Why They Dont Hate Us: Overcoming the Clash of Cultures in the Age of Globalization
By Mark LeVine, Ph.D.
From Evil to Empathy: The Axis of Arrogance and the Orient Beats Back in the Global Era
Introduction: The Marrakesh Express
Riding the train back to Rabat from Marrakesh its hard to understand what the authors of the recently released, widely acclaimed "Arab Human Development Report" (AHDR) were thinking. This new report is the latest in decadesindeed centuriesof reports, dossiers, books and exposés aiming to understand why the Arab and larger Muslim worlds have not attained levels of "democracy" and "development" similar to those of their neighbors to the West, and why they seem to hate us for their failures.
The passengersnumerous well-dressed young women chatting on cell phones; the lead story in todays paperthe Spanish military occupation of the tiny disputed Island of Leila just 100m off the Moroccan shore, which has led Moroccans to wonder which of the two is the modern, civilized and peace-loving European country; the newly purchased books in my backpackoffering various takes on how globalization is impacting the Middle East and what Arabs and Muslims can do about it; even the landscapebeautiful country and urban slums alike dotted with countless satellite dishesall challenge the central argument of the Report, its myriad predecessors, and the entire web of US and Western policy towards the Arab and Muslim worlds: that Arabs themselves, their institutions, structures and cultures, are primarily responsible for the innumerable problems plaguing their societies, and that only some combination of Western tutelage, intervention and reforms can reverse this sad state of affairs.
As someone who has lived and traveled throughout the Middle East and North Africa region the last decade, the gap between mainstream scholarship, news coverage or policy-making, and the realities of life in the region, have long been glaringly apparent. This has never been clearer than during the post September 11 (as I will argue later, misnamed) "war on terrorism," when age-old clichés, truisms and convenient misconceptions about the Middle East and Islam have been wrapped around the persona of Osama bin Laden to drum up patriotism and beat down questioning voices.
Thus as I write these lines the United States Government is warming up for the overthrow of Saddam Husseinthe coup de grace of its war on terrorismwith little public debate, while a coterie of second-rate "scholars" are calling (with some success) for the defunding of an entire academic discipline, Middle Eastern studies, because the knowledge it produces challenges the ideological bases and propaganda surrounding US Middle East policy. And now the United Nations is offering a developmentally handicapped Arab Human Development Report. Jesse Helms must be a happy man.
As important, the myriad problems facing the Middle East and the larger Muslim majority world have produced nary a word from the international community of globalization scholars and activists (i.e., the mis-named "anti"-globalization movement), this despite the centrality of the region to the processes of globalization and the global impact of events such as the wars in Palestine-Israel and against terrorism, which lately have seen activists from the Middle East and the globalization movements marching, if not yet strategizing, together. Indeed, speaking at the 2000 Prague "S26 Countersummit" against the World Bank I asked the assembled crowd and speakers to raise their hands if they were Arab or Muslim; the only hand that went up was a cameramans from German television. Similarly, since the seminal events of November 1999 in Seattle the major US organizations, such as the International Forum of Globalization or 50 Years is Enough, have continually rebuffed attempts to bring a Middle Eastern presence to their literature and teach-ins.
It is this combination of affairsunparalleled and unprincipled American dominance in the Middle East, widespread ignorance and misinformation in the mainstream press, scholarship and public, and a blindness to the region by the only viable contemporary protest movement in the Westthat has led me to write this book.
Why They Dont Hate Us explores the antagonism towards the "West," and in particular the United States, in the Muslim world through the prism of the myriad phenomena commonly referred to as "globalization," an unmanageable and much-abused term that still has much to offer when we narrow it down to more accurate (and indeed, more interesting) dimensions. For at least a decade globalization has evoked equal parts delirium and fear: for its acolytes it seems the natural evolution of the human conomy, providing the engine for unlimited growth and wealth for some to all (depending on whos talking) of the countries and cultures of the world; for its antagonistswhether Seattles Turtle People, Tehrans turbaned morality squads, or most recently Africas undersold farmersit has proven the greatest threat to economic, cultural and political autonomy since the heyday of European colonialism, to which it is often compared.
But while todays globalization is usually thought of as a quintessentially recent phenomenon, it is in fact only the latest of at least three phases of global integration during the modern period, with the Age of Imperialism and the post-World War II Bretton-Woods inspired integration generally considered its forbearers. Given globalizations long durée any examination must explore the history of interactions between Western and Muslim civilizations in a manner that accounts for the mutual impact of such meta-historical processes as capitalism, colonialism nationalism, and through these three "discourses," modernity at large. Only an historical foundation based on a solid understanding of earlier phases of globalization can explain the seemingly widespread, irrational hostility towards America and the West in the Muslim world today.
Certainly the Arab and Muslim critics of globalization, like their forefathers for well over a century (and as I will explore in Chapter Four, their contemporaries in Europe) view America through the prism of the complex but ultimately dangerous combination of these four historical processes. This has led one Arab critic to lament the imposition of an "inhuman globalism" on a region that has yet to develop a "human nationalism."
