Monday

Tradition : the cloak of the Enemy


Tradition: the cloak of the Enemy
by Dima El Sayed




In the 7 years I spent in Paris, many a thing were not what I expected from what they call a traditional Democracy. Chief among these disappointments I went through in Paris was media …unbiased or a relatively unbiased media was apparently a figment of my idealistic imagination.  Those of you who lived in France, might have noticed that News for example is merely echoed from one channel to the other, that after a quick cruise through meteorological information, or the latest on the tour de France, or Paris Dakar, News was only a diluted version  of what it should be: an active search for the  truth or at least a  truth…

 What struck me mostly in the general situation of media, the public discourse and the general  state of mind that resulted of it  was the “set-in-stone mentality “ of the commoner’s  mind,  the black and white vision of the world … the blind faith in the knowledge of the nature of  Good and evil . Yes, Good and Evil seemed to be such an evidence sometimes that it took me quit a long time to understand why  the French make fun of George Bush’s axis of evil theory … it is not the idea that didn’t settle with the French mind , now I know, it is the identity of the evil and yes , its name. In a laic state, you see, it doesn’t do to call evil, Evil !

You think I am speaking of morality, and indeed I could be … but why then, you ask, if morality was of such importance in the public discourse, why when a media’s favorite puppet philosophers want to disparage one voice, he would immediately label said voice  ‘moralisateur ‘?
The reader would have guessed by now, ‘moralisateur’ is pejorative term that means moralizing, i.e giving moral lessons.  And that would be in itself an ultimate accusation to which no defense could be satisfying.

To this I answer, that moralizing has become abhorred, not because of the values it speaks of, but because of the values it destroys. Moralizing has become dangerous, not to the amoral mind, as the enlightened would like to think of him or herself as, but to the traditionally moral one … to me the immoral one masquerading as the state or the Order.

To this order, with its traditional morality, that does not speak its own name,  all Zarathustra’s calls for ‘creating new values” are shrieks that need to be silenced . not because to bring new values is to moralize but because giving life to new values, means doing away with the old ones … and in order to do so , one needs at first to admit that they exist…no, that they prevail .

 However, when established in time and space, the value as I see it, loses its moral ‘fond”. Burdened with its followers, it becomes the very thing a moral value should fight. It becomes Tradition. That is the case of secularism ( a la francaise) for example, that shifted from a revolution against the rule of the Gods, to  a holy rule with its churches, religious figures and scriptures…with its undisputed instructions on the nature of   good and evil. 

Sitting on my table in a small coffee shop in the so called conservative, traditional  city of Tripoli in Lebanon, following with my francophone cynicism the Arab spring , I recognize the traits of the same enemy … the traditional mind.
My enemy. Was there ever any more fatal, sneaky enemy then the traditional mind?  The one that cloaks itself with everything one loves: memories, family, habit, and the scents of the known yes and even love.
The enemy of research, and thus of Truth!  What would God be if not the Truth ?
The ultimate Sheitan would be then the traditional mind, wearing the jacket of a French secularist or the beard of a Salafi… tradition parading as morality

When Mohammed the Prophet, was calling upon the people with his new teachings “to come to what Allah has revealed and unto the Messenger , the people said to him "Enough for us is that which we found our fathers following even though their fathers had no knowledge whatsoever…[1]!
Time and again is the traditional mind upset by the ‘new values’ time and again do people express their distrust of what does not come from their own fathers, time and again they are asked to seek knowledge.
Knowledge says the Coran, not tradition . Tradition screams the Sheitan.( name of the devil)
Knowledge  cries the solitarystroller, when stones are cast against the veiled , knowledge  cries she when they are cast against the unveiled … !

Let us take a brief moment and ask the reader to ponder on the differences between morality and tradition.
Does he/she know that  a mistake that has been reiterated in time and space becomes  tradition… that the same prophet who revolted against the blind rule of tradition proclaimed that he was sent to complete ( supposing there was already a started path ) the best of moral values ?

   I see in Morality the commitment to Truth. I see in morality the aspiring to the universal , what does not aspire to the universal , could not claim to be moral . Whereas tradition dwells in the  local in the differences, in the specificities , not of an individual mind you but of a group … of a tribe Where ‘the Fathers’ are the decision makers .
I see morality in a man defending his land from a colonizing power, in a woman writing her version of the Truth notwithstanding the consequences… I hear Tradition however, is the incessant whining of the preachers in  the gloomy shades of their corrupt institutions, in the politicians discourses where morality serves only as a bait to the traditionally immoral exercise that is politics .



 in his letter , election advice to his brother Marcus, Quintus cicero writes in one the most brilliant texts on how to win an election:

“ the most important part of your campaign is to bring hope to people …on the other hand you should not make specific pledges either to the senate or to the people, stick to vague generalities. Tell the senate you will maintain its traditional power and privileges …” [2]  ( for that is what every Senate wants for tradition to perpetuate itself. 

I write this, while the Arab revolution that had done away with the father ( dick-tator )  is now in full battle against the other wing of the Enemy, against Tradition.

 Many are those who would love for us to confuse tradition with morality:
Fathers who want to be feared like Gods, who spent all their lives  afraid of dick tators , brothers in need of their daddy’s approval afraid of  growing up, mothers, mothers who were too scared  to speak up against the lies they lived for so long less the whole temple crumble … I see the jealous husband, the weak lover… the “ un-natural and the un-Loved” as  Chaplin said ( monologue in the good dictator)

Many are those who would like to confuse us but there must be no confusion.  In times of revolutions, in times of birth, the old must give place to the new. Winter must allow for spring, Tradition must bow to the morality of the NOW, and in these cycles, in the birth of new values and our reaching out for new freedoms, we should learn to be suspicious of all that is traditional, whether it was an Islam or a Democracy.
For every revolution is a way by itself, it cannot walk on already paved paths. 




[1] Holy Quran, Al Maeda, 104
[2] Quintus Tullius CICERO, How to Win an Election, translated by Philip FREEMAN, Princeton, 2012

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