Democracy, allies and lies: the case of stochastic dystopia


In the last few days on our newspapers we have read a series of news which seems to have attracted not so much attention within academia, but which are an important social political indicator. Although I am not going to discuss them in detail, I am referring to the cases of Irfan Raja, Awaab Iqbal, Aitzaz Zafar, Usman Malik and Akbar, whose conviction of Internet terrorist activity has been quashed by the Court of Appeal on Wednesday, 13 February 2008; the government apologies over the rendition flights on 21 February 2008; the full apologies of the US government for lying to the British one over the rendition flights; the quashed control order against the convert to Islam Cerie Bullivant because of a total lack of the secret evidence provided by MI5 (merely that the accused knew some people involved or engaging in ‘terrorist activities’); and the increasingly substantiate allegation that British troops executed and tortured Iraqi prisoners.

Each of these cases would deserve a comment in a single post. Yet here I am not interested in discussing the cases, but what they tell us about the unhealthy condition of our democratic values and the ‘circle of panic’ that this is dangerously creating.

The so-called War on Terror, launched since 9/11 has two main concocted tragedies. On the one hand a high cost of human lives, on the other hand, a high cost for our democratic values and understanding of social and political lives. They are connected issues, because the erosion of the latter is the inherent cause of the former. If the War on Terror has been successful in something, it has been in creating what I call ‘Western dystopia’. To have a dystopia you need firstly to posses a utopia. After the World War II and the defeat of Nazism, the Cold War provided a fertile ground for geopolitical essentialism. West and East became conceptual projections of civilization and values, in a frenetic competition characterised by the constant demonization of the opposite other.

Of course, this process has had an impact on the self-representation and understanding of the idea of the West. Part of this idea was a utopia which described, and still describes, the ‘West’ as a powerful civilizational force engaged in spreading its superior values, such as democracy, to the rest of the world. Economically, politically, and culturally ‘the West’, during the Cold War and the defeat of the USSR ‘evil empire’ fascinated the Muslim world, some part of which had received support from the US to fight their communist oppressors, such as in Afghanistan. As we know, the post Cold War honeymoon between this monolithically perceived, and represented, entity and Muslims was very short.

The reactions to the 9/11 events and its aftermath which led to the draconian anti-terrorist laws as well as unjustified and unjustifiable preventative wars conducted more on the wave of populist emotions than calibrated political judgement, have facilitated among the great majority of Muslims, and a considerable number of non-Muslims a deepening, pernicious, form of dystopia.

Our governments and politicians have been very slow to understand that the utopia was turning into dystopia. On the contrary, they presented themselves as a kind of Swiss Guards of western universal values, the only civilised ones. Somebody else, living in caves around the Hindu Kush, appeared to have developed better analytical skills able to penetrate the secret folders of those dystopic symptoms which were actually affecting the very same European and American political class. He wrote,

 

This Western civilization, which is backed by America, has lost its values and appeal. The immense materialistic towers, which preach Freedom, Human rights, and Equality, were destroyed. These values were revealed as a total mockery…[western politicians] declared what they declared and they order what they ordered, and they forgot everything they mentioned about free speech, and unbiased opinion and all those matters. So I say that freedom and human rights in America have been sent to the guillotine with no prospect of return, unless these values are quickly reinstated. The government will take the American people and the West in general into choking life, into an unsupportable hell…’

If you have not recognised the author of these words, you can just click here.

The pessimistic analysis, provided after 9/11 and the beginning of the War on Terror, seems to describe very well the panic and consequent dismantling of important parts of our democratic values which our western governments have engaged in since 9/11. In the attempt to guarantee a utopic security to ‘the civilised good people’ these politicians have actually derived their anti-terrorist laws from their own dystopic beliefs that the real fatal vulnus of our civilised way of life are ‘freedom’, ‘human rights’ and our juridical tradition. Our western governments justify these anti-liberal measures as necessary for our protection. In reality, since Islamic terrorism has not the power to destabilise or overturn our democracies, the continuous and unprecedented attack against liberal civil-liberties can be explained with a ‘fatigue’ of our democratic systems as well as the exploitation of the ‘circle of panic’ to compensate for the loss of the powerful twentieth-century ideologies. Politics without ideology can be less conflictual, but also proportionally less engaging and more difficult to manage.

