Back to facebook. So you browse along the profiles of some people. You look at what is listed in political viewpoints. It’s always the same: liberal, moderate, or apathetic.
Does this really come as a surprise to anyone? I doubt it. Let’s focus on “moderate” for this post.
Indeed why should nido be anything but moderate? He enjoys the best that his society has to offer: fancy restaurants, flashy cars, big houses, we’ve been through the list before. His present life might not be perfect, but it is damn pretty good when compared with 95% of the world, let alone his country. You get the great comfy things that life has to offer: long free-time hours that could be spent playing playstation or watching tv, nice food, nice cushy beds, comfy cars, why would you want to endanger any of that by being a “radical” or an “extremist”?
I should say from the start that I absolutely loathe the term “moderate”. It has been so frequently abused and misused that it has become nothing but a smokescreen for something else. We have recently been hit with a tirade of mainstream media outlets proclaiming Saudi Arabia as “moderate”. This in a country where opposition is ruthlessly crushed, women are not allowed to drive, public hangings are common, and even crucifixions happen. Of course, the other lucky “moderates” that join this prestigious club are jordan and egypt. The first is a rolemodel for police states everywhere, where authoritarian regimes all around the world exhalt their admiration on how jordan is able to police its inhabitants. The second, well, a country that for the past 5000 years has always been at the centre of the world, and low and behold this “moderate regime” comes along and makes egypt less relevant than even its neighbours.
No one needs to be told that what makes these regimes “moderate” is their acquiescence to American and (more recently) Israeli interests, or to put it less kindly, they are American puppets. Similarly, when a nidoer is described as moderate, all this means is that he is happy with the status quo, that no drastic changes should happen to the forces in society, and that everything should by and large stay as it is in the society that concerns him.
In this crazy world, where regimes such as those in Saudi Arabia and Jordan are exhalted as “moderates”, one seriously has to question the choice of words being used. This is like calling homer simpson “rational” because in the viewpoint of dunkin’ doughnuts he is rational since he eats a lot of doughnuts. Words indeed do seem to lose all meaning.
So let us go back to square one and ask what does this “moderate” mean, particularly in a political setting? One would like to think that “moderate” would stand for even handedness, an ability to consider all viewpoints, maybe even being fair, objective, and balanced in their approach of viewing issues. Moderate might even carry an air of giving equal chance to differing viewpoint to express themselves and choosing the most reasonable sounding of them. Indeed, we are accustomed to associate “nice” and “good” traits with being “moderate”. Contrast this with the term “extremist”, which from the beginning is surrounded by a negative vibe to it. Indeed, you don’t find many nidoers describing their political viewpoints as “extremist” on facebook.
If one digs deeper into the term “moderate” it becomes obvious that, from the standpoint of nidoers at least, the term “moderate” stands for none of the above nice qualities listed. Moderate instead should be read as “not wanting much changes to the status quo” or “not having the guts to ask for changes to the status quo” or “acquiescing or meekly accepting whatever the status quo is”. This “acceptance of the status quo” could be because it is in one’s interest or because of other motives e.g. out of fear. In the case of nidoers it is definitely because it is in their interest. Remember, they get the flashy cars, jobs, partners, houses. Why wouldn’t they be “moderate”?
The bizarre implications of this immediately come up. Under this definition, people who would’ve asked for the abolition of slavery in Spartan times would be called extremists, while those who advocated some sort of compromise on slavery to continue would be “moderates”, since it was the accepted norm. And indeed most probably they were called “extremists” and “moderates” respectively. Similarly, someone who asked for women rights a couple of centuries ago would be an extremist, while those who preferred seeing women as breeding machines were moderates.
This brings us to the other feature of being “moderate”. Moderate is also usually taken to mean “not wanting to upset either side”, or “taking on all positions at the same time”. Now taking both sides into account is in no way a bad thing, but in this case it is taken to such an extreme that matters of principle or justice are simply completely swept to one side just to reach what is conveniently called a “middle ground”. Thus a moderate will always try to somehow make a watered-down synthesis of the differing positions, even if one position is obviously in the right and the other is obviously in the wrong. So, to take an extreme example, if you have a rapist and the person he raped, instead of standing with the person raped, a moderate will try to reach some sort of “middle ground” between both sides. Basically, anything will do that does not change the status quo or rock the boat too much.
