It’s true that World War III is taking place in the Middle East in a unique way. However, certain particularities distinguish this war from classic military-political aspects. Although defining it as a clash of civilizations is correct,1 its content is often incorrectly interpreted. Frequently, not enough attention is paid to its historical and social dimensions—what side particular forces are on and their methods and goals are not clear. Even though there is plenty of talk about various plans and projects, the war in question appears to lack a plan and to almost be running on its own steam. We are, so to speak, faced with a war that aims to create chaos.
The states and societies in the Middle East are literally a pile of problems. Various problems that have been accumulated and suppressed since antiquity suffocate society. The regimes themselves, dictated by the capitalist system, in the hope they would lead to a solution, have become the source of problems. They can neither develop solutions themselves nor allow any domestic or foreign forces to do so. It is, thus, an error to reduce the issue to the crisis of Islam alone. We are dealing with mentalities that predate the emergence of the monotheist religions and that have their roots in the Neolithic Age. There are a number of social structures and systems that can’t be defined by the concept of “nation.” Not only every aşiret but also almost every family is as complex as the state problem. The abyss separating women and men is just as wide and deep as the rift between society and the state, indicating the depth of their alienation from one another.
This chaos is like the Babylonian confusion of languages in the legend of Tower of Babel. It’s as if the legend were playing out anew in the same place, with more than seventy nations forces active.2 And the chaos gets worse every day. The Arab-Jewish war, a relic of the time of the pharaohs, continues unabated. The same is true of the military operations that have been carried out against the Kurds (previously known as the “Kurti”) since the time of the Sumerian kings. Therefore, we must seek a clearer answer to this question: How did all these problems become what they currently are in the Middle East?
Society in the Middle East is the stem cell of all societies. It draws strength from this quality. Stem cell theories are also valid for societies. The capitalist system of the American continental culture has shown an ability to expand into all cultures; from the Pacific and Australia to India, China, and Japan and from Africa to Russia and South Siberia. In a certain sense, it has won the war of cultures and civilizations. However, the system hasn’t succeeded in conquering the Middle East, despite numerous attempts since the nineteenth century. This region is riddled with problems that perhaps even surpass those of the world wars, with elements that go beyond asymmetric warfare. The main reason for these difficulties is clearly the social fabric.
The monarchy and feudalism smashed by the French Revolution and the Czar’s autocracy and feudalism that disintegrated in the face of the Russian Revolution were very similar; both waged a struggle against a superstructure that lacked structural depth. Even so, analyzing and dissolving these structures posed great difficulty. Furthermore, these revolutions played out at a superstructural level and ultimately could not escape being integrated into the capitalist system. The attempt to impose these models on societies in the Middle East and their superstructures aggravated rather than resolving problems. Therefore, there remains a need to understand well the nature of this clash of civilizations. More precisely, what is it that makes the Middle East civilization so obstinate, preventing potential solutions? Why have results been obtained through interventions against other known civilizations around the world, while similar efforts have not been successful in the Middle East?
The answer to this question lies in the reality of the Middle East being the main civilization. It is like the relationship of a mother to her children. A mother doesn’t resemble her children; the children resemble their mother. Correspondingly, daughter civilizations cannot reshape the main civilization in their own image. Rather, they will resemble the main civilization in at least some respects. I want to once again use the metaphor of the stem cell. A stem cell contains the genetic potential for all types of cells, but not all the genes of the stem cell can be found in the differentiated cells. Undoubtedly, one must not push the parallels between social and biological phenomena too far, but this comparison can, nevertheless, be helpful in understanding various trends. It is clear that the civilization of the capitalist system needs to approach the Middle East civilization with greater depth and a better understanding of its particularities.
In attempting to analyze the Middle East civilization, it is particularly important to look at its structure of mentality. The birth of the three monotheist structures of mentality in this region, where they subsequently became firmly rooted, is a basic fact that must be addressed. As a result, there are a number of fundamental issues that the sociology of religion must resolve in this region, and this effort must include literature and the other arts if it is to be concrete.
Drawing a map of the region’s mentality without identifying the values of Neolithic society, which are still influential in the region, would be gravely incomplete. On the other hand, denomination, tribe, and family structures as subunits of religions and people who have integrated into the ruling power remain a reality. The mentality patterns that capitalism has introduced are distorted by the reality of the Middle East and, thus, have only limited significance in the area. Looking at the origins of mentality patterns within the mythological world at the beginning of written history, or maybe even earlier, at the time of polytheism, and especially in the context of their relationship to Sumerian mythology, will contribute to a better understanding of the intertwined mentality patterns. In the contemporary Middle East, there is tremendous chaos, entwinement, deterioration, and indistinctness when it comes to what is said and done, concept and fact, fantasy and reality, religion and life, science and ideology, philosophy and religion, morality and law. Along with all of the contamination they have caused, almost all the layers of mentality ever known to humanity remain in the region, stacked up as piles of problems. Both old and the new language structures reflect a mentality that abounds with conservatism. There is a profound ignorance and narrow-mindedness about concepts that have arisen in recent centuries, such as “country,” “homeland,” “nation,” and “a state with set borders.” Elements of a modern mentality and medieval, even archaic, elements coexist in a dubious marriage. Therefore, without an assault on the mentality structures of the Middle East, the political, social, legal, and economic attacks on the physical structures that we are witnessing at present will not result in anything other than terror, massacres, and torture in all their official and unofficial dimensions of savagery, which is also, for the most part, essentially a mindset.
The power structures in the Middle East also differ significantly from those in other parts of the world. The phenomena of war and power are no less complex than are their mentality patterns. Although these are some of the oldest institutions in the region, there is a tremendous disconnection and a paradox that has arisen between war and power and social and economic life. These mutual relationships are open to all kinds of demagoguery and oppression, whether subtle or crude. Rationality has little significance in this context. As a phenomenon far from being understood and analyzed in sociology, and “social science,” the ruling power and war seem to be effectively hidden within their religious, ethnic, economic, political, and class contexts. It is, however, not really possible to get a realistic picture of the Middle East without properly analyzing all aspects of power and war, from the abstract concept of “God” to the very concrete blow with a club.
Its social structuring institutions, particularly the family, are just as complex as power itself. Men and the women in the Middle East are so complex that they require a specific analysis. An analysis of the family, women, and the dominant male using generic sociological parameters will prove largely insufficient. Political, ideological, and moral reality is mirrored in men and women in their strictest and darkest aspects. The contradictions within the family institution are by no means less than those within the state institution. The family, however, has a meaning that goes beyond its role as a social institution; it is, so to speak, the “black hole” of all societies. If we take a closer look at women, we might well gain insight into the entire drama of humanity.
An analysis of both historical sociality and geosociality requires a firmly dialectical approach. Without analyzing each period of historical time and the different spatial contexts, it is not possible to understand either our present day or the overall civilization systems. In fact, the history that has not been written is even more important than written history, just as the story of the places never mentioned is more important than that of the places everybody talks about.
It is quite clear it wouldn’t make much sense to look at the economic backwardness using the dry principles of economic theories without considering all these various social contexts. It is a general malady in social science to analyze the whole by dividing it into parts—like a cadaver. This has probably led to extremely erroneous results in studies of the Middle East civilization. Economics, is at the forefront of such studies. Economic analyses that fail to take into account the intertwined relationship of war and power and mentality and sociality will only lead to greater ignorance. It goes without saying that examining the Middle East with the analytical templates of Western civilization involves important theoretical and practical errors. The present chaos is partly a product of just such approaches.
No one any longer denies the chaos in the Middle East. It is one of the most emphasized issues of the day. Tragically, though, no one has attempted to carry out a meaningful analysis—neither those who claim to be the actual masters of the region nor those who seek to be the new masters. They are all frightened. A realistic analysis of the region would not only open a Pandora’s Box but would also lead, in a way, to the landing of Noah’s Ark on the new mountain of Cûdî.3 A new generation of life, both in human and ecological terms, will only germinate at that point. Current life has an all-embracing pattern of lies and violence. The five-thousand-year-old social pores are clogged with the sediment of thousands of years of despotic and exploitative undertakings and the innumerable forms of prostitution—a formal institution stretching back to the Sumerian priest state. While these social pores cannot be pronounced entirely dead, they are, however, breathing lethargically far from vitality.
Alexander the Great collaborated with the Kurdish aristocracy, who had a distinct structure within the Persian Empire, thereby managing to strengthen the movement known as Hellenism. Will the contemporary Alexanders of our day, the US emperors, with their latest projects on the Middle East, be able to bring about developments reminiscent of Hellenism? Will they, the US administrators of their province Iraq, succeed in setting events in motion as Hellenism did in collaboration with the Kurdish aristocracy?
Even more important is whether, as at the dawn of history, Kurds can once again repeat their role by becoming the cradle of a new civilization. That is, will the Kurds be able to play a similar role in the transition to the age of democratic civilization in the Middle East?
The role the Kurdish tribes played in history was mostly the result of their interaction with the civilizations around them—whether externally influencing them or reacting against them. In their own area, civilizational development was limited. Instead they resisted invasions and occupations from the outside based on ethnicity—in the form of aşiret and tribe—to secure their existence, as well as engaging in the cooperation necessary to do so. The Kurds maintain the same qualities today.
On the other hand, it will not be easy to resist, safeguard existence, and develop cooperation based on old motifs in the face of global capitalism’s new offensive. Although the traditional aristocratic collaborationist families may want to carry on with their established policy, the democratic people who have transcended ethnicity—as the “people of serkeftin”—can no longer be content with the old motifs nor can the people be controlled by one or another power.
It would be most fitting for social libertarians to regard the Kurdish people’s inability to establish a classic state as an opportunity rather than a defeat. Are there any social freedom values and social libertarians that were able to be both state-oriented and please their people? Many peoples in Latin America, Africa, and Asia now have their own state. Has this helped them solve their problems? Is it not the case that their problems have, in fact, gotten worse?
The important thing is to unify and institutionalize a communal and democratic identity—which is also historically the basic attitude of the people—integrating contemporary science and technological possibilities. Today, democracy is as essential as bread, air, and water for the people of the Middle East. No option other than democracy will make people happy—everything else has already been tried at some point in history. The Kurds, who have a particular role among these people, will do themselves, their neighbors, and all of humanity a huge favor if they succeed in mobilizing their geography, historical time, and social characteristics, which have become highly strategic factors, to the advantage of democratic civilization in the Middle East.
Understanding the Middle East Correctly: What Is the Problem and How Did It Develop?
The Mentality of the Middle East
It’s important to first address conceptual solutions before turning to institutional solutions. If we don’t succeed in correctly defining the concepts operative within societies both historically and in their everyday lives, the clarity of our hypotheses will be extremely limited. If, for example, we don’t carry out a sociological analysis of the concept of “Allah,” how will we be able to properly define any historical period or society?
There is a reason why the European discussion of theology (theodicy) in terms of mentality largely unfolded as they were coming out of the feudalism of the Middle Ages. The intense discussions about theos, i.e., God, finally led to philosophy, and then to the natural science. The Europeans believed deeply in God; He was sacred to them. They decided to explore the meaning of this God whom they revered and thoroughly believed in. They had the courage to discuss ideas that risked shattering dogmas and introducing novelties. Theology formed the basis of the intellectual debate that led them out of the Middle Ages. Contemporary scientific and philosophical ideas at the time were closely linked to theology. What was important, however, was that conclusions were drawn on the basis of the ensuing discussion, which provided the basis for reason-based science and philosophy. Islamic theologists, however, failed to draw conclusions from these discussions, instead bringing thought to a standstill by sanctifying dogma. In the early twelfth century, the important Islamic scholar Imam Ghazali condemned philosophy, sharply limiting the possibility of ijtihad in the process,4 causing it to disappear in the darkness of the Middle Ages. Even today, nobody dares to hold such a debate—or, perhaps more correctly, nobody is able to.
