What the Arab peoples signify to us

The Arab peoples are sig­ni­fying to us that res­ist­ance and re­volt are with us once again, and that his­tory is moving beyond History. They are doing it, as is ap­pro­priate, with all the for­tune and mis­for­tune that it in­volves. At the very least they have sent an ir­re­vers­ible signal whose ef­fects we can ex­pect to see across Africa and in the odious per­petu­ation of the drama on Canaan’s an­cient land. In one of the places where we least ex­pected this re­volt to occur, a leader of the gang (of­fi­cially, of the State) crushes it, ready to li­quidate who­ever ne­ces­sary of his sup­posed people.

Meanwhile, other States strike at their own rebels quite force­fully, some­times with the help of a powerful Arab neigh­bour. Benghazi in­sur­gents are asking for help: this is not simple, en­tailing clear risks, both prac­tical and polit­ical. Political re­spons­ib­ility means weighing up and dealing with such cir­cum­stances. Is this the time to in­voke in pell-​mell fashion the col­lat­eral risks and sus­pi­cion of (more or less) hidden in­terests, the prin­ciples of non-​interference and the heavy guilt of a “West” that may, one won­ders, in­clude Libya it­self, or Saudi Arabia or Syria, not to men­tion China and Russia.

It is fine for the beau­tiful souls of the left and the soph­ist­ic­ated op­er­ators on the right to sigh or protest; whether in European or in Arab coun­tries: one must know which world we are in. We are no longer just simply in the world of Western ar­rog­ance, self-​confidence and im­per­i­alism. Oh! It is not that the poor old “West” has cleaned up its act: it is simply in the pro­cess of melting in the fu­sion that be­gets an­other world, without sun­rise or sunset, a world where it is day and night every­where at the same time and where it is ne­ces­sary to re­in­vent the act of living to­gether and, be­fore all else, the act of living itself.

So, yes, it is ne­ces­sary to keep a close eye on the strikes that are aimed at un­der­mining the vile as­sassin of the people; sure, it is ne­ces­sary to strike – him, of course, not the people. We can no longer, with one hand, in­voke the sov­er­eignty that, with the other hand, we empty of sub­stance and le­git­imacy through all the in­ter­con­nec­tions – the best and worst – of the glob­al­ised world [monde mon­di­alisé]. It is up to the people in ques­tion and to all others, in­cluding us, to en­sure then that the oil, fin­an­cial, and arms dealing game that in­stalled and main­tained this puppet (among many others) in power does not start over. It is the re­spons­ib­ility of the peoples, yes: and it is also of course to us, the peoples of Europe or America, that this is addressed.

It is a del­icate task. But at stake is what we want to live and how we want to live it, with an acute­ness that we are not ac­cus­tomed to. That is what the Arab peoples are also sig­ni­fying to us.

Article first ap­peared in French in Libération 28 March 2011. This trans­la­tion by Gilbert Leung. Usual caveats apply.

  1 comment for “What the Arab peoples signify to us

  1. Gilbert Leung
    4 April 2011 at 10:31 am

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