Article written by Mohammad Khair Nahhas, member of “Mouwatinoun wa Mouwatinat fi Dawla” and published on June 17 2020
Our society is suffocating, and we need to intervene collectively and immediately.
Individualism can only be experienced within the context of the collective through exchange and transformation. Here, we mean by exchange and transformation as the exchange of thoughts, ideas, and experiences that makes the individual aware of him/her-self. Therefore, to live a fruitful and inspirational life, the individual needs the collective as a reflective and stimulant medium. However, the collective cannot exist without the individuals, not only individuals from a biological point of view to act as mere consumers and tax payers, rather, individuals who are autonomous, free, and self-aware. Hence, enriching society through creativity, diversity, and plurality. This transformative exchange between the individual and the collective in a healthy diverse society helps sustain an environment of peace, creativity, and progress .
Various questions arise due to this paradox: where does the collective start and stop, what does individual freedom mean, and who sets the frame of interaction between the two entities?
Throughout history different ideas on how society should be organized have been developed, one of them is the state. They have had different structures, different life span, and different historical context. Within these structures various political, societal and economical classes enjoyed and attained different rights and freedoms. Eventually, a state represents a form of compromise between the different classes on how resources and surplus would be distributed among them. The state, therefore, develops various authoritative arms that restrict individual and collective freedoms in order to sustain the compromise. However, the compromise was not necessarily reached peacefully, nor it is eternal because the individual is in a continuous struggle with the authority to attain more responsibilities and freedoms fulfilling the higher goal of self-determination. Nonetheless, the individual single-handedly never succeeded in either constraining the state’s authority or adapting it to the evolving reality. On the contrary, the individual always succeeded when he/she fought collectively, demonstrating a clear example of collaboration, exchange, and transformation.
So, where does our society stand regarding the aforementioned description?
Our society – mainly due to the incompetent ruling class and their supporting cast on the one hand, and due to the society retreating from the political sphere on the other hand – is on the intensive care unit suffering from lack of freedom, oppression and repression, pollution, malnutrition, and division.
Repression and oppression are two very violent experiences that act on multiple visible and invisible levels. On the household level, they have devastating effects on the family’s weak members, especially children. On the state level, uncontested state oppression has dangerous implications on the society, such as the restriction of freedom and the deterioration of exchange and transformation. These kinds of oppression interact with each other, trickling down to the sole individual, whom is put under insane amount of stress and forced torepress his/her own emotions.
The important question that one can ask is, what implications do repressed emotions have?
In our society where lack of freedom, whether it is freedom of expression, freedom of movement, or freedom of political participation pushes individuals to repress their own emotions of frustration and anger generated by the sustained deterioration of the environmental, economical, and societal realms. This has devastating effects on the individual as well as the society. On the one hand, the individual tends to unconsciously unload these repressed emotions towards others by being aggressive and by seeking authority, which can be correlated to unconscious fear, isolation, and anxiety the individual is experiencing. Therefore, to run away from the chronic dis-stress and dis-ease that the society is daily confronting, the individual would engage in addictive behaviours as explained by the Gabor Mate in his work, In the realm of hungry ghosts . For Mate, addiction is not restricted to its traditional paradigm of substance abuse, it is expanded to cover material accumulation, food over-consumption, and any other recurring behavior that gives the individual temporal satisfaction leading mostly to a negative blow back. In addition, sustained repression and trauma affect the health of the individuals by hindering their immune system. Thus, having a higher chance of becoming chronically ill as demonstrated by Gabor Mate and Alice Miller in their books, When the body says no , and, The Drama of a Gifted Child , respectively.
We also live in one of the most polluted countries in the region, whether it is air, water, soil, or noise pollution. All these factors affect our quality of life and our social security.
This combination of a compromised immune system due to the different states of repression and oppression, and pollution with its different faces is one of the major reasons why our cognitive health, emotional health, and physical health are deteriorating. This means that our current socio-economical-political structure that runs on the ideology of divide and conquer is ruining our society, our environment, and our health by looting our resources and redistributing them to benefit the few.
We tried to illustrate briefly the condition in which the individual human being in our society is at.
What can we do?
First, we need to open our eyes and hearts to the harsh and dangerous reality of our society and acknowledge, that our salvation can be only achieved collectively, by building trust and listening with openness to one another for the first time.
This is not an easy task, it requires sacrifice, dedication, and a vision. It also forces us to reattain two vital aspects of the human nature, imagining and dreaming – individually as well as collectively. These fundamental aspects – that were taken from us by alienating us from each other and by reducing us to mere consumers and numbers on lists – are the corner stones for building a better future. They help us envision a different world than the one we live in and help us transcend our suffering.
Where can we start?
The first step as the historian Rashid Khalidi illustrates , goes like this:
We need to stop looking at communities on our left and on our right to blame them for our misfortune and suffering. What we really need to do, is it to look upwards and inwards. We need to look upwards, towards the power brokers the local ones and the regional/international ones to question their legitimacy and to expose their atrocities. We need to look inwards, towards ourselves to heal ourselves from the past that we still carry its burden and acknowledge our wrongdoings towards ourselves and towards our fellow communities. In this way only, we can re-build trust and re-establish solidarity between each other that is preciously needed in this moment of suffering to overcome fear. The fear from each other that has been injected into this society and into this region to benefit the few.
We MwMfD, reiterate our call that the current suffering is not our fate and that we can change it by establishing a Civil State that is strong and just. Hence, establishing a non-violent, free, and inclusive environment to stimulate exchange and development at the individual level as well as at the collective level. That being said, individuals in the society must reattain their freedom to think critically to question the narratives that were consumed blindly to maintain a certain power structure. This is the first step individuals should take in order to transcend their relationship with the state from passive beneficiaries – due to the patronage system – to citizens, politically active influencing collectively their surrounding.