By Jama HersiEvery society, every culture wherever theypopulate in this cosmos, cherish certain values, certain social structures, certaincustoms that contribute to their collective experience of well-being. The tradition that I grew up with, nomadic – cherished gayaan, gabay, geel andgammaan. Cherishing these Somali metaphors might seem surreal shibboleths, but they constitute the highest being of cultured man. Deceitful benevolence and the yeast of modernity mediated by imperial hegemony, and its aftermath of Somali nationalism and statehood unsettled above traditions and substituted labour market, urbanisation, material wellbeing; in other words breaking down the traditional way of life and installing vague expectation and insatiable demands. So the question is, are there any values that our society cherish in these new social structures? Is there anything that if it is threatened, society will experience unease and react to, safeguarding their cherished values. In my opinion there is nothing that I can concretely say the contemporary Somali society cherish as their traditions, values or customs – even the most nonnegotiable constituent, religion endures contradictions and unsettlements in its role ofthe public sphere within learned scholars ofIslamic theology. One might say this epoch is an epoch of intellectual, emotional and cultural crisis in Somali society; another might call ‘experience ofindifference’; yet there is unease in Somali society’s consciousness as there is unspecified malaise,and cannot full-heartedly say it is merely in the realm of political, societal, religious, tribal or cultural crisis. Maybe the answer lies the disintegration of all above human institutions.
Monday, December 15, 2014
The tradition that I grew up with cherished peace as a prerequisite of human existence and destiny, and pursuedevery method that brings peace when threatened; but nowadays the absence of peace become indifferent experience - some might indeed appropriate violence as a way of dying with honour, while others acquire wealth as a result; and others climb higher status of militia, military or tribal institutions. Therefore perennial Somali conflicts regardless of theirgenesis translated one’s death meaningful.The conflicts somehow support economic, political, family, religious institutions rather than threatening them; and despite the presence of uneasiness and the disruption of our traditional social structures, appropriation of violence is produced and reproduced by victimseventually appearing as part of their quotidian experience. For the aforementioned reasons, we can say that there is nothing we cherish hence we are not losing anything as the result of conflict - experience of indifference.
Another misconception of this malaise: the experience of indifference, crisis in all social institution, is that people interpret these societal issues as personal problems. Indeed most of us lack the recognition of ‘bigger picture’ dislocating societal, historical and political life of Somali people, a misconception that compels individuals to seek solutions within their immediate relations, their immediate milieu connected to their personal experiences. This incomprehensible malaise that Somali society endure is not a private matter; it is not merely the disintegration of cherished values – family, religion, peace, benevolence; it is exterior and interior crisis of Somali people’s political, cultural, intellectual and emotional ingredients. It is crisis that transcends the arrangements of every institution, it is the ‘crisis of ambition’; it is crisis that is not yet appreciated in social, political and personal climate of contemporary Somali reality. May be Ernest Jones’s assertion is true that ‘man’s chief enemy and danger is his own unruly nature and dark forces pent up within him’.
There is another major problem that we as Somalis confront. Our past is interwoven into present, as we narrate past political memories and romanticise our political experienceof 1960s, while our present fades away in the constructionof the past memories to keep our strength for survival. This is what one might call historical meditation as indeed one learned Somali man once told me about an article published in the American mainstream printing media articulating an immediate maturity of Somali democracy in 1960s, where two elected Presidents and three Prime ministers successively held political premiership within seven years, juxtaposing some European countries led by military Generals at the time. This imagination of political maturity became permanent immaturity, consumption of political sickness, which inhibits the recognition of narcissisticdirection of our impulses thence negating any durable solution. Regardless of ourattempt to hold our heads up, it appears that of drowning man, our faces grimace as they are tortured by invisible forces. Where this invisible torturing force is coming from? Imperialism, tribalism, fanaticism, fetishism, historicism, egotism ……..?
Wherever this torturing force is coming from, it created experience of ‘sleepless night’, where one wishes to put that night behind him but without prospect of end or dawn, ever-living that empty tormented hours. This experience of sleepless night can also be the contraction of hours, restless rest, after hoping goodnight sleep that can bring succour. But before we know, we shall soon feel the violent shake of the morning, sleepless night de-compartmentalising our senseof temporality. Whatever experience our sleepless night brings, it squeezes past and future into present causing unendurable dread as the case might be in Somali political realm. Man’s life become lapsing into nothingness waking up daily as hours become seconds, inner experience doomed into oblivionfrom the cosmic affairs. This complete powerlessness is what mediates the dialectic negotiation of Somali feminine ferment and masculine melancholia.
