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“The west” ideology part 1: What is the west?

14 Sep

Followig our undergoing research over the arab revolution, we came to challenge the very notion of « the west ». Historically wrong, geographically irrelevant, “the west” is in fact an ideology that is deeply damaging for the intellectual life and the human thinking.

The damages of this notion are not to be understated. It is used in hundreds of thousands of articles and books to think, conceptualize and understand the world’s politics. The notion is extremely ideological but nevertheless used and abused as if it was a reality: “the west” or “western” are never challenged nor defined in any piece that uses them. It can be seen as the greatest achievement of cultural hegemony over this century, submitting the thinking of everyone to an hill defined and irrelevant notion but powerful and overwhelming ideology.

Stuart Hall started to elaborate on the notion and we will use great parts of his article “the west and the rest”

This ideology is transmitted like a disease in any piece that will use “West; western, western countries, We (as west or as non west)” or any adjective or cultural references supposing a differentiation from “the west”.

Anyone deploying a discourse must position themselves as if they were the subject of the discourse. For example, we may not ourselves believe in the natural superiority of the West. But if we use the discourse of “the West and the Rest” we will necessarily find ourselves speaking from a position that holds that the West is a superior civilization.

And this happens whenever or wherever is “the west, west, western, us (as west)” is used: articles, information reports, diplomatic statements, conspirationist websites, political speeches… Its use have become so benine, so wide and so unchallenged that we can say this ideology has gathered the status of a cultural hegemony (Gramsci).

The problem is that this ideology is extremely fascistic, colonial, imperialistic, racist and inhumane. It carries in itself many threats that human thoughts should have eradicated: justification of slavery, crime against mankind, segregation, colonisation, religious superiority, racial inequalities, ethnic divisions and cleansing, and so on. Each time this very simple word is used, it carries with it a whole set of stereotypes and ideas.

What is “the west”?

To grasp definitions of what is “the west” one can rely on Hall. It also helps to understand what mechanisms are set into motion every single time “the west” is used, thought, spoken or written somewhere

The concept or idea of “the West” can be seen to function in the following ways:

First, it allows us to characterize and classify societies into different categories – i.e. “western,” “non-western.” It is a tool to think with. It sets a certain structure of thought and knowledge in motion.

Secondly, it is an image, or set of images. It condenses a number of different characteristics into one picture. It calls up in our mind’s eye – it represents in verbal and visual language – a composite picture of what different societies, cultures, peoples, and places are like. It functions as part of a language, a “system of representation.” (I say “system” because it doesn’t stand on its own, but works in conjunction with other images and ideas with which it forms a set: for example, “western” = urban = developed; or “non-western” = non-industrial = rural = agricultural = under-developed.)

Thirdly, it provides a standard or model of comparison. It allows us to compare to what extent different societies resemble, or differ from, one another. Non-western societies can accordingly be said to be “close to” or “far away from” or “catching up with” the West. It helps to explain difference.

Fourthly, it provides criteria of evaluation against which other societies are ranked and around which powerful positive and negative feelings cluster. (For example, “the West” = developed = good = desirable; or the “non-West” = under-developed = bad = undesirable.) It produces a certain kind of knowledge about a subject and certain attitudes towards it. In short, it functions as an ideology.”

“The west” can have a really restricted diplomatic reality somehow when referring to the voice of France, UK, and US at the UN security council. But the vague and non defined unification of their diplomatic stance and interests under “the west” sets the whole ideology in motion. The four ways described by Hall can be unleashed in the minds and the debates and one can choose to refer to one or more of the ways without need for definition. It is extremely rare (if it ever existed) that all countries in Europe + US + Canada + Australia can find a common politic or diplomatic stance or social common grounds. However, “the west” will be used and abused as referring to these countries.

Part 2 the origins of “the west”

 

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Aside

“The west” ideology part 2: the origins of “the west”

14 Sep

The origins of “the west”

It is the colonial rule that established an artificial cultural difference between the west and it’s colonies. And in fact, the very idea of “the west” comes from colonisation. By colonising the new world, Europe started to get a sens of itself, its borders, its superiority and its mission in the world.