Politicians need votes to eat; voters without ideology care less about parties and politicians. Politicians and government have lost the power to offer the dream of ideology, and so now they turn to offer the nightmare of hell instead.

If for the dream of ideology western politicians could confidently trust political rhetoric (i.e. propaganda), for the nightmare of Hell, they can only trust fabrication and hyperbole (i.e. lies). Yet this produces what I call stochastic dystopia, in which different parts of a society develop different, often contradictory, forms of dystopias. Furthermore, though a form of polarizations, the different parts of society would end in accusing each other for what they perceived, under each dystopia, as the catastrophic, hellish reality of their communities. These processes end in what Bryan Turner has defined as the ‘enclave society’.

To provide an ethnographic example of consequences of stochastic dystopia let me used Bishop Dr Nazir-Ali’s comments on ‘Islamic areas’ and my respondent Rajal. Dr Nazir-Ali has argued that Islamic extremism has turned some communities into no-go areas for people of a different faith or race, and has also added that the Islamic presence is a threat to the ‘Christian values’ and identity of Britain.

On the other hand, my respondent Rajal, born and raised in the UK and with what he defined a ‘strong Scottish identity enhanced by Islamic moral values, which according to him are very compatible with conservative English Victorian values, has highlighted how the British society is fully corrupt by a a-moral life style which is in total contradiction with the great historical and moral tradition of England and Scotland and creates no-go areas for law abiding citizens.

To have any idea of what Rajal is complaining about you can just watch this video about an ordinary Saturday evening in Aberdeen, the city in which both Rajal and I live. It is clear that as my Muslim respondent, Rajal, as Dr Nazir-Ali, are fully dystopic in their view of contemporary UK. Politicians are called to act on both the pessimistic views, if they wish to be elected and voted in power, so that the result is an increase in stochastic dystopia because of the introduction of further anti-liberal legislation. Yet this legislation often ends in having opposite effects.

Our democracies still have a powerful system to maintain, as part of the democratic framework, the division of powers between the political and juridical sphere. The draconian and anti-liberal legislation and decisions are increasingly challenged, when in other cases completely overturned and squashed, by courts. I have provided some examples of this tension between the political and juridical power at the beginning of this post.

The reason for the discrepancy between political power and the juridical one derives from the fact that while the political power has lost the power of dreaming of ideology, and turned toward the power of nightmares, hence moving from utopia to dystopia. The juridical system within a democratic liberal country by nature cannot be affected by neither utopia nor dystopia without negating its own function.

Nonetheless, we may wonder, if the effects of stochastic dystopia do not regress within the ‘western’ countries, whether the Hindu Kush based political analyst needs only, as the old oriental saying reminds us, to wait by the river long enough to see the body of his enemy floating past.

Gabriele Marranci

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12 thoughts on “Democracy, allies and lies: the case of stochastic dystopia

  1. Barnor Hesse and S. Sayyid (2002) ‘The “War” Against Terrorism/The “War” for Cynical Reason’, Ethnicities, June 2(2) p.12-17 – if you look at the (online) journal contents, the title is actually not listed, but subsumed with a collection of pieces, so look for the page number.

    This talks about the rise of a political culture, where politicians lie on crucial issues at the same time as being aware that most people know they are lieing.

  2. Pingback: A week at the DT « Critically Unstable Muslim

  3. Dear Gabriele,
    Thanks to you I learned a new word “dystopia” and still am aspiring to understand what “stochastic dystopia” means. Yes, it become a dystopia and I afraid there is nothing stochastic about it , it has been predetermined since the moment when left liberals choosed to pursue their Multiculturalists utopia which asserts blanket equality of all cultures. It just does not work, people who invented it were all wrong and we are ripping the fruits of their ignorance and fantasy based policies.

