Modernity: A Metamorphosis! (2024)

From: nael_shama@yahoo.com
Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2006 05:29:45 -0800 (PST)
Dear friends,
Kindly find below an article I wrote entitled ?Modernity: A Metamorphosis!? The article starts with referring to Egyptian bloggers and their wide coverage of the sexual harassment events that occurred downtown Cairo and ends with the way prominent political sociologist Burhan Ghaliun views the fate of modernity in the Arab world.
The article was published last Thursday in the Egyptian Gazette. Feedback is welcomed.

Best regards

Yours,
Nael

Nael M. Shama
PhD Candidate
School of International Relations
University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom

Modernity: A Metamorphosis!
Nael M. Shama
Truth about the collective sexual harassment incident that took place in downtown Cairo during the feast vacation owes most of its publicity to Egyptian bloggers. Most probably, if it were not for their persistent and uncompromising efforts, an account of what happened would have evaded the records of history, and remained uncovered permanently. Certainly, the ultra-passivity of victims, the shameful docility of passersby, and the unceasing denial of authorities guaranteed similar past occurrences such an unpleasant - and unjust - fate. But bloggers threw their dice this time; the rules of the game changed thereafter.
Bloggers? extensive coverage of the horrendous events raised awareness among Egypt?s populace of the ugly phenomenon, and pushed intellectuals to ponder about what happened, why it happened and how it can be avoided in the future. At the same time, the issue moved to the forefront of the mainstream media, which was obviously keen not to be outbid by the newcomers to business. Even the traditionalist Ministry of Interior felt compelled to issue a statement after about ten days of complete silence.
Blogs, loosely defined as personal diaries posted on the internet, started in the second half of the 1990s and have grown rapidly over the past few years. By November 2006, the number exceeded sixty million blogs worldwide. It is estimated that 75,000 new blogs pop up every day. In Egypt, the blogospehere expanded to reach three thousand blogs thus far, and is on the rise. Many of these are politically-oriented; monitoring elections, covering demonstrations and defaming the heavyweights of the government is their daily routine.
So, as much as technology - the product of the modern age - helped authoritarian regimes bolster their more often than not precarious rule, it has proved to be an effective tool in the hands of their powerless opponents as well. Popular movements, political opposition and dissidents of all sorts and orientations made use of almost each new invention introduced to advance their cause among masses and triumph over their rivals. In some cases, the power of technology was, in fact, momentous.
For example, in the late 1970s, and by virtue of the proliferation of radio cassettes, Imam Khomeini?s sermons, then in indefinite exile in Paris, found their way to thousands of zealous Iranians, and prompted them to defy the existing corrupt order and wage a much unanticipated revolution that changed the face of Iran and the region a few months later. Khomeini and his clique shrewdly harnessed the power of the new invention to tilt the internal balance in favor of the anti-Shah forces and pave the way for the final march towards freedom and emancipation.
One decade later, the rise in the use of fax machines left its print on Chinese politics. Horrified by the brutal handling of the students? protests that took place in the spring and summer of 1989, particularly in the Tiananmen Square, Chinese activists sent their accounts of the events in faxes to the large Chinese community in the United States, which in turn leaked them to the international press, whose coverage of the events was severely restricted after the totalitarian Chinese government banned the foreign press. The frenzy showed that the iron curtain imposed since the Maoist revolution was in some spots thinner than silk, thanks of course to the discovery of fax machines, an important leap in the production and distribution of information technology.
Information technologies have grown more sophisticated and widely available by the 1990s. In the Arab world, the introduction of the satellite technology and the mushrooming of pan-Arab channels played into the hands of political opposition. The Internet had admittedly quite a similar effect. Since the new sources of information are largely uncontrolled by governments, the monopoly of the state?s version became, for wide segments of the population, something of the past. Opponents - the majority of whom strive to advocate the values of pluralism and human rights against all odds - now have the opportunity to defy the governments? logic, reveal their ever-hidden evil practices and even mobilize oppressed populations against tyrant regimes. The influential role played by Arab channels in exposing Israel?s crimes and agitating Arab anger may explain, at least partially, why some Arab regimes were forced to alter their initial stance vis-?-vis the Israeli war on Lebanon last
summer.
The prominent Syrian thinker Burhan Ghaliun, Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Sorbonne, has coined the term ?Distorted Modernity?, with which he referred to the status the project of modernity has attained in the Arab world. This miserable outcome was produced by, among other conditions, the practices of Arab regimes that - in their blind quest for power and survival - used the products of the modern age to combat the theoretical tenets of modernity, such as democracy, liberty and equality. Today, a stunning fa?ade of modernity exists in the land of Arabs: elections are held as regular as a Swiss watch, parliaments are convened uninterruptedly, modern systems of administration are widely-used and hi-tech products are in everyone?s hands. But in essence, the core values of modernity, like political participation, the rule of law, and the triumph of reason, are conspicuously lacking. Tyranny is, therefore, re-produced and true emancipation is forever
elusive. As such, the Arabs? version of modernity is, in effect, anti-modernity, a deformed adaptation of what Western modernity truly is.
Nevertheless, and in light of the extensive employment of state of the art inventions in the service of noble ?modern? notions, one can perhaps devise an antithetical term to ?Distorted Modernity?, such as ?Pristine Modernity?, a term that denotes how far the horizontal stretch of technology can aid in the social and political development of peoples. Such a term would only realize life in the Arab world, however, if real progress is accomplished on the ground, something Egyptian bloggers are apparently adamant to make true.

