The most painful aspect of the success of the post-Arab Spring counter-revolution is not only the return of tyranny across the Middle East, but also the reproduction of tyrannical culture by both media and society. It is almost as if tyranny were the natural state of things, and that justice and fairness are the exception, not the rule, in the Arab countries.
The reproduction of tyranny is not only limited to various regimes and governments – or even to brutal and violent groups using religion as a cover – it also includes community groups. Unfortunately, it seems as if the calls for freedom that filled the air at the beginning of the Arab revolutions have not translated into actual changes.
This is the result of the ferocity of the counter-revolution; because changing values and replacing fear and dependency with dignity means that the people are aware of their rights as individuals and as a group. Changing values also means that the oppressed can fight back with moral and ethical foundations and the rule of law.
The empowerment of people and citizens is the last thing that not only leaders, but many elites want; even those elites who are good at making a show of calling for justice and freedom. This is because the truth of the matter is that the people of the Arab world are suffering from a true crisis that has been established throughout decades of tyranny in homes and schools. A system built on fear and paranoia leads to panicked individuals who glorify power and who may resort to oppressing the weak the first chance they get.
Governments have resorted to intimidation and spreading panic by means of media outlets – a goal that would not have succeeded in recent months without the spectre of the Islamic State (ISIS) and other such terrorist organisations. This raises many questions regarding the true origins and purpose of such groups, especially since they can be seen to serve the interests of the counter-revolution, or even, can be considered an integral part of the regional counter-revolution that has driven many to support the return of oppression in search of safety.
The victory of the counter-revolution is also explained, to some extent, by the acceptance, and even encouragement of some elites for the return of colonialism under the pretexts of stability and the desire to get rid of the terrorist threat posed by ISIS and other armed militias ( some of whom actually work directly with the governments). These elites are, in fact, trying to prevent the destruction and barbarism that spares no one.
The deep psychological impact of what is currently happening – the shift from hope of freedom to the darkness of destruction, torture, killings and massacres – has restored subservience to the hearts of many. Such submission is the greatest tool for rallying the masses and driving them to accept tyranny and even participate in violence and murder, as we have seen throughout history, including during the Nazi era. This psychological impact will also be reflected in human interaction, as we have noticed that frustration and defeat leaves the impression that the calls for freedom and justice meant nothing and that the only rule that now applies is the survival of the fittest. It also leads people to believe that oppression and bulling, either in at home, work or school, are conditions that guarantee the preservation of power, status and control.
We are currently witnessing destruction in all its myriad forms. The scenes of death, burning, torture, starvation and displacement are so painful that they numb our souls and brains because of their ugliness and the extent of unbearable human pain they evoke. However, the destruction of the values of freedom and human comfort will result in the destruction of not only the present, but the future as well.
This does not mean that the generation of youth or even middle-aged revolutionaries has disappeared or ended. The prison cells of the Arab regimes bear witness to perseverance and commitment, as they are full of those who are fighting and who are not surrendering across the Arab world. However, the destruction of human values is what allows for sectarianism and racism, which are seen as a means of preventing the development of societal awareness of people’s rights and justice.
The policy of exercising tyranny and oppression witnessed today stems from the collapse of the foundations of the modern state, as there is no regulation of its relationships nor is there any place for the concept of citizen rights. Law and legislation do not save those who are oppressed. Instead, oppression is being institutionalised under laws under various pretexts, the most important of which is “combatting terrorism”.
We must not lose hope; we must renew it. However, this is easier said than done.
Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadid, 14 April, 2015
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.