And indeed, US policies toward the region draws from the same mission civilisatrice as did European imperialism and colonialism. Even National Security Advisor Condoleza Rice admits that America is an imperial power, albeit in her view a benign and non-imperialist one. Moreover, despite decades of compelling failures, the rhetoric of "modernization," "development" and spreading capitalism throughout the globe remain the raisons dêtre of myriad policies of Western governments (especially the United States) and the international financial organizations they control, both as goals in their own right and as the keys to entering the paradise of "free markets" and "democracy."
This focus on globallizations histories should not suggest that it is a linear and inevitable continuation of past (im)balances of power. In fact, just the opposite is at least potentially the case; globalization has also opened new spaces for resistance and dialog by individuals and communities across cultures, particularly those committed to a democratic future based on mutual recognition, genuine peace, and social and environmental justice. That is, in contrast to the common wisdom of Time, Commentary or the Defense Department, "They" dont hate "Us;" at least not most of Them. However convenient it may be to condense one billion people down to a single "they," the fact is that there is no one Muslim or Arab "they" out there, let alone one point of view, to support the all-too familiar Us versus Them rhetoric. Nor are "Jihad" or "McWorld" the only two choices facing either of Us. Instead, there are a startling plurality of cultures, approaches to and reflections on the problems behind todays headlines.
In fact, despite the myriad books written on globalization during the past decade a theoretically sophisticated yet accessible discussion, one that weaves together an interdisciplinary, culturally comparative and spiritually sensitive analysis, awaits its author. Instead, the apologia and polemics surrounding globalization around the world have together created what I term a "specter" of globalization, one which leaves pundits and extremists on either side (whether Tom Friedman or Pat Buchanan, radical environmentalists or radical Muslims) to decode, translate and interpret for the rest of usmore often than not based on contorted logic and questionable data.
Only a combination of incisive economic analysis and adept cultural translation can enable the kind of narrative that can move beyond the deficiencies of existing approaches. In the chapters that follow I seek to achieve this combination through a synthesis of insights from critical theory and social science, various religious and sociological traditions, and the best practices of culture and activism from Marx to cultural studies, rai to hip-hop. Together they will bring to the fore a new understanding of how to read and transform our cultures in the global era.
In this journey we will encounter writings from Arabs, Turks, Iranians, and other Muslims in conversation with each other (that is, in their own languages) and with the West (in French, English, German and Italian). These dialogs will reveal a richness of perceptions and diversity of attitudes, a wealth of information that will allow us to explore the commonalities in the myriad understandings of and responses to globalization. What will be particularly striking is how the commonalities give the body of writings on globalization both cultural resonance across the Arab and larger Muslim worlds and at the same time an appearance of homogeneity that often blinds Them and Us alike to the more complex realities beneath.
Finally, these commonalities will be extended across the divides of religion, culture and geography through a discussion of the relationship between the perceptions and rhetoric of Arab/Muslim critics and other alternative globalization movements around the world, particularly in Europe. Their critiques and aspirations will be shown to be remarkably similar to those of their counterparts and, potentially, comrades in the Middle East and larger Muslim majority world.
Limiting the discussion just to the world of scholars, clerics and activists would produce too narrow a story if ones goal is to flush out both the diversity and commonalities in the way Arabs and Muslims understand and respond to US-dominated globalized order. My experience as a musician and activist as well as a scholar of Islam and the Middle East has taught me that flushing out the impact of globalization at the level of popular cultural productionliterature, poetry, visual arts and especially musicis necessary to explore the hybrid realities that motivate, constrain and challenge the elite intellectual and policy-making discourses that are usually the subject of analysis.
This is because in the global era, more than any time in human history, culture and cultural processes drive all other fields of human interaction, such as politics or economics, which today "are globalized to the extent that they are culturalized." My combination of a detailed critique of the ideology of neo-liberal globalization and an exploration of the central role of culture in imagining alternative futures marks a hesitant contribution to the desperately needed dialog of civilizations.
Understanding the Axis of Arrogance
Before we can understand Why They Dont Hate Us we need to understand how the "problem" of Islam and the unending Middle Eastern imbroglio are framed by American image- and policy-makers. When President Bush rhetorically asked "what do they hate us" in the aftermath of the horrific destruction of September 11, 2001, his answer was that they "hate freedom and democracy," and that only a "crusade" by America against the largely Muslim "axis of evil" could counter this existential threat. The Administrations rhetoric quickly grew more sophisticateddropping the inflammatory "crusade" rhetoric and adding North Korea to the list of evil-doersyet behind the photo-ups with local Imams and platitudes that "Islam means peace," US policy toward the Middle East as formulated through the war on terrorism, and indeed, our foreign policy during the last two administrations, remains grounded the belief that 1) History is over, 2) We have won, and 3) They either must catch up, get out of the way, or end up, literally, road-kill of the globalization express. As the Times opined only months before the internet bubble burst, in the global era you either "dominate or die."
