The Emperor Without Clothes
Power of a Third Kind
The Western Attempt to Colonize the Global Village
Hisham M. Nazer
88 Post Road West, Westport, Connecticut, USA.
Pages 167, Price $ 23.95
Reviewed by Hasan Mansur
IT is seldom that one comes across an Arab belonging to the elite of the Middle East, making a critique of the West in respect of its tall claims to human rights, democracy and markets, more so if he happens to have served as a cabinet minister in Saudi Arabia holding key portfolios like petroleum and planning. With this redoubtable qualification that he should have authored this text, Power of A Third Kind with the sub-title, The Western Attempt to Colonize a Global Village sends the message that he has set himself to challenge the West’s claims and to expose its efforts to rebuild the non-Western world in its own image.
Nazer states his position that his internal discussion was based on man as a political being and human power as his first preoccupation. Man has experienced power since his first moments of self-consciousness in three phases; first, man sought shelter and sustenance from nature; man began to understand the potential of consciousness yet he was locked into present time and space. With this human realization of power of consciousness comes the source of technology, institution building and our global vision. Through technological extensions of the abilities of that consciousness, human power within man was suddenly outside him, imbued in a technology able to reflect human consciousness. To quote the author, “the central thrust of this third phase in realization of human power, will be the growing capacity of man to enter subjectivity of other human beings through the use of technology and projection of mobilised meaning through symbols and images. “This text makes a bid to do an analysis to explore political implications deriving from use of simulations of consciousness which Nazer calls the power of a third kind.
This power of a third kind is with a view to establishing West’s political processes and assumptions as universal, culturally transcendent work. Nazer feels strongly that this Western technological success is gained at loss of intellectually meaningful concept of man and his unique imaginative power. The knowledge derived from scientific empiricism excludes spiritual, metaphysical and speculative knowledge from true knowledge. Hence the liberal democratic process is presented as recipe for the global welfare, totally divorced of the cultural urges - so also the democracy.
Presenting his perspective as a non-Western but not essentially anti-Western angle, he does not concede that the new world order with “democracy and market democracy” stands victorious. He rejects Western predictions of ultimate demise of cultural values. Undoubtedly, the West can penetrate all cultures and nations, controlling as it is the global media and leading think tanks. He defines this as its ethno-centric political campaign. But the truth is, democracy is not its true objective but only symbolic use of it. If non-Western cultures do not respond to this, they are undermining their own stand. Democracy, human rights and environment become useful vehicles to achieve West’s political and economic ends in a contest for control of interpretation and imaginative powers of human mind in areas of political process and cultural alternative. Social, political and economic systems are directly connected to market and political professionals and bureaucratised intellectuals are engaged in “in the process of selling soup and selling ideology hardly differ in technique or implementation”. Modern intellectuals are caught up in the role of interdependence with decision-makers. Nazer remarks acidly, “Social scientists have the same status as those producing engines and electric toasters.” All are engaged in a projection and manipulation of history, political culture etc. He declares that the U.S.A. is the only Western nation in power of a third kind, equal to the task.
Speaking of West’s global ability to communicate in sight and sound, he alleges media as not being neutral but open to corporate and market pressures and to government policy; information has a ubiquitous presence in every home, seemingly neutral. “Freedom” of press is subject to state’s bias, and this media is full of Western cultural and consumer bias. The viewer is viewed as a consumer and asked to ‘consume’ culturally loaded and politically relevant Western frameworks and narratives. ‘Sovereignty’ redefined in place of nation-state, human rights are invoked to justify intervention. The ‘enemy’ is one who threatens “free market” and needs to be crushed.
Nazer defines West’s role as one of protecting democratic nations from non-democratic ones in which the USA becomes the ‘Supra-national moral authority’ with its ‘Messianic vision’ of ‘Market democracy’. In the Western view, democracy, human rights and free markets are “inherently human, inherently neutral, globally universal and devoid of any cultural and political origins”. Those who accept this are “not contenders for ‘rogue’ nation status, no risk to global community”. The West’s vision is of a ‘world made safe by markets’. Accordingly nations are classified, as functioning democracies, evolving democracies, rogue states and failed states. It is now in the context of the demise of the Soviet Union, Western intellectuals are now debating whether Islam or Confucianism would be the probable candidate for the new ‘evil’ force. He also dismisses the bogey of Islam in Western perspective with the contempt it deserves. As for the West’s hypocritical rhetoric on human rights, Nazer counters it as follows, “Human rights is not exclusively a Western invention. The Muslim world knew it more than 14 centuries ago, when as the Quran says, “We have honoured the sons of Adam”. On this all encompassing principle, a whole series of what is today considered the core of Western liberal individualism could be constructed. To honour a human being is to respect the inviolability of his life, his family and his property. All other rights flow logically.
Nazer displays the catholicity of mind in speaking on behalf of the entire developing world and pleads for intellectuals’ analytic involvement and active mediation. He emphasises the timeless value of intellectual thinking and of the relation of culture to politics. He welcomes the attitude of scepticism and wants to dig into the storehouse of ideas in one’s own culture and start the process of internal codification of concepts to harmonise with changing circumstances. He calls for ‘thinking about thinking’; lastly to quote him, “Conceptual creation of a multi cultural international milieu where divergent systems are promoted, where developing countries’ education in critical dialogue allows them to establish their own interpretative frames and narrative where developing nations’ intellectuals are actually involved in intensive alternative discourse. To sum up again in his own words, “In the end, the political system that will be more humane is the system most able to fully embrace this process of critical thinking. Education properly conceived encourages the capacity of consciousness...”
Nazer’s powerful indictment of Western discourse on democracy, human rights and the free market, its brazen chauvinism its duplicity about culture and politics and its language of discourse itself ambiguous, abstract and smacking of sophistry reminds one of T.S. Eliot’s memorable lines, “Where is the wisdom lost in knowledge/ where is the knowledge lost in information”? There is a simmering messianic rage in his pronouncements on the West, though restrained. It recalls the most powerful indictment of the political West by that most renowned fellow-Arab, Edward Said who has torn the veil off Western duplicity in world affairs. The reader is grateful to Nazer for showing up the West for what it truly is, the emperor without clothes.
Hasan Mansur is former Head of the English Dept in Bangalore University and is a human rights activist.
Political scientists (in the liberal West) could do anything physicists could do except applying for a patent.
Of all the atomic bombs that exist in Christian, Hindu and Jewish nations, the only one to receive a religious appellation, the “Islamic Bomb” is Pakistan’s. How quickly we forget that the only atomic bomb detonated on a human population was a “Christian Bomb"
Given the market and resource implications, the effects of making over one billion Muslims the enemy certainly would be as harmful to the Western economies as it might only be slightly advantageous to their foreign policy.
The media is made to appear nuetral, when it is no more neutral than any other entrepreneurial effort. Second, despite regulations to the contrary, all reporting is open to the corporate market pressures of media owners and their clients.
About the Author
Hisham M. Nazer is Chairman of the Nazer Group of Saudi Arabia. He has spent 38 years in public service, 28 as a cabinet minister. As Saudi Arabian Minister of Planning, he wrote the first five development plans of the Kingdom, guiding their implementation from 1970 onward. As Minister, he developed the concept for Saudi Arabia’s two industrial cities, Jubail and
Yanbu, directing their construction and management. From 1986 to 1995, Mr. Nazer served as the Minister of Petroleum, presiding over the restructuring and integrating of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, providing it with footholds in downstream operations in the United States, Korea, the Philippines, and Europe. At that time, he also served as the Chairman of Saudi
Aramco, the largest oil company in the world.