    Whenever someon go with a fantasy based utopian policy it usually brings up a dystopia. So it was with Russian Socialism, so it will be with Europe’s Multiculturalist Utopia. Europe will be Islamized and destroyed as a cultural entity. Yes, our democratic institutions are strong, but what will be the fate of a democratic society when majority wants the laws of God dominate over the laws of men and the other part is to embarrassed to have personal opinon? One of members of Dutch supreme court told that he would not mind to have shariya laws if that was the wish of majority. Yes, it is image of dystopia to me.

    Sure, we all hate what is going on. Conservatives wants to make society secure from terrorists but do not know how, because they do not see the causes of terrorism. They are scared to see them for what they are, what if Muslims get offended? Left Liberals (like your good self?) feel frustrated by the fact that antiterrorist laws are too draconian. Many of us are frustrated with the Left Liberals who make it virtually impossible to fight with Islamic terrorism. Good example of such frustartion is here:
    http://www.news.faithfreedom.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1767

    Muslims feel frustrated with our society because they always did, and in your post you got only to the surface of that. Should not you choose a more transparent example such as this one: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1817039565075741443&q=Abu+Abdullah

    Jus have a look at that guy, common sense tells me that he should be deported. But he is not. This guys makes a mockery of your whining about “draconian antiterrorist laws.”

    Yes, we live in dystopian society and I blame Multiculturalism (and anthropologists who introduced this Multiculturalist utopia) in all dystrophic pictures you see the present society. I think it is you the Left Liberals, starting from De Gaulle and his Eurabia project and finishing by dhimmi Gordon Brown, who will be responsible for complete destruction of European Culture. You still cling to your Utopia vision even when you see that it does not work, that the realty is ugly. You do not want to talk about real Islamic ideology which explains why it is ugly. You (Left liberals) do not want to study Islamic theology and ideology , in fact you are scared to death to study it, because it would make you to think and possibly reconsider your multiculturalists dogma.

    In your blog you called me extremist for my open disrespect of retarded Islamic ideas (such as those that Rashed defends) and at the same time you gave free pass to Rasheed who were preaching about necessity for Muslims to follow shariya which mandates death for apostasy, stoning for adultery, death for homosexuals. He wrote it openly that he supports those measures and yet this does not frustrate you, and you did not call him “extremis”, but you call me “extremist.”. When court is not lenient enough to those terrorist this frustrates you. Why it should be lenient? There is nothing draconian about English antiterrorist laws, they may be not efficient. I am becoming less hopeful that European will ever do anything real about the threat of Islamism. They would not stop Islamic emigration, they would not deport the terrorists. They will give them 3 years jail terms and let them do again what they did. And those Islammists will draw their grievances ( the pit of their griviences is bottomless) and explain why they should murder us in our countries and to you (Left Liberals) it all makes sense. To me this looks completely dystrophic.
    Well, instead of blaming conservatives you should once in a while examine your own role in making all this mess. What if it is your who do the evil out of good intentions along with old Catholing saying “ the road to hell is paved by the good intentions.” (it probably sounds better in Italian?)

    As you see we are equally frustrated with each other.

    Besides that, I wish you all the best.
    neoneo

    PS: Regarding Osama’s analytical skills:
    Yes, they learn very well how to manipulate Left Liberals emotions by using their “legitimate grievances” and borrowing Left Liberals polemics. Osama even mentions how guilty US is in Global Warming. And people who do not study what Osama tells to Muslims take all that hooey seriously…Should not we look at what he tells to Muslim instead? The Allah said that “war is deceit.” Therefore one who fight jihad has legitimacy to use deceit. And Allah will send confusion to the head of the Al Kafiroon. But well, I guess you do not want to know what Allah said and what Osama really believes as long as he helps you to amplify your Left Liberal grievances. You would rather offer us to head an advice on war on terror from the guy against whom we are fighting..Hmm…Certainly Nicolas Machiavelli would be ashamed of his countryman’s political insights. But one does not have to be a Machiavelli to see that taking advice from the enemy is not a good idea.

