Again, Back to the Intellectuals [Archives:2005/888/Opinion]

October 24 2005

It is not clear what is in store for the future of Yemen, but surely it is of the utmost importance that the thousands of Yemenis who have attained intellectual capability of worthy recognition must be allowed to have a pivotal role in determining the course the country should take. Furthermore, the country's intellectual community has a tendency to feel locked in a tight vice that prevents its intellectual capacity from being translated into meaningful products that help to stimulate further intellectual curiosity, real tangible economic production, and greater social cohesion and equity among the various components of the Yemeni social fabric. The feeling among most of the intellectuals in Yemen is that history has let them down, because they had to live in an age where intellectual attainment and intellectual pursuits have absolutely no tangible worth amidst a society that has narrowed down the measurement of success by the purely mundane standards of material affluence and accumulation of assets, without worry or regard as to how such net worth is acquired and without a care as to at whose expense this wealth came about. Yes, there is a lot of intellect roaming around the cities of Sana'a, Aden, Ta'ez, Hodeida, Sa'ada, Hajjah, Mukalla and so many other Yemeni cities, small and large, but it is stagnant and ineffective. Thousands of bright and forward looking Yemenis are out there and they are unable to find the right outlet for releasing all that dormant intellect. Even the crying has to be inward, not daring to show that intellect has its feelings and dignity and both are not finding their way into the intellectual's life. So, for the majority of intellectuals in Yemen, one cannot help but notice an absence of purpose to life and some have began to pursue for the quickest way out of this world. It is understandable that failure to make one's mark in a society, with so much stored up intellect can lead to a pitiful depressive state that drives some people to consider bringing about their own termination. However, it remains, in our upbringing and our strong faith in God, inexcusable and a further sign of weakness in a vast field of ineptitude dictated by social rules and political repression and the incongruous prevalence of those, who sadly have a strong distaste for intellect of any flavor.

Yet, some of these intellectuals have found their own way of adapting to the unfortunate state of mind by turning to religious meditation and to writings they cannot publish, because they are forbidden from sharing their thoughts, their knowledge and their aspirations with their fellow countrymen, countrywomen and the rest of the world by politics and by inaccessibility to resources. They have always thought that intellect will indeed find its rightful place in all walks of life in Yemen, but, alas the barriers for serious and genuine intellectuals are high and the prequalifications so minuscule and minimal. How could Yemeni intellectuals allow themselves to be driven out of the core of their society by a relatively weak competition that has, in many cases, not achieved the minimal academic credentials? Those of them, who might have acquired some level of academic achievement are mishandling it and even abusing it. They also do not possess the daring that is required of intellect to point out the rights and wrongs and the dos and don'ts of a viable social order. Society in Yemen has a whole different picture of intellect and that picture is not at all that healthy. There are those who are outside the intellectual community, who have even accused intellectuals of being possessed by demons. You can see them all over the streets with their sullen faces drugged by the dichotomy of an existence that for the most part rejects them and leaves them out of place.

For many Yemeni intellectuals, there is the possibility of taking their whole existence overseas and burying it in the demographic statistics of a society that would welcome their intellect. There, they might even live well, but, well, it is not doing good for Yemen! This simply is not a sign of faithfulness to one's country to pack up the bags and seek one's fortune elsewhere. Yes, genuine intellectuals are burdened by the awesome love they have for their country and would tend to feel that a life outside of Yemen is a plastic existence – a life without a mission. How does one overcome the difficulty of it all? The results of this pathetic state of the intellectuals are to be seen in the many faces of great artists and poets, who are forced to eke out a living painting or using their intellect to practice far less inspiring trades, such as helping out a skilled engraver – menial laborious work that has never been known to be a high test of intellect.

There are also those who are on the government payrolls and may even have a nice office in one of the new fancy government buildings that cost five times their price to build. But ask any of them what have they contributed to the function of their respective agency or ministry and their answer will be that they sign on the attendance roster every day and that is all that counts in the code that regulates government employment. Besides, every effort they have made to prove themselves at work have been met with rejection or cold shoulders. There are some intellectuals in the private sector, as well, but they are working for people, who are mostly of lower intellectual capacity and thus the law of survival would dictate to them that they should not try to be above their bosses' heads, otherwise they will be without a job!

No one knows how long Yemeni intellectuals have to live a life of suffering that cannot be easily cured by a bandage or by a syrup. No, this suffering seems to have this lingering characteristic that defies solution, because it is enforced with the muzzle of the weapons that are always there to protect ignorance and even give the latter stature.