The Torch Bearers [Archives:1998/39/Viewpoint]

September 28 1998

The other day, I was invited to a dinner reception. It was quite refreshing to see so many well-educated Western trained young Yemenis. It was indeed a source of hope for me, and such hope came timely in these festive days.

Let me see now. There were two qualities which I thought are worth bringing out.
1. Those young men were deeply rooted in Yemen. They are proud of their heritage and they have a strong sense of belonging.
2. They are comfortable in dealing with foreign partners and friends. They majority speak a few languages. In addition to Arabic, they often spoke English, French, German, etc.
This is the kind of people our country needs in order to prosper. People who belong to Yemen, and to the world.

Most of these young boys and girls come from the middle class. This is another refreshing thought – rehabilitation of the middle class, which has been badly bruised over the last few years because of the politico-economic conditions. I actually know the parents of many of them, and I know they do not come from the top class. Moreover, those young boys and girls are off-springs of the private sector. They belong to entrepreneurial families who have no relation to government or politics.

I tried hard to note if the group included the kids of the ruling oligarchy. They were not there. Indeed, how refreshing in that the gravity of power over the next two decades or so will have to shift in favor of these young boys and girls and what they stand for.
Most of the people who run Yemen’s public affairs today, notably the tribal leaders, have failed to see the value of Western education for their children. Most senior people in today’s power structure are busy making money and expanding their influence. In the process, they enlisted their children in their conquests. Thus they failed to prepare their offsprings for a different tomorrow. They are oblivious to the changing world. I was discussing this shortcoming on the part of the ruling folks in training their children with a foreigner who knows the insides of this place. “You know they resemble a frog swimming in a deep well. They don’t see what is outside the well,” he explained. How accurate!

Let me go back to my dreams and hopes, so elevated by those young men and women. Most are computer literate. They interact freely and comfortably with their peers worldwide. They exhibit a lot of self-confidence. They are the builders of Yemen’s tomorrow. They are our hope for a better future. They ae the torch bearers.

A friend who heard me talk in such warm emotions wanted to bring me down to earth. “Are you sure that is enough? They have to be empowered, you know,” he said. Come to think of it, he is right. That hurt me.
The system in our country today does not enable you to be your best. In fact, the existing system seems to incapacitate us. It is the less able who have control over the more able. That is something we have to contend with. “It is the job of our generation to fight in order to level the field. We have to make sure the next generation spends more time on being productive, and less time in fending off the parasites and those who try to hold us back,” I pleaded.
I didn’t want him to bite away into my hopes and dreams.

Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz AL-SAQQAF
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher