Blog Post

Who After Osama? My Answer Is Salome, or, Salome Korkota's Secular Dream After Postmodern Fundamentalism

I am no big fan of conspiracy theories. I think all kinds of myths have their deep flaws. Rather I believe that often genuine mistakes are made and those mistakes become crimes after a while.  

The killing of Osama Bin Laden was a successful military operation—no doubt about it. And the facts that this operation revealed are more than just disturbing. According to the news,  as of today the world's number one terrorist has lived at least seven years in Pakistan, one of the key allies of the US government in the so-called "War on Terror." I don't want to go into the details of investigation and fact finding, since we are going to find more facts about this and other terrorist activities in the coming days, months and years. I just want to respond to a fundamental question:

So who is really behind the rise of fundamentalist groups around the world?

In one of his interviews Slavoj Žižek claims that Neoliberal regimes have created fundamentalist movements in the second half of the 20th century in order to counter the secular socialist threat from the East. Many authors have agreed that in many cases, generals, who are sipping cognac and having lavish lifestyles are behind groups like Al Qaeda, Hamas, etc.  It is a well-known fact that that Hamas was founded to counter the secular Fatah movement, which was gaining more and more international support. In the 1970s the United States together with its satellite governments of the Arab Peninsula started to finance not just an armed insurrection against the Soviet Union, but also the construction of Wahabi and other Fundamentalist religious schools in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Muslim countries. At the same time, fundamentalism was gaining strength in the US as well.  Preachers like Gerry Falwell and Pat Robertson hit the airwaves with the support of wealthy donors. Fundamentalism became the best tool of Neoliberal regimes to defeat the Egalitarian Dream of Humanity. It was important to keep capitalism alive and for this purpose fundamentalism looked like the best option. I repeat this was not a conspiracy—this was an ideological calculation on the part of Neoliberal regimes.

This started as soon as in the end of 1940s, when the West started to appear as a defender of Religious freedoms that Stalinists took away from people in the Soviet Empire. 

As far away as 1948, the Harry Truman administration started to subsidize trips by Islamic (as well as Jewish and Christian) fundamentalist scholars like Sayyid Qutb, to convince them that capitalism was a better system for social justice than communism.  Actually, Qutb's first writing was exactly about social justice in Islam and was written during his stay in the United States in 1949.  Of course, this was also not a conspiracy—it was part of a propaganda war with the emerging superpower, the Soviet Union, which was an atheist state.  After his return to Egypt, Mr. Qutb became a leader of the  Muslim Brotherhood and founded an ideology that led to the formation of Al Qaeda.

I remember the time of Soviet invasion in Afghanistan in 1970s. I was a teenager and most of us were against the imperialist policies of the Brezhnev doctrine of "International Aid to Afghan People".  But we did not quite know what the West did in responseand now we know. In the name of freedom and democracy Neoliberal regimes of the West have financed the rise of the most intolerant fundamentalism, which I would call Postmodern Fundamentalism. I am not talking just about Islamism; fanatical Christian and other teachings were also supported by wealthy contributors.  Instead of investing in humanist education, more and more funds were directed to fund those medieval institutions that produced not just suicide bombers like the 9/11 perpetrators, but also cold-blooded murderers like the home-bred  Oklahoma City bombers.  In the name of fighting communism and preserving capitalism it was OK to return to the dark middle ages and to invest heavily in this enterprise of hate. Of course, dominant theories of postmodern times were revolving around cultural relativism and acceptability of all kinds of inhumane acts in the name of culture and religion.  It was absolutely alright to torture women and mentally disabled people for some cultures, it was absolutely alright for different countries to have permanent warfare, 90 percent unemployment, no minimum wage, no civil rights and no human rights, because it was considered that their culture is made that way.  It is ironic that sometimes not just the right wing, but the so-called cultural left promoted the idea of such a differance.  Of course this was a complete misunderstanding of the ideas of Derrida and Foucault and their contemporaries. My father happened to be a postmodernist in the former Soviet Union and he was always criticizing Soviet Orthodox Leninist doctrines of NO IDENTITY. And post-structuralists had  good reason to criticize Enlightenmentyes indeed it has made many mistakes. But unfortunately it went so far as to translate into Postmodern Fundamentalismright wing discourse that has divided the world more than in any other time during Enlightenment.

