The Charlie Ebdo affair and the Rise&fall of empires

13 Jan

There is an issue I am having with myself when it comes to writing about current affairs when it involves Muslims. Things like Charlie Ebdo are so big that as a blog person (I can’t bring myself to call myself a blogger yet) to not comment is blog suicide. Going by this, my months of silence when there has been much material to write about is something that needs to be addressed.

Of course part of this is just that people are great at writing brilliant articles that make me feel no need to add to the debate when I feel they’ve got it down. Another thing though. I’ve said it before and it hasn’t gone away: This resentment at having to react to these events, often awful, always on the defensive. There are plenty of muslims and non-muslims who bring real thoughtfullness to the debate, in this case, realising that there is enough nuance in language for one to utterly condemn the murders while also not aligning themselves with a rascist publication for the sake of a hashtag. We need these thoughtful voices and more power to them. But still I resent it. It is constant and never-ending. The calls for Muslims to condemn, take responsibilty explict or implicitly become stronger everytime. It marks our social media and  our discussions and the way we engage with the world. It marks our lives. These are no longer one-offs, this is a theme, a thread becoming more and more exposed.

This is probably the only time in my life I can pretend to be highbrow, but I found my solution to this problem in philosophy. I came across a brief description of Ibn Khaldun’s changing fate of kingdoms, an explanation on why empires rise and fall. To summarise: All civilisations go through a cycle of conquest, decay and reconquest. They arise frome a simple and forceful beginning, develop to an optimal point, and then corrode and decline.This is categerised by five stages: 1. Establishement: group solidarity based on ties of religion and family, 2. The ruler of the group monopolises power and can build a well-ordered state,  3. Luxury and leisure, economic prosperity where men enjoy the comfort and pleasures of the world, self-indulgence, 4. The stage of contentment, satiation, and complacency, and so the state already starts to decline and disintegrate, and finally 5. The last stage of wasteful extravagance and decline. The habits of comfort and luxury have resulted in weakness and vice, and they can no longer defend themselves from a new young healthy group still in stage 1 and so the cycle begins again. This is history: Cyclical development. I really recommend you read up on it. I realise you will then discover I summarised it terribly but I accept this painful sacrifice for your noble pursuit of knowledge.

All societies, states, cities, economies and cultural endevours are caught in this cycle. I find comfort in this. We muslims, as a religion or a culture or a society, just happen to be in this state of disintegration. This is why everything seems to be going wrong for us. That doesn’t sound terribly comforting I know. But it is, because at least I can accept it. I can stop asking why and stop feeling so resentful. Life is ebbs and flows, and we are in the ebb. I can stop wondering why the incredible efforts by those who are wise seem to rarely be making a difference to the discourse or to reality. We are just in the ebb but an ebb will eventually turn into a flow. Maybe knowing this, we can stop being so disappointed when we do not see immediate changes and we are having the same conversations over and over again. Maybe also, it’s a reassurance that we don’t always need to be so anxious, like there is something that we’ve forgotten to say that will make everything better. Why do we need to when this is just a reflection of the times we are in rather than any real reflection of who we are in essence? I think, for me at least, being able to separate reality and truth to discourse and culture, is fundemental. I seek truth and reality, which discourse and culture may not hold. Perhaps this is obvious but its easy to get caught up, your environment can easily become your reality. So let me be free of it and let it not waste my time. I am talking of it here in terms of the cultural discourse but this is in terms of everything, development, politics, life. Know history, the reality we are living in now has not been our reality forever, and therefore it will not be our reality forever. Things change, sometimes not for a while, but then they do.

In conclusion: Do not bore me by telling me Muslims will never change or the Middle East will always be marred by conflict and war or you’ve given up hope. You are not dealing with permanence, you are dealing with stages. Your efforts today will make a difference soon.  Hopefully in your lifetime, though probably not if you’re over 40.

*I got my nice little summary from this nice short lecture:

2 Responses to “The Charlie Ebdo affair and the Rise&fall of empires”

  1. Aymen September 14, 2015 at 8:40 PM #

    Wooow favourite blog from all. Well written 👍

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