“As you surf the Net, read newspapers, blogs and tweets, watch YouTube and merge yourself in gossip, consider how little all the multiplicity of information available tells you about anything that is not of the West, derivative of the history, ideas, experience and technology of that dispensation. There is a coherent historic narrative out there – but it is the narrative of the gradual expansion of consciousness, will to power, dominance and self expression of a peninsula to the north of the Mediterranean Sea called Europe and its offshoot over the waters, the USA. It is the story that has come to contain and silence all other stories, the one that claims for itself the pre-eminence of the only story that explains all there is to know. In absorbing all that the web has to offer, you would have uncovered only the means to replicate the dominant order, little about how to change it, nothing about how to make it reflect the diversity that actually continues to exist in our world.
The greatest creation of the dominant narrative has been marginality, the condition of Otherness. The historic product of this narrative device is the Others: all those people, from different cultures, civilisations, ethnicities and class, whose antecedents, experience, ideas, sentiments, beliefs and aspirations are not contained in the one, overarching dominant tale of how we got to the 21st century.
I write as the perpetual Other. But I understand the condition of Otherness differently: neither a demon nor a victim, but certainly difficult because I fulfil no one’s expectations, not even those of my own faith and culture.
I am not a guru or a Master. I am not going to ask you to follow me. That would be a folly on both our parts. I am not a preacher. God knows how I dislike them. I offer no self-help manuals. If you need a manual to learn how to dress, or have a relationship or how to compete, then you are beyond help. I am not very pious either – pieties are for those who want to advertise their devotions.
I am not even very nice. Nice people no longer accept that racism is acceptable; nice people believe in open minded ideas like democracy which (apparently) means everyone having the right to make their own decisions about the kind of society in which they live; nice people believe everyone should have the same human rights; nice people believe hunger, disease and poverty should not deform our world which is very good at creating affluence and through science and technology bringing the promise of unlimited new horizons to all people. But I live in the real world. I know nice people can hide their prejudices in ‘discourses’ and academic pretentions. I know nice people are happy to impose democracy on others, or deny democracy to others when it suites them, or use democracy to perpetuate a ‘free’ market economy that gives even more obscene bonuses to bankers and reduce the poor to even worse state of deprivation. I know nice people can brush aside human rights when it suites their purpose. Nice people are very nice – but not very clever.
I will, however, argue with you and challenge your assumptions. And ask you to appreciate that there are many things out there that are complex wholes, that must be allowed to be themselves in the round, and that you can only really get to know and experience if you accept them on their own terms. There are Other ways of being and relating, Other ways of doing, thinking and organising which may lead to an Other kind of sensitive, sustainable and fulfilling modernity. In short: there are Other ways of being human. I would invite you to rethink what you think you know, to experience the world and its history in a different way and hopefully to discover we have been sold damn lies, half truths, deliberate inventions and truths that are strangely fictional. And that’s a fact.
Things change. But my work is all about changing things. ”