Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The difference between the Occident and the Orient:

We’ve heard it all too many times, under all too many angles and from all too many perspectives. And since I am just an average main-stream, biased, westernized, uncivilized Middle-Eastern I must add my contribution.

The occident has often adopted one out of two attitudes toward the Middle East:
  • The colonial attitude:
    Easy to spot, circle and define. It consists on dominating and despising the Middle East, yes those adopt this attitude do admit the existence of intellectual and civilized Middle Eastern people, but they regard them as an exception, they often advise them to leave. This attitude results from a sense of western superiority over the Middle East. The USA is the most flagrant example of this attitude, but not all Americans adopt this attitude and not all non-American are exempt from it.

  • The Maternal attitude:
    Now this attitude is far more complex it’s usually a long term result of the first, once the occupation is removed the people of both the occupant and the occupied country tend to establish bonds, due to the cultural improvements/mutilations done to the original country of the occupied country. For example, in Lebanon, many regard France as the “mother” of many orphaned Lebanese. It was first the Maronite Christians who adopted such an attitude due to the hostility of their Muslim environment and the absence of any natural ally. In general, Europeans tend to have this attitude toward the Middle East, they regard Arabs and Middle Eastern nations as retarded nations that require support not military intervention.

However, people in the Middle East don’t see it that way. In order for our culture to resist globalization and Westernization, they adopt defensive mechanisms, usually they hold on to the old “they have everything but we have morals” attitude, yes we usually regard you Western people as immoral, stupid and going to hell. Many Middle Eastern people see the Middle East as roughly equal to the West but with some social and financial difficulties.

Now all my life I was raised under these influences, being born in this Middle East I was taught to take pride in our “morals”, something that the west lacks. As a Lebanese I was taught at the same time to be very attached to our unique position, to our unique role as pioneers in the Middle East. As a Christian Lebanese I was taught to be very fund of our connection to the West, for many Maronites we are not even Arabs. So you could say I stand with neither sides. But what has always amazed me about this Orient/Occident is the distinction but not the difference. Ok I am not sure how clear what I have just said may sound so let me explain.

Take the notorious Abou Ghreib scandal. When this scandal first broke out many Americans felt outraged, insulted infuriated! The press hammered President Bush for this scandal, they attacked him ferociously. It was unacceptable.

ON the other hand, many Arabs also felt outraged, insulted infuriated! The press hammered President Bush for this scandal, they attacked him ferociously. It was unacceptable.

But the two camps didn’t do so for the same purpose, the Americans did so as an act of moral protestation, an act of responsibility (the political forces and balances are certainly not to be neglected). The Arabs’ motive was to attack the Americans, sort of a defensive act to avenge the Arab impotence facing the American occupation of Arab lands.

In my own environment, it was neither reactions, when average Lebanese heard this news s/he was amused by the vulnerability of both the Arabs and the Americans demonstrated by the film. Americans were hit where it hurt most: Their idealization of their mission in Iraq, not only things didn’t go according to their own plan but their own units were sodomizing the Iraqis they were here to salvage. We were amused most of all by what seemed like the shallowness of both the Americans and the Arabs… What were they expecting? It’s war! Lebanon went through a very difficult civil war that had left us very accommodated to such atrocities. We actually laughed at Americans for being so surprised, like DUHHH! Everyone knows that these things happen during “interrogations”.

I just read the following article: White House denies prior knowledge of Abu Ghraib abuse. No of course the interesting part is not that the White House denied prior knowledge, but rather the details:
T he ex-general, who retired in January, spoke of other, undisclosed material on the Abu Ghraib abuse, including descriptions of the sexual humiliation of a father with his son, who were both detainees.
He also told the magazine he saw "a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomising a female detainee," adding the video was never made public or mentioned in any court or in public.
Maj Gen Taguba says all high-level officials had avoided scrutiny while the jail keepers at Abu Ghraib were tried in courts-martial.
"From what I knew, troops just don't take it upon themselves to initiate what they did without any form of knowledge of the higher-ups," Maj Gen Taguba told the New Yorker, adding his orders were to investigate the military police only and not their superiors.
"These (military police) troops were not that creative," he said. "Somebody was giving them guidance, but I was legally prevented from further investigation into higher authority.”

And I find myself asking: Does it even need to be mentioned? Of course they knew!
But then again, what does this attitude indicate? If not the fact that Americans just want what’s better than this. We as Arabs know what’s going on, we know that this is what is going to happen for as long as their will be power in the hands of some and a need to oppress the others there’s going to be torture and humiliation. Or is it just that we have given up on ourselves and, unlike Occidentals, we don’t work to improve our environment, we are too busy destroying each other…


shlemazl said...

Do you realy think that someone in the White ordered people running Abu Gharib to sodomize prisoners???

There was lack of supervision and power corrupts people, but you've got to be nuts to imply what you did.

Pazuzu said...

lol shlemazl, sexual humiliation is a wide spread way to "interrogate" detainees, they don't do it in their homeland but I guess they just played it the "arab way" ;). No one would "tell" them to sodomize prisoners but "lack of supervision" is what they all say :P

Severian said...

I find it hard to believe reliable information can be obtained by sodomizing prisoners. I think that is an excuse used by people who want to sodomize a victim and feel they have the power to do so. Some psychological studies have shown that a surprising (maybe 25%) of "normal" people have thoughts of rape and sexual violence. It comes out when given an opportunity.

Severian said...

Surely Pazuzu must see that feelings of moral superiority among Arabs and Middle Easterner is not unique. Both the maternal and paternal political attitudes you describe for Europeans and Americans are based on the same thing.