It is obvious that the meaning of the term “moderate” shifts endlessly, and that it can stand for many different things depending on the usage. It is also obvious from what has been said before that “Moderate” does not seem to have any intrinsic good to it, at least in the political sphere. It could apply equally as well to reprehensible ideas as to more enlightened ones. In fact, in many cases “moderate” is most probably associated with reactionary, fossilized and quite horrible ideas that do not want much to change in society and are in direct opposition to more enlightened, heck maybe even “radical” ideas. In fact, “moderate”, as we have seen is a term very commonly applied to blur the reality surrounding an issue, to envelope it in a screen where reprehensible ideas might appear to be good and “moderate” while more progressive ideas appear as “extreme.” One only needs to list the people that have been at one point or another called “extreme” by their “moderate” adversaries: the prophet Mohammed, Jesus, George Washington, etc.
And the moderation of nidoness definitely fits this bill. It is for life continuing as it is right now. No disturbances please. As ranted on before, we have become absolutely accustomed and take for granted the luxuries of life in an oil economy. Seriously, can many nidoers imagine life as a radical, as an “opposition” figure? This entails coming into conflict with the government and also other nidoers, and they would definitley fight back. Your nido life could be seriously hurt quite easily if you don’t back down. They could for example cut away your water, your electricity, your mobile line, or hurt your dear ones. Could you imagine a life without internet, ipods, starbucks coffees, dvds, cable channels, your car, your mobile, i.e. life’s luxuries, let alone living without life’s necessities, e.g. water, electricity, and a home? What if you lost your job? What will happen to your “career”? What if they throw you in jail? Could you imagine living without the trappings of the 21st materialist lifestyle? Could you imagine living with the shame and the looks other nidoers will give you? I can’t.
Nido no doubt knows this, and so he hates anything political that might cramp his style. Any issue that is very “political” or “radical”, no matter how just and righteous the cause might be, is ignored and pushed to the margins. Let us take the palestinian tragedy as an example. You would be hard pressed to find in the last sixty years a more brutal, inhumane, and unjust situation as this. On the one hand you have a racist ideology that colonized and settled a land far away from those who dremt up the ideology, in the process ethnically cleansing the local people, wiping more than 500 villages of the face of the earth, creating the largest number of refugees in thh world (6 million plus), getting into five extra wars with its neighbours, while also militaily occupying the west bank and gaza for 40 years, building a 730m long wall that completely circles many cities and renders them prisons while also stealing about 47% of the West Bank land, stealing most of the water sources of the WestBank Jordan and Lebanon, while also setting up a system of apartheid both inside israel and in the occupied lands. The list can go and on and on. In the face of this the other side…. well… it has apparently “conducted terrorist activities”, and the zionists and their apologists would be eager to tell you that this justifies all of what has been mentioned above and more.
Now how many nidoers do you know that really do care about the Palestine crisis, and this in an Arab country that is supposed to offer brotherly solidarity? Most nidoers I know don’t give a damn about Palestine. They might pay lip service to it just to keep up the facade of solidarity. At most they might offer a vacuous and vague statement about “I want peace for everyone,” something so vacant and banal as to not to offend anybody. You see, Palestine is just too political an issue, even if justice and solidarity require one to stand with the palestinians. It is an issue that causes too much trouble, rouses too many emotions, and rocks the boat too much. Western media outlets (which are the ones a nidoer relies on, that is if he follows news at all) invariably depict Palestinians as the extremists, the Israelis as the moderats, and any kind of just solution to the palestinians is depicted as a big no-no (too impractical, it is not “moderate”, threatens the existence of Israel, you name the excuse). And you sincerely want the nidoer to take a strong stand on this?
Compare this with something like, say… environmental concern and recycling (which, don’t get me wrong, are very noble causes). Here is a nice not too controversial or political thing that nidoers can do. Who would object to recycling? Who has any problem with saving the environment? That is why if you find any activism at all within nidoers, the majority of it will be of the inoffensive “here is a safe and not- too political thing to do.” Why bother with something as contentious and political as the Palestinian problem?
The truth is that most nidoers simply don’t care and have no interest in the matter. It is far away from them, has absolutely no connection to the nido life they live, and it cannot bring anything but bad news to their way of life. Please, just stay the hell away. Do whatever you want. Bomb the place, burn it, flip it around, as long as it does not affect me I’m not bothered. Maybe I’ll grumble and murmur a bit while watching CNN, but it won’t go any further than that.
