Goodbye, great teacher: a eulogy for Nadim Beitar

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A young child takes part in a protest in solidarity with Gaza in Beirut. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

By: Dr. Fayad E. Kazan

Published Thursday, September 18, 2014

Oh great teacher, oh great struggler! Nadim al-Beitar is dead! What a great loss for Arabism, what a great loss for the Arab Homeland! What can I say about you to be fair in honoring you? From where should I start? And how?

Not long ago, you said to me that you would die before you saw the unification of a single Arab country with another. Unfortunately, for both you and us, many Arab countries have not only failed at unification, but are also currently threatened by both internal disintegration and fragmentation.

As you know, the Arab ruling elites that reached the top in the name of unity and liberation, and upon whom we attached high hopes, have miserably failed for a long time. They promised us freedom, yet turned the homeland into a big prison. They promised us prosperity, but generated widespread poverty. They promised us unity, but adopted fragmentation and separation to preserve their own privileges to such an extent that we are now not only seeking, but actually begging, US imperialism to defend us against them, and against the fundamentalists. These are the same fundamentalists who prevented you from delivering your lecture in Baghdad in 1968 because you asked the Arabs to adopt a modern mindset. Those same fundamentalists threaten our very existence today.

How can my eulogy be fair to you in a few sentences when you devoted more than 60 years of your life for the creation of a scientifically-based new Arab renaissance project. Which of your more than 20 books should I talk about?

According to Beitar:

"Modern society derives its power and vitality from a modern ideology. Similarly, the current traditional Arab society's weakness and stagnation is caused by Arab society's adherence to a drained and outmoded traditional ideology that has been transcended by history a long time ago. The main problem affecting Arab societies can be attributed to the latter's lack of a modern mindset based on a new philosophy of life, or a new ideology compatible with the contemporary stage of history!"

Nadim Beitar dedicated his life for the creation of a seminal social science work characterized by wholeness, depth and originality aimed at the renewal of the Arab mind and Arab society. Beitar's work was also aimed at the renewal of the social sciences and the philosophy of history in general. This was accomplished through his important studies on the psycho-sociological nature of the Arab setbacks, political economy, development and unity. The repetitive patterns, if we do not want to call them laws, were derived by Beitar from a large number of historical conditions, varied in space and time. This made Beitar's work for Arab political unification and development unique in significance. Beitar's work is also seminal for the social sciences and developmental thinking on both the Arab and international levels.

"Ideologies as historical facts are unique in some of their aspects. Yet, ideologies belong to a certain category in some of their other aspects. Hence, they are comparable." Beitar derived a new paradigm, or a new theory from his work that compels admiration.

Through Beitar's paradigm we can determine the likelihood of a certain society's success in transcending a historical stage and predict its political path, or direction in the light of our genuine understanding of its ideology. This science-based paradigm gave Beitar's work crucial significance in the classical sociological thought and philosophy of history internationally. Beitar's work is comparable to that of prominent figures such as Ibn Khaldoun, Karl Marx, Arnold Toynbee and others.

Nadim Beitar did not think and write as an armchair scholar. Rather, he combined theory with action and practice embodying Marx's idea "that philosophers had only interpreted the world, the point, however, is to change it."

Just as James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the DNA structure and its function in the field of biology, and just as Marx discovered the special law of motion governing the present-day capitalist mode of production, and the bourgeois society that this mode of production has created, so, too, did Beitar discover the fundamental and general structure of ideology that evolves in a constant and repetitive form in all religious and secular ideologies regardless of the differences that characterize those ideologies in content.

Great teacher, yes, we have lost you in a highly volatile and regressive stage in the history of the Arab nation. We are witnessing nations that are eager to leap forward very boldly to embrace the future, and shape it the way they want. Yet, as far as the Arab nation is concerned, we are witnessing regressive and dark forces that hang onto a past that cannot be restored, and which are scared of a future that cannot be avoided. It is a conflict between modernity and traditionality that occurred in countless societies. As a student of yours, I am as optimistic as you were: dawn will emerge, no matter how long and dark the night might be. Or as somebody put it: "The ray of hope emerges from extreme darkness.”

Rest assured, my great teacher, your fate is similar to that of great philosophers who rarely witness the achievement of their goals during their lifetime. Marx wrote in the mid-19th century, but his objectives, and the significance of his ideas, were manifested only in the 20th century, and his work continues to provide us with great insight well into the 21st century.

So rest assured, you are pioneer in Arab nationalist thought; you are the Ibn Khaldoun of the 20th century!

Your great work will never be in vain. You have been like a torch that exhausted its energy to brighten its world. This also entitles you to be called the pioneer of Arab enlightenment. Your great work will be our guide, and that of the coming and successive generations of the Arab Nation, for the creation of a modern Arab society and for the establishment of the Arab States Federation.

You dedicated your entire life to the Arab nationalist cause, and you even abstained from procreating out of fear that it might distract you from that cause. This renders you a true martyr of the Arab Nation. Martyrdom means sacrificing your life to defend or advance your nation.

You were born a Christian in the town of Bayno in the far north of Lebanon where you chose to be buried. Dedicating your entire life to our nation makes me feel that you are not only from Bayno. Rather, you are also from al-Taybeh, my hometown in the far south of Lebanon. You are from Bint Jbeil, from Beirut, Sidon, Mount Lebanon, Tunis, Cairo, Iraq and from all over the Arab homeland!

I wish that you had been awarded the highest Arab medal in your life, or at the time of your departure. But who, nowadays, wishes to be awarded a medal from any of the contemporary Arab regimes? I wish the flag of the Arab States Federation was draped over your venerable body. I also wish for your burial place to have been beside that of the great Arab martyrs. Your significance, as far as our Arab Nation and its coming generations are concerned, is more than you can imagine. Perhaps now, because you are in the world of eternity, you understand what I mean more than I do.

Finally, we pledge to you our commitment to your struggle for Arab Renaissance. We will follow your great ideal in renouncing internal conflicts, fragmentation, sectarianism and regionalism, and we will continue your struggle for the creation of a new Arab mindset that leads to the fulfillment of your lifetime dream: The creation of the Arab States Federation.

Good bye, my beloved teacher!

I have been enlightened by your ideas, honored by your friendship and by my final visit to you. I will always be proud to say: "I knew Nadim Al-Beitar and I lived in his time."

Dr. Fayad E. Kazan is an Arab nationalist from Lebanon. He has worked as an expert, consultant, lecturer and researcher in the fields of development communications, media studies and research in the United States and in the Arab Gulf.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar English's editorial policy. If you would like to submit a thoughtful response to one of our opinion pieces, send your contribution to our submissions editor.


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