The noble dictator.
“The west” also sets in motion what Hulme calls “Stereotypical dualism”. It imposes on the mind a manicheistic division of good and bad. Thus: “the west” can be good or bad and “the non-west” can be good and bad depending of the ideology you want to support. For George Bush: west is good, non west is bad. For Bachar al Assad, west is bad, non-west is good. Two faces of the same coin. But the cultural hegemony of “the west” ideology allows this manicheism to replace real political analysis and thinking and to break political borders by giving the illusion of new ones. And this helps to explain how Bachar al Assad “non-west” fascism finds its way into some “west” left and progressive circles. The stereotypical dualism of “the west” created the “noble savage” and the transformation of “the west” as an ideology carried this notion to our days, creating the figure of the noble dictator.
Hall uses Hulme notion of stereotypical dualism to explain the emergence of the “noble savage” notion. Any discourses carries stereotypical dualism within itself and “the west” is no exception. It means “the west” and “the rest” carries both good and bad stereotypes: the west is the civilized world / the west is imperialistic.
By “stereotypical dualism” Hulme means that the stereotype is split into two opposing elements. These are two key features of the discourse of “the Other”:
1 First, several characteristics are collapsed into one simplified figure which stands for or represents the essence of the people; this is stereotyping.
2 Second, the stereotype is split into two halves – its “good” and “bad” sides; this is “splitting” or dualism. Far from the discourse of “the West and the Rest” being unified and monolithic, “splitting” is a regular feature of it. The world is first divided, symbolically, into good-bad, us-them, attractive-disgusting, civilized-uncivilized, the West-the Rest. All the other, many differences between and within these two halves are collapsed, simplified – i.e. stereotyped. By this strategy, the Rest becomes defined as everything that the West is not – its mirror image. It is represented as absolutely, essentially, different, other: the Other. This Other is then itself split into two “camps”: friendly hostile, Arawak-Carib, innocent-depraved, noble-ignoble.
It is with this stereotypical dualism that came to emerge the figure of the « noble other » or the « noble savage ». While the savage is uncivilized, cannibalistic, naked etc. the Noble savage is a being free from society, crimes, lust, hypocrisy etc. In turn, the image of the noble savage is used to point and criticize “the bad” side of “the west”.
“Heroic savages” have peopled adventure stories, Westerns, and other Hollywood and television films ever since, generating an unending series of images of “the Noble Other.”
The French Pacific explorer Bougainville (1729-1811) had been captivated by the way of life on Tahiti. Diderot, the philosopher and editor of the Encyclopedie (see chapter 1), wrote a famous Supplement about Bougainville’s voyage, warning Tahitians against the West’s intrusion into their innocent happiness. “One day,” he prophesied correctly, “they [Europeans] will come, with crucifix in one hand and the dagger in the other to cut your throats or to force you to accept
their customs and opinions” (quoted in Moorhead, 1987). Thus the “noble savage” became the vehicle for a wide-ranging critique of the over-refinement, religious hypocrisy, and divisions by social rank that existed in the West.
Many more in the enlgihtment like Montaigne’s in his lettres persanes will use the noble savage in the same way. And the figure of the noble savage then served political theorists to establish the state of nature hypothesis.
Kadhafi and Bachar al Assad have gathered the status of « Noble Savages ». They used their rhetorical political stance against « the west » to gather all the benefits of what-the-west-is-not. With this stance, they managed to serve as reference for criticizing « the west » not as an ideology but as a reality. Because the west is completely hegemonic and no one comes to put its reality into questions, Bachar al Assad or Gaddafi came to be the only ways to oppose the concept of « the west » : supporting them by giving them the status of the noble savage is a way to criticize « the west ».
Kadhafi went to embody the notion of the noble savage so deep that he insisted in presenting himself as a savage : dress, tent, amazon women bodyguards etc. Assad was less insistent on imagery and used « western » suits and « western » beauty criteria for his wife. However inisting on his Alawi origins still works as a local/ cultural / exotic non western criteria. He is against the west cause he is Alawi, « an offshoot sect of Shias » and, like other noble Shia savages such as Nasrallah or Ahmadinejad, he opposes “the west” for that reason. He’s motivations are as pure as his origins are exotic and local. And the legitimacy of Bachar an Kadhafi’s fights are based almost entirely on the noble dictator figure : Assad dictatorship is good, natural and pure because « the west » = democracy is bad and hypocritical.
“The west” is so hegemonic that figure of the noble dictator have become essential as a refuge to denounce the bad side of « the west ». In the hegemonic position of « the west » ideology, Assad and Kadhafi are the only way « the west » can be opposed politically. Many in the left do not want to oppose « the west » as an ideology but simply to expose the bad side of the stereotypical dualism. It is here where Assad and Kadhafi are most needed. Anyone using « the west » ideological framework can only end up with two position/ the west is good or the west is bad. Assad and Kadhafi fascisms are the glorious defenders of the other side of the coin : the west is bad.
Because of this hegemony, even progressive minds could lure themselves into supporting most fascist cause of Putin, Assad or Kadhafi. The « west is bad » side of the coin has become as hegemonic as the rest of the ideology: “the west” has to defend against “muslim” so “western dictators” are needed in the middle east. The middle-east has to culturally resist to “the west” imperialist aggression so “against the west” dictators are needed in the middle-east. It is how « the west » acts an ideological pillar of dictatorship in the arab world. It goes to a point that the revolution have place the dictators really at odds with this ideology. Now Assad has to claim that he fights against Al Quaeda terrorists (a very Bushian “western” stance) and the SCAF in Egypt ran rumors underground campaigns trying to spread the rumor that youth revolutionary movements were financed by the US. A very new “against the west” delirium for the Egypt military that gets 1 billion $ each year from the US.
All dictator have gathered the noble savage status, acting as protecting their savage people from the nocive “western” intrusion of “democracy” or “freedom” that are supposed to be contrary to “non-west = muslim” culture. It is how they serve the west ideology: reinforcing the ideological neoconservative cliché that democracy and freedom are “western” they can establish their authoritarian rule as a protection from such wrongs.
This ideology is not only extremely damaging for any human progress, it is also carrying in its womb the survival of numerous ideologies that the human thinking should have eradicated long time ago. Any report, information, article using the word “the west” without defining it contributes to the hegemonic position of this ideology. Spreads its sets of clichés, increase racists notions, feeds the extreme right and establish a mental border between humans harming the very principle that all humans are equals. What is happening is that “the west” ideology now struggles for its own survival. As soon as it is revealed that “the west” is an ideology that only rely on its own cultural hegemony, then its ugly face will be revealed. How it serves dictatorship, colonialism, oppression and racism. And the Arab revolution now acts as a force that challenges and fights “the west” cultural hegemony. “the west” is no longer democracy. The west is no longer the origin of freedom. The west is no longer fighting dictatorship. It also explains why “the west” will always oppose to any positive vision of the revolution. It will act as a way to support dictatorship (opposing the west) or to suppress the revolution (supporting the west and “stability” in the middle-east). This also gives a hint of how will work any article about the revolution mentioning “the west” or “western” without defining these ideological notions.