Would the situation be so different if Arabs had nuclear weapons and massive riches and global armies, colonizing the rest of the world? 1300 years ago Arabs did explode from their peninsula conquering and converting everyone and everything in their path. How did the native people feel about them?

Pazuzu said...

>I find it hard to believe reliable information can be obtained by sodomizing prisoners

It wouldn't matter what you take out from a detainee by sodomizing him/her and how reliable that information is, after all confessions taken after physical abuse is not always reliable, the inquisitions in medieval times have proven that, taken to extreme, violence will make people "confess" crime they haven't committed just to escape the imminent violence. But for many... how should I call it?... for many "third world countries" and "third world mentality" this is the quickest, cheapest, easiest way, most of the time it is driven by, yes as you have said, sexual and social frustration, violent tendencies in the interrogator himself. But it can also be driven by the society's need for a fear factor rather than a justice system. In our corner of the world going to jail is, in itself, a frightening experience, people would avoid it at all expense, whether they are innocent or guilty... no that doesn't prevent crime, that just promotes corruption... but what else is new?

As for the moral superiority comment, yes I agree, it is not unique it is very common, it's a way of protecting the society's uniqueness, nothing of what is happening between the middle east and the western world is unusual.

NOMAD said...

I don't remember that in France Lebaneses or Syrian were treated as colony persons ;

I had a nice looking Lebanes teatcher of Mathematics in terminale, she was very patient with us because we didn't care of her matter, we were in philosophy class. and she had a love affair with our old teacher (about 55 years old). the other professors were kind of jaelous, she was such a beauty. Apparently that amused her, and to tease the shrews and thongues, sheused to come to the gymnasiym with a pregnant dress.

anyway, as I left that place, dunno what happened to them; heard later that our old teacher was alone somwhere in south west of France, then she must have left him :lol:

programmer craig said...

Pazuzu, I don't think sexual acts of violence can be attributed to a "conspiracy" - the only way that could have been effected is if the US had deliberately filled that prison with guards who were sexual predators. Somebody who engages in that kind of behavior is indulging their own (personal) lusts.

I think it's as Shlemazl said. A lack of supervision at high level, combined with the fact that the primary perpetrator was a fairly high ranking NCO, and was probably running a whole guard shift, directly under his command. I've been on guard duty more times than I can count, and I can tell you how it works if you like. There is a Guard commander who is an officer, and sits behind a desk someplace, on call. His second in command is a Sergeant. The Sergeants is the one who acts as a middle man between the Guard commander and the guards. That's the Grainer dude. Sergeant of the Guard. He was the ringleader. The Guard Commander should have known what was going on, but it wouldn't really surprise me a lot that he didn't. It was a reserve unit, and a reserve Army unit, at that. I believe the officers further up the chain of command were guilty of dereliction of duty, but I haven't seen any evidence they knew what was going on, let alone encouraged it. I could be wrong.


I don't remember that in France Lebaneses or Syrian were treated as colony persons ;

Of course you don't. What else is new?

programmer craig said...

Oh! On the "occident and the orient" thing!

I don't think you have it right, about the US. Maybe that's why we (the US) and the Europeans are so much at odds about Middle East policy.

I think the US has viewed Arabs as "hostile" to America, since the early 1970s, at least. No patronization in the view of the typical American towards the "Arab World" to the best of my knowledge. Maybe with "Arabists" like James baker, but certainly not with the overwhelming majority of Americans, including most politicians.

That would be a valid claim to make if we were talking the US and East Asia. Or, Latin America. I just don't think it holds water in the ME. Possibly with Iran, though, as the US used to be very close to Iran. But that changed a long time ago.

NOMAD said...

yeah, Craig, your in France, and you know better than us what is in our heads

programmer craig said...

Why don't you speak for yourself, little miss Ego.

I personally don't give a shit what relationship France had or has with Lebanon, I just don't find it very convincing when you say something that is at odds with what history books say. You do it all the fucking time. Either you're liar or you've actually never read the history. Doesn't matter to me, I gave up on trying to correct you. All I get when I point out factual errors on your part, is personal attacks.

Embrace your ignorance, Nomad! It's the French way, isn't it!?

NOMAD said...

Mr bullshit, I return the compliment, did you ever try to read real sources apart wikipedia or fox news painted actualities ?

and my personal attacs were the defensive ones, yours were the offensives !

Sorry Pazuzu, but this "mauvais joueur" won't let me enjoy the peaceful site you made

NOMAD said...

Syria and Lebanon, colonies ? your saying bullshits !

they were protectorats under the UN mandat of these times, so far I never heard that the frenchs settled there as colonists and took their lands

if I am wrong, can a lebanese explain me ?

programmer craig said...

What the hell does settling and taking lands have to do with colonization, Nomad? The issue is sovereignty!

You always redefine every issue to make it into what you want it to be. The world doesn't work like that.

programmer craig said...

PS - you don't need a Lebanese to explain it to you. You just need to stop living in denial.

NOMAD said...

Craig, stop anoying like a dog who wants his bobone , warf, zu Hause, loss !

programmer craig said...

Nomad, you've accused me here of propagandizing, lying and being obnoxious.

In plain truth, it is you who is wrong, as you demonstrated with the link you yourself provided on owls.

I know it's very annoying to be caught stating things as facts when they obviously aren't, Nomad, but that doesn't give you a right to abuse the people who correct you. Get a grip. It's not me who is being the annoyance here. It's you.

And if you don't want to continue the "bickering" here, then stop insulting me, here. Easy. Right?

NOMAD said...

history (in french) the meharist compagnies in Syria, under french mandate

Lebanon (resumé)