If there are Somali cultural workmen, real men, their political and intellectual task is to articulate this malaise of indifference, this crisis of ambition, endeavouring transformation of our conditions, the nature of our society, and establishment of the aims of our life. If the real men possess spirited quality of mind,they will augment intellectual and political assurance of the society, they will address the crisis and the decadency in our thinking, they will reveal conscious contradictions in Somali man’s natureand they will confront theological, secular and ideologicalambivalent mimicry. In short real men will confront pretentious culture in our social institutions pioneering true framework of human destiny. This new dawn means forsakenness of catastrophic routines of indifference, pretentious sensibility, which only lead to escapism and obscurity of reality. This new dawn will be the end of confused convulsion in our society which no longer has the capacity of transforming futile nature of their social arrangementshitherto made them to live deceitful psychology or at best living in ‘Sly civility’ borrowing HomiBhabha’s vocabulary. However this new dawn seems to me a utopianfulfilment than ‘eternal peace’, but it at least beseeches an understanding of wider Somali realities, generating insightful form of self-consciousness.
However, fruitful form of self-consciousness can only be achievedin the cultivation of cultural strategy, political transformation and organic intellectual genre. Reawakening this revolutionary consciousness necessitate internal (psychic, affective) and external (political, institutional, governmental) reconfiguration. This organic approach organised by tactful Somali workmen solely guided by the nature of Somali people, without selling their labour, will inspire the people. This organic passion of Somali people is contrary to innumerable laymen’s expectation that magical external power will intervene our intimate constellations and remedy our rotten dysfunctional reality. The indication of this impossibility is evident in contemporary historical dimension of Somali conditions. May be stupidity become natural quality, rather than, as Adornoput it ‘socially produced and reinforced’. Or maybe we have to remember the Divine truth that Allah ‘does not unjustly ruin cities whose inhabitants are just’
Not that we require loud reminder of Chomsky’s ‘Reconstitution of Ideology’ which highlights western attitude of triumphalism and their depiction in an inherent backwardness of the ‘Other’. According to this doctrine, Somalis belong to the backward ‘other’, but Somalis might argue in their defence that they are merely pioneers of what is going to be known as ‘international anarchism’. They mightargue that they were not historically controlled by durable democratic system, thus lawful government become estrangement and unfulfilling experience. This pioneering project of anarchism in twenty-first century means to them a freedom from any authority and subservience to any leadership. In their defence, Somali people will also argue that the ‘Otherness’ is no longer semi-civilised, pathology of the world hence civilised people are lavishly embracing backward traditions renouncing what they disingenuously called unchallengeable doctrine: democracy, rule of law, equality, liberty, human rights. Since the orchestration of ‘war on terror’ project, civilised giants, Christendom and Orient are back in action. Of course the narcissism and senselessness of ‘war on terror’ enterprise created neurotic fascination and resuscitation of colonial racial hygiene. One of the exemplary enterprise of international anarchism is the detainees held in Cuban Camp, denying any legal assistance. Insidiousness of this international anarchism was that detainees were not criminals to be judged in the court of law, nor prisons of war but ‘battlefield detainees’ and ‘enemy combatant’.
Manufacturing these new metaphors, paralegal categories, or as Adorno put it ‘linguistic formula for usurpation’, are new ways of searching freedom from conventional norms, which created civilisation that they claim. In other words, the declaration of the endorsement of international anarchism departuring moral and legal rules that partially governed what they called unchallengeable doctrine. International anarchism reconstitutes historical hegemonic ideology coining figural language and representational tropes facilitating the erasure of international law, on one hand, and its grandest aggression, on the other; harnessing senseless domination and destruction of life. If the civilisation does not promote restraining of influence, then civilisation decays and natural disposition of state will be the negation and antithesis of human species. In short international anarchism is new form of freedom for the ‘Other’ and new form of‘Marshal Law’ for the civilised.Who said that we moved away from Hegel’s dialectic relationship of the master and the servant?If it is not Hegelian dialectics, it is new global order. Global order that intensifies the process of change for the benefits of conglomerated corporations and western hegemonic concept of globalisation. If there was structural relationship in Hegelian dialectics, this supremacy of global order has no fixed identification, deterritorialising human traditions and norms, and legitimating economic dimension of human life for supranational networks. This new phenomenon is not about military, economic or technological supremacy, it is about ‘Englishisation’ of human experience, ‘linguistic imperialism’ manipulating opinions and discourses of human psyche,which is critical aspect in this new social order.
