The remembrance of things past is dominated by Proust, but cultures like China and its Confucian heritage along with Arabia and most of Africa still resolve themselves around a humanist grasp of memory.
The ‘East’ is known as a land long given to memory, it is there that the past is never forgotten, this is especially true of its landscape and architecture.
All of this is up for grabs given the reach that is gathering in the Arab Spring.
Perhaps Marshall McLuhan is correct when he denoted that the twin effects of electronic media were disruption and acceleration. We are witnessing the temporal acclaim of such ravage throughout the land of Arabia. Will it last?
Bernard Lewis was correct to admonish that throughout this region reign pro-American regimes with Anti-American populations and anti-American regimes with pro-American populations. A most difficult mix from which to discern geo-strategic trends.
How does one begin to wade through the mix and come out winning?
The Arab populations continued to reflect on political and social issues from within the arch that is Scripture. Prior to Bush’s Freedom Agenda, and the excursion of an American Imperium in Baghdad, the peoples and lands of Arabia had no other sources from which to inform any organization of themselves. Their political economy was hinged to revelation. The very concept of liberty and freedom was not historically amicable, even if anthropology remained so. The break with this past was ushered in by Bush, Cheney and the sons of liberty. But they entered a limited world of arranged resentments and shamata: a distinct Arabic sentiment of expressed power relations, whereby a sense of glee accompanies other’s misfortunes. September 11, 2001 was arranged, so they thought, and the Great Satan had gotten its comeuppance. bin Laden was viewed as an avenger, his population of admirers were victimized into feline submission: such political sentiments are perfectly accorded with a timelessness that arranged felt time and life by Allah. Finally, the scales were righted.
Missing from this schadenfreude is any historical reference worthy of being called historicism. For the war across the generations between secular fathers and Islamist children was really a harvest of their own history. As Dr. Fouad Ajami has recently written, “it was easier to believe that the Americans had willed those outcomes” than to honor and reflect the historical opening, the foreigner’s gift that became the Arab Spring. Could the son’s of Allah find the fortitude to discover the political and social opening from which to emerge a civil society?
The vast majority of western secular intellectuals had already given themselves over to cynicism: they would never believe that Bush and Cheney were right in their strategic calculations. There was no way of getting “politically conscious Arabs to accept responsibility for what had taken place on 9/11.” Until now.
With the defeat of the Sunni triangle under Petraeus, the surge ushered the defeat of intractable social, political pathologies that reigned since time immemorial.
Osama bin Laden got his American template from our time in Somalia under Clinton, the propaganda of North Vietnamese under Tet and Lebanon under Reagan. Such is the mystification that any militant ideology gives to perception. He never knew the transforming power of liberty, or the feigned madness of his adherents, they knew how to survive; he never calculated on Tunisia, Libya or Egypt, never mind the Alawites in Syria. What the sons of liberty did was to usher in a reversal fit for Sophocles. The Arab Spring is nothing more than an awakening that the scales of divine justice grounded in liberty is a gift even for the partisans of Allah. bin Laden never imagined an Islamic population rising up to end the demonic reign of tyrannical regimes.
What motivates them?
Perhaps the understanding that for far too long, those in the seat of power have robbed them of a chance to live a decent life! America held the line in the aftermath of 9/11. We have given the Arabs a chance to discover and make a future informed from a hard won harvest of their own history!