The ideological basis for this belief retains a strong does of late 19th century Protestant triumphalism, one reminiscent of Josiah Strongs description of the destiny of "our country"led by a new species of men: American Capitalists of pure Anglo-Saxon Protestant descentto be world conquerors in the then new twentieth century. While such rhetoric was secularized and sanitized in the intervening decades, the sentiment and conclusions have not changed all that much. In fact, they remain in evidence in three well-known books that have shaped the mainstream discussions and debates on globalization: Francis Fukayamas The End of History, Thomas Friedmans The Lexus and the Olive Tree, and Samuel Huntingtons The Clash of Civilizations.
Together these books reflect a kind of ideological and even epistemological passion that strongly resembles the religious fervor of the evangels of American ascendance a century ago. In fact, the Protestant theologian Paul Tillich defined religion as any belief or activity that is of "ultimate concern" to a person; viewed this way, these three books can be considered the sacred texts of the religion of globalization. Not surprisingly then, they are repeatedly cited by Arab and Muslim critics, with much consternation, as the foundational texts of US foreign policy in the global era.
All three books have justifiably been criticized by leading historians, economists and political scientists for factual and historical inaccuracies, methodological inconsistencies and unstated but clear political agendas. And none of the authors have made much of an effort to defend their main arguments against these critiques. Thus when I invited Mr. Friedman to debate his book at a major international conference I organized he screamed to his secretary, whom I had called to confirm the invitation, that he would never appear at my event after the negative review that appeared in Tikkun magazine, where Im a contributing editor and which co-sponsored the conference. (So much for preaching the gospel before ones enemiesneo-liberal globalization might be a religion, but it has had a hard time producing true apostles who can defend the faith, although we can consider the children of Seattle inheritors of the prophetic mantle of Amos or Jeremiah.)
Nevertheless, despite the sometimes trenchant criticism they have received The End of History, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, and The Clash of Civilizations not only reflect the dominant beliefs of Americas political and economic elite, but have had a profound influence onor at least reflect a profound influence of the ideas they represent onthe way American policy and punditry has been shaped in the post-Cold War period. Because of this, I argue that the composite message of the three can be understood as forming an "axis of arrogance" that provides the motivation for the devoted acolytes (or Bolsheviks, as former World Bank Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz calls them) of neo-liberal capitalism, whether in the World Bank or the Pentagon. This axis of arrogance is an overlooked but indispensable companion of the "axis of evil" discourse that increasingly drives US foreign and even domestic policy in the global era.
A brief summary will clarify the through lines that link these three books together and to the central problems of our discussion. Fukayamas primary argument is that the collapse of Soviet Communism and the end of the Cold War signify the "end of history" in the sense that humankind has arrived at the highest level of political and economic organization with neo-liberal, market-based capitalist democracy (or as he more simply puts it, "liberal democracy") epitomized by the United States and, to a lesser extent, Western Europe and Japan. Thus any attempt to imagine alternative forms of social, political or economic organization, or to arrive at "freedom" or "democracy" through indigenous traditions, concepts or practices, can only be "outside" of history and therefore illegitimate.
Thomas Friedman takes this argument global with his "explanation" of (better, paeon to) globalization in The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Explaining Globalization. The thrust of Friedmans argument is that you cant live off of olive-pickinghis metaphor for low-tech, labor intensive old world industrial productionand expect to get your Lexus too in the era of globalization. Instead, to live large in the global era you need to get web-savvy, a synechdote for the entire World Bank/IMF, Washington Consensus set of political and economic reforms that today are recognized even by their proponents as having brought significant (and often avoidable) hardship to hundreds of millions of people. Yet for Friedman the "www," the symbol of globalization, would seem to be accessible only via the rough road of structural adjustmentliberalization and privatization of the economy, greater "transparency" and independence of financial markets, the "rule of law"that is supposed to lead to democracy and wealth for everyone.
Needless to say, these days Friedman would have a hard time selling his web-based global prosperity to my wifes many colleagues whose lucrative web careers have led to the unemployment line. Never mind trying to convince the 95 percent of the Arab worlds one hundred million people who dont even own a phone, let alone a PC, of how and why they should (or can) buy into the American digital paradise. As important, behind Friedmans argument is his belief, expressed in an article written around the time of the books release, that the worlds poor "just want to go to Disneyland" if given a chance. By this we can understand that the billions of people living on $2 a day or less just want to become good consumers of the American produced culture and commodities that drive neo-liberal globalization. Unfortunately, any government or society that cant find the wherewithal to stomach and adapt to the strict regimens necessary to build the neo-liberal theme park future are doomed to be left, literally wireless in their olive groveswhich sooner or later will be rendered obsolete by Monsanto-engineered super-olives that contain a full days supply of 12 essential vitamins, and grow hair (and who knows what else) too.
