By: Stefan Koolen
A part of culture arises as a reflection of post-imperialistic culture, according to Edward Said. In other words, culture can be a reaction by people for being supressed by an alien force using its (superior) culture as justification. This of course already implies a difference in culture, so suppression magnifies these differences and creates fertile ground for cultures of extremism.
A majority of members of the most extremist Islamic groups, Daesh (Islamic State) and Nusra (Syrian al-Qaeda), come from abroad, especially from caucasian countries and so-called Western countries. The thoughts of these groups seem to be slowly spreading among the Syrian people initially very weary of these groups.
So how can we understand the cultural extremism from these foreign “fighters” (in my opinion they are not just fighting), especially from western countries, from a cultural point as Said would call it?
It is not very different from the argument made by Said, namely a reflection of current Western culture. These “fighters” have been confronted with Western culture, which appearantly has not changed a lot since the end of colonialism. Western culture and politics still contain the thought of superiority towards other cultures. The idea that Western culture can bring human rights and democracy to the others is still widespread. Also the thought that this is a good thing, almost a gift, is still prevalent. That culture can be seen in the so-called aid organisations and politics and finds support in art.
These foreign “fighters” are in essence a reflection of the most extreme form of this post-imperialistic culture. They can be seen, to use a medical analogy, as an unwanted side-effect caused partly by the medication, partly by themselves and partly by their personal environment.
The soul can be seen as an irrational part of our being. In any event what they, both “cultures” in extreme form, have in common is negligence for our souls. These cultures provide a foundation for superiority above “any other”. By doing so they refute the soul which, according to me, has insecurities and doubt. Rationality, or the pretence of it, can exclude doubt and insecurity about ourselves, our existence, our purpose and the position of the other. Doubt is a necessity for peace.
Dictators can only be if they don’t doubt their position and decisions. Hate is unaware of doubt. If a gun would doubt itself no bullet would hit the target.
At the moment doubt seems to be decreasing in Syria and among the parties involved. Doubt means weakening oneself, because it implies that one might be wrong, at least partly. So the lack of doubt strengthens, doubt diminishes untill it is just a shimmer on the horizon or a negotiator from the UN.
So, from my point of view, the only way out of the war is to let doubt re-enter the parties involved. Doubt can only re-enter if the people involved are willing to doubt their side based on facts or superior thought (logic), which will lead to irrationality (emotions).
Another interesting subject are the youngsters joining those groups. In the New York review of Books Malise Ruthven describes the case of a girl from France. She grew up as a native Frnech in a highly educated and atheist family. After her favourite aunt passed, so Malise claims, she finds comfort in religion, Islam.
Our society, in its extreme rational form, lacks attention for our souls. In this case comfort after we loose a beloved one. Religion can provide that irrational comfort. This leaves us vulnerable to outside influences that do give comfort. After receiving comfort, the girl becomes vulnerable to extreme views of that releigion, Islam. And she subsequently loses the irrational part again, she is not able to doubt the religion and it’s supposed duties, and joins the war in Syria.
In the end the paradoxes are: rationality is required to allow irrationality (doubt) and the lack of irrationality attracts young people to extremism (lack of irrationality).
Opinions do not necessarily reflect the editorial police of ARA News.
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