Skip to comments.Why Arabs suffer
Posted on 01/11/2008 9:57:34 AM PST by USFRIENDINVICTORIA
By modern standards, contemporary Middle Eastern Arab nations are failed societies. On virtually every index of socioeconomic and political development, they compare poorly with other parts of the world.
Under the auspices of the United Nations Development Program and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, an independent group of 20 Arab scholars analyzed the state of Arab human development in a widely-circulated 2002 report. Their findings were stark.
In particular, the Arab Human Development Report 2002 found that the 19 nations under study suffer from a "freedom deficit":
"Out of seven world regions, the Arab countries had the lowest freedom score in the late 1990s The Arab region also has the lowest [score] of all regions for voice and accountability [based on] a number of indicators measuring various aspects of the political process, civil liberties, political rights and the independence of the media."
The Arab region not only ranked last on the freedom scale, but the gap between Arab countries and the next-to-last ranked region, Africa, was substantial. The authors also found the Arab world lagged in gender equality, education, Internet use, human welfare and technological development.
"The [total] average [scientific] output of the Arab world per million inhabitants is roughly 2% that of an industrialized country," the authors noted. "In 1981, the Republic of Korea was producing 10% of the output of the Arab world; in 1995, it almost equalled its output."
In the number of frequently cited scientific papers generated per million inhabitants, Switzerland scored 79.90, the United States 42.99, Israel 38.63. Among Arab nations, Kuwait led the pack with 0.53, followed by Saudi Arabia with 0.07, Egypt at 0.02, and Algeria at 0.01.
The poet Nizar Qabbani, quoted by Fouad Ajami in his famous book The Dream Palace of the Arabs, concluded that Arab societal dysfunction is so pervasive that he could no longer write:
"I don't write because I can't say something that equals the sorrow of this Arab nation. I can't open any of the countless dungeons in this large prison. The poet is made of flesh and blood. You can't make him speak when he loses his appetite for words. You can't ask him to entertain and enthrall when there is nothing in the Arab world that entertains or enthralls. When we were secondary schoolchildren, our history teacher used to call the Ottoman Empire [Europe's] 'sick man.' What is the history teacher to call these mini-empires of the Arab world being devoured by disease? What are we to call these mini-empires with broken doors and shattered windows and blown-away roofs? What can the writer say and write in this large Arab hospital?"
How can we explain the discouraging state of Middle Eastern Arab societies? Is it the fault of Western imperialism or the existence of Israel, as often claimed?
-- NIZAR QABBANI
It is true that there were brief European imperial and colonial disruptions in the Middle East, and that Arab leaders were guided by Western socialist and fascist political models in developing their dictatorial political systems. Yet these system have been largely over-layers added to -- not replacements for -- traditionally tribalized Arab societies, with their legacies of violence left intact from Bedouin days.
It is to the latter that we must look to understand the circumstances and difficulties of the Arab Middle East. The lesson is that, in the Arab world and elsewhere, culture matters.
The Arab Middle East has remained largely a pre-modern society, governaned by clan relationships and violent coercion. People in both the countryside and the cities tend to trust only their relatives, and then only relative to their degree of closeness. People define their interests in terms of the interests of their own group, and in opposition to those of other groups. A pervasive cult of honour requires that people support their own groups, violently if necessary, when conflict arises.
What is missing in the Arab Middle East are the cultural tools for building an inclusive and united state. The cultural glue of the West and other successful modern societies --consisting of the rule of law and constitutionalism, which serve to regulate competition among unrelated groups -- is absent in the Arab world. The frame of reference in a tribalized society is always "my group vs. the other group." This system of "balanced opposition" is the structural alternative that stands in stubborn opposition to Western constitutionalism.
Islam, which might have provided an overarching constitution of universalistic rules binding together all members of society, has failed as a political organizing principle, as well -- for it too reflects the region's underlying sociology, having been built up by the Arabs' Bedouin forebears on a foundation of balanced opposition. This is why it has fueled rather than suppressed the Middle East's various bloody feuds, such as those between Sunni vs. Shiite and between Muslim vs. infidel.
As a result, Arab political reform has proven elusive, and will remain thus so long as balanced opposition dominates the region's political culture. Whatever formal unity is imposed by coercive force over a national population -- we need only think of the regimes in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, etc. -- remains illegitimate in the eyes of the subjects on the receiving end, and thus constantly open to violent challenge and radical replacement.
The primary goal of such regimes is to remain in power and maximize their spoils, rather than to enhance the lives of society members. Their dysfunction explains why so many Arabs have suffered so long, and remain without the liberties we in the West take for granted.
-Philip Carl Salzman is professor of anthropology at McGill University. This article is drawn from his forthcoming book, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East (Humanity Books).
Kleptocracy is not a successful form of government.
When half the population is enslaved at birth, the female half, what are the chances for fairness, justice, prosperity?
Islam is very good at keeping the spirit - and the reality - of the 7th century alive in the world.
They are missing the Golden Rule.
He’s soft on the retarding role of Islam and gives too much credit to tribalism.
Islam crushes scientific thought and artistic endeavour. Take the brightest people on the planet, then force their men to adhere to the intrinsically illogical and self-contradictory tenets of Islam under pain of death - and relegate the women to nonentity - and see what happens.
Luckily we don’t have to guess. Arabs weren’t ever the brightest people on the planet - but the Assyrians were. The crowning glory of the planet in one generation, reduced to repetitive calligraphy and fanaticism three generations later.
Sharia law is proof that allah hates us and wants us to be miserable - null and void
I agree. So....since we all know this and have known it for some time, why do we continue to deal with them? If we left them alone, they would kill each other off and be of no threat to this part of the world. Since they don’t want to advance, or offer anything to society as a whole, let them drown in their own sand. Enough is enough. If they actually do become a threat to us, take them out and go on about our lives. Dragging it out does no one any good.
Ben Franklin never ceases to amaze. If you’re following in his footsteps — be careful with kites. :-)
I was going to suggest a few sarcastic answers, but you are correct.
This article IS very informative.
He did make that one little mistake that continues to complicate my life.
He decided to call the charge on the amber negative, and the one on the fur positive.
50:50 chance and he blew it...
You’ve raised some good points. The author does mention that the foundation of Islam is “balanced opposition” — which was a new concept for me.
Lol, null and void, that's a keeper!
If we left them alone, they would all get nukes.
Always look up-stream to find root cause problems! Islam is against creation. It means submission to something already created & never to be changed. Secondly, the so called “Golden Age of Islam” came to an end (about 850 A.D.).
They suffer because they are members of the biggest cult in the world, islam. The sole purpose of islam is to keep a very few very rich, the rest impoverished, and make to then convince these poor people believe they are victims of non-muslims. It’s worked since the 600’s.