Furthermore, intellectual depth in societies in the Middle East dates back to the mythological age. The works of the Sumerian priests and writers, who were masterful mythmakers, were used by all three monotheistic religions as the basis for their improved versions. We know Abraham as the founder of monotheistic religion. However, he grew up in the kingdom of the Babylonian dynasty—under a certain Nimrod. Abraham’s father is said to have been a watchman in the pantheon housing the statues of deities in the city of Urfa, where the memory of Abraham is still alive today. As result of his experience there, he underwent a transformation of mentality. If this is the case, how can we understand Abraham’s religion if we know nothing about the pantheon of Nimrod?
The discourses of the most important theology professors on this subject do not go beyond fairy-tale-like narratives: Abraham broke the idols with an ax. This made Nimrod angry, and he asked who had broken the idol. Abraham responded that it was broken by the greatest idol of all. Nimrod queries as to how a lifeless idol could break something, and so goes the discussion. Without a sociological analysis of the Sumerian mythology that provides the basis for the pantheon of Nimrod, we cannot define Abraham’s religious revolutionism. Without defining him, we will be unable to fully understand the religious revolutions of Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad. In spite of the numerous universities, theological faculties, imam hatip schools,5 religious orders, and deity institutes in the Middle East, a sociological appraisal of theology is nowhere to be found, for if it existed the magic would evaporate. Its true nature would be revealed. It would become obvious that at the root of the idea of monotheism lies two facts: the expression of the unity of the forces of nature and the ascension of the hierarchical chief and the king within society. In other words, the dominant concept of “society” and, with it, the supreme expression of the dominant concept of “nature” was increasingly elaborated until the process finally arrived at Allah with his ninety-nine attributes. However, none of this is ever discussed, and although, at present, God has been blatantly politicized, even militarized by the likes of Hezbollah (Party of God), the deception of seeking his existence in heaven continues.
The institution of prophecy is also treated dogmatically by theology. It is turned into an abstract narrative, as if it has no connection to social development. But actually, the traditions of shamans and sheikhs, on the one hand, and of the vizier institution, as the chief executive under the authority of the emerging kingdom, on the other hand, are effective in its formation. Prophecy developed as a solution to the problems that occurred between the development of the state and the hierarchy. As such, this development is political in nature. It has both a widespread grassroots basis and an operational basis. Therefore, it plays a role in developments both in terms of wisdom and of political leadership. The important thing, however, is to determine where it fits into social reality, even if it is considered holy. If this were done, the historical personalities of some of the prophets might make more sense, and history too might be better illuminated. A dogmatic narration, however, leaves both aspects in the dark. In terms of holiness, many similar theological concepts also serve to obfuscate. This is particularly clear with the concepts of “heaven” and “hell.” Their roots stretch back to Sumerian mythology, and their connection to the rise of class society is clear. The situation that the working classes found themselves in actually resembles hell— Jahannam literally means the valley of Hinnom, a place of filth and putrefaction6—while those who seized the surplus product for themselves lived in a virtual paradise.7 We could adduce many more examples, but our goal is not to point out their ubiquity but to draw attention to the need to illuminate them through social science analysis.
The distinction between mythology and religion within the thought of the Middle East is still not discussed. Moreover, there is also no interpretation of mythology; it is simply dismissed as legend, even though for millennia this way of thinking engrossed the memories of the societies we still live in. This was the basic form of thought for thousands of years. As a poetic narrative of the symbolic expression of society’s material life, mythology influenced all of the religions and literary forms that followed, all of which adopt concepts from mythology. To dismiss mythology as a bunch of made-up stories is to be deprived of the richest cultural resource. Without a meaningful appreciation of mythology as the mode of thinking of humanity’s childhood era there can be no sound analysis of religion, literature, or the arts. Rather than denying mythology, we should revive it.
The question of when and in what form mythology served as a source for religion deserves a separate discussion. As I have mentioned, mythology is religionized when it becomes an absolute rule of belief. In this sense, becoming religionized is about accepting mythology as an irrefutable truth. Becoming religionized has a twofold value. First, it leads to the concept of “indisputable thought” in our reason, and this is how the idea of lawfulness develops. Divine law and the law of nature are increasingly integrated. Second, the thought of dialectic movement in nature and in society was circumvented before it was even born, which paved the way for idealist thinking. Thought broke away from facts to the utmost degree and underwent an uncontrolled development of its own. With that, the endless adventure of idealist thought began, driving social mentality away from the world of facts yet again. The development of religious thought gradually led to rigid dogmas in fundamental areas, such as law, politics, economy, morality, and the arts, becoming the law in the process. In fact, this made it extremely easy for the rising statist class to rule over society. To elevate each religious rule to the rank of a law was tantamount to solving the problems of legality and legitimacy with one stroke. The main reason for the exaltation of religion in antiquity and the Middle Ages was that it made ruling a whole lot easier.
Religion is a meticulously wrought ruling ideology. The ruling class has always been fully aware of the abstract character of religion, but the lower strata of society were made to believe that it was real. Much of the investment in religion—one only needs to think of all the temples and houses of worship—is closely linked to the state’s ruling power, as are religious rituals. To disguise this, a ban on discussion was introduced, because any discussion would very soon have focused on two important issues: the rise of the kingdom and natural law. Both are very important issues. It would have made clear how the god-king and the sultan—the “shadow of god”—were glorified, and this would have rid society of a terrifying and punishing understanding of God. Furthermore, addressing nature would have left the door ajar to science. The principles that govern the world of scientific phenomena—from quantum physics to the physics of the cosmos—would have been uncovered. The superiority of Europe is the result of very intense theological analyses carried out as it emerged from the Middle Ages. Of course, this intellectual development cannot be attributed to the discussion of theology (theodicy) alone, but without it the door would not have been pushed open for forward-looking thought. Possibly the Renaissance would not have arisen so easily without the debates of the Dominican and Franciscan orders in twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries.
In the Middle East, the ilmiye class closed itself off to discussions precisely during the Middle Ages.8 They imposed a rigid dogmatism on society, casting debate itself as apostasy. This tendency, which had long been nurtured by the tradition of power, finally caused the Middle East civilization to lose its edge to the West for the first time. The fifteenth century is the century of the great separation. The different approaches taken to theology lie at the base of this increasingly profound split between the East and the West. In fact, from the ninth to the twelfth century, there had been a remarkable development in philosophical thought in the Islamic world, which the West had only adopted by translating key works.9 There is no doubt that at that point the superiority in terms of thought was to be found in the Middle East. The Muʿtazilite theological school based itself on rationalism and declared war on dogmatism. Ibn Rushd (Averroes) was the greatest philosopher of the twelfth century. The leading Sufi philosophers, including Mansur al-Hallaj and Suhrawardī, defended their thinking at the cost of their lives. The mounting repression toward the end of the twelfth century shaped the character of the Middle East in a way that has lasted to this very day.
The role of religious dogmatism in weakening literature cannot be overestimated. Had literature remained connected to mythological sources it might have developed much further, but prohibitions against this caused it to shrivel. Prohibitions and accusations of “sin” robbed humanity of one of its richest resources. While Europe produced its first classics at this point,10 in the East, literature was reduced to flattering the sultans and embellishing their biographies. The saddest aspect of all is that today Westerners are producing literature about the religious and mythological reality in the Middle East. The nature of literary writing is a serious question in and of itself.
The revolution in mentality and the resulting developments Europe experienced during the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment can still not be put on the agenda in the Middle East society. The eclectic transmissions of intellectual development do not come to mean to be the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment. One can, on the contrary, even speak of backsliding. Radical Islam does not stand for renewal but, rather, for the revival of conservatism. The concept of “political Islam” is entirely in line with the traditional misuse of religion by the ruling power. It is unlikely that the Middle East will be able embrace the path to intellectual development while skipping the spiritual and intellectual processes that the West went through. A transformation in mentality cannot be achieved by holding fast to religion, or even by pure scientism or with positivist philosophical approaches. For example, the denominational approach at the basis of the current backwardness of Russia and China, that is, real socialism, which is not based on the thought processes of the West, had a decisive impact.
A revolution in mentality is essential in order to overcome and restructure society’s institutions, which have reached a dead end. But a revolution in mentality is not simply a matter of absorbing Western thought and conveying it wholesale. Even the limited attempts to do this are eclectic to the point of playing no role that goes beyond patching things up. Rote learning of Western thought won’t make anyone creative; not only will it make them unproductive, it will also prevent any possible revolution in thought. There are numerous intellectuals who are rote learners of this type, but there are no genuine social scientists to be found. University pietism abounds and is roaming about—that we can call contemporary mullahs. Their sophistry even falls short of the sophistry of antiquity. Intellectuals, philosophers, and scientists who really put their heart into it are harder to find than the proverbial needle in a haystack. Moreover, there is no belief that there is any need to do so. In fact, Western ideology has been transferred in very deficient ways. Whether nationalism, liberalism, or socialism, these contemporary ideological forms have played a reactionary role in the mentality of the Middle East’s intellectuals. It is pretty obvious from current practices that reality in the Middle East cannot be explained using these ideological templates, which only lead to even greater pollution.
If the revolution in mentality is to use Western forms, they must be adapted to reality in the Middle East. Without overcoming the background of meaning that all the fundamental historical and social structures are based upon through a full-fledged intellectual bombardment, a power of meaning upon which new structures can be based is not possible. Structures devoid of meaning have no social value or role. If you have not figured out your own social reality and clarified national, ethnic, and religious phenomena in thought, it will prove difficult to analyze the social and economic institutions based on politics alone. In Western thought, developments regarding issues like religion, nationalism, and racism required a great effort. The paradigm of a new life prevailed only as a result of the constructiveness of such challenging efforts.
The politicians and intellectuals of the Middle East act as if in their concrete case there is no need for the major struggle required for these efforts, and that they can succeed by mere rote learning and technical conveyance. The outcome is the inability to even dare to make one’s own revolution in mentality, accompanied by intellectual dependency, helplessness, and a lack of solutions in the face of global capitalism. The chaos in the Middle East cannot be overcome in the people’s favor without the region experiencing its own Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment; it cannot rid itself of thousands of years of despotism with a two-hundred-year-old Western polish.
The State in the Middle East
The institutionalization of hierarchy and the state is a social phenomenon that is extremely difficult to analyze. It is possible to penetrate the culture of the Middle East by understanding the language of its political culture. With the rise of hierarchy and the state, the web established among class division, religiousness, dynasty, family, and aşiret relations literally placed the social system outside of time and space. The mythological and religious discourse, along with class and ethnic discourses, only serves to further muddle the true nature of things.
This region, which was the center for the Neolithic phase of primordial communal society, still experiences the culture of that time as its deepest social memory. Even in material terms, Neolithic structures are still widespread. The nature of the villages had scarcely changed until recently. Slaveholding and feudal social systems are also deeply rooted cultural values in the region. Layering Western culture onto this cultural sum would amount to applying a thin layer of varnish, nothing more. Therefore, it is highly misleading to just look at the varnish and develop a social analysis on that basis.
There is hardly any social pore that patriarchy, a synonym for hierarchy, has not permeated. It is quite possible that patriarchal traditions ruled society thousands of years before the rise of the state institution. It is also possible that patriarchy’s power is not as all-encompassing and stifling anywhere in the world as it is in the Middle East. The influence of patriarchy on moral concepts, the personalities of men and women, the ethnic culture, and the understanding of family and honor is blatantly obvious. The cities, where one would expect a culture opposed would develop, bear the deep traces of the rural areas and, therefore, patriarchy. Hence, they are like islands in a sea of provinciality.
The state rose atop the patriarchal culture that had existed for millennia. Powerful patriarchal groups played a more essential role in its formation than classes did. The most prominent figure within these groups was the wise old man. As the elder with the most experience, the wise man was perhaps the earliest authority of all. It is likely that following the agricultural revolution, in which the wise mother played a major role, the wise and experienced elder who gradually developed took a further step forward in his social status, becoming the shaman, the sheikh, or the prophet. When classes subsequently formed in society and patriarchal institutions evolved into the state, the wise man, along with his allies, culminated in a dynasty and, based on that, a monarchy.
