I just came across the recording of a dialogue between Voegelin and the British historian and philosopher Arnold Toynbee. Difficult to find something of this level nowadays …
I am afraid nothing has changed:
” When the heart is sensitive and the mind is perceptive, one look at the world will suffice to see the misery of the human creature and to guess at ways of salvation; when they are insensitive and dull, massive impressions will be needed to trigger even some weak feeling. The sheltered son of a prince saw a beggar, a sick person, and a corpse for the first time – and he became the Buddha; a contemporary writer sees the piles of corpses and witnesses the gruesome destruction of thousands of people in Russia after the war – and he realizes that something is awfully wrong in the world and writes a number of mediocre novels.”
Eric Voegelin, Political Religions, p.33.
With the descent of Syria into sectarian war, followed by the premises of what might turn to be a new Algerian-like civil war in Egypt, the course of event seems to justify the most pessimistic prognostics about the Arab Spring. At this point, considering the deterioration of the political situation even in Tunisia, the idea that the Arab Spring would be the prelude for a quick democratization of the Middle East seems at best an act of faith. The whole “post-islamist” hypothesis, the idea of an Hegelian type of reconciliation between Islam and democracy, is in limbo … and not necessarily by the fault of the Islamists only.
A putsch against a democratically elected president by a coalition of the military and secularist parties will probably strengthen the hardliners among the Islamists, who never believed in democracy. Whatever one may think about the performances of Muhammad Morsi, it remains that the army, by interrupting a deeply trouble but still existing political transition, has actually saved the Muslim Brothers from a political disaster. What will be remembered is not the failure of the Muslim Brothers to give Egypt a constitution but rather the coup that ousted them, with the backing of a large segment of a population that not so long ago was complaining about the use of torture by the army against demonstrators.
On the short term at least, Jihadist groups, far from being weakened by the “democratic revolutions” in the region, are the great beneficiaries of the Arab Spring. US neoconservatives and Israeli Hawks to some extend too, although they have little to celebrate with the prospect of an opening of two new fronts for Israel, one on the Golan and the other, on the Sinai and an increased of terrorist activity around the globe. In the meantime, Egypt and Syria, two of the major centers of the Islamic civilization are disintegrating, suggesting that Afghanistan might be the future of the Middle-East.