Thursday, November 6, 2008

Of Tribes, Liberty and Its Individual Heroes

The following subject is not fully matured, but we push it out into public cyberspace anyway, because it touches a news item that simply cannot wait.

Yahoo!News: "Saudis on hunger strike to demand judiciary reform"

A group of Saudi activists began a rare public hunger strike Thursday to demand judiciary reform and draw attention to the detention without trial of 11 political reformists. The 65 mostly male protesters plan to continue the strike they are holding in their homes on Friday. Their action in a country that bans public gatherings, protests and political parties could land them in jail.

Mohammad al-Qahtani, one of 13 activists who called for the protest, said the group resorted to the strike after the government failed to respond to letters sent to influential officials asking them to release the reformists, improve prison conditions and reform the legal system (...) The jailed reformists include Matrook al-Faleh, a human rights activist who was detained in May for advocating constitutional reform, and 10 other activists jailed in Jiddah in 2007.

The 13 men posted a statement on the social networking site Facebook to announce the strike and urge other Saudis to participate. Fifty-two people have so far signed up to join the 13 activists. They include writers, lawyers and college students (...) >>>

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Humans in their primitive stages, had to survive in a wild and hostile natural world. Danger lurked under every stone and in each and any shrub. A sole individual, thrown back on his own devices, could hardly hope to live long enough to tell the tale. A lone existence was a constant existential threat. So humans sought security in numbers and shelter with each other, within the safety of the tribe.

Random individual acts, which could endanger the survival of the community as a whole were not just discouraged, but severely punished by exile, shunning and worse. Morality consisted in the common good, the well-being of the tribe, the lone tribes man or woman, was dispensable.

Since the collective security is the tribe's entire reason of being, these were what we would term today, small totalitarian communities. Individuals were not supposed to have private lives, or undertake 'rogue' actions. Even today there are many peoples who do not even have a word for 'privacy', or for 'individual'.

Humanity has come a long way. In the Western world, with the onset of the Renaissance and the period of the Enlightenment, we discovered person-hood and what it means to be a man or woman. We discovered that our prime instrument for survival in a cultivated world, are our own wits. Morality shifted from collective survival, to what constitutes survival of the individual.

It is not always appreciated how far this development has helped human progress. There are forces in the Western world today that prefer humans with tribal minds. They say, some person's wits can be insufficient, that they can break down or can be fooled, so we should not use them.

Some even say wits do not exist at all, and that humans live by instinct, or by synapses and secretions, or that they are steered by God, or by the fate of some parallel universe.

They say that in our hearts of heart we are still members of the tribe called humanity and we should share whatever we have, just as in olden days. Some say we should only share things which ensure common security, others advocate sharing the things with which we produce other things. And then there are the peddlers of ideas who come for people's souls. Their morality is altruism. They say, an individual's only use consists in his utility to be tribe.

Peoples in other parts of the world walked other historical paths. They quietly wandered off the reservations in droves, other tribes held it together. Sometimes new ones were created, based on common religion, for example.

In Islam the whole of the faithful - the Ummah - is such a new tribe, replete with tribal justice to ensure its survival, and death for whoever dares to wander off, or pledges loyalty elsewhere.

The painful process we see playing out before our eyes are the death throes of the new tribe called Islam. Muslim men and women are discovering their person-hood. They're fighting for the rights that a sole individual requires to survive: inalienable, universal, human rights. Since the discovery of individualism took place in the Western context, this process from collective to person-hood is often understood by Muslims as "Islam being besieged by the West".

The Reform process which would ensure the continuation of Islam as a faith, would have to consist in practicing it as a collection of individuals, rather than as the oppressive 'living organism' of the Ummah.

The liberties are the negative rights. They lie at the foundation of the United States of America, the only country founded on the philosophy of individual rights. The Founding Fathers said these rights were given to man by God. They have two corollaries: free market capitalism and democratic government.

For some, as we saw in "2001: Obama's Principles for a Socialist State (Analysis)" - these negative liberties are not enough; they cast them aside as "just the stuff that government cannot do to you", or - in our paradigm - what the tribe cannot do to its members to prevent them from surviving on their own wits as free spirits.

The positive rights as advocated by President Elect Barack Hussein Obama, are the rights the tribe generously bestows upon its members, in lieu for their promise not to wander off the reservation on their own.

We see that the principles of negative and positive rights are markedly different in nature and in principle. They are opposites. Negative rights liberate individuals from the suffocating oppression of tribal existence. Obama's positive rights on the other hand, newly enslave individuals to the collectivism of the state.

We don't appreciate by half how rare and precious individual liberties really are. Wherever they exist, they are lone stars in oceans of collectives that seek to enslave free spirits to the suffocating risk-free safety of the tribes.

Each nation and each generation has its own battle with the tribes. Today, it is the brave Saudi intellectuals with their hunger strike. As Thomas Jefferson said, "From time to time, the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots."

We wish the Saudi defenders all the strength they need to win their battle with the tribal collective. Long Live Liberty!

Facebook group "48 hours hunger strike in Saudi Arabia: solidarity with detainees in KSA"

Watch an interview with Saudi journalist Ebtihal Mubarak to learn more about the background of this campaign The Hub: "Facebooking a Hunger Strike: Saudi Activists' Innovative Online Campaign"

- Filed on Articles in "The Dystopia of Paradise" -


Mister No said...

I agree with the most of arguments here. More people in Islamic countries recognizing civil liberties and democratic culture. Especially in Turkey,Bosnia-Herzegovina and Malaysia which are democratic countries.Among them Turkey is a secularist democratic country.Improvements in Information Communication Technology spreads liberal idea in these countries. Situation in Iran and Saudi Arabia are not good. These two are religion based states.They banned some websites so they are preventing their people's gathering information.Collectivist governments can survive only in disinformated and misinformated environment.
Understanding the relationship between Saudi Kingdom and US is important.S. Arabia made many investment in US,so that US benefits from this monarchy.

Cassandra said...

I'm very suspicious of the entire West cozying up to the autocrats and theocrats in the ME, like the tight Berlin-Tehran axis. Don't forget that the tranzy magic wand is "interdependence". Follow the money.

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