It is likely that the youth who were capable of carrying out an attack were turned into a military entourage, and the shaman became the priest, making a leap to a higher stage of authority in the process. While the priest worked to develop the ideological basis for this new authority, the military entourage slowly morphed into an army. This is the most realistic assumption about how the state emerged in this region. There is no evidence that the legions of slaves existed before this point. Slavery only developed after the state institution grew stronger. In the examples of Sumer and Egypt, we see the substantial influence of the priests and tribes very early on. Enslavement was far from easy, engendering a furious struggle. The habituation of society to slavery was the most important process in the culture of the Middle East and needs to be tracked and analyzed.
The great significance of mythology, the ideology of the Sumerian and Egyptian priests, was its role in the creation of the state. Just as the capitalism’s struggle using ideologies such as nationalism and liberalism created capitalist state form, the power of the mythological discourse created the slavery form of antiquity. Had the mythological discourse not had a legitimizing influence on society, the great dynasties of the god-kings would probably never have emerged or, at least, would never have taken root so strongly or lasted so long.
Nimrod and the pharaoh are expressions that represent the institution of the god-kings in the culture of the Middle East. The god-king was a creation of the Middle East. He was more than a person; he was an institution, a culture. Compared to the god-king, all the other members of society were like ants carrying provisions. The difference between the god-king and the “rest of society” was pushed to the limit and manipulated in a way that effectively created two different species: the immortal god-kings and ordinary mortals. The mythological craftiness or skill was to take great care to ensure that those who were slowly transforming themselves into the state were not seen as mere human beings. I believe that the continuity of the state as an institution that secured the life of the rulers was decisive in the emergence of the attribute of “immortality.” The connection between the concept of “immortality” in the idea of God and “continuity” in the state institution seems perfectly clear. Before the emergence of the state, the gods also died. The portrayal of the Neolithic gods included designated days each year that marked their births and deaths. Celebrations and mourning ceremonies were a form of worship based on widespread myths and rituals. Once the state institution became permanent—people were temporary, the state permanent—the gods were made immortal. Here, the way in which the lineages and dynasties of the god-kings gained privilege is also important. The fact that they were no longer considered human beings and were now regarded as immortal conferred upon them a certain supernatural greatness and distinction. When the class making up a state was deified and turned into an immortal lineage in this way, it fell upon all the other human beings—everyone else in society—to act as their servants.
This servitude is significantly different from the type of dependence seen later in Greek and Roman slavery, in a way that is similar to the difference between devotion to the master and devotion to God. In divine devotion there is a unity of strong belief and worship. In the priestly tradition, loyalty to the state was framed as loyalty to the god-king with such great genius that the slaves and the army of those rendered servants were turned into ants and reduced to the point that their sole purpose was to carry heavy loads. In Sumerian mythology, humans were presented as having been created from the excrement of the gods, although later there was a slight improvement and they were shown to have been created from earth or mud. Even today, the derogatory way in which humans were created by the gods continues to reverberate and be refined. The woman was too forgotten to be created from God. The honor bestowed on her was being created from the rib of a man.
The particular significance of these narratives is that they reflect the great ideological system of the time when the state class initially emerged. The division among human beings ran so deep that for generations the overwhelming majority of society not only approved of the divinity of the state class but even worshiped this class and perceived working hard as God’s command. The prevalent ideology was really deeply rooted. In this way, an institutional trait based on tyranny and lies was transformed into metaphysics, an abstract fetish—a thing to idolize—which is most supreme, worshiped and for which every effort is made.
The basic features of this emerging civilization rippled out from the Middle East to the rest of the world. In the process, it specifically suppressed the very rich and valuable Neolithic elements of the region’s culture, while spreading a mythological creation that would provide the basis for the most reactionary thoughts and beliefs through the same channels to a large swathe of the developed societies, especially to the societies in the region. This process had such a powerful and far-reaching influence that it continues to be felt in the way Hegel, the last important representative of idealist philosophy, went as far as to describe the state as the embodiment of God. Current discourses that continue to treat the state as eternal, elevated, and sacred also have their origin in this ancient system of servitude.
An important shift accompanied the transition from state ideology with its roots in mythology to the state based on the ideology of monotheistic religions. The main contradiction—highly symbolic—between Christianity and the Roman Empire was Christianity’s conviction that the emperor couldn’t be a god and that Jesus, as the Messiah, should be accepted as the Son of God. This discourse is, of course, essentially true of all monotheistic religions. The prophetic tradition emerged from the rejection of the god-kings and the acceptance of the prophets as the messengers of God. As such, this tradition represented a radical break with the ideology of the god-king. When we compare the divine worldview that dominated social mentality in the world of antiquity with that of the Middle Ages, we can see that a revolution in social mentality took place. In concrete terms, it was a flight from the cults of Nimrod and the pharaoh, i.e., a flight from their state. In other words, it was an exodus, or a hijra.
We see this tendency in the practice of many prophets, from Abraham through Moses to Jesus and then Mohammad. These movements, whose political aspect was as clear as their social aspect, should be seen as serious revolutions in their respective periods. Their main ideological message was: “Humans can’t be gods; they can, at best, be messengers of God.” In concrete terms, they helped to weaken the god-kings and to impose a compromise on at least part of society. In short, they wanted to limit the unlimited despotism of those who regarded themselves as god-kings.
A despot who insisted he was a god-king would not compromise, let alone take any note of the voices of his subjects. The story of the prophet Job is interesting and instructive in this regard. Here, if we dig deeply into the story of Job in the Holy Scripture, the essence of what it intends to express is: Job had lost everything he once possessed and lay in a cave, or a prison; his body was eaten up by maggots, and, he was in great pain and moan-ing. For the god-king, i.e., the Nimrod in Urfa, it was unthinkable that his subjects express pain. A subject was obliged to serve the god-king in silence and show no pain. Simply showing pain was an offense. The prophet Job’s major achievement was inducing the god-king—i.e., the state—to recognize his pain. For the first time, a god-king understood that one of his subjects was suffering pain. This new “understanding” amounted to a revolution. The figure of Job symbolized the suffering and the poverty of the people.
When the graves of Sumerian and Egyptian god-kings were opened, archeologists found the remains of as many as a couple of hundred human beings, most of them women. Quite obviously, when the king died, his entourage was buried alive with him. In the understanding of the time, a king’s entourage did not have any life independent of him. Just as his arms and legs were part of him and died with him, his entourage was regarded 22 as inseparable from his body and also had to die with him. In absolutist and totalitarian regimes, the subjects are also considered to be parts of the body of the monarch or the sovereign—like the flesh and nails or, more precisely, like bodily hair. They are denied any independent life. Though it might take milder forms, this is the “golden rule” that all states expect their subjects to embrace. The understanding of god-kingdom-servant has remained pretty much the same to this very day. Only in Western civilization has it undergone a limited amount of change.
Job’s revolution was the expression of a time when the people engaged in a relatively weak revolt by expressing their suffering. This is the basis of Job’s holiness, and the significance should not be underestimated. Job’s revolution may have been the first time in history that people tentatively objected to the state. Even though we don’t know whether or not the state backed down, the cult of the prophets grew exponentially, and around 1000 BCE, David and Solomon established their first known state. The founding of a state by David is very interesting. Ironically, when he founded the state, he was in the position of today’s Palestinians. He established his own principality by fighting against the local principalities. In a process that has certain parallels with our time, God and the king were clearly separated. The two were now separate entities. Even though the king is called the “shadow of God,” God is actually an abstract figure of the newly rising kingdom: its conceptual expression.
The notion of “zillulah,” “shadow of Allah,”11 which is found in monotheist religions, is notable because it marks a change in the form of state power. Even so, we must be very careful, because the essence of power remained unchanged. A kingdom that was elevated to heavenly heights could still issue dangerous orders from above. An invisible figure that remained totally hidden from the sight of his subjects could make them do whatever he wanted in more insidious and crafty ways. By declaring himself answerable only to God, the “shadow of God,” the sultan, could behave even more irresponsibly. Particularly remarkable was the growing relationship between the ascension of God and the abstract institutionalization of the state. As the state developed into an increasingly abstract institutional entity—independent of any individual—the concept of “God” as its ideological reflection also became increasingly abstract.
With Mohammad, this understanding of God in the tradition of Abraham and Moses turned into the theoretical core proposition that superseded almost everything else in the Koran. Mohammad’s greatest contribution to the idea of God was to equip God with ninety-nine attributes, creating a new level of sophistication: God is the only one, the indivisible one, the invisible one, the all-seeing one, the one with infinite reach, the one who is both merciful and punitive, the one who tolerates absolutely no other god, and so on. Here, we encounter a higher level of abstraction regarding the state institution. The degree of institutionalization corresponds to the degree of abstract divinity. Before Jesus and Mohammad, prophets tended to simply represent opposition to slave society, creating their own limited political systems that more or less resembled tribal governments or short-lived mini-states. The last two prophets, however, laid the groundwork for the emergence of the feudal state. Better put, their great struggles were placed at the foundation of the feudal state institution as part of a broader compromise, one that did not quite suit their purpose. The monotheist religions corresponded to the expansion of the middle-class reality. While the religions that were centered on god-kings suited the emergence of patriarchal and the slave states, polytheism and personal deities had coincided with the circumstances of the Neolithic Age and the living conditions of the lower classes.
We will understand the relationship between theology and society and politics better if we keep in mind that “divinity” was the collective, abstract expression of a developing social identity and its will. Although in the Middle Ages the state in the Middle East also included the middle class, no real change in its despotic character was observed. The sultan—a new title for the king—was the personal representative of power and was answerable to no one but God. The ilmiye class, the religious scholars, who interpreted God’s commandments were nothing more than a group of service personnel. They represented nothing but the will of the sultan. The state’s upper society had succeeded in gaining overwhelming sovereignty over society in terms of morality and mindset. Even though the state’s control of the city was tighter than elsewhere, there was still room for it to become more widespread in rural areas. The medieval state was at its strongest under both Islam and Christianity. By the sixth and seventh centuries, the Sasanian and Byzantine Empires, the degenerate and last forms of slavery during antiquity, began to make the transition to feudalism. The Islamic state is perhaps one of the leading states to have emerged and made the transition to feudalism in its most radical and harsh form. This could be considered as a new stage in the culture of the Middle East. The Arab-Islamic state was strongest under the Umayyads, the Abbasids, and the Seljuk Turks but was later substantially weakened by the attacks of the Mongols from the East and the crusaders from the West. The collapse of the Ayyubid dynasty around 1250 CE ushered in a period of stagnation. It seems most reasonable to regard the Ottoman Empire as a half-Islamic and half-Byzantine state. The feudal characteristics of both states were integrated into the Ottoman Empire. Both of these states had implemented the strictest form of despotism, and both had tried very hard to prevent the decline of feudal society. The Ottoman Empire, a fresh, still vigorous power, entered into a series of broad compromises that prolonged its rule as the last Middle East state to the greatest degree possible.
The feudal states with similar processes, as in China, India, and Europe, for example, are equally alien to democracy. The common maxim of the people was: “The greatest bliss in this world is found living at a great remove from the state.” Despite all the conciliatory efforts of religion, the state and society remained alien to each other. Although with great difficulty, ethnic groups and heretical—against formality—denominations were able to continue to exist in the mountains and deserts and in monasteries and dergah. These communities were the last shelters of the communal and democratic stance. Rebelling against the state was integral to these societies, and resistance became a way of life.
While attempting to define the state in the civilization in the Middle East, our actual goal is to shed light on today. Even though the state’s existence in Western civilization is rooted in the Middle East, it eventually went its own way. This separation, which began with states in Athens and Sparta, was carried, via Hellenism, to Rome. Even though the claim of being a god-king continued during Rome’s imperial era, albeit in a substantially muted form, the separation was completed with Constantine’s acceptance of Christianity. The idea of a Kingdom of God that will last a thousand years is the continuation of an old apocalyptic myth from the Middle East.12 Compared to its form in the Middle East, the state in Rome was worldlier. There was no augmenting of the state’s sacredness. When the Roman Empire collapsed under the crushing blows of the tribal migration, the state lost its remaining reverence even more. The Germanic tribes, which were less acquainted with the state, played an important role in revealing the worldly face of the state. Though they later tried to reanimate the state they inherited from the Roman Empire as the “Holy Roman Empire of the German nation,” the city-states and kingdoms became completely devoid of their divine armor. Once a clearer understanding of the nature of the state emerged, peoples and nations turned to political structures with democratic and national traits. The English, American, and French Revolutions extended the secular character of the state even further. Imposing constraints through constitutions buried the despotic state in the depths of history.
