Be Like Adam's Son: The United Nations and the Tribal System

From Jawdat Said

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Let me remind the reader of the United Nations, where there is much talk about justice and equality, but when it comes to acts, it is still dominated by tribalism; it is still stronger dog eating the weaker dog – how else can we understand the Veto Right? This also must come under our detailed and careful study and analysis. Let it be remembered that tribes and extended families have been there for hundreds of millenniums, while multi-ethnic societies are much more recent, not more than ten thousand years. The change has been slow. It is necessary to follow the development in history, for when you know the past and the present, you can plan for the next stage. It is also necessary because unless we reveal the facts, those who have big claims will go on behaving the way they like with impunity and shamelessness.

People have the law that is stated and written down; and they have another law that children absorb from their environment. But with our modern tools we can bring that under study and reveal the facts.

There is something like the emotional language that the baby receives from its parents and its family even before learning to talk, and many subconscious attitudes and concepts are deeply implanted in its mind even before it can speak. It will learn to distinguish between an angry look and a loving look, a tender tone and an angry tone. What its community imparts to it during those two or three years, and during the few years before he/she can read and write is a condensed version of culture, built up through thousands of years. By this time a child will have learnt all the sacred things which he/she must flare up if violated; and what makes his/her parents and people around him/her mad. He/she complies with all that because he/she needs to win acceptance.

As the child understands the language, he/she understands something else: that what people say can be at variance with, can completely contradict, what their behavior indicates. Much of this perception is unconscious. He/she will learn to sanctify certain things with words, not with deeds. But this discrepancy creates a lot of misery for people. The child learns in our society that the main thing for his/her success is learning maneuvers and dodging, to say what he/she does not mean, and to have the skill to hide his/her intentions; lying becomes the basis for success. He/she often believes that those who keep their word are naïve people.

Let us not turn our backs to these discussions. It is not life that is too complicated, but it is we who make it complicated. I assume that I have made some holes in this wall.

A new science is beginning to take form, though it cannot yet stand on its feet: the science of changing the contents of minds. I can think of it as medicine before germs were discovered. Was not the discovery of germs a turning point in medicine? Think how different medicine has become after germs were discovered! Now the world of ideas and concepts and attitudes is not so unlike that of the body; there is definite affinity between the two domains, both in composition and in diseases.

I know how complex things seem, but they are not so beyond the reach of humans. It is possible to bring the inside of the human being under our notice and control. The cultural diseases that are transmitted to individuals can be analyzed and controlled. But it is a very new domain, and our skills are quite unequal to the massive challenges.

If you wish to see an elimination of injustice and hypocrisy, then the first principle is to believe that, in the same way that stars and planets have their most accurate laws, human behavior has its very accurate laws. The Qur'an says about that, "Not your desires, nor those of the People of the book [nor of course any other group] can prevail: whoever works evil, will be requited accordingly. Nor will he find, besides Allah, any protector or helper." (4:123)

The main psychological trouble we are dealing with here is that a human disdains to have the laws that apply to others apply to him/her; or, in other words, a human believes that he/she has privileges that others do not have.

It would be a good test that one examines his own mind to see how far he accepts the principle of equality. It takes a daring heart to accept equality with others. And maybe no one will accept it unconditionally.

To accept this principle is to accept it even when the other refuses it. That is how the principle is laid down and established. No matter what faith or conviction the other holds, he has the right to claim equality. When I protect the other's right, I am eligible to the same right.

I May find some individuals who accept this principle, but will a community accept it? Will an entire society decide to stand for justice among all groups and classes? This must be our target. In this case you will be more worried for your society's transgressing against others than for others' transgressing against your society.

It would be rather easy when one is weak and oppressed to accept and believe in equality and justice and eliminating privileges; but what about when one is strong, rich, and dominant?

All previous societies came to perdition, and their mistake was the same – pride. The only exception is Jonah's people. It is important to remember that it is not impossible to realize the state of curbing arrogance and pride, but we seem to be still in the crawling stage in the domain of having the necessary skill to bring about this state.

Muslims should not feel that they are privileged to be the dominant party, especially as for many centuries they have been living without good sense "al-rushd in Qur'anic diction;" they practice arrogance in the same way as other societies do.

But, it is time we awoke. The perdition of many peoples before us should awaken us, and what happened in Europe should awaken us. At least they overcame arrogance among themselves.

I do realize that for some time our intellect will not be working optimally; it will not be an easy task to detect the link between causes and effects, and to reap the results of past experiences. But history is waiting for us. It heartens us to review its events, for in it we have one of the richest sources of knowledge. No wonder God grants it that superior place. When people lose hope, their best salvation is to turn to history.