Posts Tagged ‘Saudi situation’

I am a Dreamer

09/07/2011

For ages the question about the suitability of democracy in the Arab and Islamic countries was raised. With the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain, the question is coming back with hopes and fears of what path these revolutions will take. During my trip to Germany I attended the Global Media Forum organized by Deutsche Welle where many of the attendees showed a lot of interest in knowing more about what is going on. Many questions were raised such as; why they are happening? Why the Gulf countries are not seeing such revolutions and how these revolutions will shape the future of the region and, probably, the world and many more other questions. I enjoyed the discussions with people from around the globe. Yet during three different occasions, three Arab attendees insisted that Arabs are not ready for democracy. Two of them were so pessimistic about the chances of implementing democracy in the Arab World. They predicted that democracy will not flourish in this region before 50 to 300 years. My response to them was “My daughter Joori is about six years old; I hope, wish and want her to participate in the elections of the Saudi Parliament before she is twenty six years old”. Am I dreaming? Sure. But what is life without dreams?

Saudi Arabia is known to be the biggest oil producer and it possesses largest oil reserves in the world. Parts of the financial returns of selling the oil helped in establishing the country’s infrastructure, raised the level of education among the citizens and enlarged the middle class significantly. On the other hand, the country suffers on many other aspects. Saudis live under strong security grip and corruption is unprecedented. The performance of many government entities and agencies is generally below the expectations of citizens. About half of the population is below 25 years old and many of them are unemployed.

The Saudi society values are partially inspired by Islam which is demonstrated in some occasions through positive behaviors such as assisting the needy, dignity, magnanimity and others. Yet, the society has been suffering from issues such as racism, sectarianism, favoritism, the situation of women and others. As a result of all of these issues, there are portions of Saudis (that cannot be really quantified due to lack of data) who agree on the need for change. However, the details and direction of such desired change are not agreed upon and can be very controversial.

The above is a personal attempt to reflect the reality of Saudi Arabia today. Such reality is also shaped and impacted by the structure of the state and society and the relationship between them. When the power is limited to the hands of a few while the vast majority of people do not have much of influence on the country present and future, in addition to the weak – or lack of – feeling of citizenship and feelings of belonging, we find that we are facing a complex reality which might at any moment lead to unexpected developments that no one can expect their extent or outcomes.  Also, the society’s view of itself and the quality of relationships within it and its relationship to the state and its system helps in the formation of the current image of Saudi Arabia and increases the difficulties for the change or major developments.

With such gloomy view, some may find it impossible to think about democracy in a country with all of these challenges and complications. But the world around us today clearly shows that democracy is the most effective system of governance through an agreed upon Constitution that enforces the separation of powers, equality of all citizens and the participation of the people in choosing their representatives freely. Thus we, in Saudi Arabia, either belong to the faction of people, who use democratic means to rule, or we are totally different than that faction and we actually belong to another faction that has nothing to do with a majority of human beings on this planet. Can we be so different?.

I personally think that the pursuit of democracy in Saudi Arabia would be one way to address the serious structural defects in the state and society. The struggle to democratization in Saudi Arabia will help facing what must be changed and reformed through the interaction of citizens with their problems and working together to confront them and find solutions. For example, nowadays discussing the issue of the detainees for long periods without trial is widespread in the channels of the new media in Saudi Arabia which demonstrates that concepts such as the state of institutions and rights began to spread among younger generation who are the group that will make the future on their own and will be making the changes that they want despite the enormous challenges that might be faced.

But democracy today, to me personally, is not an end in itself but a means for the result I want to see in Saudi Arabia. I do not care much how long it will take as long as we will be able to move in the direction I hope for my country. The future dream I see for Saudi Arabia is a modern state that ensures public participation and equality of all citizens and at the same time economically able to face the enormous challenges ahead of the country. The road to democracy in Saudi Arabia will also be a means to dismantle parts of the obstacles and barriers that have been injected into the body of the state and society and resulted our present. What we live in today is the result of long years of mistakes that will not disappear automatically, but will need the hard work and real participation of everyone, or at least the believers in the necessity of change and who those willing to pay the price to get it.

When talking about democracy, usually the discussion involves talking about the West and the liberties practiced there which might be in contradiction with some basic values of Islam and the Saudi society. I do not think that we are obligated to the introduction of a Western model of democracy as it is. Every society should strive to reach their own model that suite their needs and values. Therefore, I know that our society is very different from other communities around the world, so we may evolve to a model of democracy that is not like any other model which may resemble or differ from other models in the world. We do not have to reinvent the wheel as they say, but we need to benefit from our own experiences and mistakes as well as from others experiences and mistakes until we reach the result that we want for this country.

I am definitely dreaming and I will keep doing so, not because I am a romantic person, but because we are in front of a sad reality that does not present much of encouraging options and without dreams the present will be difficult to bear. Also, I really believe that part of any change is the dream that brings disciples of change as seen through the great Egyptian revolution. During the eighteen days of the revolution I lived something like a dream, and even now I feel the dream is not over yet. Though I realize that only the head of the snake is been chopped and still there is a long way to remove the snake’s spirit from the body of Egypt and the Egyptians.