By analogy, national cultures acquire their strong sense of identity by contrasting themselves with other cultures. Thus we argue, the West’s sense of itself – its identity – was formed not o~y by the internal processes that gradually molded Western European countries into a distinct type of society, but also through Europe’s sense of difference from other worlds – how it came to represent itself in relation to these “others.”

The very origins of the west thus are together christendom and coloial expansion as Hall explains:

And Hulme speaks of ” … the consolidation of an ideological identity through the testing of [Europe’s) Eastern frontiers prior to the adventure of Atlantic exploration …. A symbolic end to that process could be considered Pius ill’s 1458 identification of Europe with Christendom” (Hulme, 1986, p. 84). But in the Age of Exploration and Conquest, Europe began to define itself in relation to a new idea – the existence of many new “worlds,” profoundly different from itself. The two processes – growing internal cohesion and the conflicts and contrasts with external worlds – reinforced each other, helping to forge that new sense of identity that we call “the West.”
(…) Michael Mann offers an explanation of European development by making a series of historical generalizations about long-term socio-economic and religious factors: Why is “Europe” to be regarded as a continent in the first place?

This is not an ecological but a social fact. It had not been a continent hitherto: it was now created by the fusion of the Germanic barbarians and the north-western parts of the Roman Empire, and the blocking presence of Islam to the south and east. Its continental identity was primarily Christian, for its name was Christendom more often than it was Europe.

The very first definition of west as “the west” comes from colonial Columbus achievements. As the western commercial route to the east was barred by the “new world” it became the western colony of “the old world”: Spanish expansion, slavery trade, stealth of gold and expansion of Christianity. “Indies” became “west indies” and so “the west” was born. The new world were to be divided between the powers of the Old World and, for the first time in history, all European powers shared a common sense of colonization.

The first age of colonisation brings to the west its first ideas. The specificity of “the west” is that, because it is never really defined, it can carry the very first of its ideas to our days. Thus, the “christendom” is still a reference for extreme right nowadays constantly refering to “the west’s christian roots”.

Second wave of colonisation will bring second wave of ideological composition to the west. To Christendom will be add racial inequalities and “the white man’s burdens” characterising second wave of colonial race.

“The west” becomes less aggressive but more paternalistic. The colonial power is the eternal father to the colony, the eternal children. It is the civilization and it is the burden of the white men than to civilise culturally inferior society. It is then established that one culture is superior and one is inferior. And now the superior culture is the colonial power : English culture is no superior to the French culture or the German culture but the white man as a whole is superior to the world.

It is also during this second wave that Orientalism is used as a political tool for colonization so the notion of « orient » or « the east » comes to unite « the west » as a concept collectively responsible for bringing civilization to the rest of the world.

In the golden age of colonisation (piking during 1930s), « the west » is perfectly coupled with racist notion of white man and it’s scientifically proven superiority over other races. Domination is the ransom of superiority: “the white man’s burden”. Orientalism and racism ideology lives a perfect love story as they are both enjoying cultural hegemony and can rely on historical proof that the white west is ruling over the non-white world.

The abolition of slavery created a void soon filled by racism. White can no longer dominate the black man because of pure economic reasons, it dominates it because his race is culturally superior and thus morally obligated to educate the non-white. Arabs are less black so they can enjoy a status of hierarchical superiority over the black. This status will be granted because “Arabs are muslims” so, even inferior to the white they still enjoy a better status because of their monotheistic religion that brings them closer to “the west” as Christendom. The colonial world was thus designed to reflect this hierarchy. In the Nation’s League charter, colonial mandates are divided in three classes: A, B and C according to the development reached by the people and the amount of colonization they would need to attain full development.

The character of the mandate must differ according to the stage of the development of the people, the geographical situation of the territory, its economic conditions and other similar circumstances.
Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.

Other peoples, especially those of Central Africa, are at such a stage that the Mandatory must be responsible for the administration of the territory under conditions which will guarantee freedom of conscience and religion, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals, the prohibition of abuses such as the slave trade, the arms traffic and the liquor traffic, and the prevention of the establishment of fortifications or military and naval bases and of military training of the natives for other than police purposes and the defence of territory, and will also secure equal opportunities for the trade and commerce of other Members of the League.

There are territories, such as South-West Africa and certain of the South Pacific Islands, which, owing to the sparseness of their population, or their small size, or their remoteness from the centres of civilisation, or their geographical contiguity to the territory of the Mandatory, and other circumstances, can be best administered under the laws of the Mandatory as integral portions of its territory, subject to the safeguards above mentioned in the interests of the indigenous population.

Extract of Article 22 of the covenants of the League of Nations

One can see how “prohibition of slave trade” becomes a natural basis for establishing the superiority of “the west” league of Nations through colonisation. One can also see how “the west” is able to fill the void in the ideology by reusing old concepts

Part 3: The borders of “the west”: cultures are different.

Aside

The “west” ideology part 3: the borders of the west, cultures are different

14 Sep

The borders of “the west”: cultures are different.

Border of the west are impossible to establish, unless you believe the world is flat as Thomas Friedman does.

They existed however during the cold war when countries attached to “the west” and countries attached to “communist” blocs were easy to identify. “The west” Cold War borders were necessary to replace “the west” colonial border suffering from decolonisation, independence and the emergence of the “third world” doctrine. This history of established borders has created a void since the end of the cold war, a void that had once again dire necessity to be filled. The ideology has to impose “west / non-west” borders on the most critical part of the globe: the middle-east. And this new border would help to reshape “the west” into the ideology we know.

What is the difference between a kebab and a gyros ?
It may seem a stupid question but the Gyros is west : it is Greek food and Greece is part of the west as it has invented democracy and, because the west claims domination over the concept it has integrated Greece as a “western” country.
Although the recent economic crisis in Greece and the debate over Greece leaving European Union gives us a good insight on “the west” ideology: capitalism sake will take precedence over historical claim on democracy in “the west” ideology.

This barrier has absolutely no ground : historically great part of the middle east was conquered and administrated successfully by Greek Alexander (a town name Alexandria in the very heart of non-western Egypt), the Romans, the Byzantine empire, the crusaders… Great part of « the west » then were conquered and administrated by “easterners” : Greece and Balkan region by ottoman empire, Spain by muslim states. Then again the east was conquered and administrated by « the west » : France in Morroco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon and Syria, British in Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, India and Egypt. Not only the concept of “west” is geographically completely irrelevant but also is the concept of west as sharing the same cultural roots or common historical development.

After the cold war the border became “cultural”. Thanks to Huntington (see next chapter) the “cultural” barrier has been established as between “the west” and “the muslims”.

Israel became the Symbol of this ideological use of artificial barrier. Although Israel has claim over “eastern” cultural traditions such as Humous and Shawarma, it claims to be the western vanguard of democracy in a region that would be hostile to it. After the creation of Israeli State, zionist ideology claimed the creation of a new Jew man, the Sabra: born and raised in Israel. A new Jew that would be the perfect achievement of Zionist ideology. This ideology was openly insulting the “old Jew”, the one born outside Israel and specifically the one who was seeking integration in his birth country rather than emigration to Palestine. After Eichmann’s trial, Israeli society discovered the horrors of the Shoah and decided to stop blaming the old Jews victims of the Shoah for having seek integration but rather to integrate the memory of Shoah, a purely european (western) history, as part of it’s national heritage.

It is at this point that the « west » as a border came back to zionist ideology which was initially seeking to establish a new country and a new Jewish race with it. The notion of West came back as a heritage, Israel being now the land given to Jews to repair the wrongdoings of the west toward them. Integrating the history of the Shoah forced Israel to define itself as part of “the west”. Now Israel uses « the west » as a ideological pilar to protect its democratic structure and to redefine the strategical alliance with the US as an ideological one. Democracy in Israel is obviously doomed because no democracy can survive apartheid but it is artificially maintained by the claim that Israel is part of “the west” and so its democracy would be a natural inheritance from its western roots. The artificial barrier also helped zionsim to avoid its full nazi development. By helping zionism to give up the idea of creating a new superior Jewish man, “the west” helped zionism to avoid the dangerous path of nazism and instead come back to a more common racist ideology, establishing racial and religious difference between the Jews (west) and the arabs (muslim non-west).