Now, we can say that Osama period is gone—and I must say, I miss the period when Enlightenment was with us and we believed that culture and religion did not matter. Just like Žižek, I was also involved in the revolution of 1989, as a student anti-communist leader of the Georgian independence movement.  Just like Žižek we also believed that Liberal Democracy will bring a better life. But instead we have seen the darkness coming back for the first time after the middle ages. Many postmodern thinkers did not live to see this very well.  Many of them died in the 1980s, just like Foucault and my father. But Derrida saw this state of humanity in the last years of his life and wrote wonderful cries together with his friends and colleagues.

This new dark age is not feudal—it is financed by wealthy bankers and governments of the Neoliberal age—in the name of defeating a dream of human equality and freedom, dream Paris Commune and Russian Futurists. We have made a mistake.  We are paying billions of dollars to regimes that harbor fanatics and are raising fanatics at home in the name of LIBERTY. It is ironic that one of the main centers of Postmodern Fundamentalism is called LIBERTY UNIVERSITY. Billions of dollars were paid to the Pakistani military that has harbored terrorists that targeted the West. Of course, each of these explosions then contributed to the increase in military budget.  Mastermind of  the 9/11 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was taught how to be a sophisticated bomber at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Of course, he was not taught how to bomb Americans—he should have bombed Soviets. But after Soviet Union disintegrated, he turned on his teachers. His degree and education in mechanical engineering became useful when planning 9/11. There is no conspiracy here—it is a mistake that turned into a crime.

Now everyone is trying to figure out how come that we were paying billions of dollars of taxpayer money to the regimes that gave safe haven to terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and Bin Laden.  I guess it was a tragic, ideological mistake to say no to Enlightenment and declare Postmodern Fundamentalism and Identity Politics.  Now we are paying for it.  We are paying much more money in financing the military industrial complex and fanatical hate schools than we need to pay for humanistic education of those people in poor countries of the world.  At least 20 times more money is spent on military than on education and health care for the poorest. This is also not a conspiracy—this is a tragic mistake.

We have seen that security cannot bring peacequite the contraryPeace can bring Security. There is no peace without proper education and health care.

After Osama, the world is waiting for Born Again Communists—not the old ones with strong Statist and Imperialist politics, but the new ones that could a true heir to Paris Commune.  Like the one of Georgian Polyphonic rock singer Salome Korkota says: Denomination of Non-domination.

I want to end on this positive note—Salome is about 22 years old and she sings for a new world, without gong back to darkness of hate and fanaticism.

http://soundcloud.com/korkota/non-domination

Salome is of anew generationand she has dreams of the world that is not divided between different fundamentalist groups. These days Differance is appreciated but not idolized. After all it does not matter what is your religion or race. What matters if you have the opportunity to get an education.

And it is possible for the Global South to get an education. Just a little less money to fanatic schools and military and a little more money to humanist schools. After all enlightenment is not completely dead.

Irakli Zurab Kakabadze's picture
Irakli Kakabadze has been a leading figure in the nonviolent movement for social change in Georgia for more than two decades.  A member of the Civic Disobedience Committee in 1989 and during the Rose Revolution in 2003, he has since been harassed and detained repeatedly by authorities.  He is the author of five books and hundreds of essays in English, Georgian, and Russian. His play Candidate Jokola controversially depicted a love story between a Georgian presidential candidate and an Abkhaz woman. He is also an author of lyrics for “Postindustrial Boys,” and, together with Zurab Rtveliashvili, practices a literary performance style called Polyphonic Discourse.  He taught art and peacebuilding at Cornell University from 2008-2012 and currently teach at the Georgian-American University in Tbilisi, Georgia..