Mahdi, from a speech held in The Hague 1998
Following the failure of the aspirations that motivated the revolutionary forces within the Arab uprisings and the dissolution of the "Arab Spring" into civil war and a restoration of the neo-liberal order under the rule of new regimes better fit to the conditions of modern capitalism, an atmosphere of frustration, negativity and nihilism has become the spirit of the time. Little surprise, for it is this attitude which dominates the sentiments of the era, and it was by this spirit that the uprisings themselves were borne. Their challenge was to "find themselves" and redeem themselves from these limitations by their own cognitive powers and their own constructive action. Under the morally very difficult conditions of an almost accidental popular uprising that was able to assume some of the remarkable qualities it developed only due to its lapse in timing, Rosa Luxemburg's self-corrective power of the masses was once again put to the test. And once again it was proved that this self-corrective power is not an inherent element in the psychology of popular uprisings, least of all spontaneous ones, but is decisively determined by the awareness, the degree of determination and clarity of purpose of those at the heart of the affair.
In the absence of a vision and a common purpose beyond the overthrow of a specific government, popular unrest is a plaything in the hands of anyone who has the capacity, the resources and the logistics to capitalise on it. Understanding it weakness and apt at manupilating its potential, he turns it whichever way he wants. These are the realities, and no amount of idealism, no amount of petty-revolutionary conceit will change them.
What at this point in time is most painfully lacking is a concept, an idea where to go from here and what way to turn. The first step forward will be to realise this.
The question one must pose is: what is the world we are living in and what is the world we want to live in.
The new generation, like the one that preceded it, is growing up without role models, in the absence of any moral authority representing any form of integrity or any set of credible values, if they claim to represent any values at all. Don't dream of changing one iota in any of this before you have begun to question who you are. The blown-up hypocritical arrogance of power and the blown-up pretensiousness of all-negating nihilism are but two sides of one coin. They are the two weights of the one scale that keeps the established order in balance. They are each the other's shadow. They are one and the same.
No amount of being fed up will ever be of any consequence to the present realities unless one knows exactly where one wants to go and by what means to get there. Unless one no longer takes the inherited concepts for granted, be it in their affirmation or be it in their negation.
Man's mission in every epoch is to create a civilisation; a civilisation that reflects and realises the highest aspirations of man to the maximum degree achievable under the conditions and circumstances given. Any social formation that fails in this task has forfeited the potential it represents. For it is in this task alone that we become who we are meant to be: mirror, creator and way. It is in the performance of this task alone, therefore, that we realise who we are.
If we act from a narrow perspective, the world resulting from our action will be a narrow one, and in it our creative power will choke. If we continue to think in the categories imposed upon us by our oppressor, oppression will be perpetuated in us, even if the specific form of oppression opposed or its agents should cease to exist.
History, faith and custom unites just as much as it divides. What matters is from what end we look at it and how far we are able to intellectually transcend our immediate limits and condition, how far we are able to put things into perspective.
The central question is: do we want war, oppression and enmity among the peoples or do we want solidarity, peace and fruitful interaction? Shall we look to the Golden Age or do we look to Apartheid? Regardless of the hatred, the divisions and the miserable conditions of today, our thoughts and our actions must look to the future. It is our vision of the future that must determine our thoughts and actions today.