These last few months have been interesting, to say the least. I've lost interest in day-to-day politics, and for some reason I'm much more into drawn-out, involved, theoretical arguments. I know, it's sad, but the good thing about this is that you have time to analyze ideas and arguments from a different and opposing point of view. Now most of these arguments I don't agree with, but still it's interesting to look at the other side. Hence, I decided to start a series of posts called alter ego, where I basically entertain different thoughts, even though I might not accept them in the end.
Warning: The comments below might be extremely controversial and highly offensive to some people. They do not in anyway represent my held opinion, but they only reflect thoughts that have passed at my mind at one point. You have been warned.
I've received recently an email from a (non-Arabic) reader commenting that she liked the blog, but that she thought it was too involved in Bahraini matters, and that maybe I should expand it to include other, more internationally accessible matters. Hell, she added, it might even get me more readers.
Although the email was worded in such a friendly manner, I couldn't help but feeling pissed off. I set up this blog primarily for Bahraini and Arabic viewers (or those who live in Middle eastern countries), and now I'm supposed to change my style just to suit a couple of westerners?
I started browsing through my comments, however, and I noticed that a big chunk (if not most) of my comments came from westerners. I despaired.
My main motivation for writing this blog is to write about matters that are primarily of concern to bahrain, and to viewers who are somehow involved in the country. I'm more than happy to receive input from people outside, as that can never be a bad thing, but I'm not going to lie about my main goal. I know it sounds hypocritical, since I'm writing in English, which obviously biases my audience towards affluent arabs or westerners, but I'm yet to find a way to blog in arabic!
The reason I got pissed off is that there seems to be so many Middle Eastern blogs on the net, and most of them seem to be directed to western, mainly american audiences. The blogs are mainly about, "oh, my country has a lot of fucked up things. You have it so good in other countries." or, "hey, its not so bad here, we have a lot of the stuff you have over there, we like the same music, TV shows, and movies you watch over there", or "oh, look, not all arabs are murderous terrorists, here's my nice cuddly pet that I have." They seem to be aimed at readers in America or Europe to make them go, "oh look, the world is not so different after all, these guys eat just as we do, work just as we do, and fornicate just as we do." Or, "oh, that's a nice traditional dress, it looks different yet local. Oh I love to look at their local traditions. It's these small differences that makes that unites the world and makes it such a nice place." Basically, the blogs either want to tell the outside world that our area and our rulers are so messeed up, or that we Arabs are not so bad and share a lot of similaritites with others. In both cases, the goal is the same: somehow empathize or construct a positive relationship with a western audience.
What absolute toss.
Now I have no problem with any of the above strategies, since they do basically represent realities in the arabic world. Smooching up to a foreign audience, however, is not my main aim. I don't want to look to the outside world, I want to look to our inside world. If in the course of this I get a western audience, then I'm overjoyed. This is definitely not my main target, however.
We have enough problems as it is in our own part of the world, and enough problems articulating our viewpoints to our own people, let alone making them to the outside world. Alas, there is a bigger problem with all of this.
My main objection is that that Edward Said made in his book orientalism: that of the people doing the studying, and those who are being studied. It's this idea of people looking at us, and going, " oh how interesting, let me study these people and find out more about them." The best example came from an email someone sent to me: Again, he was very nice, and I'm sure he's a very friendly guy. However, he sent me an email saying that he was writing a thesis on the blossoming of so many blogs in the Arabic world. He sent me a survey with questions, and kindly requested me to answer them. The questions were like, " what made you start blogging?" "Was it particular events in your country, or was it a particular event in your life" " What do you think your blog will achieve?"
I just felt like one of these pandas being studied and filmed in the wild for a documentary. "Oh, here is where the creature sleeps and eats." "Oh, how remarkable, he has thoughts like us!" "Oh, so that's why he had those thoughts." It's this idea of orientalists treating "orientals" just like objects to be analyzed all over again. Well thanks, but not for me.
Suddenly Arabs and studyin their culture is the "hip" thing to learn about again. Shitloads of people are coming up to me and going "Oh I want to start learning Arabic! I want to travel to the middle East!" Shitloads of books are written on the middle east. Enrollments in Arabic and Middle Eastern degrees have sky rocketed; shit, even posh hippies are into shisha and listening to Amr Diab now. We're the creature that has to be learned more about, analyzed, and put in perspective. "Why do they bomb us?" "Oh they've had conflict over many centuries with the west. Oh, they have a remarkable tradition and history. Let's learn it and analyze them."
How come we can't do that? How come you don't get Arabic books entitled, "The lifes and habits of a midwestern american anonymous tow through the eyes of a Djibotian" How come we don't get Arabic documentaries entitled, "Seven pillars of wisdom: how to tame a Scotsman."
My new goal in life, is that before I die, I write a book called, " The English : An analysis of their mentality, habits, and customs from a Bahraini perspective"