Friedman clearly believes that there is only one way that globalization can proceed and that any alternative is doomed to fail. Such neo-liberal fundamentalism leads directly to the work of Samuel Huntington because to the extent that a "civilization" either fails, or refuses, to adapt to the American-dominated world order (the latter because it sees its own traditions or cultures like Islam as offering a viable alternative) it will enter into a permanent state of conflict with the West, and the United States in particular. What makes such conflict particularly virulent in the era of globalization is that it is not based on modern political "ideologies" or politics (as was communism or fascism) but rather on much more "dangerous" and "irrational" motivations such as religion and culture. With this endpoint of perpetual and irremediable conflict the road to the World Trade Center, Afghanistan and Iraq is opened before us.
Changing Our Orientation
With this brief understanding of the globalized State of Nature and the apparently negative role of culture and religion in it (especially Muslim culture and religion), we have a good description of some of the main themes that have determined how We See Them. I would like to use the remainder of this introductory chapter to examine how the thought-processes produced by the "axis of arrogance" are reflected in seemingly objective analyses by leading experts, and how some of my own experiences wandering around the Middle East suggest alternative ways of exploring the region, its peoples and their relationship with the United States and the larger West.
Such an exploration would be based on a paradigm of dialog and empathy rather than conflict. It would appreciate the differences and common threads running through the slums of West Beirut and the chic open-air BO-18 disco downtown; in the sound of Alabina on West Jerusalems Allenby Street or an "oriental" remix of Michael Jackson wafting through Salahhadin Street in East Jerusalem; in the innumerable cell phone stores or internet cafes in "traditional" Fes or funky Marrakesh, worldly Istanbul or closeted Tehran; indeed, in the lives and aspirations of the literally hundreds of millions of young Muslims who today constitute more than half the population of the Muslim majority world.
To do so let us return to the comfort of the Rabat train and the Arab Human Development Report, where our discussion began. Across from me, next to the women on their portables, sits a young Moroccan man named Abderrahmane. Wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a big US flag, Abderrahmane is putting the moves, in fairly commendable English, on some American girl via his sleek Italian-designed Nokia cell phone. While Im eves dropping on his attempt at cultural hybriditynot bad, but not likely to land him in either promised landmy ostensible work on the train is to edit a piece I was commissioned to write for the journal Middle East Report on the aforementioned AHDR. What makes the eves dropping so relevant (its the only reason Im doing it ) is the great fanfare and evident satisfaction greeting the release of this Report, which has quickly become a new benchmark in discussing the contemporary Middle East and its problems.
The accolades in large part owed to the fact that is was specifically researched and written by "a team of Arab scholars and policymakers with an advisory committee of well-known Arabs in international public life." Well-known perhaps, but not necessarily well-knowing, at least of the primary subject of the Report, people like Abderrahmane or his would-be girlfriend, who represent the amalgam of youth, integration, and communications technology that constitute the heart of the authors agenda.
Given the gulf between the Reports intended subject and audience and the actual people whose fate it attempts to improve, an examination of its arguments, assumptions and prognoses offers a good opening to begin exploring some of the main issues and debates that will frame this book. This is because most commentators, whether the Washington Post, Le Monde or The New York Times (the latter of which featured an article, an editorial and the inevitable Thomas Friedman column) have applauded the Reports "bluntness" and "brutal honesty" in analyzing what to the Times remains the only "substantially unchanged" region of the world in the global era. To emphasize the Reports radical credentials, one of its lead authors explained to the Washington Post that while the AHDR aims to start a dialogue in the Arab world, "it wont make many friends there."
No doubt many members of the Arab elite would be unfriendly to reforms that actually benefited the bulk of their populations. But the Report stunningly avoids two fundamental issuesnamely, money and powerwithout an accounting of which its analyses or conclusions are ultimately irrelevant to achieving its stated goal of inspiring a "new social contract in which a synergy is generated between a revitalized and efficient government, a dynamic and socially responsible private sector, and a powerful and truly grassroots civil society."
Such a vision is certainly laudable in the abstract, but under present circumstances it can hardly be realized in the US or France, let alone Syria or Morocco. Nor is it that the Reports specific data or reform arguments are in themselves flawed. Indeed, the statistics related to the Arab and Muslim worlds plight are certainly compelling: per-capita growth in the 22 Arab countries surveyed is lower than anywhere except in sub-Saharan Africa. It will take the average Arab citizen 140 years to double his or her income. Other parts of the world will do it in fewer than 10 years; of the 280 million Arabs in the region, 65 million are illiterate. Two-thirds of these are women. The GDP of all these Arab states combined is less than that of Spain; and finally, one out of every 5 Arabs lives on less than $2 a day.
Rather, it is the context and (lack of) historical placement of the data compiled by the AHDR team that has removed them from the socio-political and economic realities of the global era. Thus similar to Thomas Friedmans argument in The Lexus and the Olive Tree, the authors of the AHDR take their data to indicate that "while most of the rest of the world is coming together in larger groupings, Arab countries continue to face the outside world, and the challenges posed by the region itself, individually and alone." Yet whom the average American can count on for support in the face of the dominate or die global order? Certainly not the US Government. So who is the average Syrian supposed to trust? Bashir al-Asad? The WTO?
