So that old agent provacateur extraordinare, Tariq Ali, has attacked the naming in Benazir Bhutto’s will of 19-year-old son Bilawal as her successor as leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, describing it as “a digusting medieval charade”.
(His article was the front page lead story in the New Year’s Eve edition of The Independent – and he appeared on that morning’s editon of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, reiterating his position.)
In describing the succession of Bilawal as “medieval”, Tariq was spot on! Moreover, his description of Asif Zardari, Bhutto’s widower (and Bilawal’s father), as a “feudal potentate” – a Lord Chancellor or Grand Vizier? – who will run the party until his son is old enough, is also pretty close to the mark.
Where Tariq misses the point is to call it “disgusting” and a “charade”.
He goes on to say: “How can Western-backed politicians be taken seriously if they treat their party as a fiefdom and their supporters as serfs, while their courtiers abroad mouth sycophantic niceties concerning the young prince and his future?”
The point is: this is very much how the politcians in Pakistan must act if they wish to design an alternative government to the military dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf!
Tariq goes on about the need for democracy in Pakistan. Though he doesn’t use the exact words, he seems to mean Western-style liberal democracy. (Interesting, given his history as a Trotskyist and onetime leading member of the International Marxist Group!)
Presumably the kind of democracy that Pakistan doesn’t seem to aspire to, given the convoluted history of corrupt (or allegedly-corrupt) elected despots and military dictators who have ruled the country for most of its post-colonial existence.
Presumably the kind of democracy the United States has failed to impose on Iraq, demonstrating for all the world to see that you cannot impose a government the vast majority of the people are not prepared to tolerate. (Even if you have the mighty muscle of the American army to back you!)
Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, when he was very much the bête noire of the British establishment, Tariq Ali appeared to be driven by a RED/BLUE vMEME harmonic, a skilled and cunning advocate of a Marxist-Leninist approach to society and government. These days there appears to a decidely-GREEN tinge to his thinking; but that thinking still appears to be resolutely 1st Tier.
What Tariq needs – what Pakistan and Iraq (and Afghanistan and many other so-called ‘developing’ countries) need – is a very different approach than Western-style liberal democracy. Good, effective government for and representation of the people can take a number of very different forms (whatever George W Bush and his groupthink cronies might believe!).
Drawing at least in part from his experiences in helping to design the early-mid-nineties transition in South Africa, Spiral Dynamics co-developer Don Beck (2002) is in the process of developing what he calls ‘Stratified Democracy’. (See: Stratified Democracy vs Modernisation Theory) This requires consideration of which vMEMES are underpinning and driving a particular mindset. This can be illustrated by looking at the 4Q/8L schematic Beck (2000) developed from applying Spiral Dynamics to the work of Ken Wilber. Check which vMEMES are driving the cultural mindset (Lower Left); then check which kind of societal institutions vMEMES create (Lower Right) to get a ‘best fit’.
While Beck has yet to produce defining statements about Stratified Democracy (and there will need to be a number of them!), effectively he means matching the form of government of a society to its cultural mindset.
Once you look at Pakistan from the perspective of 4Q/8L, it is no surprise that a large number of people (especially the rural poor and the urban disenfranchised), led by the PURPLE vMEME, focus on the charisma and magic-making power of their leaders (to whom they feel affiliated by tribal loyalty or some other form of belonging). To such mindsets the personal power and responsbility a Western-style liberal democracy would give them is nothing like as attractive as seeing the ‘magic’ qualities pass from generation to generation in a dynastic manner – as it is perceived it has from Benazir’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to her and hopefully now will to Biliwal.
This mindset is ripe for exploitation by RED. (And Benazir clearly had plenty of that – just look at her fatal to-hell-with-consequences exposure of her head from her protective vehicle so she could revel in her followers’ adulation!)
Tariq Ali can bleat on about Asif Zardari’s alleged corruption. Providing PURPLE feels secure and has a sense of belonging, it doesn’t matter obviously that RED is corrupt, treats them as serfs and exploits them. What else would a feudal monarch do? And besides, it’s the serf’s lot in life, providing the monarch keeps order. Thus, tribes historically have mutated into feudal kingdoms.