In the Middle East, however, there have been no such developments in the state tradition; on the contrary, the state has become increasingly conservative and reactionary. The Ottoman and the Iranian states were exclusively occupied with the attempt to prolong their existence a little longer by carrying out a defensive struggle against the West. While the state in the Middle East was falling apart, the colonialism of the Western state was far from firmly established. As a result, the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries represented a period of crisis for the Middle East. The political formations during these centuries, which can be characterized as semi-colonial and neocolonial, had some aspects not found elsewhere in the world.
Our short historical reflection reveals these differences. The relationship between state and society is particularly resistant to change, which means there are no quick escape routes from the crisis. There are neither the conditions for a rapid absorption of capitalist state forms nor for a rapid disintegration of the region’s own traditions. The social traditions lack the necessary creative dynamic to respond to either of those things, or, to be more precise, the power of tradition cannot easily recover since it has been in a consistent nose-dive within its social base since the Neolithic Age. Moreover, the collaborationist upper-class attempts fail to resonate in society and are insufficient for effectively analyzing society. Neither the American way nor the Pacific way represented by, say, Japan are viable options for making the leap to Western-style development.
The Islamic molds are not the only obstacles, but the values of civilization as a whole remain resilient. There is a prevalent hodgepodge constituted of the values of Neolithic society and the values of Sumerian and Egyptian slavery, combined with Islamic values and the rich values of ethnic groups. Civilization in the Middle East does not easily accept a foreign scion to enable transformation and can be compared to an aged tree that cannot endure being grafted. To make way for the new, one must either uproot the tree completely or have access to a suitable scion. But neither of these options are available. The first attempt at grafting was undertaken around 1900 by the Young Turks, and later by Turkey under Kemalism. Just as real socialism did not work, over the course of more than eighty years, the Western scion also failed to take root, even though it was heavily fertilized with nationalism. In Iran and Afghanistan, the monarchies were swept away when they tried to put on a modernist face. For its part, Arab nationalism is in mortal agony. The situation in Iraq proves how difficult it is to even bury it. Much the same is true of Israel’s Zionist nationalism, turning the Israel-Palestine question into complete savagery. Radical Islam and a renewed turn toward Islam are nothing but suicidal, a fluttering triggered by hopelessness in the face of the far-reaching global offensive of capitalism. Radical Islam has no new potential to offer and can provide no solution.
A brief historical summary of the main concepts shows that the phenomenon of the state underlies all the problems in the Middle East. Western civilization has carried out major struggles to unlock the mystery of the state, an institution that originated in the Middle East. Among other things, the Renaissance lifted the ideological veil with which the state had covered itself, and with the revolution in mentality shattered the mythological and religious armor. It allowed for reality to be seen more baldly. The Reformation shattered the immunity and integrity of the same state’s god-state ideology, as well as the state’s bureaucracy, which was defended by the church. It brought an end to the rule of fear over society, which allowed everyone to freely define their beliefs. In the Middle East quite the opposite occurred; opposing currents, the Muʿtazilites among others, were eliminated. In the West, the collapse of religious reign accelerated freedom of thought and belief. The Enlightenment amplified this development and carried it to the masses. In objective terms, the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment shattered the state’s armor of immunity and paved the way for society’s democratic power. The English, American, and French Revolutions smashed the classic state, which led to the state’s ideological and bureaucratic renewal. The state was constrained by constitutions and human rights and advanced the initiative of social forces, leading to significant civilizational developments during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
In the Middle East, the exact opposite took place during these centuries. The forces that organized themselves as the usurping warrior ruling power clique abused the state’s need to provide for the general security and common good of “society” right from the beginning and made itself completely dominant using gruesome means. The state became completely despotic and developed into a parasite sucking the blood of society. The period after the fifteenth century is the tragic story of this process. While the West saw an evolution from the Magna Carta to modern constitutions, the Middle East and the East overall developed the most varied forms of despotism. The popular saying “there are many intrigues among the Ottomans” has its origins in that time, and the saying “the greatest bliss in this world is found living at a great remove from the state” reflects this fact. Society in the Middle East is like a tightly bound quarry in the hands of the state. Those who show even the slightest sign of emancipation are immediately cut down to size. Nor is there any constraining of the state with legal and constitutional means; on the contrary, the state has, in fact, become increasingly reactionary and protects its own order ever more vigorously.
In the twentieth century, when the state in the Middle East cringed and became increasingly conservative, both internally against society and externally against the West, it covered itself with the twentieth century nationalist cloak, which only worsened the problems. With state support and by way of nationalism and limited reforms, a small minority modernized, but the bigotry and the backwardness within society in general created a mentality that was unhealthy, simplistic, absurd, and, one might say, from another time and place. While traditionalism lost all its sacredness, modernity only formed a layer of unwitting objective agents around the state. The state in the Middle East was never completely dissolved but, rather, responded in the expected way, given its character of being an agent institution. The West had no desire to destroy it, because it considered the situation sufficient for its short-term interests. For two hundred years, the West sustained the Ottoman and Iranian monarchies, which would have collapsed if left on their own, by finding new ways to maintain the balance of forces. The “comprador capitalism” developed by the capitalist system worldwide,13 which had become dominant in the West, provided an ideal economic base for this unwitting agency. The many problems of society were not even acknowledged, let alone addressed. Thus, it was like a contemporary version of the god-king state. The technical and military support received from the West functioned as a lifejacket for the state in the Middle East, allowing it to easily sustain itself against its own society. As long as it had its masters behind it, it was not difficult for the warrior ruling power clique to prolong its life. And the more this state was polished by the capitalist system’s auxiliary tools or denominations—real socialism, social democracy, and national liberation movements—the more secure it could consider itself.
This so-called reform process lost one base after another in the face of the general crisis and chaos of capitalist imperialist globalization, which accelerated with the dissolution of real socialism in the 1990s. The empire of chaos under the leadership of the US cannot go on with these structures. That would be contrary to the logic of the system. For the system, profit and security are the decisive factors, and in this new situation the state in the Middle East puts both factors at risk. This state is now synonymous with wasteful expenses and insecurity. Its detachment from the masses elevated this wastefulness and insecurity to unbearable dimensions. With this polished patchwork of despotism, it is very difficult to respond to the demands of people who are grappling with the problems of global capitalism from above and the problems from below that have been accumulating since the Neolithic Age.
The Family in the Middle East
The problem of social mentality and behavior shaped around the family and the woman has become at least as aggravated as the state problem. Like heaven and hell, the state above and the family below form a dialectical whole. While the state realizes its micromodel in the family, the growing family demands envisage its macromodel as the state. Each family finds its ideal solution in becoming a state. The reflection of the state despot in the family is the “head of the family,” the man, as the “little despot.” Just as the great despot called the “state” tries to bring order to the world in an effective, authoritative, and arbitrary manner, the junior chief, the little despot, also exercises the same absolute order over a few women and children.
If we failed to analyze the family as the micromodel of the state in the civilization in the Middle East, our social analysis would be flawed. In today’s society in the Middle East, if the women’s question has become at least as grave as the question of the state, this is because, as in the case of the state, there is a long and complex history of women’s slavery. Without indicating where this Bermuda Triangle is on the map, the woman-family-man relationship will suck down all of the ships carrying a social solution that may pass by. The Bermuda Triangle in the social ocean is the family—the microstate in the Middle East. As hierarchy and the state rise, they cannot help but reflect their projections in the family institution, because hierarchy and a state that does not echo in the family will not survive for very long. In the civilization on the Middle East, this dialectical dilemma is meticulously weaved and cannot be neglected.
It is necessary to formulate a brief history of women’s slavery, since there will be great flaws in understanding the family and men, and, thus, from another point of view, the state and society, without treating women as the oldest captive sex, lineage, and class and subjecting them at least to a limited sociological analysis. As I have tried to present a definition of the woman in the previous chapter, I won’t repeat it here. However, we should never neglect to say that when women take part in sociality considering them as a biologically deficient and defective sex is entirely ideological and is “a devise of the dominant male mentality.” On the contrary, we should never ignore that it is a scientifically proven fact that women are more capable biological and social beings.
The center of the domestic mother culture is the Middle East. Current knowledge suggests that this culture began to develop around 15000 BCE. The flora and fauna of the inner foothills of the Taurus and Zagros mountain range region offered the basic material conditions necessary for domestication. The fact that the climate and the soil structure were suitable for growing wheat and related plants, as well as for breeding small livestock, such as sheep and goats, was key. Women bearing and raising children can best be realized in sedentary conditions. When this need is combined with a favorable climate and the presence of suitable plants and animals, the basic conditions for domestication arise. Foraging ability and the many plants and fruits met food needs, while the domestication of mountain sheep and goats for wool, milk, and meat further satisfied people’s needs.
Trial and error showed that growing plants and trees in fields multiplies the yield. Keeping animals instead of immediately slaughtering them yielded milk products and wool that came in handy in periods of emergency. Thus, the mother-woman had substantial experience both in agriculture and livestock breeding that allowed her to develop the domestic order with the children she raised. Coming out of the caves, growing food, and raising livestock at a fixed location, as well as setting up house, may appear to be a small step, but for humanity it was as big an event as the moon landing.
From constructing huts, it was only a small step to founding villages. In many regions in present day Kurdistan, numerous unique testimonials to this culture, whose history reaches back to the twelfth millennium BCE, can still be found. Examples include Çayönü near Ergani/Diyarbakır, Çemê Xalan near Batman, Nevalı Çori and Göbekli Tepe, near Urfa, the caves in the region Hakkâri, and archeological sites in the Bradost region. These are the oldest examples of sedentary culture that have been found anywhere in the world. The primary evidence of the intensity of domestic mother culture is that practically all figures and statuettes found are female. Another example is the role of the feminine prefixes in the languages of the region. That, until this day, the domestic mother culture remains an area of mastery for women confirms this fact.
Sumerian sources demonstrate that this culture was influential when the Sumerians founded their first cities and remained strong thereafter. The mythological motif around Inanna, the goddess of Uruk, is highly instructive. Her resistance, especially against men’s ascendance to domination, surpasses even the best of feminist movements of our time. In the struggle against the god Enki—the figure representing the rising patriarchy among the Sumerians—she vehemently defended women’s civilization. In poetic language, she expounded the view that the 104 me, the achievements and concepts of the civilization of that time, belonged to her, and that Enki had deceitfully stolen them and had to return them. This mythological narrative, which can be traced back to 3000 BCE, shows in a spectacular way the extent of women’s role in Sumerian civilization. Furthermore, the origin of Inanna is connected to Ninhursag, the ancient mother-goddess. Nin means goddess, kur, mountain, and sag, region. Ninhursag is, thus, the goddess of the mountain region. Given that for the Sumerians in Lower Mesopotamia, mountain is synonymous with the mountain ranges and foothills of the Zagros, we can say that goddess culture descended from the mountainous area.
At the time of the Sumerians, who represented the global center of civilization from 4000 to 2000 BCE, the woman-mother culture was still influential. It had equal weight with that of the man. This is reflected in all of the mythological documents of the time. Goddess temples were widespread. A culture of shaming has not yet been developed around the woman. Sexuality in particular was described as a divine act, and, far from women being shamed, the literary expression finds no parallel even in the best erotic stories. Every act and all behavior connected with sexuality finds meaning as something that makes life valuable and beautiful. Female sexuality was presented as something beautiful and worthy of extraordinary respect. There was, at that point, none of the shaming of women that would be seen later, after the great counterrevolution in the way of life that was to come. The female body was constantly praised. Even the sacred wedding ceremony, although distorted—being turned into the man’s act of disfigurement—can be traced back to that period. The epics of Memê Alan, of Mem and Zîn, and of Derweşê Evdî, which are still recited in Kurdistan today, reflect the strong position of women in many ways.14 It is, therefore, realistic to assume that their origins stretch back to the fifth millennium BCE.
