Responsibility at the Top [Archives:1998/40/Viewpoint]

October 5 1998

In all cultures worldwide, responsibility grows with social and political stature. That is probably because more power entails more responsibility, by definition. Also because people with a higher public profile traditionally become role models and, therefore, shoulder a higher burden. In addition, leaders are often seen as a source of inspiration and spiritual and moral guidance. For those and many reasons, people at the top of the power structure carry a bigger responsibility than the average individual.
That is probably why the Americans are putting their President through the wash tub. It is not that Americans do not have extra-marital sex. Many do. Neither is it because they do not lie, even under oath. It is simply because he is the President, and he is measured by a higher moral yardstick.
By the way, one can’t help but admire the Americans for what they are doing. Theirs is the best system around at this time, and one should see what they are doing to their President as one more attempt at yet improving the checks and balances of an already good system.
I do not want to dwell on external issues. I want to zero in on our conditions here in Yemen. Our senior politicians are hardly fit to play a role model, nor do they offer much inspiration. In fact, most Yemenis despise the senior politicians – in government or in opposition. One can hardly speak of them as displaying a high level of responsibility. In fact, they show little in the way of love for the country.
Unless a person has a strong sense of belonging – it is called patriotism – it is hard to imagine that such a person would engage in selfless efforts for the nation. There is nothing wrong with making money, if it is earned. The point is that most of our politicians amass so much money simply because they are politicians, and not because they have earned it.
Then there is an ominous twist.
As if their own shameless corruption is not enough, many of our senior officials turn around and try to destroy and dishonor the few honest people we have in this country. It has become a real nightmare for a clean person to be active in this country. The bad guys force all public activists to either join their league, or risk being destroyed, or at least stagnate. In other words, gradual improvements and reform seem an unattainable goal. What are people left with?
I have been asked that question so many times. You preach gradual change, where is it? What can we do? The people of Yemen do want gradual and peaceful change. They would like to introduce more accountability and transparency into the system. They want the leaders to play a more responsible role. But none of that is happening.
Some people are already thinking the unthinkable – some kind of forceful removal of the bad guys, in spite of their complete grip over things. Is this do-able? How will the general public react? How will the world community react?
I hope that my country does not reach a stage whereby that is the only recourse. I personally feel there is still hope in peaceful and gradual change. We should stick to this course.
In the meanwhile, let us all pray for our rulers to see light. Let us ask guidance for them to lead us out of this mess, into which they have brought us.
This place cannot take another big jolt!
I pray for a way out of this! Amen.
Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz AL-SAQQAF
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher