Tuesday, February 8, 2011
posted under Egypt , Emanuel Rota , Middle East , Slavoj Zizek , Tariq Ramadan by Unit for Criticism
[In this post, Emanuel Rota, a Unit for Criticism affiliate and Assistant Professor of Italian, writes on a recent debate over events in Egypt.]
"Riz Khan - Tariq Ramadan and Slavoj Zizek on the future of Egyptian politics"
Written by Emanuel Rota (Italian)
History is on the move in the Middle East. The elections in Iran, the riots in Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt: can Libya and Morocco be immune?
Personally, I hope they are not. The dictators of these countries, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Ben Ali, Mohammed Hosni Moubarak, had names unknown to the vast majority of the inhabitants of the West. Their ferocity, their violence, their corruption was kept invisible in the name of the stability of the region. Now, we are learning their names in the hope that what we learn are the names of past ferocity, past violence and past corruption. Of course, we no longer believe that the future will necessarily be a better place, but we can say, with Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.”
In the meantime, we can learn from what is happening. All the talk about democracy in the Middle East will come back to haunt those who wanted to use democracy as an ideological weapon to maintain the region in a permanent state of submission. Israel is the only democracy in the region; I hope that Israel will be surrounded by other democracies, so that the peace process can move forward. I also hope that Europe and the United States will be forced to accept that democracy is a universal aspiration, even when those who threaten it are their allies. Today, questioning democracy in the region in the name of cultural relativism would mean choosing an alliance with the coryphées of constituted power. Personally, I am with the rebels, and I hope that they will teach me something new about democracy.
In the embedded video, two intellectuals, Tariq Ramadan and Slavoj Žižek, discuss the events in Egypt. At the center of their discussion, even at this early stage, is the significance that the events have for our understanding of democracy. Not what we can teach, but what we can learn, not as neutral observers, but as partisans of democracy, equality, and freedom. They disagree more than it is apparent in the interview, but they agree on the fact that these events are not staged. It is not the spectacle of politics that is represented, but a revolt that, so far, has no representatives. So far, the multitudes revolting in the Middle East, without pre-constituted leaders and political programs, seem to have only the desire to act in history and to retain this power --in other words, a desire for democracy. Cairo, the largest city in Africa and one of the largest cities in the world, can certainly teach us something for the future.