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The future of sell-out intellectualism
"Why do some Muslim intellectuals choose so painfully their place as “moderate,” “liberal,” or “progressive” Muslim allies, and pro-Washington modes of action?"
In this age of agents upon agents, the imperial Washington cannot survive without agents among politicians, military commanders, intellectuals, journalists and people at the grassroots level. The question of their future and effectiveness becomes serious when intellectuals are the subject of discussion in particular.
A heated debate is underway on one of the internet discussion lists about Washington’s funding to individuals and institutions for their intellectual activities.
Two important questions that re-surfaced from the discussion are: Is it necessary that an intellectual debate involve altercations about who is funding whom? Should motives or intention of anyone taking part in intellectual exercise be the subject of debate?
The aforementioned debate shows that there is a growing realisation among scholars about their intellectual credibility that needs a clean and independent intellectual life.
Intellectual life of organizations as well as individuals may be kept clean and healthy, if they avoid importing biases into their mind for fame, favors, or fortune. Any one working for analyzing international affairs need not be influenced in his speculations and observations. Let him do and say what strictly belongs to him.
Formal degrees in social sciences and instruction in religious thoughts become meaningless when an intellectual’s mind is over taken by the temptations for glory that yield him nothing but intellectual obstructions and doubts.
Soul mumps of Islam
The external influence and human instinct of grabbing opportunity to move up the ladder disease Muslim intellectuals as much as they influence non-Muslims with doubts, even about the Qur’an, which never presented a practical difficulty to any Muslim, — never darkened across any Muslim’s road, who did not go out of his way to seek them.
As a potent weapon against Muslim unity, such doubts are exaggerated and highlighted for the sake of what the war-obsessed minds call a “war within Islam.” These are the soul's mumps, and measles, which split gullible Muslims into different sects as much as the words and deeds of any so-called religious leader.
Long run failure
It is very difficult for human beings to build altars to fortune and then avoid sacrificing the principles and values they cherish for the pleasure of their benefactors. The long term failure of the sell-out intellectuals, however, lay in the contradiction of their faith, their course of thought and the words they utter to support the hands that feed them. It is hard to separate their deeds from their thoughts and the expected “intellectual wonders” of which they are the visible conductors.
It shows that what externally seems as independent thought and immovableness of the sell-outs is actually compromise, submissiveness and self-annihilation. Our intellectual life might be much easier and simpler than we make it by associating it with one or another reigning ideology; that the world might be a happier place than it is; that there is no need of struggles, convulsions and despairs if we do not assist the world mastering demi-gods in miscreating evils for the world.
Against the laws of nature
We side with the triumphant hero, as we face the media blitz, against the “extremist” and the “terrorist”; but we become ourselves extremists when we accept favours and write against our conscience.
A little consideration of what takes place around us every day would show us, that a higher law rather than the will of the US regulates events; that our selling our soul to justify godless ideologies and oppressive systems are unnecessary, and fruitless; that we are not strong only in the lap of Washington, and only by contenting ourselves with accepting and telling the truth we become divine.
Only truth will relieve us from the burden of guilty conscience. Submission to the ephemeral powers and their injustice definitely ensures a few days of our glory. However, we prosper forever when we accept the Truth. When we struggle to go against nature, we are destined to fail. The whole course of things goes to teach us faith. We need only obey.
Alternative for Muslim intellectuals
The co-opted intellectuals among Muslims forget themselves, and ape the customs and values of their masters, to deserve the praise and prize. Let them be great, and reputation shall follow them. Nothing is more deeply punished than the neglect of the affinities by which alone intellectuals should interact and society should be formed, and their insane levity of choosing ideologies by others' eyes.
Why do some Muslim intellectuals choose so painfully their place as “moderate,” “liberal,” or “progressive” Muslim allies, and pro-Washington modes of action? Certainly there is a possible right for us that precludes the need of balance and willful choice. For Muslims there is a reality, a fit place and congenial duties.
Signing, for example, the least understood “no to political Islam” petitions will yield them nothing. However, by throwing out the instinct of self-aggrandizement and self-promotion at all cost, Muslim intellectuals can effectively place themselves in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which animates all whom it floats, and they are without effort impelled to truth, to right, to justice and a perfect contentment.
Then Muslim intellectuals can put all gainsayers, opportunists in the wrong. Then they are the world, the measure of right, of truth, of justice. If they refuse to tell as it is, the life would go on far better; society would organize itself, but they would be thrown in the dust bin of history just as those who supported Baathist, communist or any other ideology before these.
A sell-out cannot hide himself
An intellectual’s defending himself in public gains him nothing for the history and the conscience within is there to judge. For our body we may compromise and prefer material comfort at some cost. However, our justification for securing material comfort will not satisfy our soul for which right and justice is the only choice.
Time holds every intellectual, irrespective of his religious faith, amenable to reason for the choice of his association. It is misleading to say that our promotion of war, and aggression and support for tyranny are indirectly leading to good. What business has one with accepting gifts and benedictions from the unjust? Has one not a calling in ones character.