The most recent modern example of a true RED feudal kingdom was Saddam Hussein’s pre-invasion Iraq, where his generals played the role of the ‘noble lords’ – frequently plotting against him and periodically being culled by their master. The hapless Iraqi people played the abused serfs. Saddam threw away an estimated 100,000 lives in the 1991 Gulf War and then diverted much of the revenue from the Oil-for-Food Program away from its intended recipients (hungry and sick Iraqis) and into his own coffers. Why? Because he was ‘king’ and he could do what he liked.
(The problem with a RED feudal kingdom is who occupies the throne. King John had a good head for finance and knew when to cede just enough power to keep power. And it could be argued Benito Mussolini was doing reasonably OK until he started trying to impress Adolph Hitler.)
Yet did the Iraqis eagerly grasp the chance for Western-style liberal democracy the invading Americans offered them in 2003-2004? No. Rather, there was a centring lower down the Spiral as PURPLE tribal loyalties (exacerbated by BLUE religious divides) re-emerged in the absence of a ruthless monarchial figure. (To some extent, the picture of re-emerging PURPLE tribal/ethnic loyalties after the death of strongman Marshall Tito also helps explain the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.)
Multiple vMEME Leaders
Of course, to see societies as simply dominated by PURPLE’s tribal loyalties or RED’s power pecking order is too basic.
Islam provides a strong BLUE veneer in many countries in the Middle and Near East; and the lawyers’ protests, which contributed significantly to the development of the present crisis in Pakistan, were a real manifestation of BLUE outrage (admittedly stirred up by some RED demagoguing!) at Musharraf’s removal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry.
Nor is the Western world of liberal democracy free from strong PURPLE influences. Though ORANGE uses her to generate large amounts of revenue from tourists, the majority of Britons still favour having a queen of royal lineage and there is some considerable anticipation of Prince William ascending the throne (assuming Charles can somehow be bypassed!). As for the United States, how many Americans liked to think that they were on the verge of having their very own dynasty in the Kennedys…? While the second Bush has lost so much favour it’s unlikely that line will produce another president in the near future, a number of people are getting very excited about the prospect of a second Clinton in the White House. (There does indeed appear to be ‘magic’ in a name!)
So an effective leader needs to be able to talk multiple vMEME languages. Neither of the Bushes were good at it. Tony Blair, prior to tripping himself into Bush Jnr’s Iraq trap, excelled at it. Talking revenge and justice (RED/BLUE) with Bush post 9/11 and then using some very different BLUE memes from the Qur’an to persuade Muslim world leaders not to oppose the American invasion of Afghanistan.
Benazir Bhutto could talk GREEN human rights, ORANGE money opportunities and BLUE military processes with Western leaders. In Pakistan she became the princess apparent, ready to ascend the throne and rule like a queen, a PURPLE/RED harmonic just right for so many of her people.
Had she lived and been elected, she may have been sensitive enough to Western pressure to keep it clean this time and possibly even help lay the foundations for the dominating Pakistani mindset to move higher up the Spiral. Though would she would have been any better than Musharraf at dealing with the dysfunctional BLUE of Isamic extremism…?
Tariq Ali would appear to have been so sucked into BLUE/GREEN ideals of Western politics, he has lost touch with his own origins. Benazir passing the claim to the throne to Biliwal, with Zardari as Grand Vizier, might indeed seem “a digusting medieval charade” to Western eyes immured in liberal democracy. But, to the medieval eyes of the Pakistani rural poor and urban disenfranchised, it makes a lot of sense.
With a cultural mindset (Lower Left) largely in the PURPLE-RED zone, Western-style liberal democracy (created by BLUE and ORANGE and refined by GREEN) is quite simply a mismatch for Pakistan. The form of government (Lower Right) must match the mindset and needs of the people to be governed in the first place. Then the higher vMEMES of the leaders can aspire to development of the cultural mindset.
Tariq Ali, for all his considerable intellectual prowess – like so many decision-makers and commentators in the West - needs to understand this intuitively if he is to make sense of what is happening in Pakistan (Afghanistan, Iraq, etc).
Don Beck and Elza Maalouf of the Centre for Human Emergence Middle East anticipate significant work in the Palestinian territories (including addressing aspects of Palestine’s relationship with Israel) during 2008. It will be interesting to see how the concepts of Stratified Democracy develop further from that work.