When the civilisation decays, there is no criterion between civilised and uncivilised, there is no distinction between good and evil, between truth and falsehood, diminishing the aims of human existence. Indeed we do not need reminiscence of decayed civilisations. Greek civilisation: the birth place of famous philosophers, poets and scientists – the fountain-heads of all creative artistry. The intellectual refinement of poetry, drama, science of government, highest expression of human ingenuity, is what we associate with this ancient civilisation. One might say, as one Islamic scholar put it ‘Greeks knew everything except themselves’. Thence it is not a caricature if we say the western Enlightenment achieved everything except knowing itself. What about the Roman civilisation? Intellectual and political heirs of Greeks, and even outshined in the realm of governance, constitution-making, political administration and strategies of warfare. Its glory days, nothing could equal for their political and military might. Persian civilisation is significantly worth mentioning too, where Persian nobles, their gold coins, embellished dress, household adornment and extreme luxury werethe characteristics of this civilisation. However all these civilisations become stagnated in every aspects of their existence, as they all failed one thing:nourishing moral and spiritual infrastructure of human-being, becoming slaves of their desires. This is indeed short-comings of any human endeavourinformed merely by book-learning guidance, even in its highest expression of human ingenuity. What about the people who achieved civilisation through piety and purity, through the knowledge of God, where everyone was touched by the teaching Prophets of God, and their teaching enabled their followers to triumph in different continents, reaching highest pinnacle of humanity. But Arabs knew well what made their civilisation, unlike European civilisations, was not spectacular human ingenuity, but religious ordinationrevealed on them. When they neglected religion, according to IbnKhaldun’sMuqaddimah (1370) ‘they become once again as savages they had been before’ from Bedouin to Prophethood to caliphs succeeding one after another to dynasties in Muslim world to savages.
May be I am depicting miserable portrait concerning Somali reality, but Adorno reminds us ‘despair has the accent of irrevocability not because things cannot improve, but because it draws the past too into its vortex’. Another way of critiquing my account is that I am imagining hopelessness without reporting any mechanism of harmony regarding contemporary Somali political and social reality. But I can say with conviction that I am not obsessed with ancestral customs, advocating to rediscoverutopian days, nor am I subscribing readymade remedial procedure from modernity shelf, but what I am attempting to do is to challenge the predominant paradigms that either romanticise the status quo as a milestone or paint incurable Somali political picture. I want to create a discourse of realisation of our malaise, resuscitation of our soulsand resistance of the status quo; a discourse owned by Somali natives which shakes living lies and goes beyond façade of bourgeoisie representation. If we aspire to learn from the past and shape our future, indeed the ingenuity of Malcolm X was both inhibitory and stimulating. He chose the letter X signifying genealogical, historical and cultural absence. At the same time the letter X symbolises indefinite future, fresh start against the grain, counteracting the imperial discourse on one hand, and cultivating topography of resistance, on the other.
However, unlike my articulation, beseeching complete mental transformation on how Somalis see their painful reality, many might romanticise the desperate measures that Somali people were adopting for the last quarter-of-century to survive; or as many copyrighted ‘kind of inevitable fate, fortune, or destiny’. But for me, this is classical example of experience of indifference, normalisation of hopelessness; alas normalisation that is synonymous to complete despair. This is the position of innumerable commentators of Somali affairs, whomoralise opportunistic strategies concerning how people can endure current turbulences, rather than dissecting how the people came to this painful situation, and most importantly, how we can break this cleverly constructed cycle. These opportunistic commentators are both foreigners and natives. Foreign commentators create a picture of Somali triumphalismhypnotising his or her audiences with colourful linguistics of usurpation, which immediately becomes worthless ‘collection of dead words’. Although this illusion uplifts some naïve needy souls, but instantaneously vanishes in the air, because it does not address the concrete issues that the people confront daily. In relation to native commentators, the modernity had hammered incompatible values and vocabularies into their minds and become uncritical mouthpiece of bourgeoisie principles. Unfortunately when the native commentators come to Somali gatherings and try to test their implanted civilisation, they discover the falseness of their epistemological agenda, and thence destruction of their egotistical journey; if they are lucky fellow-nationals might organise an exorcism ceremony for them.Nevertheless opportunistic commentators manoeuvre and mutate, theirexpectation isthe continuation of the status quo, unchanging practice of pillage, while Somalis are just dreading to pass the known future. Without engagement of these real issues, we will merely reinforce the contradiction that exist in the affirmation of denial, on one hand, and willingness to live, on the other; contradiction that is inconsistentwithanystable psychology of human existence.
Psychoanalytic commentator might suggest that the proportion of terror experienced by Somalis is beyond reversible and unsurprisingly the outcome became free of fear, as our experience of terror is not perceived as terror but directly registers in our consciousness and creates indifferent experience. In other words terror and catastrophe become formless familiarity in the psychology of Somali people. I will add onething; I do not see any emancipation from the current turbulences without collective participation in the prognosis of our conditions. During the process of this collective prognosis, Rumi’s words of wisdom are quite spiritual that we as humans ‘are like a raindrop which falls from the sky upon the clay roof of this world, and rushes around for a while and then disappears out of the gutter. Finally you spread your wings and leave this world, a wonder, true miracle it is which path you leave this world’.