Amid the chaos governing the world, a generation that lived through the Cold War is still alive thanks to better awareness in the importance of preventive health. This generation longs to an era, which was governed by two international giants that cancelled politics and managed the world through the balance of nuclear terror.
America and Red Russia possessed thousands of nuclear rockets, which were capable of destroying life on earth several times. However, they did not have the courage to press the launch button. Inside their secret rooms of diplomacy, they found an art for settlement and co-existence and there was thus no need for the violent war.
The Cold War cancelled politics. Diplomacy became an elitist art to make mutual concessions. The international giants neutralized the leaders of the non-aligned movement. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Josip Broz Tito, Gamal Abdelnasser and Sukarno became the leaders of “positive neutrality.”
They made many statements but they didn’t achieve anything. The two giants owned the world and allowed these leaders to govern people with an iron and authoritarian fist. They controlled people’s protests as they voiced anger against the two giants. People then returned home without being chaotic. Today, however, there is massive chaos that raises concern over our fate and fear of terrorism.
The generation of the Cold War found solace in the American popular culture, which was spread by Hollywood’s Jews. Lazy young men dressed like Marlon Brando and loved like Clark Gable. Brigitte Bardot became the cover girl. Meanwhile, there was significant literary and intellectual momentum. Marxist thinkers created to billions of humans a rosy dream that is void of politics and money. Capitalist thinkers responded by criticizing the Marxist experience which turned Karl Marx’s and Vladimir Lenin’s revolutionaries into governmental employees working for Joseph Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev.
The cultural dialogue which marked the era of the Cold War created a political and social ideology that’s read with great interest. Right-wing and leftist intellectuals were categorized separately particularly in terms of their dialogue about important social and political matters. The most important issue was faith in the possibility of achieving social justice via equality from within and equal job opportunities.
This intellectual wealth was not separate from the intellect of the era of modernity, which was interested in liberation, not in freedom and its democratic mechanism. It focused on eliminating the last remnants of the colonial era and on studying the society’s rights and the state’s duties towards it. The novels of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Thomas Mann and Ernest Hemingway touched on political and social matters.
On the Arabic level, Arab societies gained their independence during the era of the Cold War. The independent regimes got preoccupied with education and the anthem’s music and with bragging about national sovereignty and achieving the nation of national unity. The failure of a unified nationalistic project produced deep intellectual dialogues about the reasons of defeat against Israel. At the forefront was the responsibility of the Arab system and not the democracy of nationalistic and communist parties and movements.
Amid the current cultural and political chaos, we find intellectual void and Arabic and global incapability to create a new intellectual culture to the postmodern world and that’s equal to existentialism, structuralism and deconstruction which inspired the era of the Cold War. Marxism no longer inspires political thought. The theory of equal opportunities and economic equality among people in terms of resources, income and work collapsed. There’s nothing left of Marxism except its outstanding ability for political analysis which is adopted by right-wing and leftist authors to explain what’s socially and politically happening.
Islamizing the Arab system coincided with the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Marxist state and the tough financial crises which capitalist states suffered from. Yes, the Arab Islamized system managed to undermine the terrorism of the first Afghani wave which thought was capable of toppling the system. The Arab Islamized system also toppled the “infidel” community regime in Afghanistan.
This slow system is currently engaged in a war which has been dubbed “a war against terrorism.” It’s participating in this war alongside Europe and the US. The bitter irony in this bloody confrontation is embodied in the capability of the ISIS state to recruit 100,000 terrorists who were affected by the ISIS and al-Qaeda culture which was produced by religious references in Islamic societies.
Giving the Arab uprising an ISIS-like character and its brutality to deal with itself and its people prevented the emergence of a single novelist to immortalize it in an epic work or the emergence of a great poet like Ahmed Shawqi, Nizar Kabbani and Mahmoud Darwish who followed up on the wave of Arab struggles and independences during the 20th century.
The European intellectual void during the postmodern era failed to produce authors as great as Arthur Miller, Samuel Beckett, Bernard Shaw and Albert Camus who criticized and discussed political and social matters and mocked them. Beckett’s soft symbolism in his play Waiting for Godot saved him from suffering a fate similar to that of Indian-British author Salman Rushdie who still has a security team ever since a fatwa (religious edict) that permits killing him was issued by Khomeini who did not even read his works.
Since I occupy a geographic space in this world, I have a cynical desire that I must give it up for new generations which increase by an extra 1 billion every 50 years.
The reason behind my noble desire to abandon “this rental space” is the massive chaos and its leaders like Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Putin thinks Russia lost the Cold War without using its right in firing one bullet or a nuclear rocket and must thus avenge from the shaken capitalist world. Trump wants to avenge from globalization which liberalism produced and which awarded the brown worker in the developing world at the expense of the white worked who is unemployed in the richer part of the world.
Actually, this liberalism which put its trillions in the state now controls the world which is governed by a secret government of businessmen, banks and wealthy people. Meanwhile it manages its financial and economic crises at the expense of broke tax payers and miserable workers who, for instance, work at fabric factories which have bad ventilation and chains so they don’t escape when a fire breaks out.
The current global chaos may be an introduction to civil and religious regional wars in Europe, to political assassinations, (Russian research centers predict that the governing American institution will assassinate Trump) and to a new form of terrorism that is practiced by these chaotic generations which are deprived of capitalism’s pleasures.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Ghassan Imam is a Syrian journalist and writer.