“The west” ideology in turn can benefit greatly from its association with Israel. Israel came to be the perfect way to integrate fully and positively the complete othering of the Jews. Israel is the Jewish ghetto of “the west”, a colonial gift to a people that racist christian white and antisemitic “west” never accepted and an amnesty for these crimes. The ghetto can then become part of “the west” while its people will forever remain foreign inhabitants: “Israel alliance with west” coupled with “Jews are Israelis” helps “the west” to deal with the perfect and positive othering of the Jews: Jews are not west. Antisemitism has gained a positive side: othering the Jew by providing him a ghetto and this ghetto applying the negative side of antisemitism to the Arabs.

As Said puts it, the Arab is now more and more receiving the negative antisemitic clichés while the Israeli Jew can receive the positive ones. Jews and Arabs together in the same place but a clear “the west” divide between them embodied by a concrete wall and barbed wire, between the good semite (the Jew) and the bad semite (the Arab): Israel is the perfect way for “the west” to get rid of the Jews while integrating them and all that without touching to deeply rooted antisemitic tradition.

This achievement was essential for “the west” survival as the west historically has to deal with the exclusion of the Jews. As Hall puts it:

It is also important to remember that, as well as treating nonEuropean cultures as different and inferior, the West had its own internal “others.” Jews, in particular, though close to western religious traditions, were frequently excluded and ostracized.
and, throughout the West, western women were represented as inferior to western men.

After the negative solution for exclusion of the Jews (genocide) has failed, “the west” could now expiate its crimes by supporting the positive solution: Israel.

“Israel as west” thus allowed “the west” to get easily rid of two huge stains. The Jews are no longer excluded because they now have a ghetto integrated into “the west”. But by fixing the border between “the west” and “the arabs”, “the west” was also able to get rid of the other problem: exclusion of the women. The woman are no longer excluded because one can point out how badly they are treated outside “the west” border: in Muslim world. All the extensive comments about how bad is the status of women in Muslim non western society helps “the west” to present itself as an ideology respecting women’s rights.

This is probably why the post revolutionary comment of Mona el Tahawy (“why do they hate us“) has generated such reactions: it was seen as the come back of the old critics of women condition in muslim society that carries all the “muslim/west” differentiation. Because this differentiation is essential to the “muslims = non western = not made for democracy” argument that is directly against the revolution, el Tahawy article was understood as carrying anti revolutionary idea. And somehow it did because el Tahawy also felt victim of “the west” cultural hegemonic system even if the goal of the article is to use revolution to get over “the west / the arab” difference about women’s rights.

Part 4: Cold War and how “the west” became able to hide what it was carrying.

Aside

The “west” ideology part 4: Cold war and how “the west” became able to hide what it was carrying

14 Sep

Cold war and how “the west” became able to hide what it was carrying.

After the second world war, the notion of « west » became a shelter and a refuge for all ideologies that should have been destroyed by the second world war. Racism, colonialism, imperialism, antisemitism, religious superiority hid themselves under the notion of « the west » until our age while the cold war will help « the west » to transform into a geographic, ideological and political reality.

During the Cold War, “the west” is together : the US alliance against communism, the old colonial power, the free market as an ideology, the cultural advance of American way (as a way to fight communism) and a neocolonial doctrine.

After the cold war the neoconservatives are going to use the “victory” over communism to establish the full supremacy of “the west” cultural hegemony. They will also in the ideology redefine the old ideologies that should have been destroyed so they can be seen in a new light and be fully integrated to “the west” with no need to hide: racism, antisemitism, colonialism, imperialism will enjoy a new momentum thanks to the new definitions neoconservatives will bring to them and the comfortable shelter of “the west” as a cultural hegemony.

First is the Fukuyama / Huntington debate that managed to hijack the historical understanding of the end of the cold war. When cold war ended, “the west” had a dire need for a new concept that will ensure it’s survival. How “the west” can survive if the eastern opponent (USSR, Communism) is no longer ?

