Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Collective Psyche of Violence in Iraq and Britain

I still clearly remember that man, bearded middle age wearing Dishdasha and came running out of a police station carrying a vase. The foreign journalist stopped him and asked why he is taking this vase. The man simply answered “I paid its price in blood”. The journalist commented later that this man was a conscript in the Iraqi army for nearly ten years during the Iraq-Iran war and then the 1991 Gulf War. That was in 2003 amid the widespread anarchy and looting that swept Baghdad when the Iraqi regime collapsed. At that time, the media, both foreign but mainly Arab media tried to portray the scenes of looting, anarchy and violence as part of the nature of Iraqi society (more precisely, violence is encrypted in our genes) paying little attention to historical conflicts, interests of regional powers in Iraq, complex ethnic and demographic diversity of Iraqi culture and religious/sectarian and tribal divisions in Iraq. This belief about Iraqi society was not new. Echoes of the same accusations can be tracked back to the late fifties when the King family was massacred in 1958 and the scenes of cheering crowds and the jubilation in the street when the corpses of the Prince and the Prime minister were mutilated and dragged in the streets. This was further reinforced by the successive bloody military coups in 1963 and 1968. Also the Iraq-Iran war and then the large scale looting of Kuwait by the Iraqi army in 1990 and the uprising that followed in the south and north of Iraq. Interestingly, even many Iraqis hold this belief including many intellectuals. Baqir Yasin, shared the same opinion in his book The History of Blood-stained Violence in Iraq `Tareekh Al Unf Al Damawi Fi Al Iraq`. Salam Abood in his book The Culture (or Education) of Violence in Iraq ` Thaqafet Al Unf Fi Al Iraq` the effect of violence on the Iraqi literature in the last three decades of the past century. I have noticed some similar hints in a book called Rituals of War-The body and Violence in Mesopotamia (by Zainab Bahrani) where “ she investigates the ancient Mesopotamian record to reveal how that culture relied on the portrayal of violence and control as parts of the mechanics of warfare”.

Now six months into the Arab Spring that swept the whole Arab world and we have a more or less civil war in Libya and Yemen, a full scale military crackdown in Syria. Not to forget the deep Sunni/Shia’ rising tensions in Bahrain. However, so far no blame of the people of these countries being violent but all blamed on authoritarian repressive brutal regimes.

But the recent riots in Britain made me think more about this theme, which I call it, the Collective Psyche of Violence. The scene of that Asian student with bleeding nose approached by a gang that pretended to help him but instead mugged him is not much different from looting scenes we saw in Iraq in 2003. Four people died in these riots (in 14th July 1958 Revolution that reshaped the future of the whole Middle East – or the bloody coup as described by the Times magazine in 1958- only 18 people died across Iraq).

Not long ago, David Cameron said publically that multiculturalism has failed in Britain (which I think is true) but he put all the blame on “British Muslims” and since then he and many other politicians asking the British Muslims to “embrace British values”. However, nobody said exactly what these values are? And are there such unique values for British people in particular. Are there French, American, or even Chinese values? After these recent violent riots, Cameron described parts of the British society as “sick” and blamed it on “moral collapse” over the last three or four decades. Some blamed job cuts, unemployment and poverty. I just wondered what left of the British Values that Mr Cameron wants me to embrace and most importantly how much this collective Psyche of violence differs between affluent Western countries and poor eastern countries like Iraq for example.


ramshakle1 said...

Thanks for this quite interesting piece. It´s, so far, the maturest and most demonstartive you wrote.

Violence as an integral part of the Iraqi personality indvidually and collectively...well..yes, the general concensus is that this vice is stuck.Personally I tend to think of it in a shade of black and a shade of white and somehow I find me undecisive about it.
But this is not what I thought is important in your article.The important thing , to me , was to autheticate the now-established understanding of how the western politicians, allied by the massive media machines, repeatingly play the same old game :- The tendency to shif attention away when the cracks in their societies come about clear and screamingly visible.The easiest way , to their minds, is ofcourse to blame the (lesser people),the (inferior herd) , The Muslims , for not living up and not extending up to identify with the western values.Doing so is an easy recipie to shed away the political,ethical and even the philosophical feeling of guilt and thus regain the way they like to feel good about thmselves in their thick cacophony of self-suffience and care-free liad-back faked assurance of their predomninace and superiority.
As for the values..ask a a politician in the west about that and he/she will surely hammer you with the word democracy a 100 times withn 2 minutes of speech.Now, we live in the west and we understand by now that the democracy they mean and glorify is a myrid between materialistic (nihlistic in the core) liberalism in marriage with the capitalist pump of consumption.What does that mean ? It means you are free to do what you like as long as you do not question the holocaust, their unjust pro-Israili historical policies,you don´t talk against homosexuals, you don´t question what a teacher at school think of you as a father to your student son,as long as you sort your garbage and recycle your trash and you pay your bills in time,and don´t go so far as to criticise the job policies of the government,the foreign policies of your government,or if you dared to speak favouribly of Islam on TV.I know the readers here would jump up screaming now that I deny the freedom of speech and media in the west.My answer to them :- 9 months ago there was a yong swedish doctor whose only crime was to(democractically) started a page on the facebook calling his landsmen and colleagues to do something about the sparing budget the swedish government deployed in the health-service.Once I knew about him I immediately thought :-He will will not get away with this , he won´t last long.They will muffle and quiet him down soon.Yesterday I read he was forced to resign from his job in the hospital...a democratic discharge indeed !
The western values in the final analysis is to consume and mind your business and keep quiet and stand in the line like the others to keep the machine chopping peacefully and in the meanwhile and to sedate the society you´d be given some democratic fire-works to keep the buzz loud like open discussion about train times , seats number in a cinema , size of bus stops etc.
Talk roughly and you would be stormed away. Remember the brutal attacks the policemen implied in 2003 against the greenpeace activits in the heart of Washington DC when they demonstrated against some big 8 or big 4 economical assembly ? See what I mean ?
In this context , and after long discussions with westerners here,I came to realise that their anger and anxiety against Islam comes from their feeling of failure to secularize it and annexing it , as a theory, to the machine. It´s persistant and self-suffiencient and independant of time and place.What makes me sad thu ,is that the west was first to recognize how vitally dynamic and progressive the core of the Islamic thoery is while we eastern muslims failed to utilize this awesome weapon in the fight.


Sheko Mako said...

Thanks Ram for the well constructed comment. it is another article. you highlighted some interesting points as well. read from pages 24 of the introduction of this book by our hero Hadi Al-Alwai
he discuss the difference between the "dead Islam" and the "living Islam" and how does the west view them. very interesting and similar to what you expressed in your comment

Touta said...

one of my favourite posts on the london riots. I think every iraqi remembers how the world called us 'ali baba's' when we looted. The shame burnt us all deep, but humans are all so alike.

Anonymous said...

Money is round.It rolls away.

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