The ways to deception
These days, each pro-Washington Muslim intellectual has his own specialty. The theme he undertakes is the call. There is one direction, defend the US policies and Western values, such as supporting gay and lesbian rights, in which all space is open to him. This theme and the call to rise to the pinnacle depend on his organization. He inclines to do something which is easy to him as a Muslim, and good in worldly rewards, but which no other Muslim can do. He has no “moderate” rival.
The more a truly pro-Washington Muslim intellectual rejects the truth and his conscience, the more difference will his work exhibit from the work of any other sell-out. Some go, like Manji, to the extent of accepting the Qur’an as the final manifesto of Allah. His ambition is exactly proportioned to his powers. The height of the pinnacle is determined by the breadth of his Washington-supported base.
A rule that fits all
The common experience is that all sell-out intellectuals fit themselves, as well as they can, to the customary details of the Washington-dictated agenda and tend it as a dog turns a spit. Then are they part of the unjust system that runs irrespective of Bill, Bush or someone else after these; the intellectual is lost.
Although the sell-out intellectuals attempt to communicate themselves to others in their full stature and proportion, they do not yet find their inner peace. They do not find in them an outlet for their character. So they fail to justify their work to their eyes. That is the inner punishment.
Separating sell-out from his sponsors
As far the question of separating an intellectual from his sponsors, it is as hard as to separate deeds from ideas. His selling himself and mortgaging his soul does not let him communicate effectively. Men will never know and honour him aright because he does not communicate whatever he knows and thinks — that’s why none of these sellouts could help the US win hearts and minds in the Muslim world.
It is naïve to assume that since one is critical of Bush administration, one is thus justified in promoting all his Washington inspired views. Just a single sentence, telling Muslims in America to put interests of their sons and daughters in the US before the interests of their brothers and sisters in the occupied Muslim lands is good enough to tell its readers the mind set of the writer in a seemingly anti-US article.
The pro-Washington intellectuals and journalists cannot bury the real meanings deep in their articles and books. Time and men of understanding will find them just as a good mathematician can find out the whole figure from just an arc of the curve.
Can ideas be parted from intentions?
Of course, there are gradations of the US government involvement in all intellectual debate. However, it is not difficult in this age to understand the real intentions and motives of individuals and organisations, no matter how they may attempt to the contrary.
For public, Thomas Friedman will remain what he is irrespective of any defence he may put to avoid being considered as an agent of the neo-cons. To the contrary, Robert Fisk needs no advertisement of his sincerity.
Limits to supporting tyranny
Words sincerely spoken from the heart never go waste. Every intellectual is free to set his own rate. Extremist or moderate, nature meddles not in the matter. Nature accepts everyone’s measure of his doing and being, whether he sneaks about and dilutes his faith for some worldly favors of the oppressors, or he sees his work produced for the cause of the oppressed humanity.
There is, however, a limit to supporting injustice and arguing for tyranny. An intellectual is worthy as long as he gives and the public receives. This process comes to a halt when public refuse to come along with the intellectual; the transfusion stops; the public is no more him, and he is not more the public.
When public realize that Thomas Friedman or Daniel Pipes is just an undercover spokesman of the neo-cons, his propositions run out of one ear as they enter the other. Motive or intention of the intellectual is, therefore, not irrelevant at all. We cannot separate a writer from his ideas. Interestingly, the human character evermore publishes itself, no matter how much we may try to take it out of the discussion. We show it from every act. We display it even when we are sleeping.
We have yet to learn, that an idea uttered in words is worthless unless affirmed by deeds. It is impossible to expect that a person fed and sustained by a oppressor would speak against his interests. The effect of any writing on the public mind is mathematically measurable by its depth of thought as well as the character of its author.
Write to eternal public
The way to speak and write what shall not lose its effectiveness is, to speak and write sincerely from your own mind and heart. In the intellectual market, thoughts expressed with the power of dollars rise and fall with the rise and fall of dollar on the currency market. Take Sidney's maxim: -- "Look in thy heart, and write." He that writes to himself writes to an eternal public.
The sell-out intellectuals and journalists forget that the effect of every write up is measured by the depth of the sentiment from which it proceeds. Every attempt at greatness in the form of presenting oneself as an advisor to the tyrants of the time or leader of Islamic reformation brings no greatness to these individuals.
Most evil and great men knew not that they were so until it took, in some case, centuries after their existence for the fact to appear. Who could say in the mid 30s that no one would like to be associated with the well respected Hitler and his intellectual cronies a few decades later?
For greatness one must do what he must. It is the most natural thing in the world, and grew out of the circumstances of the moment not the temptation for greatness, acceptance or worldly well-being.
If the intellectuals and journalists did not learn the simple lesson of be and not seem, and if they continue their support to the unjust for personal interests, their future is irrelevance and loss of credibility in the West, and hanging in public square like other agents in the East.
by courtesy & © 2003 Abid Ullah Jan
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