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The world is to rethink itself

Apr 11,2019 - Last updated at Oct 23,2023

Globally, we have come a long way in changing the landscape of human rights and social justice; where we are currently in the conversation about gender balance is indicative of this advancement. For instance, there has been a paradigm shift regarding how far we can get into egalitarianism. Two decades ago, it was a conversation on gender imbalance in school and university enrolment of females. Nowadays, there has been a remarkable enrolment gain of females in schools and universities that exceeds 50 per cent. As much as this is encouraging news, the alarming news is the current recession of male enrolment in schools and universities. Such emerging imbalance is creating a new social hiccup. In addition, the educational empowerment of females has not been reflected in many countries in terms of adequate traffic in social and political terrains.




An example of how paradox defines some of the outcomes of human-related projections is the pattern of empowerment for female students in the educational space. This pattern has not incorporated females into social, political and economic mobility, nor has the empowering machinery avoided the recession of male enrolment in schools and universities. Such paradox is due, to a great extent, to the inherent contradiction of patterns of empowerment that shape the structure and content of impact on the processes and procedures that result from empowerment.

To address the paradox, serious efforts should be invested into revisiting the inherent source of dysfunction and contradictions hindering the desired outcome. Since people and the world are on the cusp of immense change that is instigating abrupt transformation and multiple paradigm shifts, we need, and urgently so, to ensure the desired transformation is heading in the right direction and with the right pace and scope. This is an overdue priority.


What is needed now?


First, the entry point is expected to focus on conducting studies in order to understand how we form our sense of ourselves, conceptually and concretely, how we structure our relations and how we are socialised within those relations into sociopolitical roles, statuses and temperaments. Such studies will help in closely understanding the patterns of identity formation and the social construction of behaviour. Then, and only then, we can drive required changes in mindset and reconstruct desired habits and conduct.

Second, the current existing initiatives of human rights are essentially in a crisis of “translatability”. The values and ethical framework of these initiatives and projects are not effectively transformed into operative implementation on the ground. The downsizing benefits occur when empowering programmes, in their totality, lack the intellectual and operative depth, and when they evolve to become fragmented, sporadic, fallible and performative “pop-ups”.

Similarly, another alarming challenge lies in the lack of the common-sense apparatus that defines and dictates the content and the shape of the “empowerment trajectories,” misleading it to tilt toward division and compartmentalisation. For instance, the gender-related empowering machinery views masculinity and femininity as structurally binary, divided and oppositional, rather than as intrinsically and extrinsically mutually constitutive within the wide spectrum of patriarchy. Failing to perceive how femininity and masculinity act upon one another as co-creators, we will miss the opportunity to operationally implement a plan that brings about the required home-grown co-empowerment; instead, we appropriate mutually exclusive paradigms of empowerment and equality.

Third, understanding how patriarchy in the world camouflages to govern our public and private spaces is necessary. This can help in learning how patriarchy is culturally “enunciated” and at best “articulated”. Patriarchy is an ideology like all ideologies; it gives us “a false entry into history” and a false consciousness into the future.

Fourth, if you are a hermeneutist of the current legislative frameworks, your close interpretation will reveal many discriminatory positioning of both men and women in the regulatory landscape in many countries in the world. Putting heavy loads on men to be safeguards and mediatory and positioning women into the location of receipt and patrimonial mediation is a problematic making of the legislative structure. Personal status laws are a manifestation of this discrimination, revealed clearly through the unequal distribution of legislative privileges and benefits: empowering one with those privileges and hijacking those same privileges from the other side. This does not breed anything except feelings of injustice, marginalisation and inadequacy in women, and the feelings of false entitlement, over-ownership of privileges and positional superiority in the privileged. The moral authority is what is left for the disempowered to navigate potential spaces of equality.

Fifth, language, narrative and discourse are various tools of bias and indoctrination if projected by discriminatory intermediary interpretive structures. For instance, if a native language is contextualised to be syntactically and semantically exclusive of a particular human category, those excluded grow into normalising their linguistic displacement and alienation when they acquire their native language. Language then circulates to build degrees of separation for the “excluded” and degrees of ownership for the “included”. The “excluded” and the “included” both learn to see themselves and the world through structures and the very patterns of their inclusion or their exclusion.

The linguistic identity grounded in conquering linguistic space and visibility is then articulated to be visible, expansive, territorial and dominant, and the excluded category will be “familiarised” and is perceived to exist in linguistic vacuum, and to be stationary and vulnerable.

Another example is the narrative of history, which, in many cases, is an inventory of imagined landscapes of symbolic annihilation of “unwanted and unimagined” human categories and symbolic occupation by the “chosen” people. In its attempts to claim and reclaim its “grand” narratives and the space of historicity, history could fall into reproducing and reinventing its fantasy and megalomania. “Exclusive” ontology thrives to exist in historical negationism and denialism. Therefore, history should be revisited and rethought to be narrated scientifically, objectively with a fusion of “presentness and futurity,” foregrounding the narrative of universal human values and ethics.

Sixth, the media do enough damage in how people are “thingified” and “commodified”. So much pressure is imposed on people to comply with the politics of the beauty myth and the prestige apparatus that fix people as fetish in a fake phantasm. Media might fall into the polemic of hijacking people’s sense of themselves and their sense of their body. This is how people become alienated in their own body and personhood. The media have to redefine their simulatory narrative that turns cultures into consumerist models of saturated sensationalism and into meeting humans’ ethical duties, so as to endow the world with no or minimal fantasy or fallacy.

Seventh, politics, as shaped and is shaping the world around us, is moving toward fatigue and eventual exhaustion. It has so far authorised a world that is transfixed in the identity politics of “the common enemy” and “common hate” as common denominators, leading to unavoidable ideological ghettos. If “governance” rotates its axis from the centripetal to the centrifugal when impacted by the universal backlash of politics and politicians, the populace might rule. If the populace comes from an area of accumulated sense of marginalisation, vulnerability and peripherality, vengeance might become the dominant political machinery. Politicians must reflect deeply on how to reinvent themselves, their concepts, their contexts and their tools to avoid the backlash and repercussions and to align with the needed values and ethics of universal justice, love, reconciliation and empathy. Politics must emancipate itself from its orthodox and hegemony and look for new structures and spaces of solidarity, togetherness and human integrity. A real shift in power paradigms and power relations and configurations is highly needed to be conducive to a new world landscape of inclusion, engagement, partnerships and social justice.

The world is ecologically going through a transformative evolution which calls for transforming people’s habits into imagining and rethinking the world, its relations, its design and its manifested structures.

To this end, these are some of the factors among many others that should be considered and thought of carefully when global decisions are made and polices are designed.

Flat and half plans make flat and half solutions.


The writer is an associate professor at the American University of Madaba and dean of the Faculty of Languages and Communication

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