the nature of humans and human society is such that the exercise of force only needs to have a very limited sphere of application, while that of education and discussion ought to have a very wide sphere of application. (Here I snuck in that word "education"...)
This is a principle--minimize the use of force and maximize discussion and education--that has been subverted more than anywhere in America itself, where most political debates now revolve around military or a law-enforcement policy, and where education is seen as something in the service of either technical advancement to keep up with our enemies, or in the case of language-education is something in the service of national security. Moreover, to get back to his point about political writing, the problem isn't just in the Arab world, because in America the polarizing tendency is stronger than anywhere. What doesn't seem to be clear is the fact that this is a symptom of the same root cause--namely the loss of that original insight into what it is that is supposed to make us people and not manipulable objects.
That's not very well said, and it's not his fault, it's my fault. It's because I've run out of the kind of patience you'd need to come to grips with this. Or maybe it's that blogging isn't the right format. In any event, that's it for me, I'm going to be taking up small farming* instead. Warm thanks to those who commented, and those who didn't but still read the things with attention. And good courage to those who are able to still keep at it.
* I hear there's good money in chickens, and very little work involved. No matter how bad things get, people will always need eggs. Think about it. And feathers to stuff all those f*cking suits with, now that you mention it.