  4. Interesting concepts Gabriele,

    About Dystopia.

    You write very well in English for someone who is not English – perhaps it is the link of Italian with Latin that does it. My Italian friends always tell me how English is so basic and judging from the stark contrast of your essay and some of the postings by posters who I assume have English as their mother tongue, this comes close to factual.

    It is clear from the posts above that there is frustration on both sides of the so-called Muslim and “Western Civilisation” Divide. It makes it quite interesting for me to read and discuss with my Christian (RC) wife from Italy – me being a Muslim. We don’t see a divide but a group of trouble makers on both sides who sling mud at each other to darken the good points that each of them possess. Its almost like a fear that breeds contempt of something they see as a threat.

    The self-professed enlightened ones seem to group all Muslims in one box but I do feel they confuse political Islam with Islam itself. I must note that I would put some expressions of political Islam into the “political powers” that you describe above.

    The religion Islam is no different to Christianity or Judaism, which the enlightened ones hide behind as the bedrock of their civilisation. It really does not help to use extremist examples to further ones point, especially to the majority of the sane ones. Of course, the emotive and extreme examples help the apocalyptic climax seekers and I am sure they pull each others strings quite effectively. I find some of these examples quite amusing although its a thin line between writing something and advocating it as a reality. That does at times become scary.

    Responding to some ideas of posters on your site, which are not new at all in this day and age, I don’t think that it is intellectually honest or fair to call any religion or group retarded but I do think that the dogmatic Muslims, Christians, Jews, Secularists and neo cons work synergistically together to try and get to some sort of apocalyptic climax.

    To put the narrations of neo cons into context one should remember that before political Islam asserted itself, the enemy of the neo cons were the blacks (ie slavery and its ideological off-shoots) and other “retarded” groups. So the actual views don’t seem to have changed but rather the target is now different.
    I also think that this continuous attack upon emerging powers by neo cons stems from a lack of self-confidence in their own beliefs and ideologies and increasingly so, from the lack of financial stability.

    It would be nice to hear some mature arguments from posters based on a more mature and rational approach and not hatred and name-calling.

    Anyway, it has been a pleasure reading your essay even if at times your grasp of the English vocabulary puts some of us to shame.

    Salaam.

  5. neoneo, as many other right-wing people, you only see things in black and white.

    [The comment has been edited, though retaining the original meaning. I remind everybody that in the comments you are welcome to criticise viewpoints; yet gratuitous personal polemics or attacks as well as personal diatribes are not allowed and the comment will be edited accordingly. Thanks. GM]

  6. There is a lot to comment on here, but allow me to just correct one thing that Neoneo has said, although a little bit off topic maybe:
    “One of members of Dutch supreme court told that he would not mind to have shariya laws if that was the wish of majority. Yes, it is image of dystopia to me.”

    I do not want to make it worse, but it was a member of the Dutch government. What he actually said however was:

    “I’m certain of one thing: if two thirds of all Dutch people would want to implement Sharia tomorrow, then this possibility should exist. Would it be possible to stop this legally? It would be scandalous to say: that’s not allowed! The majority counts. That is the essence of democracy.”

    Maybe not the smartest thing to say in current Dutch society, but 100% true, I guess.

  7. whatever and BS,
    I can theoretically differentiate between Islamists and secular Muslim, I met specimens of both groups. But who knows how to tell the difference from one conversation? How immigration authorities can tell the difference?

    FYI: Blacks were never enemies of neocons, I can tell you this as a neocon. In any case neocons were never castrating blacks to produce eunuchs as Arabs did it en mass and still sporadically do in Sudan. Before Islamists/Political Islam become enemy, the enemies of neocons were Communists.

