Published : Wednesday, 2 August, 2017 at 12:00 AM Count : 2801
Hisham M Nazer
I am not completely aware of the impact Edward W Said has on western scholarship in recent days, but in the theoretical world of South-Asia since the 2000s, Said has become 'the new craze'. One of the reasons is that he has given the people of the east an intellectual occasion to talk about the occident. Said has talked about orientalism, its historical background and the point and place of its social origin as well. He has used Gramsci, Foucault, Flaubert, Disraeli and Balzac to prove his point that the oriental people, or people who belong to countries that were once western colonies, need to be aware of this subtle operation of the west that aims at sabotaging the image of 'supposedly' less civilized inferior nations. Their objective, as generally believed by post-colonial theorists, is to show others in unfavorable light because by doing so; they hope to flaunt racial and civilizational superiority which in turn may help them to have "flexible positional advantage, which puts the Westerner in a whole series of possible relationships with the east without ever losing him the relative upper hand." According to Earnest Renan, a very renowned French philologist and historian, "Every person, however slightly he may be acquainted with the affairs of our time, sees clearly the actual inferiority of Mohammedan countries." The 'civilizationally superior' nations in certain forms from certain corners still echo Renan's 'belief'. As a result, today, naturally, the prime targets of western politico-cultural drones are the totalitarian societies mostly found in the middle-eastern countries along with those that are mapped in the far eastern regions, most surprisingly because of the craze and credibility of modern democracy.
Said observes: "In any society not totalitarian, then, certain cultural forms predominate, over others, just as certain ideas are more influential than others; the form of this cultural leadership is what Gramsci has identified as hegemony, an indispensable concept for any understanding of cultural life in the industrial West." To approach an accepted reality of democracy -- the obvious opposite of totalitarianism -- ensures equal rights for everyone and that is why there is inequality in the society, since by dint of the thesis perpetuated without any sort of supervision, every individual or group attempts to rise in the chain and eventually makes the society a place of unfair contests and finally a place with people having unequal power. A totalitarian government hypothetically can force one particular mode of culture on everyone and that can make all the people, if involuntarily, equal. It can thwart ideologies, which intend to serve the interests of a particular few, from sprouting out from the uncharted peripheries of a country and preserve the seriousness of a single cultural mode that solely aims at keeping social harmony. But one might ask: what is the guarantee that a totalitarian government will be a good government? If we ask this, then we must ask this too: since region-specific necessity is a reality, what is the guarantee that a democratic government of a powerful country, which wants to enforce democracy in 'reportedly' uncivilized foreign lands, is a good government? The pride, which grows out of this ability to conceive a singularly tremendous idea that democracy is, avoids all sorts of investigation and consideration; it overlooks details and, like I have said above, regional necessities, and most surprisingly it happens to slight the concept of context. The pride more often than not is so strong that if anything goes at odd with the idea of 'equal rights', some of the western offices, with all their liberal thoughts and philosophies that support individuality, have not ever hesitated to label it wrong. An enterprising global democracy that diminishes boundaries, procures free-transits with friendly pacts and treaties, and advertises a liberal humanitarian cause is made so popular, and it is almost hegemonies in such a way, that any political, cultural intervention (read- invasion) in the name of civilization and enlightenment is readily accepted, supported and even endorsed by the intellectual world, and greedily welcomed by the colonial Indian zamindars of modern day: the businessmen. This new meta-world, which is a playground for western policy-makers to experiment and achieve power of abstract -- and hence more menacing -- kind, has been created by western developers, and this world now shelters people with no identity, no history and as a result with no future. The power is abstract because it does not attempt to acquire immediate raw resources; it is no longer even like A. Pope's game of chess. Its abstract qualities lie in its abstract operations through abstract media. It has become a game of misrepresentation. Whoever misrepresents the most, wins. The only move allowed in this game is 'false move' that for a moment gives the losing opponent a sense of progression and prosperity. Although Said's line of argument and his focus, which he honestly feared might give a partial impression about his concern, have this theoretical ambiguity that has the potential to mislead one into believing that his is a well-researched anti-west philosophy, but it is quite clear to a mature reader of Said that he merely wants us to ask ourselves one question: how well do we know ourselves? Unless we know the answer to this question, it is now well understood that to survive in this world that has become a huge market with contending super-shops, powerful countries like England, France and America will naturally use our own ignorance about ourselves against us, because that is exactly what easterners too would do, if they had the upper hand; if they had Occidentalized the west. It is really time to think whether Bangladesh can play any major role in the scene; it is time to revise what we have done so far in 46 years, in order to know what our real context is, and then find what fits us better- enlightened 'totalitarianism' or merely the 'democratic' title?
Hisham M Nazer, Lecturer Department of English, Varendra University