Marwan al-Husayni *
The plot of the 2004 movie “Shortcut to Happiness”, which I watched recently, goes like this: Jabez Stone is a complete loser. He is not able to sell his novels. He lives in a lousy apartment and does not have success with women. Stone sells his soul to the devil for success. The secret contract is signed when the devil sleeps with Stone. Suddenly, his low quality novels have bad reviews but become best-sellers; Stone enriches; has success with women, but has no time for his real friends.
For me, the movie was an example of great failure. It is of direct nature, lacks suspense and most of its scenes are predictable. Though it is labeled “Comedy”, “Drama” and “Fantasy”, I felt it was another boring story of American commercial “magical reality”. But what caught my thoughts is its moral message.
Gaining success regardless of what road leads to it or what content it produces is a shortcut to something else. This is an old and repetitive lesson. Why should it catch my thoughts?
Obviously, the linkage between the movie’s message and the political context of the Arab World which I live in is what I care more about. The stage of Middle East is witnessing a similar “magical reality” performance.
The increasing support the Islamists and the Muslim Brothers (Ikhwan in Arabic) are receiving, whether from the USA or from certain Arab circles, in the ongoing political game is a familiar drama. They are offered a shortcut to political power regardless of the outcomes.
The Realpolitik of the current political scene in the Arab World is magically controlled by a “ReliPolitik” coalition (A term that I coined to refer to a pragmatic coalition of representatives of religions and representatives of politics). For the basic players in the Middle East, whether the USA, Israel, Turkey, Iran or Russia, the “Arab Spring” represents a shortcut to more hegemony over the Arab region.
Ikhwanization of political ruling governments or giving Muslim Brothers (or Ikhwan) alone more powers in the Arab World is a direct and clear attempt to sell a low quality novel of commercial magical reality. First, this novel does not talk about the real needs and aspirations of the peoples of the region. The main articles of the secret contract do not include any talk about the public interest. The novel’s language is not of high literary, philosophical, educational or even religious richness.
Second, hacking a whole context for the benefit of one or few parties is a misleading attempt to give popular legitimacy to those new governors. Religions are not tools for political control. They are structures for life and for the high interest of human beings.
Towards the end of “Shortcut to Happiness”, Stone realizes his wrongdoing and tries to escape the contract and regain his life and real friends. He succeeds. But that is fiction. In the realities of the Arab world, this is not applicable.
I do not subscribe to the conspiracy theories some think are behind what is going on. The “Arab Spring” stopped. It is the shortcuts which everyone is running through that are going to shape the new episode of Middle East politics. And shortcuts are not real paths to healthy being.
Using the language of computers, a “shortcut” to a file opens the original file. Using the language of ReliPolitik, a “shortcut” to power opens the gates of the unknown.
* Media Strategist, Interfaith and Intercultural specialist