How do you recognise an Assadist?

“Platform-34.532298,69.153442” (2014). Mixed media on canvas. Image by Waseem Marzouki.

“Platform-34.532298,69.153442” (2014). Mixed media on canvas. Image by Waseem Marzouki.

Some people whose interest in the Middle East is recent think that Assad is a uniquely Syrian phenomenon. I think the excessively harsh despotism and the equally excessive ability to cruelly exterminate your own population while believing yourself to be setting your nation on the road to modernity are quite unique in terms of their degree and intensity, but Assadism is nonetheless a more widespread political disposition in the Arab world. It can even be described as a mode of being. How do you recognise an Assadist? Here are some helpful suggestions for the newcomers:

• An Assadist is anyone who pretends that the tension between a local population’s aspirations for freedom, justice and dignity and geo-political anti-imperialist posturing (i.e., being ‘against’ the US, ‘against’ Israel, etc…) does not exist, and does not need to be negotiated. Assadists believe that they have ‘solved’ this problem, or that geo-politics is all there is. Assadism is above all the dictatorship of geo-political discourse, which, to be sure, does not necessarily have to be geo-politically rational.

• An Assadist is anyone for whom ‘resistance’ functions as an institutionalised ideology of national/state legitimisation. Assadists are those who clearly see themselves sliding into a reality where ‘resistance’ entails more ‘resisting anyone who resists you’ than ‘resisting anyone who oppresses you’, but it doesn’t bother them.

• An Assadist is someone who believes in the ‘dictatorship of the seculariat’. They think that the ‘secular’ bit in the concept of ‘secular dictatorship’ far outweighs in importance the ‘dictatorship’ bit. An Arab Assadist usually combines this excessive modernist adoration of secularism with an excessive modernist usage of eau de cologne — not to mention a particular adoration of this other great modernist artifact: the sun glasses — which can help you identify them even if they don’t say much.

• A western Assadist is someone whose belief in the power of radical western thoughts’ ability to ‘analyse’, ‘dissect’ and ‘capture’ the political essence of a situation anywhere in the world remains unshaken by the failures of radical western thought to do anything of the sort throughout the twentieth century, and who gives you top-down lectures about where the right path towards genuine anti-colonial and anti-imperialist politics lies with the same arrogance his or her colonialist ancestors gave your ancestors top-down lectures about where the right path towards western civilisation lied.

I am sure there’s more but I hope this helps.

Ghassan Hage is Future Gen­er­a­tion Pro­fessor of Anthro­pology and Social The­ory at the Uni­ver­sity of Mel­bourne.

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Ghassan Hage

Ghassan Hage is Pro­fessor of Anthro­pology and Social The­ory at the Uni­ver­sity of Mel­bourne. Ghassan is the author of, amongst others, White Nation (1998) and Against Para­noid Nation­al­ism (2003). 

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  8 comments for “How do you recognise an Assadist?

  1. Hamed
    24 August 2016 at 3:20 pm

    One should definitely add a section for recognizing the Iranian Assadists. Comparatively speaking they are among the ugliest types of this species. I happen to live among them…

  2. Alessandra Asteriti
    25 August 2016 at 8:41 am

    I am not sure what this piece wishes to convey. The (failed) attempts at humour, incredibly out of place in the current situation, assure me that the author does not wish to contribute at all to the conversation about Syria, or indeed enlighten those who have, as he patronisingly put it, only a recent interest in the Middle East.

  3. Communist Feminist
    25 August 2016 at 3:39 pm

    If anything, it is the anti-Assad ideologues that have a newfound interest in the Middle East, suddenly shedding tears for the victims of Assad’s authoritarianism when they weren’t doing the same thing for the more numerous victims of US and Israeli bombs and bullets in the same region, in fact calling for said bombs and bullets in Syria. Anti-Assad ideologues are no different from the anti-Saddam Hussein ideologues who also justified the Iraq War on the grounds of Saddam’s authoritarianism.

    • Firas
      26 August 2016 at 6:32 am

      I can only deduce from your name, Communist Feminist, that you don’t see yourself as an ideologue; that, in fact, you see yourself as the embodiment of criticality and objectivity, yes?

  4. Choros
    26 August 2016 at 6:59 am

    How to recognize an Assadist?

    1) They are smart.

    2) They are sane.

    3) They understand geopolitics.

    4) They understand history.

    Seems about right.

  5. BabyButterfly
    26 August 2016 at 4:58 pm

    How to recognize and anti-Assadist?

    1) They are human

    2) They are courageous

    3) They refuse to worship Assad

    4) They recognize propaganda when they hear it

    5) They rot away in Assad prisons just because they can be put there

    6) They are willing to die for their freedom

    7) They have no pictures of Assad in the homes he buries them under

    8) They are exceedingly thin due to cowardly starvation sieges

    9) They have family members who have been tortured or killed

    10) They know that civilization moved backwards under Assad

  6. Lars P
    29 August 2016 at 7:48 am

    There seem to be a lot of Assadists in Syria:

    “The survey, conducted by ORB International, a company which specializes in public opinion research in fragile and conflict environments, [2] found that 47 percent of Syrians believe that Assad has a positive influence in Syria, compared to only 35 percent for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and 26 percent for the Syrian Opposition Coalition.”
    (http://www.globalresearch.ca/bashar-al-assad-has-more-popular-support-than-the-western-backed-opposition-poll/5495643)

    “Some 55% of Syrians want Assad to stay, motivated by fear of civil war – a spectre that is not theoretical as it is for those who live outside Syria’s borders.”(https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jan/17/syrians-support-assad-western-propaganda)

    If ‘freedom’ entails a Syria in the grip of Jihadis or Muslim Brothers, then it’s obvious that the country’s religious minorities and the secular city-dwelling segments of the sunnis prefer an Assad dictatorship.

  7. Gharbzadegi
    16 October 2016 at 1:14 am

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gharbzadegi

    Jalal Al-e Ahmad was the Iranian writer, he did not coin that word but he was the one who popularized it.

    Gharbzadegi = Westoxification, West-struck-ness

    Quote

    Al-e Ahmad also confronts the problem of Iranian returnees from Europe and the United States. These returnees expect government positions by virtue of their western education. Slots are created, but more often than not they end up “governmental deadwood,” for the returnees have become not only alienated from Iranian culture but also, wittingly or unwittingly, the agents of the West: “They are perfect examples of something severed from its roots, this the result of gharbzadegi. They are perfect specimens of individuals with their feet in the air. These are the ones who execute the notions and views of foreign advisors and experts.”

    End of Quote

    There is way too much in Jalal AI-e Ahmad’s writing where he is describing people like Ghassan Hage. There is nothing worst than those Westoxificated allegedly educated individual who lives in the West and serves the West interests in various of the roles.

    While I do not condone Assad in any way it is common knowledge that whoever stands in the way of empire will end up as Ghadaffi or Saddam. Are they all really that bad? No not at all. Just to the contrary.

    Af for Ghassan Hage where ever he is from I hope his native land will take his citizenship and won’t allow him to step up on its soil with its Gharbzadegi feet.

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