Marwan al-Husayni *
Many Arab writers are forced to clarify themselves at the beginning of some pieces they write: “I must say that I am not defending this person”. “First, it is better to clarify that I am not attacking him”. “This is not to say that I am against the government”. “This is not a pro government article”.
What are the factors that make us, as writers, state such clarifications? What pushes us towards adding these words? What culture and what mentality? Is it fear of misinterpretation, misjudgment or misreading?
Sometimes I feel that our cultures in the Arab World are built only on two extremes: praise and satire. If I write about some errors of a certain person, then I am against him or her. If I mention some positive attitudes of another person, then I am totally pro.
Such interpretations by a majority of readers are the results of “personalization mentalities”. Most of them focus on persons not ideas. Objectivity is lost amid a thick fog of misreading or non-reading at all.
“Personalization” is often used nowadays to mean customizing web pages or applications according to the interests and needs of the individual to facilitate life in the Cyberspace. “Personalization” in our cultures means that the personal mood or stand controls everything else.
One of my previous articles gained a modest number of comments on one of the news websites. Most of the comments were about my photo which was posted with the article. The commenters thought it was a photo of the person whom I was talking about his art in order to explain my core idea. We both had our share of attack: I for praising his creativity, and he for being himself. Anyway, no one commented on the main ideas of the article.
As a result of such mentalities, most writers are judged, not discussed. In a social context, the “personalization” approach is also a mainstream. One is not praised for his or her skills, ideas, achievements, creativity or intelligence. It is personal connections, ties or moods that control the process of social classification.
This is why many writers feel it is necessary to clarify that they are not writing based on personal stands. They are sure that they will be misjudged and mislabeled by many readers who turn on the machines of personalization while reading. Is it a crisis of mistrust or a complexity of social, psychological and historical factors? Many analyses go beyond the mere fact of misinterpretation.
A culture that is based on strong sensations of praise and satire expects any writer to work within those two edges. Other edges are not allowed. Analysis is disregarded and misjudgment is activated. Thus, “personalization” becomes the main criteria for building any approach towards individuals.
Unlike “personalization” in the Cyberspace, “personalization” in the Arab social space does not facilitate life. Writing, as a social activity, is doomed right from the beginning. Creativity is also ruled by personalized narrow outlooks.
If one personalizes his writings to fit others personalized attitudes frames, then he is a powerful writer. If he goes for the hard task of objective thinking and analyzing, then he is ignored for “personal reasons”.
* Media Strategist, Interfaith and Intercultural specialist