Fukuyama would be the salvation. In his « end of history and the last man », he explains that « the west » as a civilization model would now establish its natural domination over the world because of its proven superiority. Here one find the basis for the continuation of the old themes: west as a superior civilisation which model will be naturally followed by everyone. What Fukuyama adds is the interpretation of the end of the cold war as the “victory” of “the west” and historical proof of civilisational superiority. Thanks to Fukuyama, the end of the cold war can be used to establish the natural hegemony and superiority of “the west”.
“The west” becomes now a civilization culturally superior and the US winner of the global cold war.

But Huntington was then needed with his clash of civilisation to give new borders to “the west”. If the west is to become a worldwide model, it could not be “the west”. Also “the west” center moving from old Europe to US shaked some borders that needed a redefinition frozen by the cold war. Cultural hegemony is established by Fukuyama but “the west” still needs an “other” to define itself as it always needed. So instead of the establishment of one civilisation model over the world, Huntingon theorises for a clash of civilisation. With Huntington “The west” finds it’s natural borders with the east. Huntington claims the existance of 5 or 7 different civilisation although, as Said perfectly identified in his “clash of ignorance” answer: the real thing is just between two: “the west” and “the muslims”.

In this vein all orientalism thinking would be now devoted to define “the west” as the perfect contrary of the muslim east. Orientalism offers a huge set of sterotypes “the west” can define against. Democratic (muslim are culturally suited for submission / dictatorship or islamist theocracy), progressive to women (muslim societies are oppressive to women), culturally advanced (muslims, after a great period of cultural achievements are now deep into darkness), white (muslims = arabs = not white), christian (muslims are muslims) etc. Bernard Lewis’ “roots of muslim rage” was essential for Huntingtonian clichés.

The most accurate critic of the horrific consequences of this Fukuyama / Huntington dialectic was provided by Benjamin Barber in his famous “jihad versus mac world”. But Barber himself was not able to resist the cultural hegemony: in march 2011 he was resigning from his position in a Gaddafist’s lobby think tank explaining that, despite anything, Saif al Islam was the only hope for Libyan tribal democracy.

With this development, “the west” became the ideology we know today. Racism and racial inequality have transformed into difference between civilisation and superiority of western civilisation. West is not necessarily white but white is definitely west. Antisemitism is very much alive but have become a total support for Israel in its most racist form. As proven by the incredibly antisemitic comment of Mitt Romney who dared declare Israel has more economic success because of “cultural” tradition. Because of the cultural hegemony of “the west” no one noticed how antisemitic this comment was. Imperialism is no longer aggressive nor it is the supreme stage of capitalism: it is a natural development any inferior civilization will achieve (Fukuyama) or really bad one will refuse (Huntington). Christendom and religious difference can come back in the frontline of “the west” ideology by the opposition to Islam. Opposition to Islam is also the easy way to hide racism against Arabs as now extreme right leaders can openly oppose “Islam” but a good old anti-arab racist comment can send you to trial. Oppression and domination of inferior people is legitimated by the cultural differences: Chinese are not slaves they are hard workers, Arabs are not strangled by oppression they are culturally not suited for democracy etc.

Part 5: Network of supporters

Aside

The “west” ideology part 5: network of supporters

14 Sep

Network of supporters

In this new form, this ideology will be supported by networks and relays that all find their interest in the establishment of « the west » as a cultural hegemony.

First neoconservatives that now found a new way to make sure that all the benefit they enjoyed during the cold war will not die with it. Because neoconservatives had to assume Reagan’s heritage and this is impossible in a non-cold war environment, neoconservatives had to elaborate and support the idea of « the west » as a civilization needing to win a war over the other dark civilization (war on terror for instance).

It will be supported by all extreme rights in Europe and in the US. The idea of the west is a very convenient way to keep the old racist and nationalist ideology without the need to redefine them after they have been proven utterly wrong to humanity during WWI and WWII. In using the cultural hegemony of “the west”, extreme right can advance identity politics into mainstream politics: if a normal right leader or center right newspaper says “we – as west” or “western”, extreme right circles can advance behind by saying out loud what everyone already knows: we are white, we are Christians, we are superior.