Undisturbed by such a Herculean political, economic and moral/societal task, the Report calls for a "holistic development" strategy that can achieve the "new social contract" necessary to overcome the isolation of the Arab world. This is certainly a good prescription; and it should be mentioned that the call for holistic, or balanced, development is a centerpiece of the growing critiques of the kind of market-oriented neoliberal development policies advocated by the World Bank, IMF and their supporters in academia and the media.
Yet such holistic development is not as holistic as imagined by many of its proponents: first, these analyses lack a discussion of how Arab states are to secure the massive amounts of money needed to pay for all of the programs and policies they advocate. How, for example, can the Arab world increase its per capita spending on health care by the recommended two percent of GDP when even optimists forecast world GDP growth at only 3.9 percent (and even less for the Arab world)? Whats more, how can countries such as Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria and even Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, all of which have serious "stunting" problems in terms of childrens growth rates, pursue more balanced food production (and thereby increase nutritional health) when the United States simultaneously increases subsidies for its own farmers, floods their markets with below-market price US grains, and through USAID and other international programs attempts to transform local agricultural production from crops devoted to local human consumption to animal feed and export-geared textile crops?
And how can these countries increase spending for pre-school when their military budgets are three times greater, in per capita GDP, than the world average? Or when the Bush administration increases military aid to Columbia or Israel by hundreds of millions of dollars while claiming poverty when faced with requests for maintaining existing (low) levels of aid to New York City school children in the wake of 9/11?
As important, these attempts at holistic policy-making offer no scenarios for Arab grassroots forces to attain the political power that could produce governments and development policies which are "of, by and for the people." It is inarguably true, as the AHDR states when calling for large increases in spending on education and information technology, that "modern knowledge is power." Yet precisely for that reason, most Arab regimes share modern knowledge only selectively if at all, since they have little desire to encourage the kind of bottom-up democracy that policies advocated by the AHDR would engender.
I would argue that an important reason for these problems with the mainstream literature is that it rarely brings "external" power dynamics into the analysis. The resulting ahistorical, apolitical and casuistic causalities recounted above are made possible, indeed inevitable, by the "axis of arrogance" that lies behind them and supports the axis of evil rhetoric that dominates discussions of the region. But more than just discussing external influences on the Arab world, is not political transformation in the West surely a prerequisite for achieving grassroots power in the Arab world?
Needless to say, wed search in vain for any discussion of the need for radical transformation of our own society within the "axis of arrogance." Yet How could any developing country radically reduce spending on strategically crucial US/Western products, whether surplus grains or high-tech weaponry, unless the developed countries had themselves radically restructured their political economies so that retaining favorable balances of trade based on exports of wheat or F-16s, (particularly vis-à-vis the petro-dollar cycle), as well as through increasing liberalization of markets were no longer among the most important strategic considerations for the political and economic elites?
And how can Arabs or citizens of other developing countries, whether in Russia, Indonesia, or Latin America, successfully challenge corrupt and autocratic regimes when Western countries, particularly in the context of the war on terrorism, turn a blind eye toin some cases, encouragelarge scale abuses of human, civil and political rights by client regimes? And what short of an historic change in American political culture and ideology will be required before our Government would actually pursue "freedom and democracy" in the developing world?
This lack of attention to the links between money, knowledge, power, and the history and contemporary reality of Western domination over the Middle East reveals the common heritage of reports like the AHDR and the axes of arrogance and evil they strive to move beyond. Yet while these questions raised in the last few paragraphs are fundamental to understanding dynamics of Why They Seem to Hate Us, the Western media has praised the Report precisely because it does not attempt to tie the West to the problems it analyzes. Such a one-sided treatment has allowed the Western policymakers and commentators to confirm rather than challenges long-cherished stereotypes about the Arab and Muslim worlds.
And it is precisely because this latest Report was prepared by "Arabs themselves" that their collective nostra culpa is useful for the renewed Orientalism of the mainstream press and politics in the wake of September 11. Thus commentators on the Report, as in the past, inevitably place blame squarely on "Islamic pressure" or the "Islamic factor" for the sad state of the Arab world and its culture. They admonish Americans to beware a "dominant and politically powerful" religiously oriented and culturally illiterate lower middle class, one that is irredeemably hostile to "anyone of free spirit."
If commentators focus on the negative role of Islam, the kind of social-scientific and/or economistic literature exemplified by the AHDR is in fact distinguished by a near total absence of discussions of religion. How can we hope to understand and better engage the rising tide of socio-religious movements in the Muslim world when the most important mainstream scholarly production and policy-making years ignores them completely?
The Soul of Development, or, The Orient Beats Back
One way to increase our understanding is to focus on culture, which as I have explained above is central to understanding contemporary globalization. As none other than Samuel Huntington argues in the title of his most recent book, "Culture Matters." In this regard it should be noted that for the AHDR team, like their counterparts in the UN, the World Bank or other international institutions, culture is now considered "the soul of development."
This is a wonderful sentiment, yet only one out of 178 pages of the Report discusses Islam, and there is seemingly no one representing a religious background or perspective on the team. Nor is there any discussion of the myriad intense debates on gender issues among Muslim women and men, or of the crucial medical and educational services provided by religious organizations.
