The past is just a good bye! [Archives:2007/1060/Opinion]

June 18 2007

“Dad! How did you spend your summer vacations” asked Fatima as she entered and threw her schoolbag by the door.

“Look daughter, when I was your age, when I came back from school, at the end of the school year, I took my books to my special closet and saved them for future reference” Jalal was telling his daughter the fine art of being a diligent student.

Fatima also had a knack for comparative analysis: “Yeah, but father, you were not given a stack of poorly written textbooks that even the teachers had a hard time reading, let alone understand.”

“Hey you two, what are you saying about today's teachers? We are the finest that this land of Yemen could produce!”

Fatima did not want to hurt her mother's feelings at the end of the school year, knowing how hard it is for serious teachers to do their work with so little help and support from the Ministry of Education: “I can vouch for that on the mothers' side, but I know that even the finest teachers in the land are bound to face all the difficulties in the world to do their job professionally.”

“Come to think of it, for us the whole year was one long vacation. We always had something to do all year long and not just in the summertime.” Jalal went back to his daughter's first question, continuing: Sana'a was one big playground with literally scores of gardens and narrow winding alleyways to play all kinds of games in. We had different games for every season. Some had a taint of violence in them, while most of the others were just a lot of fun.”

Yasmine, the mother gave one of her long dissertations on the good old days: “Those were the good old days Jalal. now the kids have a hard time to find a quite peaceful spot at home, let alone in the street. Sana'a has become one messy rendition of modern town planning. If you see most of the neighborhoods from any of the tall buildings in these neighborhoods, all you will see are concrete slabs of ceilings stretching for kilometers, in which one can hardly see any spans of greenery or open space. It is an ugly symptom of modern urbanization without urban planning. One is sure that the Revolutionary heroes had no idea that their hometown was going to be turned from the quite serenity and peacefulness that Sana'a used to manifest for young and old alike, to the ugly rendition of modern urban centers. It seems that our parents and grandparents had a greater taste for the good life that we can hope to see from this post-revolutionary generation. I almost feel like all that beauty in Sana'a and its surroundings was like a pleasant dream that was meant to give us an idea of what Paradise could be like. Would you believe that within one kilometer of our home there were five large gardens with all kinds of fruit trees and vegetables! Everyone who built a mosque in the good old days made sure that the wastewater of the mosque had a useful outlet for the used waters. They endowed an extensive piece of land around or near the mosque to receive such waters and to provide the income for maintaining the mosques from the vegetables and fruit produce of the endowed land. But now, even these thoughtful gestures were corrupted by some of the keepers of these lands or by the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Guidance, which could use a little bit of hard core guidance themselves on how to carry out their moral responsibilities.”

“That is the crux of the matter, my dear, it seems that all of officialdom could use some hard core guidance on how to carry out their responsibilities as public servants.” Jalal wanted to let his wife know that the tragedy is widespread throughout government.

Fatima was more mature than anyone would ever think she has become: “I really believe that it is not just a matter of teaching or guidance. It is really a matter of accountability, which is almost absent in all spheres of government. It is an 'all you can grab' situation, where officials try to outdo each other for the biggest loot they can carry home every day out of embezzlement, bribery, or sheer thievery from the state treasury, without so much as the slightest worry about being asked: 'where the hell did you get all this from??”

There is more to come!

Hassan Al-Haifi has been a Yemeni political economist and journalist for more than 20 years.