In the Inanna mythological motif, both the shepherd and the farmer are represented as her companions. The shepherd Dumuzi—the origin of all male ascension—and the farmer Enkimdu compete in their respect for and loyalty to Inanna.15 There is nothing they would not do to become the first among her companions. Inanna is still in the leading position. The male—as the farmer and the shepherd—is far from dominant.
In another famous Sumerian epic, the Babylonian creation epic Enuma Elish, we see that the tide has turned. The struggle between the god Marduk, who represents the male who has grown extraordinarily powerful, and Tiamat, the considerably weakened mother, is extremely instructive. In the epic, we find a horrible defamation and shaming culture being instilled against the woman-mother and against the goddess-mother. All the mythological molds are mobilized to represent the woman as without virtue, useless, harmful, and horrible. Patriarchal society had become so powerful that it could render its rule eternal in the epics. Everything about the man was glorified and presented as heroic; while everything about the woman was denigrated, shamed, and declared worthless. This culture, a major change to the detriment of women’s social status, became widespread since around 2000 BCE.
This sexual rupture would arguably lead to the greatest change in social life in history. This first change in the culture of the Middle East in relation to women could be called the first great sexual rupture counterrevolution. We call it a counter revolution, because it did not make any positive contribution to the development of society. On the contrary, it led to an impoverishment of life, by introducing the rigid domination of patriarchal society and excluding women. This gave rise to a monophonic male society, rather than a society that once talked with two voices. This rupture in the civilization in the Middle East was perhaps the first step on the road to its decline. The consequences of this rupture have grown even gloomier with each passing period. The transition was made to a one-dimensional and extremely masculine social culture. While the emotional intelligence of the woman that once worked wonders and was extremely humane and animated was being lost, the cursed—although they would argue the opposite—analytical intelligence of a cruel culture that has surrendered to dogmatism, detached itself from nature, regarded war as the highest virtue, enjoyed spilling streams of human blood, and arrogated to itself the right to treat women and enslaved men arbitrarily emerged. Of course, advocates of this kind of intelligence present it very differently. This sort of intelligence, or thinking, has a structure that is the opposite of the egalitarian woman’s intelligence, which is focused on animate nature and humane production.
With the rise of the dominant male structure within society, a serious standstill in creativity was experienced. While there were thousands of inventions and discoveries made from the seventh to the fifth millennium BCE—the period of the mother-woman—after the third millennium, we encounter only a few inventions worth mentioning. In addition, a structure has emerged in which the warrior ruling power culture is widespread and the conqueror—i.e., the profession of the kings—is held in the highest esteem, with conquest becoming the main goal of states. Essentially, the exclusion of women went hand in hand with a growing appreciation of authorities based on conquest, the warrior, and the male. With the state institution attaining its meaning entirely as the invention of men, wars for plunder and booty became something like a mode of production. Women’s social effectiveness based on production was replaced by men’s social effectiveness based on war and pillaging. Women’s captivity and the culture of warrior society are very closely connected. War doesn’t produce. War extorts and plunders. Even though the role of force can under some specific conditions be decisive to social development—clearing the way for freedom or resisting occupation, invasion, and colonialism—it is for the most part destructive and negative. Furthermore, wars foster a culture of violence that is internalized by society. The sword of war between states, like the man’s hand in the family, is a symbol of domination. Both lower and the upper society face the threat of this sword and are in the grasp of this hand. The culture of oppression is constantly praised. The greatest social figures are proud of the blood of the innocents that they have spilled, seeing it as an expression of virtue. The kings of Babylon and Assur in particular considered it a great honor and glory to erect mountains of human skulls or to build castle ramparts with them. The still widespread culture of social violence and state terror has its roots in this culture.
The culture of the second great sexual rupture against women developed during the time of the monotheistic religions, with the culture of the rupture that occurred during the mythological era simply becoming the law, this time as God’s command. Practices targeting women since then have been linked to God’s sacred command. The relationship between Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar shows how the new religion affirmed male supremacy. Patriarchy was well-established, the institution of concubinage had been formed, and polygamy was approved. The difficult relationship between Moses and his sister Miriam shows that women had also lost their share of inheritance. Moses’s society is a true male society; women are not granted a single responsibility. This is the source of the dispute with Miriam. The saying “a woman should not interfere in men’s business while her hands are in dough” probably stems from that period.
Sometime around 1000 BCE, in the Hebrew kingdom of David and Solomon, the transition was made to an extensive harem culture. Women were given away as gifts, and a new era in which the woman has no say whatsoever began. She is completely silenced. Women as property were no different than any other property. In the new religious state, this situation was also reflected in the family. It is impossible to talk about any role for women under this double cultural domination, i.e., the domination of the religious state culture and of the patriarchal culture. The best woman was the one who complied most with her man and with patriarchy. Religion was also used to cast aspersion on women. As Eve, she is, first and foremost, the original sinful woman, having seduced Adam and caused his expulsion from paradise. Lilith, who refused to bow down to the God of Adam—the symbol of patriarchy—became Satan’s companion— the human figure who refused to fall to his knees before Adam and who refused to become a servant. Mythological aspersions became templates for religious aspersions. The Sumerian story of a woman created from the rib of a man made its way into the Holy Scripture, and there isn’t a single woman among the thousands of prophets. Women’s sexuality is regarded as a great sin, and constant aspersion and denigration are turned into a moral principle. The woman, who had a magnificent place in Sumerian and Egyptian societies, was now a sinful, seductive, and shameful object.
Let’s move on to the time of Jesus. Even though the Mary that we encounter here is perceived to be the Mother of God the Son, she has no divinity of her own. The goddess title of the mother-goddess is replaced by a very quiet and weeping mother, and her decline continues. Becoming pregnant by the breath of God—the man who dominates the woman—is an enormously contradictory concept.
The Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit represents a synthesis of polytheism and monotheism. At the time, the Gnostics, who acknowledged God, and the pagans, who worshiped idols, were widespread and in a close relationship with Christianity. There was an intense conflict between them and the strict Hebrew monotheism. As a compromise among these three tendencies, a religion with a triple God emerged. This considerably reduces the number of gods. In Mohammad’s time, there was also a trio of gods, or, rather, goddesses.16 It is interesting that even though she should logically also be a goddess, Mary merely appears as an instrument of the Holy Spirit. This phenomenon demonstrates that divinity had by this point become masculinized. In Sumer and Egypt, gods and goddesses had existed in almost equal numbers. Even in the Babylonian period, the voice of the mother-goddess remained strong.
With Jesus and Mary, the role that befalls the woman is to be the weeping and composed woman and mother. She will never again talk about divinity. In her home, she will take particularly good care of her male children, who have become more valuable as “god-sons.” She has no social role other than being a good housewife. The public space is completely closed to women. The female saints in Christianity were based on the practice of female virgins, women who went into seclusion to rid themselves of their great sins. It could be that this had a positive side, albeit a very limited one. Sainthood for women at the very least meant liberation from sexual conceptions and reproach. There were strong material and immaterial reasons to prefer this to living the hell at home. There is no doubt that this is a historically significant tradition. This, in a way, can even be characterized as the original destitute women’s party. Albeit faintly, it represents the revival of the temple culture of the goddess in the form of the convent culture of the woman. This form of sainthood has an important place in the history of European civilization.
Monogamy was also substantially inspired by the way of life of these holy women. Even though these women lived in very difficult conditions and regarded their own sexuality as a source of danger, as was the case with their virginity, we can still say that this practice contributed to the improvement of the status of women. The downside, however, was that women, in reaction against Catholic marriage—against never being able to divorce—were turned into sexual commodities. This, of course, was due to rising capitalism.
Even though the new status that the woman gained with Mohammad and Islam was to some degree positive when compared to the patriarchal nature of desert tribal culture, it was essentially based on Hebrew culture. The status of women, which was already profoundly shaped by David and Solomon, was the one adopted by Mohammad. In addition, marry-ing several women for political purposes and living with a great number of concubines was considered normal. While the number of wives was limited to four, this had essentially also been the case in pre-Islamic culture. That the understanding “the woman is your arable land, you can cultivate it as you wish” treats woman as a property is a given. Mohammad’s concept of “love” was also quite interesting. The fact that, at fifty years old, he falls in love with the nine-year-old Aisha shows the nature of his interest. On the other hand, his frequent eulogies for his first wife Khadija testify to the significance that he assigned to women. In general, it could be said that he showed some awareness of the situation of women. However, his decision to leave untouched the harem and concubinage as institutions would play out extremely negatively when the state layer later entered the picture.
When Aisha intervened in the power struggle between the caliphs after the death of Mohammad, she was defeated. She learned the hard way about a woman’s actual value and cried out: “My God, I’d rather you brought me into this world as a stone and not as a woman!” The fact that there is no place for women within the ruling power had already been made abundantly clear in the dispute between Moses and Miriam. And in the medieval feudal Middle East there was no positive development in the status of women—and these historical molds still prevail. The symbolic love affair between Layla and Majnun does not end well.
There is no place for love in a feudal society. Women went through their most characterless period within the family that remained when faced with the challenges of the state and patriarchy. They were absolute prisoners to the desires of those in power and played a purely instrumental role in strengthening their power. In general, they were entirely isolated from society. While, in the remaining nomadic communities, the traces of the primordial communal order were still imbued with respect for women, the most profound female slavery is experienced by women in the city.
It became increasingly difficult to define a woman’s place within an order based on domination and property. Today, women—as the evidence of an implementation of thousands of years—is in a state of total wreck-age. Even the seductive effect of the capitalist system is far from being fully reflected. Women remain the principal element at the heart of the backwardness within society in the Middle East. Men in the Middle East, who have been defeated on every front, take out the consequences of their defeat on women, and the more men are humiliated in the outside world, the more they take it out on women, whether intentionally or spontaneously. Men, full of anger because they are unable to defend their society and can’t find a way out of the trap they’re in, turn their rage into fits of violence against women and children in the family. The phenomenon of “honor killing” is, in fact, the act of a man who allows his honor to be trampled everywhere in the social sphere to dispel his anger by targeting the woman. He thinks that with a symbolic but extremely empty and crude display he has restored his honor—in a way he is engaging in a sort of psychotherapy. A lost history and a lost social cause underlie the problem. One of the fundamental problems is to explain to this “man” that he will never shed the stain on his honor until he confronts its historical social cause and does his part. It is absolutely necessary to teach him that true honor is not found in a woman’s virginity but by procuring historical and social virginity, and making sure that it is implemented as such.17
I hope that these brief historical observations have contributed to clarifying the fact that the problems of today’s family in the Middle East are as important as the problems with the state. These problems are intensified by pressure from both sides. The reverberations of the historical legacy of patriarchal and statist society and the modern molds emanating from Western civilization have not led to a synthesis but have created a Gordian knot. The blockage within the state is paralleled by an even greater impasse within the family. Relationships with several wives and the many children that result from this make the family economically unsustainable. Adolescents can’t find work, further rendering the family dysfunctional. The family tuned to the economy and the state finds itself at an impasse where it can no longer function with either as it once did. The current family in the Middle East resembles neither the Western family nor the Eastern family. The result is the erosion of the family. Compared to the more rapidly dissolving social bonds, the family manages to maintain its strength, because it is the only social refuge. The family should not be underestimated, and our criticism of the family is not necessarily premised on a radical rejection of the family, but, nonetheless, it establishes the need to give the family new meaning and the equally urgent need to restructure it.
It is important to raise the men’s question, which is far graver than the women’s question. Analyzing the concepts of “domination” and “power” in men is no less important than an analysis of the slavery of women—but perhaps more difficult. It’s not women but men who are unwilling to transform themselves. Letting go of the figure of the sovereign male triggers a sense of fear and loss similar to that experienced by a ruler who has lost control of his state. We have to show men that this, the rottenest form of domination, also deprives them of freedom and turns them into outright conservatives.