Here it is worth mentioning that in Morocco at least, the AHDR and similar reports have not generated much conversation, discussion or debate, though the average street kiosk in Fez or Rabat is stocked with myriad books discussing the upcoming parliamentary elections and Education and Culture in the Time of Globalization. One reason for this is likely that the focus on easily measurable statistics and political markers masks the kinds of pressure from belowfrom womens, student, labor and especially Islamist groupsthat has forced Morocco and other Middle Eastern states to devote increasing resources to the welfare of the people.
What makes the resulting political contest so interesting is that its clearest (potential) beneficiaries are the working and poor classes, yet this type of political struggle is not quantifiable in the same manner as voting patterns, a favorite subject of analysis. Nevertheless, the complex intertwining of religion, culture, politics and economics, "Arab" and "external" factors reflected in such struggles reflect must be accounted for in any analysis of human development in the Middle East if we wish to get to the root of Why They Seem to Hate Us.
In attempting to move beyond the axis of arrogance and the analyses, policy-making and commentary it produces a culturally and popularly informed undertaking is crucial. This is not just because of the problems within this discourse but, as important, because so much of the existing critical/progressive literature on globalization come from the genres of critical theory and cultural studies, whose famously infuriating jargon has rendered their insights unavailable to most anyone outside a narrow academic readership. Thankfully, younger critics, writers like Naomi Klein, Thomas Frank, Greg Tate or Jason Hill, have been opening the field in important and innovative ways. And they are being joined by veteran critics like Tariq Ali, who brilliantly demonstrates that Huntingtons clash is not one of civilizations, but rather of fundamentalisms; one made possible, first off, by the "the virtual outlawing of history by the dominant culture" that is reflected in the "axis of arrogance," and following this, by a militant utopianism in which both Islamists and neo-liberals are equally religiously, economically and politically inspired.
The problem with these important contributions vis-à-vis Arab and Muslim perceptions of America is that their focus is either largely on the United States, they have yet to incorporate the important theoretical innovations of their more complicated colleagues, or they harbor a clear bias against religious worldviews as a potential partner in a progressive dialog. Thus the work of Klein and Frank, which enjoy canonical status among progressive members of generations X and Y, do not really engage the Middle East; while Tariq Ali cannot engage most members of his own country (Pakistan) or culture (Islam at large) because he intrinsically distrusts religion. But without such engagement, what hope is there for dialog and mutual societal reform?
The Arabs and Muslims that are the subjects/objects of the "axis of arrogance," in particular those outside the international financial and political eliteswhether Islamists or punks (yes, there are punks in the Arab world)need to be included in the global conversation on building alternatives to the existing systems of economic, political and social power. Unfortunately, the existing literature has done little to open the way for the much-needed (and talked about) dialogs with scholars and activists in the West, many of whom have yet to overcome the kind of bias against Islam and Arab cultural production and political resistance affirmed in reports like the AHDR, however unintentionally.
Such bias is a major reason why there remains few Arab/Muslim voices represented in the alternative globalization movements, even after September 11; this despite the clearly central role of the MENA region in the war on terrorism and the neo-liberal world system to which it is inextricably wed. The good news is that while the dominant rhetoric as represented by the axis of arrogance justifies the status quo among Western and Arab elites, on the level of popular culture today more than ever before the "The Orient Beats Back." This is the title of a currently popular dance and electronica CD in Morocco that features Arab-style remixes and re-imaginings of Western dance hits. The adoption, translation and transformation of other languages and technologies evidenced by this and myriad other offerings at kiosks throughout Morocco constitute the productive creativity advocated, albeit largely ignored, by the Report.
Indeed, when considered with the avaricious acquisition of so-called Western technologies (i.e., computers and the internet) and languages (French and increasingly English) by an ever expanding section of young urban citizens of the Arab world, there is clearly a sizeable (if still too small) minority of the young people that are finding a way to embrace the ethos of cultural productivity and knowledge acquisition deemed vital to successful reform in the region. Moreover, they are doing so in a manner that moves beyond either the kind of "lazy hybridity" exhibited by the AHDR, the Self-celebratory writings of Friedman or Fukayama, or the false dichotomies of Samuel Huntington and George W. Bush.
"The Orient Beats Back" represents the essence of what I term "culture jamming," a concept that originated in the mid-1980s in the California techno-rock scene and quickly became identified with the practice of parodying advertisements and hijacking billboards by drastically altering their messages to reflect a critique of the depicted product or activity. Over the past decade jams have become sophisticated "interceptions"counter messages that hack into a corporations own method of communication to send a message starkly at odds with the one intended.
But while a glance at these very American jams and "alternative" communities (from tree sitters to radical unionists) testifies to their originality and creativity, I argue that ultimately they represent individual or isolated acts of cultural resistance. Their power is limited in comparison with the power of contemporary globalization specifically as an aesthetic organization of diverse cultures that homogenizes and defangs the products of minority, Third World, and other "resistance" and "bohemian" cultures even as their diversity, hipness, and originality are "celebrated."
