Intellectuals, But Not Heroes [Archives:1998/30/Focus]

July 27 1998

By: Mohammed H. Al-Qadhi,
Assistant Managing Editor,
Yemen Times.
It is self-evident that educated people in any society are its torch-bearers and the source of enlightenment. In other words, they are expected to serve as role models in the life of their people in changing it to the better.
Thus, whenever society falls into an impasse or undergoes any adversity or predicament, it is these elites who seek to bring back peace, harmony and life. Their role – particularly in economic, political and social upheaval – is indispensable and vital.
History stands witness to the fact that thinkers and luminaries did a lot for their nations. They led many revolutions against tyranny and oppression. What the early American did is a good example. They breathed revolution into their society.
A Passive Role
But unfortunately, for Yemen nowadays, the situation is entirely different. Our elite want the easy way out, they want to make it easy on themselves. Thus most of Yemen’s thinkers and luminaries have little to do with their society. In fact, their role in the life of their people is very passive.
Yemen now lives in a critical and crucial time in its modern history, particularly with regard to its ever deteriorating economic conditions. This makes it necessary that our intellectuals should play a more visible role in shaping the opinion of the common people. Unfortunately, it seems that they have their own special world wherein they have fortified themselves. They are completely oblivious to the affairs of their society.
Types of Intellectuals
We can divide our luminaries into two groups. The first group has been influenced by material gains and thus has forgotten something called “poor or oppressed people”. In short, they have sold their hearts to the kingdom of money and personal interests.
The second group of our intellectuals is in bad terms with the political regime. Therefore it is always ambushed, or at least cornered. Some keep on their clashes and conflicts with the powerful politicians and suffer a lot as a result. Out of frustration and disappointment, some of them fall easily in the grip of heart-attacks, a common disease in our country today. Others have decided to abandon ship, and have left the country.
But some people in this group are strong enough to resist the pitfalls and stand up to the challenges and stream against the tide. They face their trials and tribulations bravely and stand alive. The regime tries to polarize and/or luring them. But when this way proves useless and futile, they turn to spreading rumors against them and bad-mouth so as to ruin their reputation among the public. They are described by many titles like treacherous, unpatriotic, and so on.
We Need Heroes
Regardless of the above classifications of our enlightened figures, their role is still passive yielding no fruits at all except for a select few.
– How many university professors do we have in Yemen?
– Over a thousand!
– What have they done for the interest and welfare of the people?
– Nothing.
The recent violent incidents that occurred in Yemen are a good indication of the absence of our intellectuals from the scene. They did not issue even a statement on the events.
Change should start from universities and the university professors should provide inspiration for a new vision. That is the least they should give back to society which paid for their education. If these guys are not able to do such a badly needed service in such crucial moments, who will do it? Unfortunately, I think our intellectuals will fail us. Then, it will be up to the illiterate masses to do this job and serve as a catalyst for change. They will educate the educated people of their rights and how to protect them.
This is because our intellectuals are busy in reading and publishing books which will never fill an empty stomach. This doesn’t, however, mean that I am against reading and publication of books. To the contrary, what I want to say is that books become futile and purposeless when people are hungry. People nowadays need someone of heroic spirit to defend their rights in having a good standard of living. People need someone to say it bravely that these people can’t afford this economic hardships any more for they have already sacrificed a lot. They need someone to criticize the wrong deeds and appreciate the good ones.
If our intellectuals keep like this, corrupt politicians will continue devouring everything good in our life. Our intellectuals should realize the reality of the situation. They should read the book on the tragedy of the people. It might wake them up.
Then, and only then, they might be able to at least join their people. They have to be intellectuals as well as heroes. Will they wake up and do it ?