The correct approach is not to first solve the state problem and only thereafter that of the family. The two phenomena are dialectically intertwined and must be addressed and resolved simultaneously. The consequences of real socialism’s erroneous deferral of the solution of social problems to some point after the problem of the state had been solved are obvious. No serious social problem can be resolved by giving a single problem exclusive priority. We have to look at problems in their totality and give meaning to each problem in relation to the others, and we must approach their resolution in the same integrated way. Thus, just as pursuing a solution in the absence of analyzing the state without first analyzing the mentality, addressing the family without also addressing the state or the man without analyzing the woman would be inadequate, the inverse is also true.
Further Particularities of Society in the Middle East
The problematic of the Middle East includes some other fundamental elements that must be understood. Phenomena such as ethnicity, nation, homeland, violence, class, property, economy, and so on are by no means clearly defined on a conceptual level and still can’t be pinned down in a manner that is free of chauvinist ideological armor. At this point, it is still not possible to scientifically determine the true value of these phenomena in the culture of the Middle East. They are either filtered through religious ideology or some form of chauvinist nationalism, in both cases arriving at conclusions that lead to a no-solution situation.
Questions as to what ethnicity, nation, homeland, violence, property, and economics actually mean within this social reality, what they are good for, and how they interrelate are never asked, and, therefore, the reality falls victim to ideological points of view. With an even much worse perspective, politics deteriorate even further, giving rise to greater aggression and selfishness. A rational, just, and democratic approach is never even considered. The rulers live in dread of a substantial scientific elucidation of society’s problems free from ideology and politics, which they fear would spoil all of their tricks. Keeping the truth hidden is the key role of education and politics in the Middle East, because, if this is not achieved, the art of ruling power can no longer be exercised. The magic can only be broken by transparency.
Ethnicity and Nation
We have already given a lot of weight to ethnicity—the clan, the tribe, and the aşiret and kavim communities. Even if indirectly, we attempted to trace its emergence, development, and transformation. Though to a lesser extent than before, ethnicity is still a significant reality in the Middle East. Its influence is stronger in the rural areas. In the city, brotherhoods ( tariqat) and similar religious communities have taken its place.18 Because full citizenship and democracy are not a reality, most people belong to an ethnic or religious community. As well as the family, the states oversee the other entities of the ethnicity. Successful politics must factor in the strength of the tribes. They have not yet been fully assimilated into classes or nations and, as a result, contribute to social turmoil. They are also important because they carry with them the lineage culture as an element of historical resistance. Their unqualified rejection would be neither realistic nor useful. We must, however, distinguish between two things. Ethnic bonds must be correctly analyzed, because they can make a positive contribution. This is distinct from the micronationalism and political mindcuffs based on ethnicity, which have extremely negative consequences.
In society in Middle East, “the nation” and “nationalism” are concepts that tend to create more problems than they solve. The need for a national market during mercantilism—or merchant capitalism—that is, during the emergence of capitalism, was fulfilled by first creating the nation from the established language boundaries and, later, deriving nationalism from it. The concept of “the nation” corresponds to the concept of “the umma,”19 a community that is devoted to a religion, but in this case devoted to a language. Essentially, “the nation” is a political concept rather than a sociological one, as it was introduced for political purposes. It satisfies the demand for a state with more substantive borders. The nation is important to the state not so much for its ethnic base but for its political basis. Even when striving for a “pure” nation, political interests are decisive. The determinant factor behind this policy is, of course the question of the market. The market and politics are the womb of the nation. From a sociological point of view, they are not as significant as ethnicity. Ethnicity is one of the strongest sociological phenomena. Ethnicity, e.g., being a kavim, is in some ways much like a nation, with the difference being that the former has not yet developed a market value or any political value. In the Middle East, nationalism, as opposed to the nation, plays the primary role. Nationalism is replacing increasingly weak religious bonds. It is a kind of secular—worldly—religion and, as such, the most significant tool for legitimizing the state. Running a state without resorting to either religion or nationalism would be difficult. Besides, religion provides the state’s genes, with nationalism being its modern form.
Today, the nation and nationalism are of no value for finding the solution to any social problem. On the contrary, they make a solution more difficult, because problems are hidden underneath the veil of nation and nationalism. We need to define and evaluate these phenomena and concepts, which are not even a hundred years old in the region, within their own reality. Political and ideological approaches that are solely based on the nation and nationalism can lead to many errors. The role chauvinist forms of nationalism have played in the wars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is obvious. This is also true of all forms of nationalism in general and in the Middle East, particularly Arab and the Israeli nationalism, where we see how the application of nationalism to politics has led to dead ends and caused substantial bloodshed and suffering. There is absolutely no role for nationalism in political and ideological activities, and the phenomenon of the nation should only be introduced to the extent that it can contribute to the solution of social problems. Otherwise, it will only serve to deepen the chaos due to the already strong ideological conditioning in the Middle East, as is also the case in Europe.
Even though the concept of “homeland,” “motherland,” or “fatherland” ( vatan) has ancient roots that refer to the location of a settlement, it now gains a new meaning as the geographical territory that a nation-state claims. The nation-state is based on political rather than ethnic borders. Unlike in Europe, in the Middle East the borders of the nation are not determined by the linguistic boundaries but by the borders of the area the state encompasses. “Homeland,” therefore, becomes a political phenomenon. Thus, in current language and contemporary meaning every state is at the same time a homeland. A correct definition of “homeland” is not possible using an ideological and political approach. In addition, linguistic boundaries alone are not sufficient to constitute a homeland either. In my view, considering “homeland” a cultural concept is a little closer to the truth. We can, therefore, define “homeland” as a geographical area that transcends political nationalism, where people who are older than this homeland settled over the long course of history. Just as there can be a homeland for any one people, there can also be a shared homeland for peoples who are intertwined.
If we look at the Middle East as a whole, it becomes obvious that it would be extremely difficult to divide it and create borders using the European model. Its existence as a whole, with specific particularities, is well established. Economic and social bonds have determined what each country is called. Enforced political divisions are never as strong as the values that have developed over the course of history. The political borders drawn after World War I distorted the concept of “homeland,” or, rather, they have led to the emergence of a genuine “homeland problem.” The integral political reality in the Middle East makes today’s political map unrealistic. The political dynamic necessitates the integrity of different geographic regions. The current situation compels international conflicts and provokes nationalism. Israel-Palestine and Iraqi Kurdistan are two examples. The imperial tradition in the Middle East was closer to federalism. From the first empire to last empire, the Ottoman Empire, the administrative, political, and economic structures in the region were always federal in nature. A federation based on large autonomous regions is comparable to the federation in today’s United States of America. The real problem in the Middle East with regard to the issue of homeland lies in the contradiction between the traditional federal framework, to which the current structures refuse to return, and unrealistic fragmentation of the region among numerous unnecessary nation-states. If this is not overcome, we will be unable to arrive at a reasonable understanding of either “homeland” (vatan) or “citizenship” (vatandaşlık).
In social systems, the phenomenon of class has less of a sociological meaning than is usually assumed. The bonds with the most profound influence on society are ideological, political, ethnic, and religious in nature. Dynamism based on class consciousness is limited. Class division will necessarily emerge in hierarchical and statist societies. And, conversely, hierarchy and the state cannot develop without the phenomenon of class. On the other hand, no hierarchy and no state structure can be destroyed by the class it is based on, because class division and statehood mutually necessitate each other. There may be fierce struggles between the two, but a compromise is inevitable at the end of the day. The class that controls the state and the class enslaved by it are in dialectical contradiction. The state is the status, or mode of stance, at the heart of this dialectical contradiction. The state would cease to exist without the other. Without classes, there is no state. Insisting on class also means insisting on the state. Thus, praise for an oppressed class eventually turns into praise for the state with which the class in some manner have embraced. The term “workers’ state” is, therefore, a problematic concept from the outset. Supporting a workers’ state is the equivalent of saying, “I will create my own bourgeoisie”; the Soviet example provides striking evidence of this. The most correct form of class struggle is the refusal to experience class division ideologically or practically. This means living as free individuals, ethnic groups, or religious communities. All that would then be left of the state would be a coordinating institution determined by the common will of society called “general security and common good.”
In the Middle East, we see the emergence of pure class division in its most original form at the beginning of the Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations. In mythology, it finds its expression as divinity and the creation of the human being from excrement. This is a fundamental division and takes on different forms in the various monotheistic religions. Moses initiated a particular form of class division by giving the authority of priesthood to the tribe of Levi, which was the tribe among the Hebrew tribes closest to him. Jesus’s movement, however, began as a movement of the have-nots against the priest class. Later on, Christianity too experienced a class division based on the remnants of the Roman Empire. When the highest Church dignitaries founded a religious state, they were able, under the religious cover, to develop a particular kind of class division at the bottom. In Islam, class division was experienced differently. In that case, a distinction between the family of the prophet ( ahli bayt) and the umma,20 the community of the faithful, soon arose. From the residues of the Byzantine and Sasanian Empires, the caliph formed a state that was based don the umma but that did not possess any particular ideological depth. The umma represents the part of the Islamic state that is unreservedly faithful and accustomed to being unquestioningly obedient. In this way, the veil of the umma masks and reconciles the real class division.
In all of this, we encounter the social democratic character of the monotheist religions: class compromise. Jesus was actually a radical class revolutionary. In Christianity, especially during the period when it became the state, Arianism in particular represents the great class resistance of the poor.21 The same tendency was seen when the Sunni denomination in Islam became the state; the Alevi denomination represented the poor and the oppressed. In the Middle East, classes don’t appear as immediately visible structures; instead, they confront us clothed in ethnic, religious, and denominational covers.
Therefore, class division must be looked for and found under many layers of ideological, ethnic, and denominational cover. The same is true of their struggles. There is always a class essence to any ethnic, religious, denominational, or religious community and any ideological struggle. This is a fact we should never lose sight of when analyzing social phenomena.
When the classes struggle to control the state in today’s Middle East, as is currently the case in Iraq, for example, the struggle is expressed in the relationships and contradictions between the Arab Shiite/Alevi and Sunni denominations, as well as with the Kurdish ethnic group and other minority religious communities. Class division is experienced in the depths of the ideological, religious, and ethnic structure of the state and the people as its subjects. This is why parties based on a particular class, like those in the West, are not that meaningful. Therefore, it is more fruitful when analyzing the situation in the Middle East and developing a practice to take into consideration class division, while realistically understanding the concrete unique forms of this in the region and refraining from simpli-fications like “the working class” or “the peasant class.” Otherwise, the phenomenon of class division will become a tool for deepening the impasse, as is the case today.
One of the reasons for the defeat of the classic communist, social democratic, and national liberation parties was their modern approach to class division. Their vulgar approaches played a decisive role in the failure of the communist, social democratic, and radical nationalist parties in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, and Syria and in the fact that, despite enormous efforts, they were defeated in their struggle for power by currents that made masterful use of religious cover, for example, Shiites in Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Hezbollah.
The phenomenon of property became more evident at the class division stage of social development, but it was actually formed in the depths of feelings of social belonging and feelings of identity. It might be useful to distinguish between two types of property. In essence, we can define collective property as the will to make decisions about everything that is jointly needed for the livelihood of an organic community (usufruct).22
Every individual in the community had the same right or “will to use”
a thing. In fact, because of this aspect of its nature, it cannot exactly be called property. Collectivism is, in fact, the negation of private property.
In contrast, private property is the increased disposition of and “will to use” by individuals or groups of individuals in opposition to common and collective property. The civilization in the Middle East represents the society that has known property the longest, because class division has ancient roots in the region. The state was formed by establishing property that has both collective and private nature intertwined around it. The assumption that owners of private property emerged first and then seized the state is incorrect; the origin of the order of collective and private property and statehood are intertwined. The more the upper layer came to constitute the state, the more property it owned. Becoming the state meant declaring the territory within its borders its property. The state is the largest property partnership. It is a private property unit. The lower and middle segments are permitted a limited amount of private property, but it is frequently confiscated, which serves to limit the development of private property.