While culture jamming American-style might become the Gen-Y equivalent of bra-burning, such acts of cultural resistance to the corporate branding of America are still dwarfed by the power of corporations to co-opt even the most critical interventions. Thus business gurus like John Kao and Richard Foster pen best-sellers with titles like Jamming or Creative Destruction (a term used by scholars to describe the most powerful yet basic process of capitalist modernity), while a Bloomingdales ad exclaims, "Welcome to the Culture Bash"cute guys, Hawaiian shirts, and a secluded beach.
If Naomi Klein asks in No Logo, "Did all our protests and subversive theory only serve to provide great content for the culture industries? Moreover, Why were our ideas about political rebellion so deeply non-threatening? And how did diversity become the mantra of global capital?" I would further ask, with a nod to Thomas Frank, If Cool was so easily conquered by Capital in the 1960s, how can the celebration of and expansion of international (sub)culture(s) in the new century achieve their potentially liberatory ends? And what role will globalization play in bringing their Middle Eastern/Muslim counterparts into the game in a positive way?
I argue that central to the understanding of Why They Hate Us is a critical analysis of the roots of these various movements and communities, how and why their critical edge has been subverted or stymied, and how they can (re)gain a critical effectivity in our larger society. This is because the corporatization of cool constitutes a third axis that together with the axes of arrogance and evil have carved out a three dimensional ideological geometry that has proved instrumental in trapping our society within a seemingly naturalized yet in fact radically constructed neoliberal market paradigm. What this means is that the reasons for the impotence of the globalization movements in the United State are related to those that weaken movements of resistance in Europe or the Third World, including the Middle East, which at first glance seem far removed in style and issues of concern.
Yet if we can jam in the musical sense of the wordthat is, bring together diverse and even dissonant voices to compose a truly world musicwe can widen conversations, shed outmoded geometries, stereotypes and paradigms, and develop greater compassion for both the victims and beneficiaries of globalization. In this sense, "The Orient Beats Back" and similar projects, with their disregard of Euro-American notions of copyright and musical protocol, are not just a jam at the corporatization of music, especially world music, in the West, but also a step towards the kind of truly "holistic" form of cultural production that made world music so appealing in the first place.
As I will demonstrate in the course of our discussion, such cultural performances enable the shared language, strategies, and vision to transform critics and protesters into prophets of a whole world in the new millennium. Using the model of culture jamming in the following chapters I will attempt to portray a more accurate picture of the impact of globalization in the Middle East, of the experiences, understandings of and responses to it by various segments of these societies, and of how they relate to the experience of globalization in the West, especially in Europe, where opposition to the Washington Consensus model of globalization grows daily. Through the (still generally undetected) resonances between Middle Eastern, European and (potentially) American voices I can better explore why it is that a now enlarged and more multicultural They seem to hate Us, and whether the question itself says more about the United States and its self-image than about Islam and its seemingly inscrutable worlds.
Conclusion: "Arabica 2002"
There are some things you would only think of while watching the Muslim Broadcast Channel with your hotel clerk in Marrakesh. One of them is that Robert Plant stole his stage repertoire from Najwa Karam.
What is the logic behind the seemingly strange assertion that the stage presence of "Liz Plins" frontman (to transliterate the Arabic spelling of Led Zeppelin on the cover of a recent CD of Robert Plant and the Gnawa master Mualem Brahim) is drawn from a Lebanese diva who, like me, was in grammar school during Led Zeppelins glory years? The insight occurred while I was watching a live performance of Ms. Karam on the MBC (a Saudi-owned satellite channel broadcast throughout the world) in a hotel in Marrakesh after a night of wandering through the Jmaa el-Fna, the open air market famed for its magicians, snake-charmers, palm-readers, boxers, acrobats and dozens of open air little restaurants. Despite the age difference, what makes my conjecture plausible is the fact that music and art has always traveled with incredible speed across the divide of cultures and geography; witness the fact that by the early 1920s country music had spread deep into the heart of Africa through records brought there by American visitors, and was already reshaping the local music in profound ways. In so doing it was completing a circle that began when the African slaves provided crucial melodic and harmonic input to what would become country, blues and jazz.
But how could Karams body language of 2002 have influenced Plants circa 1973? Perhaps M. Plant, who has frequented the Arab world since the late 1960s, was influenced by the same artistsespecially the seminal Um Kalthoumas Nejwa Karam. And in fact, he agreed with me that this was the most likely scenario (at the time of writing I have yet to hear back from Nejwa Karam on this issue ). In this context the Plant-Karam axis a useful heuristic device for our discussion because its revelations of cross-cultural, gender and generational conversation flows through, and in so doing disrupts, the nexus of the axes of evil and arrogance that are determining how entire civilizations interact in the newest global age.