    And this brings me back to the topic of Gabriele article: Have we ever had a golden edge of dream society with which everyone was happy? May be that was a short period after destruction of Soviet Union? Well, but before that it was a struggle with Communism, just as now we have a struggle with Islamofascism. Remember Joe McCarthy? How much draconian current anti-terrorist laws are comparing to the McCarthy measures against communists? Did we ever live in society which is free according to ACLU standards? Never! And I hope we will never live. The democracy which does not defend itself will die. So if someone wants to replace our democratic institutions with a fascist dictator (however democratically he was elected) or if someone wants to replace laws of Men (democracy) with the laws of Allah and bring humanity back to barbarity, then it is a duty of every free person to see to it that it should never happen,-freedom is not free. It is not impossible that in 2070 about 2/3 of Netherland will like shariya, but this is possible only if current emigration /immigration policies continue (The Dutch go for jobs to US, the country they hate while Muslims go for jobs to The Netherland, the country they hate). Stop Islamic immigration now and you will have a chance to save your democracy. Is stopping immigration undemocratic or cruel? It is not undemocratic or cruel, it just does not sit with multiculturalists utopia and European politicians who will cling to their utopia even if this makes the life of their citizens miserable. It seems that blind fanaticism in benevolence, appeasement and charity can be just as damaging as Bush’s blind hatred of Saddam Hussein.

    In fact it could be far more damaging. I would hate to rise my children in Europe (or in Michigan). And I hope we will never have enough Left Liberals to create a similar nightmare in US. We have some inflow of the Left from Europe and the biggest America- haters and America- bashers are Europenas coming here to get a well paid academic job. But fortunately they have no political power outside academia. Studens whom they try to brainwash have chance to recover after they go to the real world and talk to real people. I hope we have more chances to preserve our deomocracy here rather than in PC Europe.

  8. [edited] the comment was partially irrelevant to the post and the discussion. Personal polemics between commentators, on aspects which are not related to the post are not allowed. I remind that this is not a forum, where such a discussion could have been acceptable, but a place for discussing the topic of the post. GM.

    neoneo,

    Europe is the one of the nicest places to live – it was even nicer before the neocon rhetoric got a hold of the media with scare stories of Muslim invaders in the European countries. I hope that influence subsides.

    Once it subsides, I hope that people look rationally at world problems and peoples with a view to living peacefully and with mutual respect on this planet.

    “Mutual” by the way does not include using examples of fringe elements in society for scaremongering purposes.

    Europeans are not America-bashers – they cannot be. Their forefathers are the ancestors of the present day dwellers in America.

    whatever.

  9. [edited] the comment was irrelevant to the post and the discussion. Personal polemics between commentators, on aspects which are not related to the post are not allowed. I remind that this is not a forum, where such a discussion could have been acceptable, but a place for discussing the topic of the post. GM.

  10. Interesting article, Doc. Some of what you mentioned reminded of an Adam Curtis TV documentary I was sent links to recently titled, The Trap; I’ve only seen about half of the first part so far; have you seen it?

    On an unrelated note, I see your resident troll’s still hanging around and still making his baseless accusations and claims.

    In anycase, doc, thanks for the read. Keep up the good work :) .

    Rasheed.

  11. “Yes, we live in dystopian society and I blame Multiculturalism (and anthropologists who introduced this Multiculturalist utopia) in all dystrophic pictures you see the present society. I think it is you the Left Liberals, starting from De Gaulle and his Eurabia project and finishing by dhimmi Gordon Brown, who will be responsible for complete destruction of European Culture. You still cling to your Utopia vision even when you see that it does not work, that the realty is ugly.” neoneo

    my questions:

    - “European Culture” vs “Multiculturalism” ???

    - “Utopia vision”: my grandmother remembers a very homogeneous “european” reality which was much uglier.

    and I could ask several more…

  12. Pingback: The Racist Fascist in the Queen’s Garden, the Fundamentalist Preacher on the Plane « Craig Considine

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