Nael M. Shama

__________________________________________________
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Dear friends,

Kindly find below an article I wrote entitled ?Modernity: A Metamorphosis!? The article starts with referring to Egyptian bloggers and their wide coverage of the sexual harassment events that occurred downtown Cairo and ends with the way prominent political sociologist Burhan Ghaliun views the fate of modernity in the Arab world.

The article was published last Thursday in the Egyptian Gazette. Feedback is welcomed.

Best regards

Yours,

Nael

Nael M. Shama

PhD Candidate

School of International Relations

University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom style="COLOR: black; mso-bidi-language: AR-DZ">

style="FONT-SIZE: 16pt; LINE-HEIGHT: 150%">Modernity: A Metamorphosis!

Nael M. Shama

Truth about the collective sexual harassment incident that took place in downtown

Cairo

during the feast vacation owes most of its publicity to Egyptian bloggers. Most probably, if it were not for their persistent and uncompromising efforts, an account of what happened would have evaded the records of history, and remained uncovered permanently. Certainly, the ultra-passivity of victims, the shameful docility of passersby, and the unceasing denial of authorities guaranteed similar past occurrences such an unpleasant - and unjust - fate. But bloggers threw their dice this time; the
rules of the game changed thereafter.

Bloggers? extensive coverage of the horrendous events raised awareness among

Egypt

?s populace of the ugly phenomenon, and pushed intellectuals to ponder about what happened, why it happened and how it can be avoided in the future. At the same time, the issue moved to the forefront of the mainstream media, which was obviously keen not to be outbid by the newcomers to business. Even the traditionalist Ministry of Interior felt compelled to issue a statement after about ten days of complete silence.

Blogs, loosely defined as personal diaries posted on the internet, started in the second half of the 1990s and have grown rapidly over the past few years. By November 2006, the number
exceeded sixty million blogs worldwide. It is estimated that 75,000 new blogs pop up every day. In

Egypt

, the blogospehere expanded to reach three thousand blogs thus far, and is on the rise. Many of these are politically-oriented; monitoring elections, covering demonstrations and defaming the heavyweights of the government is their daily routine.

So, as much as technology - the product of the modern age - helped authoritarian regimes bolster their more often than not precarious rule, it has proved to be an effective tool in the hands of their powerless opponents as well. Popular movements, political opposition and dissidents of all sorts and orientations made use of almost each new invention introduced to advance their cause among masses and triumph over their rivals.
In some cases, the power of technology was, in fact, momentous.

For example, in the late 1970s, and by virtue of the proliferation of radio cassettes, Imam Khomeini?s sermons, then in indefinite exile in

Paris

, found their way to thousands of zealous Iranians, and prompted them to defy the existing corrupt order and wage a much unanticipated revolution that changed the face of

Iran

and the region a few months later. Khomeini and his clique shrewdly harnessed the power of the new invention to tilt the internal balance in favor of the anti-Shah forces and pave the way for the final march towards freedom and emancipation.

One decade later, the rise in the use of fax machines
left its print on Chinese politics. Horrified by the brutal handling of the students? protests that took place in the spring and summer of 1989, particularly in the Tiananmen Square, Chinese activists sent their accounts of the events in faxes to the large Chinese community in the United States, which in turn leaked them to the international press, whose coverage of the events was severely restricted after the totalitarian Chinese government banned the foreign press. The frenzy showed that the iron curtain imposed since the Maoist revolution was in some spots thinner than silk, thanks of course to the discovery of fax machines, an important leap in the production and distribution of information technology.

Information technologies have grown more sophisticated and widely available by the 1990s. In the Arab world, the introduction of
the satellite technology and the mushrooming of pan-Arab channels played into the hands of political opposition. The Internet had admittedly quite a similar effect. Since the new sources of information are largely uncontrolled by governments, the monopoly of the state?s version became, for wide segments of the population, something of the past. Opponents - the majority of whom strive to advocate the values of pluralism and human rights against all odds - now have the opportunity to defy the governments? logic, reveal their ever-hidden evil practices and even mobilize oppressed populations against tyrant regimes. The influential role played by Arab channels in exposing Israel?s crimes and agitating Arab anger may explain, at least partially, why some Arab regimes were forced to alter their initial stance vis-?-vis the Israeli war on Lebanon last summer.

The prominent Syrian
thinker Burhan Ghaliun, Professor of Political Sociology at the

University of Sorbonne

, has coined the term ?Distorted Modernity?, with which he referred to the status the project of modernity has attained in the Arab world. This miserable outcome was produced by, among other conditions, the practices of Arab regimes that - in their blind quest for power and survival - used the products of the modern age to combat the theoretical tenets of modernity, such as democracy, liberty and equality. Today, a stunning fa?ade of modernity exists in the

land of Arabs

: elections are held as regular as a Swiss watch, parliaments are convened uninterruptedly, modern systems of administration are widely-used and hi-tech products are in everyone?s hands. But in essence, the core values of modernity, like political
participation, the rule of law, and the triumph of reason, are conspicuously lacking. Tyranny is, therefore, re-produced and true emancipation is forever elusive. As such, the Arabs? version of modernity is, in effect, anti-modernity, a deformed adaptation of what Western modernity truly is.

Nevertheless, and in light of the extensive employment of state of the art inventions in the service of noble ?modern? notions, one can perhaps devise an antithetical term to ?Distorted Modernity?, such as ?Pristine Modernity?, a term that denotes how far the horizontal stretch of technology can aid in the social and political development of peoples. Such a term would only realize life in the Arab world, however, if real progress is accomplished on the ground, something Egyptian bloggers are apparently adamant to make true.

Nael M. Shama

__________________________________________________
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Modernity: A Metamorphosis! (2024)
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