So I dream of democracy in Saudi Arabia, and not after 100 years, but in the near foreseen future. Because those who deny our readiness for democracy today do not offer much of alternatives except the present which is not desirable. They do not have much of influence into shaping the future except waiting for the gifts of the state which might not ever come. We might not be ever ready for the democracy, but silence and stillness will not make us ready tomorrow. But promoting awareness and stimulating debate among people helps imagining and forming a better future for our children.

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ABC in Saudi Arabia, meeting the experts and knowing the target

03/03/2010

I received an email from the Saudi blogger Mohammed Awlia asking me to share a post that he recently published in his own blog. Below is the post and hopefully more will come from Mohammed.

Today we [Saudis] dwell on how unfortunate our current situation is, how the previous leaders failed to meet the demands of the rapid development of the 20th century, how education is poor, how unemployment is rising, how bribery became an everyday habit and finally how connections make life  easier!

It is, in no doubt, an extremely significant thing for us to admit that we are mistaken. Our ice-breaker discussion today is just how unsuccessful we are (whether true or not) and begin comparing ourselves with the old Islamic Caliphates, to the United States and recently Japan.

Very good! You would think we are comparing ourselves to know where we stand and where want to be. However,  we are now experts at pinpointing the errors, today everyone utilizes various coefficients in an equation that underscores our situation, whether economically, politically or academically … but at the end we all deduce an exact single result; failure. Some blame it on how we lost our everyday ethics, how dishonesty emerged, that we are too spoiled or living in poverty.

Our main objective, if there is one, is to jump from point A to point C without passing by B. It may be possible, but it is in fact not advisable. The question, therefore, emerges: What is point A, B and C? My humble answer to this modest question will be: Sorry there is not only a single answer but a million! One million! Yes, because to every situation there is an alternative way to tackle it with this so called theory of ABC

We utilize this theory conditionally to an obstacle we face. For instance, let’s employ this analogy in the business world; how would A, B and C be implemented.

Before I start with an example, it will be my honour to introduce the experts that will provide us with their assertions that would balance the reliability or the credibility of the example chosen.

  1. Dinner evening specialists (DES); a group of people who meet for dinner and usually end up discussing the welfare of the nation, the negatives, and at sometimes they end up celebrating the achievements of a minority in the country.
  2. Afternoon singles (AN); a group of singles who usually hang out at a café’. Unlike DES, the afternoon singles discussions vary, sometimes it is about the country, stuff they must buy, stuff they wish to buy, football and what’s wrong in their lives.

Back to the example:  Point A may be an individual’s qualities in the workforce; leader, hard worker or organized, teamwork…etc. – simple stupid. So far point A is clear? I hope so.

Point B is putting these qualities in immense action, receiving hard tasks, working with foreigners (unfortunately subconscious racism)… Point B is the area where an employee may get demotivated, feel he is fed up.

Why would such a behaviour occur? On the one hand, according to dinner evening’s specialists (DES) in this particular situation assert that this shift in behaviour is due to the fact that they are given an easy ride in school, in other words there is not much challenge in school, therefore, getting used to studying a day or week before the exam.  On the other hand, according to the afternoon singles (AS) it is as a result of being spoiled, getting used to things coming easy- life being easy… until you suddenly encounter difficulties and thus back off. Valid argument, obviously not to all… but to some at least

Point C, Maslow’s hierarchy’s self-actualization, being an executive, a CEO… Aiming high! Another argument by our team of experts, DES claim these high ambitions are, in fact, due to the notion that they are being pressured by society’s expectations, and hence wanting to meet their anticipations. However, AS give a dissimilar theory, their thesis states that these high aims particularly go hand in hand with the love of tangible materialistic things, meaning the idea of owning the best car, a big house and travelling first class.

Therefore, to conclude, we may say that these points, in order to effectively employ them we must follow them chronologically, rather than jump from different points. If an individual jumps from A to C, in the example used above, it may mean the individual did not experience B (the hard one) vividly and is thus not able to perform well as a C – a CEO. This, therefore, draws the line that distinguishes where the real mistake is:

  • Blaming the government: 50% effective – The government can provide everything but it is for you to follow up… We cannot all be CEOs.
  • Blaming bad teachers: 10% effective –Teachers are put at a halt, perhaps because they are not satisfied with their salary, with the weakness of the syllabus and unmotivated students.
  • Blaming the family (Society); 30% effective, blaming the country for not being trained to encounter difficulties, such as getting used to living economically and to cut costs.
  • Attend the dinner or chill at the café’: 0% effective all you will do is sit down moan and hope one day things will turn around.
  • Blaming yourself; 88% effective, making the change you seek in the world… nevertheless an evident loophole may be falling into depression.

Hence, not only the government, the private sector, the health sector, the education sector, the industrial sector are all responsible, but also you are, by all means, responsible!

May Allah bless all.