Private property, other than that of the state, is not secure.
This also explains why private property has not developed in the same way as in the West. The way a state comes into existence is also decisive in how property is constituted. In the West, the state was curbed right from the beginning by aristocratic and, later, bourgeois circles that possessed a lot of private property. This enabled for the strong formation of the private property institution. Western civilization has proven that private property gives rise to more creativity than does state property.
Collective property has lived on in the deepest parts of society, mostly within families, clans, denominations, and religious communities. These forms of collective property must definitely not be confused with the state’s 248
collective private property. The most reactionary, parasitic, and uncreative type of property is the property of the state. The extreme preponderance of state property is one of the most important factors contributing to the economic backwardness of the Middle East. Both the state and the state property order grow like cancerous tumors and deprive society of breathing space. In most cases, property and the state are coterminous. Thus mülk (estate, state territory), malik (king, one of the attributes of Allah), and maliket (property) are all derived from the same word stem. This allows us to make a categorical generalization; in the final analysis, if, in the god-king state, God is the owner of all things, the god-king is the owner of all things, and, thus, since the god-king is the state institution, the state is the owner of all things. Unless this relationship between the state and property is fully grasped and resolved, social development will remain difficult. It is the state and property as the totality of the dispositions that the state has seized that completely hinder the relationship between a healthy individual and society.
The concept of “economy” has a universal meaning. We can define economy as the systematic form of the exchange of material similar to the metabolism of any living being. The essence of economic activity is the extraction of animating material from dead matter and its renewed transformation into dead matter through consumption. It is quite obvious that society cannot forego this activity in coming into existence and surviving.
On the other hand, the other related fact is that there can be no economy without vitality—most often understood as “mentality” or “soul.”
Therefore, any analysis that looks only at one of these aspects will arrive at a faulty conclusion. It would be best to analyze mentality and the economy as intertwined—the intermediate social groups are the state and the family, or, more generally, they are the political and social phenomena.
Analyzing either the economy or the mentality in isolation, will lead to the mistake of overemphasizing the most insignificant details, while being unable to see the whole. It is obvious that productive thought processes also lead to a productive economy. It is evident from the historical example in the inner foothills of the Zagros, Taurus, and Amanos Mountains, in what is known as the Fertile Crescent, where between 6000 and 4000 BCE the Neolithic revolution took place, that one of the most productive periods of human mentality also took place. Economic prosperity on the Aegean coast gave rise to the Cretan, Greek, and Roman civilizations, which were accompanied by intellectual, philosophical, and scientific revolutions. The mentality of the Renaissance was one of the important sources for the emergence of the bountiful European economy. The outcome was mutually beneficial to the economy and society’s mentality.
The economic epochs that resulted from the development in mentality in civilization in the Middle East are evident. On the other hand, the most fundamental factors in the reduction of economic productivity are a delinking from the world of phenomena within the mentality, an increasing chasm between physics and metaphysics, aimless speculation, and an immersion in dream worlds. The more metaphysics of the Middle East—
mythological, religious, and philosophical—was delinked from the realm of phenomena and became immersed in abstract concepts, the greater the economic decline. The focus on theology, especially the tendency to be hostile to philosophy, cannot lead to a correct definition of the natural world, and not developing philosophical and scientific thought certainly leads to a more profound economic impasse, an inability to develop, and an incapacity to move beyond millennia-old Neolithic methods.
Without far-reaching intellectual developments similar to the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, there can be no permanent, institutionalized economic progress in the Middle East. The failure of development programs promoted either by states or individuals is the result of the reality that underlies the enormous misery and unemployment of the masses. This region, which is very resource-rich, cannot hope to master the economic revolution without experiencing a radical revolution in mentality, and it is, therefore, unable to solve its enormous problems, including unemployment and poverty. If, in the search for a solution in the Middle East, we do not place mentality and democracy revolution at the heart of any economic solution, we will not yield any results.
Any developments that do occur will be nothing more than a Band-Aid solution. The best method would be to base any effort to achieve a permanent solution on the dialectical relationship between the economy, on the one hand, and democracy and mentality, on the other hand.
The dynasties and the tariqat are also important to these conceptual clarifications. To complete our reflection on the civilization in the Middle East, we need to illuminate their role.
The dynasty is a conspicuous phenomenon with ethnic and mythological religious elements that has its origin within the family and the state. Dynasties have always played an important role in the rise and fall of families and states. States rarely develop without a dynasty—a rule that still largely holds today. This is the result of the strength of the patriarchal family structure. Patriarchy is actually the “genetic source” of the state.
That is why the strongest patriarchal family generally controls the dynastic state. The dynasty thus becomes the state. The dynasty as an institution has existed for thousands of years, leaving deep marks on both the state and society. It is, to all intents and purposes, a combination of the ruling class, the ruling ethnic group, and the dominant religion.
Another advantage the dynasty has is that family line has allowed it influence over long periods of time. It has also proven suitable for spatial expansion through interdynastic marriages. These qualities explain why states have primarily been founded within dynasties. The fact that the dynastic institution constitutes a strong focal point not only for social development but also for the development of the state means that its role cannot be overlooked. In a sense, civilization in the Middle East has been sustained by dynasties—with state dynasties having had the greatest historical effect. While non-state dynasties have predominated in the West, in the East, dynasties linked to states have been more successful.
A dynasty can, at the same time, be seen as a school, in that it provides a social model. Important developments are carried over to society once they have occurred within the dynasty school, or model. Ethnic groups, and even nations, are often known by the power and name of the dynasties that have been fostered in their midst, and it is not uncommon for them to play a dominant role. To speak of the Umayyads, the Abbasids, the Ayyubids, the Seljuks, the Ottomans, and the Barmakids is to simultaneously speak of the Arab, Kurdish, Turkish, and Persian nations.23
The continued existence of dynasties in the mindset and material environment should neither be denied nor exaggerated. The most realistic approach is to treat them as a social phenomenon and to integrate them into the normal democratic social terrain. They shouldn’t be idolized in the process but should be recognized as a social reality and approached in an analytical manner. Anything else might lead to serious political and social problems and intensify the crisis. The importance of dynasties may be better understood if we point to the terrible tragedies caused by Saddam’s dynastic craze.
The tariqat are similar to the dynasties but operate in the religious and denominational realm. They base their existence on the application of the general principles of religion at specific times and in particular places.
The weakness of the general organization of religion is compensated for by the tariqa organization. Religion becomes a concrete organizational power through tariqat and denominations. Thus, it is only natural that denominations and tariqat exist wherever religion is present. Orders, that is, tariqat, provide a way for a more intense and organized religious experience. As such, the head of the tariqa and the personalities of the key organizers play a huge role. Wherever there is a void, we see the emergence of a tariqa. The masses, who are dissatisfied with the state, particularly rush to tariqa-like organizations. When the family becomes too constricted and the state is out of reach, with no other strong organizations in between, there is a high likelihood that a person will turn to a tariqa. The mezhep (denomination) can be regarded as a broader and more traditional form of the tariqa.24 Many tariqat must remain semi-secret to protect themselves from the state and to enable their members to leave the narrow boundaries of families. While some of them are state-driven, others are vehemently anti-state.
The Middle East is almost like a society of the tariqat. The tariqat have played an important role, especially when ethnicity could not completely satisfy all needs, particularly in the cities, where the family became too constricted, and also during historical periods when the state considered itself the one and only. The batenî, the “hidden” tariqat of the Middle Ages, were actually class parties of the poor. From 1000 to 1250, one of the best-known tariqa, the batenî Assassin order of Hassan-i Sabbah, caused great distress to many Seljuk sultans and viziers, who represented the ruling dynasty and denomination. The Khawarij, the Fatimids, and the Alevi represent a similar tradition. In a way, the tariqat and similar religious communities are like the nongovernmental organizations in society in the Middle East.
The phenomenon of tariqat must be objectively evaluated, as they developed to meet a social need. Since they are quasisocial and quasipoliti-cal organizations, their role is important to both the ruling power and the opposition. At times and in places where scientific progress is limited and the understanding of democracy has not developed, such organizations are inevitable. They can, however, be overcome by developing social science 252
and democratic struggle. Nowadays, the tariqat have largely degenerated and have become an instrument, much like a corporation, of multiple interest-based relationships. The correct way of dealing with them is to lead the people toward science and democracy. For that, however, we must be at least as convinced of the legitimacy of science as the tariqat are of their beliefs. Democracy requires a zealous, ongoing, and determined effort. It is important not to deny the existence of the religious community groups whose origins date back many centuries and, thus, to approach them in a democratic manner and with the knowledge that there is a place for them within democracy, which is also an effective way to disentangle conservatism.
A similar approach can be taken to some of the civil society and political party organizations, which can be likened to modern tariqat in a broader sense. It is important, particularly nowadays, to examine the phenomenon of civil society from a broader perspective, especially when family, clan, and faith bonds are intertwined with ideological ties. Combining the elements of classic and contemporary civil society may produce better results. Nongovernmental organizations that are not rooted in the past or in tradition may well experience difficulty and risk drying up quickly. No ideological, political, social, or artistic movement’s success can be permanent if it is unable to establish a relationship with tradition—if they fail to do so they cannot avoid being temporary, much like a fashion trend. The formation of a wide-ranging civil society and democratic mobilizations that reconnects with tradition, especially by learning from the failures of the left that belittled tradition, could provide a way out of the crisis and, therefore, a route to success.
Violence and Dictatorship in the Civilization in the Middle East Even though we have already discussed these issues in connection with the state, the analysis of ruling power regarding the form of the state and the question of violence requires a deeper analysis. The state’s general essence is the same everywhere. It represents a tradition based on the appropriation of surplus product and surplus value. However, it takes different forms depending on time and place. As a result, many different forms of the state have arisen during different periods and under different conditions.
However, in the context of the East-West quandary, two key tendencies become obvious. In the West, we frequently encounter republican and democratic forms, whereas, in the East, the main state form is despotism.
In Europe, we see republics both in the slave systems of classic antiquity and in several of the city-states in the Middle Ages, and they have become even more ubiquitous in modernity. The main difference between the republic and despotism is found in the field of law. Although the slave-owning ruling classes played a role in both state forms during antiquity, with republicanism rules that are the result of intense social struggles prevail. There is a dynamic social structure. Everybody understands their relationship with the state and knows their rights—and, when necessary, they fiercely defend them.
While the republic represents a dynamic society, the opposite is true of despotism, where a single person arbitrarily imposes his will upon society as law, something that is fairly similar to a monarchy. The only difference is that a monarchy is based on a determined dynasty, and there are traditions and rules in place for determining who will be the monarch, and the rules for governance are also based on tradition. Every now and then, the extraordinary occurs in situations of chaos. Then either a new dynasty ascends to power or the old one changes the rules and continues to rule. Self-evidently, in the case of a despot, rules are arbitrarily established and changed at will. The monarchies in the Middle East are closer to despotism in character. The decrees of the Ottoman Empire, called fermân, were essentially nothing but despotic commandments. Even though they were treated as law, they actually had nothing in common with the kind of law that is the result of social struggle.
Dictatorship is yet another state form. It is the precondition or prototype for emperors. It is one-person or a small-group rule by people who have been endowed with extraordinary authority by the political elite.
Dictators differ from despots insofar as the supervisory power surrounding them has some weight. There is always a group that the dictator is accountable to. While an empire is a long-term, durable regime, dictatorship is temporary and is only resorted to in exceptional situations.
Though the state formation in the Middle East is very close to despotism, it is also quite close to monarchy and empire. Thus, in the Middle East, despotism, monarchy, and empire merge in the head of state, which indicates how much influence these heads of state—who equate themselves with the state—have. It is possible that the most pronounced example of the effective application of willpower is found in a head of the state in the 254
Middle East, which reflects the essence of the state. The powerful traditions of patriarchy, sheikhdom, nobility, and the “gents” ( effendi) merge in the institution of the head of state and are regenerated as supreme power.
That is why it is difficult to find republican and democratic state forms in the Middle East—even as an exception. In all of this, the state seems to act on the basis of its unadulterated essence. Moreover, by having a single form, it hopes to prove its power. In addition, it regards an unchanging image of the state and the permanent nature of its form to reflect political skill and a virtue.
Another obstacle to the development of republicanism in the Middle East is that an understanding of the god-king and the god-state has been seared into the memory of society for centuries. It is against tradition for the human servants to intervene in the affairs of the god-state. The greatest sin is to interfere in God’s—the state’s—affairs. This motif frequently appears in the Holy Scripture: “Don’t meddle with the affairs of God. Don’t demand accountability from God. Though shalt have no gods apart from me.” This is, expressed in religious terms, the same as: “Don’t meddle with the affairs of the head of state. Don’t demand accountability from your ruler. You cannot partake in his authority.” According to one theory, the Holy Scripture was written to establish a kingdom based on the Hebrew tribe, and there is some truth to this. Some even say that Moses came from an Egyptian principality. This would explain why he outlines his notion of “kingdom” in the Torah.
In addition, Jesus was captured and arrested for allegedly wanting to seize the kingdom in Jerusalem, which he called “the daughter of Zion.”
In the Koran, this is formulated even more openly. The surahs and verses Mohammad focused most intensely on were along the lines of: “Though shalt not have any gods besides Him. Don’t meddle with the affairs of God.
God demands accountability from everyone and is accountable to no one.”
In doing so he consciously or unconsciously paved the way for sultans, padishahs, and emirs—the forms the head of state took in the Middle Ages.
In this sense, the Koran is a state charter. In an extraordinarily farsighted manner, it determined and pronounced upon a form of rule as if it would last for several centuries. An analysis of the Koran on the basis of political theory might provide highly instructive results. But, of course, the position of the umma between loyalty to Allah and loyalty to the state is much clearer and more instructive. The religious declarations of the Middle Ages in Islam and Christianity, as well as in the Far East, for example, in China and India, appear as harbingers of the new state. What is pronounced in the name of God is nothing but the birth and development of the medieval state.
Separating the state from its despotic character in today’s Middle East would be very difficult but is absolutely necessary. Even though there may be a few states that call themselves republics, one can hardly say that they have overcome their despotic qualities. Republicanism requires a consensus among the classes. In the entire history of the Middle East, no country has ever been a constitutional state or republic based on a social consensus.
Regardless of their progressive or reactionary positions, regimes based on the will of one person are incompatible with the idea of a republic. In a republic, it is not the will of one person that is decisive but the harmony or the compromise among the differing expressions of will of many people of equal strength. Among the reasons why this is not the case in our region is the weakness of the social classes, which fail to articulate their political will, the traditional subservient spirit toward the state, and the fact that there are no republican traditions to build upon. Regardless of what these states are called, and although there may be a difference in the degree of despotism, it is nevertheless important to emphasize and understand that none of these states have overcome their despotic character, especially when waging a struggle for democratic politics and republicanism.
It is even more important that we analyze the culture of violence in civilization in the Middle East. One could say that there is almost no single pore in the society in Middle East that violence has not penetrated and no institution that is not essentially determined by it. In general, the opinion that violence plays a decisive role in political, social, and even economic structures is accepted, but nowhere is this role more evident than in the base and superstructure of society in the Middle East, where it is difficult to find any institution that is not characterized and shaped by violence.
Power and violence are like monozygotic twins.
When defining violence, it is meaningless to resort to theses based on biology or theories based on “nature.” The social origin of violence is clear. Equally obvious is its relationship to the emergence of class division and states on the basis of surplus product and surplus value. That much seems to be generally accepted in social science.
One remarkable thing about violence is how little is actually said about it. Even though it has played a decisive role in all societies that have known power, it is generally treated as if it were an insignificant or exceptional phenomenon. It is hardly even mentioned that wars, which are certainly 256
the most intense expression of violence, are a form of savagery that is otherwise nonexistent in the animal kingdom. Instead, people spend their time dredging up new pretexts that purportedly explain why war is necessary. The only legitimate reason for war is necessary self-defense, preserving and liberating one’s existence. Waging wars to seize, to plunder socially accumulated value, or for domination and permanent state power only serves those who would rule over and dominate society and shape it in the service of their own interests. Even though all of this is straightforward and entirely evident, apologists for war try to obscure these simple and easily observed facts with abstruse subterfuge and false claims. There is probably no other phenomenon that has been more often misrepresented or hidden than the real sources of power and violence.
Mythology, religion, philosophy, and, finally, so-called social science actually distort and obscure the most important fact that violence is inhumane in the extreme and is essentially the most brutal act of oppressive and exploitative social parasites.
This characterization is generally valid but is even more pertinent for understanding social reality in the Middle East. Sayings things like
“beating comes from paradise” and “violence is sweeter than honey” fairly accurately describes the origins of violence—because “paradise” is the marvelous island of the rulers. Violence is the decisive reason that society has been so entirely crippled and suffocated. Statuses based on violence have been created in all hierarchical and statist society systems, and the corresponding institutions have been protected with armor. No institution that is not part of the spiral of violence has any chance of survival.
It is quite obvious that no free or nonmilitarized society can develop under these conditions. Even new ideas are only accepted once they pass through the filter of violence. There is no room for creative thinking in such an atmosphere; instead, all world affairs are carried out using hack-neyed catchwords. Leaders, especially heads of state and of the family, know very well that their power depends on their authority and violence.
When Genesis says, “Fill the earth and subdue it,”25 violence is implied.
The violence that has seeped into all of society’s pores leaves very little room for the power of meaning. Therefore, social institutions only exist pro forma. Society is formed by institutions that are far from creative and will only move when incited to do so from the outside, because there is no space left for meaning. Thus, clearly, we cannot expect such a society to develop freely.
The tradition of nourishing society with violence is even more oppressive in the family, its smallest subunit, leaving no room to breathe. For women in particular, it is an invisible state of war. There is hardly a single cell within a woman’s body that does not shiver from violence. This is also the case for children. Violence is the basic method of education. It’s to be expected that a child who was raised violently will resort to violence as an adult. Some take pride in rule by violence and even enjoy it. The feeling of empowerment based on the use of ruling power and violence should be regarded as the most dangerous social disease, but, instead, it is treated as the most sublime and pleasant of feelings. Something that should be cursed is presented to us as the most exalted virtue.
Without exception, none of the current social institutions in society in the Middle East would be imaginable without violence. It is used as a fundamental problem-solving tool everywhere, from state violence and violence within the family, from the violence of revolutionary organizations to fascist, nationalist, and religious violence. Dialogue is dismissed as mere prattle. The power of the word is not deemed to make much sense, even though it is exactly what the superiority of Western civilization is based upon, and its likelihood for success is high, because it first relies on the word, thoroughly explores all options for meaningful dialogue, and, if nothing else works, then resorts to violence. Compared to the East, the West has analyzed its relationship with violence, gained insight thereby, and drawn conclusions. The European Union is relatively cautious and self-critical about violence, and even the United States is quite analytical when it comes to the use of force. It doesn’t use force blindly but understands that its successes are due to the strength of its analyses, and that its failures are the result of faulty analyses. Both the EU and the US have learned the necessary lessons.
Freeing society in the Middle East from violence is a far-reaching challenge and has much to do with education. To be successful, trust in the power of meaning is central. It must be understood that violence should only be resorted to if it is inevitable and can be effective. This is a difficult task that requires a sound evaluation not just of the violence emanating from war, revolution, and counterrevolution but of the extent of the violence used in all areas. In opposing it, great mastery is required to prepare and implement appropriate and effective counterviolence. In resurrecting a society that has been scorched by a millennia-old tradition of violence, we can’t rely on violence, except in rare conditions where 258
it is necessary as a midwife. We must instead make room for meaning, dialogue, and organizational power. This should be considered and then implemented as the analytical method necessary if we are to leave the chaos behind.
1 This refers to Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).
2 This remark refers to the coalition troops that occupied Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
3 In the legend of Noah in the Koran, the ark lands at the mountain of Cûdî in Northern Kurdistan.
4 Independent or original interpretations of problems not covered by the Koran, Hadith, or scholarly consensus.
5 A secondary educational institution, founded in lieu of a vocational school to train government employed imams.
6 In the valley of Hinnom (Ge-Hinnom), South of Jerusalem, where sacrifices were offered to the Moloch. Hinnom is the source of the word from which the Arab word for hell developed (2 Kings 23:10).
7 See Abdullah Öcalan, Sümer Rahip Devletinden Demokratik Uygarlığa: AİHM Savunmaları Cilt I (Neuss: Mezopotamien Verlag, 2002), 52.
8 One of four institutions that existed in the Ottoman empire. Its role was to propagate the Muslim religion, to ensure that Islamic law was enforced properly by the courts, and that it was interpreted and taught properly in the Ottoman school system.
9 We must name Albertus Magnus, in particular, who translated many works from Arabic.
10 Here we need to mention, for example, Dante’s Divine Comedy, which draws heavily on mythological and religious motifs, accessed July 13, 2021, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/8800/8800-h/8800-h.htm.
11 “Shadow of God” was the title of Ottoman sultans.
12 As in the Book of Revelation, chapter 20.
13 “Compradors” are the local profiteers within an imperialist economic relationship.
14 Memê Alan is an older version of the legend of the two lovers Mem and Zîn, the main work of the poet Ehmedê Xanî, which is written in verse. It was written in 1692 and is renowned as a Kurdish national epic. In it, Xanî openly complains about the inability of the Kurdish princes to develop any form of unity. This historic Yazidi leader lived at the end of the seventeenth century. Even today, Kurdish bards sing the story of his struggles and his unfulfilled love to Adulê.
15 In the original myth, Inanna had two companions. In later narratives, Dumuzi, the biblical Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:15), rises to the position of coregent, while Enkimdu is reduced to being her son. The comparison with the story of the farmer Cain and the shepherd Abel (Genesis 4), who compete for God’s affection, is interesting.
16 The three goddesses are Lat, Manāt, and Uzza, the goddesses of the three most important cities: of Mecca, Medina, and Taif.
17 This formulation is meant as a criticism of the Kurdish men who defend the “honor” and virginity of female family members, while Kurdistan as a whole is being materially and culturally plundered, or, one might say, “raped.”
18 Tariqa (plural tariqat) is Arabic for road(s) and is the name for religious brotherhoods or orders in the Sufi tradition. Within them, the clear hierarchy is primarily between the enlightened murshid and his followers, the murid. A silsila, or ancestral lineage, is often traced back to Mohammad. The leader or murshid himself appoints his successor, who is frequently a son or other relative. These orders often enjoy considerable political and economic influence. In Turkey and Kurdistan, different branches of the tariqa of the Naqshbandi are particularly widespread.
19 In Islam, the umma is the community of all faithful Muslims, independently of the affiliation to a tribe or a nation.
20 For the Shiites, Mohammad’s family plays a particularly important role. Thus, the Shiite imams are regarded as descendants of Ali, Mohammad’s son-in-law.
21 Arius, a priest from Alexandria, taught that Jesus was not consubstantial with God, merely his most noble creation. Under the influence of Constantine the Great, Arius was excommunicated and condemned at the Council of Nicaea in 325, but Arianism lived on until the sixth century among the Goths, Vandals, and Lombards.
22 Murray Bookchin defines usufruct in organic societies as “the freedom of individuals in a community to appropriate resources merely by virtue of the fact that they are using them. Such resources belong to the user as long as they are being used. . . . [T]he collective claim is implicit in the primacy of usufruct over proprietorship”; Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy (Montréal: Black Rose Books, 1990), 50.
23 The word Ayyubids is derived from Ayyub, the father of Saladin the Great and the founder of a Kurdish dynasty. The Barmakids were a Persian family of highly placed state functionaries under the Abbasids (750–803).
24 The word mezhep is used to describe the various main denominations of Islam, for example, the Sunni and the Shite denominations.
25 Genesis 1:28.