Has technology defied Arab values?
There is a struggle over leadership among Arabs
The information technology revolution has managed to create an analytical space that aims to uncover the hidden aspects of several dimensions. At the start, it was promising because it was going to bring everything closer, break borders, defeat intellectuals, end roles, intimidate politicians and mobilize for revolution. They are no longer sites for communicating as much as sites for connecting.
Communication has its basis and approaches where responsibility is a condition, and where parity among those present must exist for dialogue to be interactive. However, suggested formulas in the available applications are based on reviving all that has collapsed from social values, as dialogue has disappeared and the other’s existence is being cancelled.
Individuals have not been raised in a manner where they later acknowledge that other people around them are partners in dialogue, refining truth and nourishing meaning. The presence of others and its effect on individuals have been studied when analyzing human behavior.
The idea of “all” is essential in the individual’s behavior. Aristotle said: “For what appears to all, this we call being.” Heraclitus said: “The walking have one common world, but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own.” This matter was significant to Hegel.
There is a struggle over leadership among Arabs. This is why it is impossible to create a general space that enables people to freely and equally discuss ideas and visions.Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran
In his book “The Phenomenology of the Spirit,” he says the presence of others “is essential because understanding the self is only achieved through others by being open to them and overcoming isolation. One’s self can thus abandon isolation and become open to others to seize their recognition as a free and aware self. However, the self is faced with the obstacle of the other’s desire - the other has the same desire. This leads them to venture with their lives in a struggle that ends with one’s concession of his freedom.”
This controversy between the individual and others, and between an individual and another, is what causes controversy for people in cities and in gatherings that create societies. The self alone cannot create this emergence because values are not a selfish product or individualistic outcome. They are the outcome of controversy between a group of individuals.
In her book “The Human Condition,” Hannah Arendt said: “Values in distinction from things or deeds or ideas are never the product of a specific human activity, but come into being whenever any such products are drawn into the ever-changing relativity of exchange between the members of society. No one, as Marx confirmed and he’s right, produces values while he’s in isolation. He could’ve added that in isolation, no one even cares about these values. Ideas and ideals only become values when put within the context of social relations.”
The necessary presence of others is absent in Arab social reality and virtual reality. Individuals are in a constant struggle with each other. This state of rejecting others has increased on websites of social connection. The controversy among a group of individuals in society creates lively discussions and a huge existential understanding.
A person can only test himself and his values through others, because that is where he exists - with them. His presence is stronger and clearer with the presence of others. This is the nature of man’s presence.
A city can only be formed in its bright form by activating communication and general discussion, as these produce scientific meanings and social values. Communicating gains its value from the fact that it is a civil reaction to opinions - a reaction that is more civil from people in the past as they interacted with others through struggle and murder, particularly when they lived in the jungle. The presence of others thus becomes part of the city’s life.
The relations between millions of Muslims and Arabs through the modern tools of contact has not created any value worth mentioning, and has not expressed anything about their history that is rich in prestigious debate, serious dialogue and knowledge. Rather, they have dug up racial and sectarian matters that were long forgotten. Political affiliations became in control of approaches, debates and battles.
Struggles among different movements dominated the scene on these websites. These tools exposed the fragility of values, and showed how people deny the presence of those around them. They rejected the opinions of others that are worthy of discussing. These tools lost their civil characteristic. Tools of contact turned into tools for division, rejection and struggle.
All this shows that Arab societies are drowned in the notion of the self. This is why you see the desire to become a poet, muse or cleric in every Arab. You do not see the desire to become a debater or intellectual who spreads knowledge and philosophy.
There is a struggle over leadership among Arabs. This is why it is impossible to create a general space that enables people to freely and equally discuss ideas and visions. This is all due to ignorance. There are modern tools in our hands, but our feet are drowned in the mud of decadence.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 7, 2016.
Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.
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