Misconception about our pride [Archives:2004/762/Viewpoint]

August 9 2004

It is amazing how different people interpret the reasons for pride and factors to be proud of. I have been trying to work it out myself. Can someone be proud for having the most luxurious automobile? Or can someone be proud because he succeeded in portraying an image of himself that is greater than him in reality?
I tried to understand the difference between deserved pride and assumed pride. They are and should remain different. But when looking at the way many of us in the Arab world think, I realize that we are misleading ourselves by misunderstanding the real factors that could make us proud.
I see on our local public TV station many projects that are supposed to be a source of pride and inspiration. Among them are projects of installing machines donated by other countries. “This is a great and huge achievement that we should be proud of!” said one of the Yemeni officials at the site of the project, which is still to start. “The machines are to be donated to us during the project, which will be implemented by )- country, it is a great accomplishment for our government under the leadership of our President.” This is one of many similar statements we Yemenis hear on TV and radio and read about in public newspapers.
But when trying to analyze this logically, I think that there is no reason to be proud of this project. First because it was not to be implemented by us, we did not buy the machines, we did not pay a penny. All we did is make propaganda out of the project, even before it started. We made our people think that such a thing is a huge accomplishment that should make us sing the national anthem day and night. What nonsense is this?
On the other hand, countries that did donate and install the machines in the project are not making a big thing out of it, merely watching our government get all the credit for the project. It may well be that those machines are also manufactured by the donor country. Yet, they take it as normal and get on with their lives. Aren't they the ones who should be proud for first producing such sophisticated machines, then providing them as a donation to our country, and finally installing them and running the project? I wonder!
I have just recently returned from a trip to Japan, in which I was shown the most advanced technology on the planet. They showed me stages of manufacture, installation and when the machines were up and running. They also showed me the way they market and sell products. They then expressed their ambitions, and sincerely felt quite far from the completion of their objectives, and humbly expressed their desire to move faster and produce better. On the other hand, we as Arab countries, bring foreign countries to dig our own oil, and with our share we buy luxurious cars and products from countries such as Japan, then promote it as an unimaginably gigantic achievement us and our people.
I am not sure how long this illusion will continue, but it is damaging our own culture and the way we think about what we should do and where we should be. Such actions have already yielded negative consequences, such as in having rich boys buy the most advanced cars, computer games, mobile phones, and escape classes to make test-drives of each others' vehicles. They are proud of the new and advanced things they buy, claiming that it is a great achievement. They simply reflect the way their fathers measured themselves and thought about achievement. Hence, the whole generation becomes less productive and believes in showing off and doing little.
I believe that as Arab nations, we are far from having reasons to be proud of our actions. We could justify being proud of our past and ancient civilizations. Though I am sure our ancestors would be ashamed at the level of weakness we have reached, especially when we think that we should be proud of what we buy and not what we produce or achieve with our own hands. It is important to understand that pride cannot be bought, it must be earned!