Haikal’s image of today’s Arabs [Archives:2004/754/Viewpoint]

July 12 2004

In a new series on Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel, prominent Egyptian intellect and writer Mohamed Hassanain Haikal presented an excellent conclusion that truly shows the level of weakness reached by Arab regimes. He explained how Arab leaders kept on viewing news channels and reading newspapers but failed to realize the importance of getting to know the ultimate meaning of what they watch or read, and what others are planning for them. “They have become occupied with the tiny details and have not been able to see the overall picture.” he said.
Then I thought to myself, how could this be? We watch news coverage from Palestine, Iraq, Sudan, the Arab world, Europe, and elsewhere. We sympathize with plights of Arab victims here and there, but go on with our daily lives as normal. We ensure that our own lives are ok, and disregard the world around us. But when it comes to our leaders, whom we think know much more, we are told that they very rarely try to figure out how such incidents far away from us could affect our region in the future
But what if Haikal is right, and what if we simply being ruled by leaders who are unable to get a concrete meaning from all of this, and continue to live their lives with the expectations that everything will be ok, while ignoring the fact that many of the developments happening now in some areas of the Arab world will definitely have their effect on the other Arab countries? They will affect us, our children, or our grandchildren.
Haikal added that each Arab leader has decided to draw a border around his territory and isolate himself from the world, thinking that as long as he is alright, everything will be fine. This has proven to be disastrous, because we are weakening while other countries, which Haikal specifically mentioned as Turkey and Israel, are getting stronger. “Those two countries seem to be the ones opening up and moving cleverly to have influence in the region, while Arab countries are in stagnancy.” he said.
Perhaps very few intellectuals think in the way Haikal does. But there is a reason behind this small number of intellectuals who may be the only ones who know it right. Our Arab regimes have systematically imposed willingly or unintentionally an environment in which we are all in pursuit of bread to feed our children. We were preoccupied with the necessities, and have hence left behind plans and ideas to move beyond them. We have been marginalized for many decades in the information age and have ended up becoming mere receivers and consumers with very limited to offer our communities, let alone the world.
Hence, it is only normal for us to conclude that our status today is not unexpected or bizarre. Mr. Haikal reaffirmed that the Arab world has become uninterested or unaware of the real meaning of the picture when we put all the small pieces together. This is truly a dark picture that Haikal is painting. But a lesson that I learnt from his talk is that many of us think that we are intellects who know the game and how things are moving. But we feel humbled when a person like Haikal gives us a more confident picture of developments happening now and their implications in the future.
I cannot challenge the thoughts of Haikal, but if he is correct, I would not be surprised. Many disappointments have come from our leaders, and adding one to them would not make a lot of difference.