“Blessed are the Meek, for They Shall Inherit The Earth” (Yeah, Right!)

The Internet gives a patina of Liberal-Democratic virtue to its discourses and campaigns. It’s all about liberation, free speech and self-development, as if these would naturally devolve from a state of deregulation. Around 2011, during the Arab Spring, a lot of Western commentators felt that the felicities of Western democracy were spreading to the benighted heathen through the wonders of Western technologies, allowing “The Arab Peoples” not only to become enlightened, but also providing them with the tools to liberate themselves. In other words, westerners were, from the comfort of their arm-chairs, claiming ownership of the dangerous, courageous, spirited rebellions of the truly oppressed. Proper cultural appropriation, that is! Assuming we were the cause and the centre of it all.

This atmosphere of self-congratulation disappeared abruptly, when the price to be paid became clear, especially in Syria. Once again, we began asking, sorrowfully, how Arab leaders could do such dreadful things “To Their Own People”. Suddenly, it had nothing to do with us[1]

Revolutions tend to degenerate into games of chicken played with the lives of ordinary citizens: the first to flinch at the human cost loses; the most ruthless win – not a recipe for compassionate governance: Kerensky comes before Lenin, Lenin before Stalin: first come Utopian Fantasies, then comes The Guillotine: the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. 

In socio-political conflict, outright victory is probably neither achievable nor desirable. We are flawed and fallible creatures and the things we create are imperfect. The products of our negotiations and compromises will be improvements on the megalomaniac dreams of individuals. 

In other words, we need to show a bit of self-control – aim to constantly improve the old order, not completely overthrow it all at once. Because Evil loves Anarchy. Out of complete destruction, tyrants rise. No political dogma has a monopoly on virtue. Nobody adopts a malign ideology or project from a pure and inexplicable commitment to Evil. All belief systems are incomplete and not entirely fit for purpose. So, some sort of reluctant agreement, is almost certainly the closest we’ll get to Doing The Right Thing. After all, we have to live with these people: we can’t kill them all. 

But this will mean always, always fighting to chart a middle course, holding extremities in tension, remaining vigilant to make sure we aren’t veering towards an absolutist position, bearing alternatives in mind, tolerating dissent. 

[1] A Guardian-YouGov poll recently found that “A majority of people in nine Arab countries feel they are living in significantly more unequal societies today than before the Arab Spring.” (The Guardian, 18/12/20)

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