So here we have it. The “moderation” of nido is of the apathetic type. It is of the “look life is good as it is. I’m too indulged in my Starbucks latte or my Playstation game to give a damn about opposing or voicing objection to some sort of political oppression” type.
Edward Said summed it up brilliantly:
‘Nothing in my view is more reprehensible than those habits of mind in the intellectual that induce avoidance, that characteristic turning away from a difficult and principled position which you know to be the right one, but you decide not to take. You do not want to appear too political; you are afraid of seeming controversial; you need the approval of a boss or an authority figure; you want to keep a reputation for being balanced, objective, moderate; your hope is to be asked back, to consult, to be on a board or prestigious committee, and so to remain within the responsible mainstream; someday you hope to get an honorary degree, a big prize, perhaps even an ambassadorship.”
The stakes are simply too high in terms of what a nido stands to lose. It just is not worth the hassle to deal with issues that bring different societal forces into conflict. Hence it’s best to be “moderate” or “apathetic”, or stick to nice sanitized issues such as “recycling” or “protect the environment” which everyone can agree on. It does not matter that the nidoer’s lifestyle is (as argued before) not sustainable in the long run. It does not matter that a nidoer’s moderation or his position in society causes so much harm and oppression to others, draining the limited resources of a smally country with a high density of people. Sod that, it is their problem and they have to live with it. It’s best that things stay pretty much as they are. Failing that, we should all go collect recyclable rubbish together and chant about how great the world is.
Indeed this brings us to dissent, or lack of it, in the nido bubble. Philosophers since Socrates have been emphasizing the important role that dissent, criticism and objection plays in a society. John Stuart Mill highlighted it in warning against the tyranny of the majority and benefits that alternative non-mainstream viewpoints bring to the discussion, while others like the Frankfurt school lamented the disappearance of critical forces within society. I doubt anyone will object to the great advantages dissent in general and viewpoints that differ from the norm bring to a society. The problem is this has been pretty much crushed in nido circles. If there is dissent at all it is over minor and tangential issues that do not touch the core, such as (to take a random example) e.g. whether a particular minister is good or not. No one would dare question the government as a whole. That is taken for granted and criticism is a big no-no.
Indeed it is as if the imagination of nidoers for an alternative future has been fossilized, decapitated by a lifestyle that drugs you with nice starbucks coffees and mirai sushis. No one is even capable of contemplating a radically different future, let alone actively struggling for it. It is best to conform to the status quo, enjoy the leisures that life has to offer, adapt to the reality, and shut the hell up.
Does this mean that nido will never rise, never object, never fight back? Noooo… of course not. A nidoer will rise and voice opposition, but only when something threatens his interests and the status quo. He is a reactionary. Whether it is Islamists threatening his liberty to drink johnnie walker (more on this in the next post on liberalism) or it is egalitarian forces that are asking for a more equal distribution of the country’s resources. It doesn’t matter. It could be socialists, islamists, shias, sunnis, labourers, unions, etc. Whatever threatens his narrow interests nido will hit back at and will hit back with force. After all nido is the upper class in the society, which necessarily puts him in conflict with other forces in society but also gives him a lot of power, resources, and leverage to hit back with and to defend the privileges come with being part of the upper class.
So is it all doom and gloom? Well, people always have a choice to make, no matter how hard or difficult the circumstances are. The question is can we as nidoers make a stand, or are we doomed to a life of reactionary apathy? This is a call out for people out there, nidoers particularly, to stand up and show dissent and opposition. Society needs to be analyzed, criticized, and serious alternatives put forward for reform. It is especially important to be able to criticize oneself and the societal position one is in. It is much easier to criticize and put the blame on Islamists, poor people, “radicals”, “the other”. It is much harder to look into the mirror, at your friends, at your social class and criticize what you see. It is however absolutely essential, particularly with the amazing political apathy that plagues us as nidoers.
Myself being a nidoer, all I have the guts to do is to hide behind a pseudonym and put up these posts. If you’re braver and are able to do it in the open, then all kudos and good luck to you. If you’re like me, then the least we can do is post more or discuss the issues more openly and online. Either way, dissent, opposition, and serious viable alternatives and visions are now needed more than ever before.
P.S. This post started off supposedly being about facebook. I’m not sure where facebook fits in but i’m sure it is relevant somewhere.