It will be supported by religion as a way to establish the belief of its cultural roots to civilization. Here again, religions found a convenient way to avoid the redefinitions and renewal or any thinking of its wrongdoings : how it allied with fascism, how it played little or no role or negative one in the independence of the colonies. Now Christianity is said to have saved the world from communism (a claim widely spread when pope Jean Paul II died) and Christianity finds convenient to be associated to « cultural roots » of the west. Religious radicals can now find their natural alliance with extreme right groups. Of course, “against the west” also accounts for 90% of radical Islam ideology.

Islamism also finds very convenient to be defined as the cultural hegemony prevailing in « muslim » countries. Algeria is a muslim country, Egypt is a muslim country, Iran is a muslim country, Morocco is a muslim country, Iraq is a muslim country etc. All these countries have huge history, intellectual and cultural production outside or intricate with Islam but to be reduced to « muslim contry » and their inhabitants to « muslim people » is extremely convenient for islamism ideology. They too can avoid a painful political redefinition and are being granted the hegemonic status by the west. As long as they are “against the west” they can rule over all muslim world.

It will be supported by capitalism and anyone thinking that free market is the best thing for humanity. Free market can impose its rule over the world but with respect to the « cultural differences » in civilisations. By selling prejudices the capitalism can impose its rule. As Thomas Friedman puts it with his genius all knowing mind, capitalism will act as a giant pizza dough :

“What is pizza? It is just a flat piece of dough on which every culture puts its own distinctive foods and flavors. So Japan has sushi pizza and Bangkok has Thai pizza and Lebanon has mezze pizza. The flat-world plateform is just like that pizza dough. It allows different culture to season and flavor it as they like.”

With its association with capitalism, “the west” shared its great respect for local cultural clichés:

China is not a bloody dictatorship ruling a billion of enslaved workers for capitalist industries all over the world : it is a lead by very clever communist elite that understood communism was wrong and transformed the country into a capitalist model enjoying the Confucianist tradition of hard working and obedient people. As long as capitalism respects “local cultures” it is sure to be the best model.

It goes to a point some can even praise the “non-western” capitalist model. For Stephen Halper, Chinese association of capitalism and dictatorship provides successful achievements that could overthrow “the west” hindered by its democratic culture. The Chinese model for Halper can become an efficient development model for other culture non suited for democracy: the Beijing consensus to win over the Washington consensus.

It will be supported, embodied and applied by Arab dictators who desperately need “the non-west” set of cultural clichés. If the west is democracy, the arab is dictatorship and they can legitimate themselves with that argument alone. In turn that argument is supported by all aforementioned groups. They will thus support the dictators as they are the living incarnation of the cliché they need.

It will be supported by a great part of “red-brown” extreme right thoughts that had found their way into extreme left circles: antisemitic infiltrated in pro-palestinan movements and conspirationnists mostly.

It will be supported by an influential network of private and public intelligence agencies. After 9/11, the Bush administration showered intelligence networks with gold so they can face the enemy (the non-western muslim terrorist). Great part of the budget of these agencies now depend on their ability to provide policy makers with non-western muslim terrorists (suspects, reports, investigation, analysis etc.) Ideological stance of policy makers focuses intelligence requirements on muslim terrorist and allow credits to it. In turn, these agencies and think tanks can provide poliy makers with overwhelming amount of ideologised material. The incredible credits neoconservatives devoted to the war on (muslim) terror created an intelligence monster that feeds on and defecates muslim terror.

Eventually it will be supported by any critics of “the west” who needs the existence of “the west” in order to critic its achievements and wrongdoings. “The west is imperialism” for instance will be hijacked by anyone interested in claiming “imperialism is the west”. Same for “the west is interventionist” for anyone who needs “foreign intervention is the west”. Chinese and Russian leaders are the vanguard of that trend. “the west” is for them a convenient tool to hide their own promotion of imperialism and intervention in foreign countries. “The west, is an ideology essential for dictators survival.

Part 6: the noble dictator

Aside

The “west” ideology part 6: the noble dictator

14 Sep

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.