Such interaction represents the generally unheralded side of globalization. In my travels around the world in search of this elusive globalization I have noticed that there are three kinds of reactions by peoples of the so-called "developing" or "third" world to its promises and perils: The first is the wholesale adoption of things American, which is the goal of the great commercial Culture Bash but rarely occurs accept by a very small and wealthy elite. The second is its antithesis, the one epitomized by Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and the violence and hatred they represent. Such a response may seem "traditional" or "atavistic," but in fact the ideas, ideologies and actions are quite "modern," bearing the illiberal, violent soul that has always fueled (and often consumed) liberal and enlightened modernity.
The third response is represented by "The Orient Beats Back." Its adaptations and remixes of Western (inspired) dance and trance music by leading Arab DJs represents not a postmodern continuation of some sort of hegemonic Euro-trash dance music, but rather a true "anti" modern response to the sins of capitalist-colonial modernity in a process of superimposition and blatant theft that defies convention and copyright at the same time. How so? Because by adapting and transforming Western styles and technologies into something new, rather than a typically "postmodern" "play" on or "pastiche" of already existing styles and sounds, the music of "The Orient Beats Back" challenges the very premises of modernity that, if we will recall, are at the heart of the axis of arrogance: to whit, the Rest can only copy the West, never transform and in so doing improve on it.
Along with numerous other confluences, such as the "Arabica" series (yearly compilations of Arab remixes of well-known Western songs), this genre offers a most tantalizing clue to how we can move beyond the rhetoric of mutual suspicion and recrimination to a true jamming of cultures whose force can match the monotonous, Soviet-style drumming of the neo-liberal aparachniks. (Consider my finds of the day: Arab DJ remixes of Santana, Missy Elliot, even Pink Floyds "Us and Them." And the original version of the Missy Elliot was itself built around an Arabic-music sample, making this "Arab" remix particularly flush with cultural and musical significance.)
Allow me to explore this line of reasoning further. As I write this particular paragraph Im sitting in a Rabat internet café. Sitting behind me is a young, stylishly-dressed young man blasting Busta Rhymes "Pass the Courvoisier" out of his computer speakers (the computers at most every internet café here are fully multi-media), followed by Snoop Dogg and the North African-French actor Jamel Debouse doing a French-English language duet, "Mission Cleopatra." At the same time my momentary musical comrade is typing away to his chat-room buddies in French, peppered with knowing Englishisms. It seems that everyoneand everyone here is largely young college age men (although between a quarter and a third of the customers in the internet cafes seem to be women) is on chat, or judging from the url history bars of the computers Ive been using, is either checking out the latest Billboard charts or French porn sites, or both.
Even many university professors use these cafes for their email, as the priceless than a dollar an hourmakes them a good substitute to more expensive and slower home connections. And everyone is typing in English or French, though one can now do email in Arabic, which is supposed to be the primary language here after two decades of an "Arabization" program whose goal was to "decolonize" the heads of Moroccans from their former French rulers. As important, the people here are not the elite of Morocco. If they were theyd be at home surfing on brand new P4 computers hooked up to wanadoo.ma, or even wanadoo.fr if theyre particularly francophone. Instead, these are the very people that Friedman and the authors of the AHDR are looking for but cant seem to find (perhaps because they dont listen to enough hiphop, or need to spend more time frequenting neighborhood internet cafes).
Of course, there is more to globalization in Morocco, or anywhere else in the Arab and Muslim worlds for that matter, than hybrid hiphop, French porn and Berber carpets of varying quality. Yesterday evening, as I sat in my hotel room contemplating the origin of Robert Plants stage ouvre, the sounds of the Gnawa streamed into my from the Jmaa el-Fna. Gnawa music is itself a form of globalization, as it emerged from the blending of religious traditions and musical styles of West African (former) slaves, Berber and Arab cultures, and now rock and funk. And the exoticized, orientalized landscape of the Jmaa el-Fna, which seems out of some 19th century British travel book, in fact caters mostly to Moroccans themselvesanother case of cultural (re)appropriation in which the formerly colonized now enjoy the cultural fantasies of their former rulers.
What this tells me is that globalization has always been hereIts just that the term, coined in the 1980s as a gerund specifically referring to the expansion of multinational corporations into new markets in untapped regions, has so obscured forms of cultural, political or economic integration that dont involve the same scale of (Western) money and power that they are considered outside of "our" globalization. This is why you wont find a critical reading of money or power in the Arab Human Development Report, The End of History, The Lexus and the Olive Tree or The Clash of Civilizations (or the New York Times, or Newsweek, or CNN, or even on NPR).
Yet as the French Muslim thinker and activist Tariq Ramadan explains, whatever the power of and problems stemming from the dominant model of globalization, it is ultimately "not the West but rather some governments, some institutions and important multinationals There are very active movements of resistance in the West that are very important for the future. It is absolutely necessary that, in the Muslim world, we dont fall into the too simplistic reading of the Huntington thesis, which is fundamentally misleading." We need to take these questions seriously if we are going to move beyond the present "inhuman globalism" to a shared and just future. And that is why power, knowledge and culture are at the heart of Why They (Dont) Hate Us, as we will explore in the pages that follow.