Culture is not a luxury [Archives:2008/1203/Opinion]

October 30 2008

By: Adel Al-Shujaa
Once, I was invited to an evening party last Ramadan, which was attended by senior government officials, educated people and state's ministers. Although the party was enriched with talks about Sana'a city, being the political capital of all Yemeni people from the extreme south to the extreme north and attendees spoke about the historical value of the city and the problems it experiences due to poor sanitation and water systems and traffic jams, I was somewhat unsatisfied with what happened during the event.

Although we were discussing traffic jams in the city's streets, we the participants in the party blocked the Qiyada Street in the center of Sana'a city with our cars parking in front of the hotel where the party was being held. The party has no yard for cars to park in. Admitting that we are people with a great history, anyone seeing the more three hundred thousand participants with their mouths filled with qat may cast doubt on how those participants can suggest workable solutions to pressing problems in their society.

I don't know when ministers and the educated people in our society will believe that they are able to restore history or cope with contemporary developments while chewing qat leaves that force them to progress backward.

We talked about the civilized appearance of Sana'a, however, we drink stagnant water and chew prohibited leaves. Despite all this, we don't ask ourselves why our water has become stagnant and why our living is proceeding this way.

The qat sessions have been converted into pavilions for condolences. At these sessions, we regret our future, and in the meantime, don't know that we kill future of our children and deprive them of happiness. We don't find anyone lamenting our negative culture and the way we think. Frankly speaking, some of the attending ministers and educated people were not chewing qat, but they seem to be satisfied with the situation, however, they understands that Yemen is progressing toward unprecedented collapse due to food scarcity, price hikes and water shortage.

I found myself shouting loudly, but no one of the attendees listened to what I said. Irrespective of this, I had strong faith that the Yemeni man is more able to cope with life-related problems. Despite the hard conditions experienced by Yemen's consecutive generations for more than one 1100 years, the Yemeni people still are able to live.

Waiting for deliverance is Yemeni people's problem

I feel that the Yemeni man is more able to tolerate and return to life once again, a fact that might be imposed on him by his mountainous environment. But his great problem is that he always waits for deliverance and does nothing to resolve his own problems. The Yemenis already understand that qat is a malignant tree, but they don't quit the habit of chewing qat.

I don't know whether we are waiting for an inevitable fate. I feel that the current dire situation in our country warns of negative consequences as a result of our negative habits and practices. Yemeni citizens are recommended to have an eye on the phenomenon of price hikes and food scarcity worldwide.

In the world of today, knowledge has become the main commodity. So, why we do make a barrier of qat leaves, scattered her and there, between us and knowledge.

The habit of qat chewing is the real culture, which was founded to erase our history. We talk about civilization of our forefathers as if history stopped by the end of their generation without asking ourselves what we should do to solve our own problems.

The qat trees are responsible for our depleting groundwater and our fertile farms becoming wastelands. We don't have a glimpse of hope for a better future for our children. I concluded that the habit of qat chewing is an integral part of our Yemeni culture and culture is not a luxury.