Of designs, mentors and the future

Istanbul / August 11, 2012

I saw change coming in region because life hates stagnation and the rest of the world won’t wait for us to change on our own pace. The only question I had in this regard was whether change will come in the form of an invasion, a revolution, or combination of both. But there is no conspiracy involved here. Imperialism, anti-imperialism –are nothing more than subjective unscientific notions. Leftwing intellectuals who support dictators are no better than rightwing intellectuals who disdain the very people they say they want to empower. None of this makes any sense.

At one point or another, and more often than not, all violated the principles they espouse for the sake of perceived short or longtime interests. People as groups interact according to certain concepts and perceived interests, but eventually there is something mathematical at work, and a collective becoming dictated by an emerging collective consciousness than individual free will. Individual free will is real and affects the details, except at certain key points where it has some decisive role to play. But there is something deterministic about the larger processes at work: the dynamics of the human becoming.

It’s what Isaac Asimov referred to as psychohistory in his Foundation series. The protagonist is Hari Seldon, the father of psychohistory, a man who wants to speed up the processes of recovery of a decaying Galactic civilization. I returned to Syria in 1994 wanting to revive a dead region and transform it into the Tharwa Commonwealth. I created a region-wide project, which metamorphosed into a foundation with a mission and manifesto. I was not driven by ideology. To me, it was science, even if I did not have the right mathematical tools at my fingertips to describe it, and often found myself relying on intuition, and my words were often lacking, inadequate and incapable of relying what I really wanted to say. I was a Hari Seldon wannabe at best, and still am. My mentors were Isaac Asimov, Arthur Clark, Robert Silverberg, Robert Heinlein, and others, rather than any left or rightwing intellectuals.  Real sci-fi giants relied on science rather than ideology to extrapolate the future. I try to do the same. But don’t except to be able to quote any of my mentor. That’s not how my mind works. I was inspired to be original, not to imitate. Whether my originality is sufficient or adequate to make the difference I want to make is another question.

Because our intellectuals and people will keep relying on ideology to make sense of the world, I had to do what Hari Seldon tried to do: really lead from behind. I had to be a catalyst for change not its celebrated leader. I had to do enough media to get enough attention to be able to go on, but not more than that. I did things designed to get people to emulate them, things that will be catalytic in nature to expedite change. I relied on the creation of networks made of different independent teams, none of them was necessarily meant to last for long, just enough to get something done, something worthy of emulation, something that can generate awareness. YouTube, local activism, citizen journalism, virtual networking were the things I wanted to highlight. The goal was to get the people to become part of the looming change. True, the more people play a role and less the relevance of the elite, the more violent and complex things will get on the short run. But on the longer run, change will be far more drastic, democratic and empowering – that is, far more conducive to the emergence of the regional commonwealth I wanted.

It will take 50 years to see the real results. Change was coming anyway, my hope was to shorten its timespan and increase popular grassroots participation to ensure that change is indeed democratic.

Saddam and Assad Sr. tried to create empires, but that age has gone, that traditional thinking is no longer tenable. Nothing lasting gets created from the top anymore, you need to fragment in order to put together: we need to create a commonwealth not an empire.