This is an OPINION  page. [Archives:1998/05/Focus]

February 2 1998

Every week, a different intellectual writes a FOCUS  on a pertinent issue! Changing Face of Yemeni Society
By: Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi, Taiz
It is a well-known fact that change is a law of nature. There is nothing constant in the universe, but God. Nothing remains the same forever. This is because everything in life must undergo change and alteration. It is inevitable since it renews the face of life and makes it more natural and tasteful. In short, life doesn’t coincide with a state of motionlessness and unchangeability of all creatures. Rather the psychological view is that change is a virtue of life and must take place at all times and in all societies. Psychologists prove in their studies and researches that change must occur in different levels and systems. It is indispensable for the continuation of life and the movement of its wheel. However, this doesn’t mean that every change has a good outcome and is fruitful.
There is a change that leads the helm towards improvement and progress and there is a change that yields destruction and backwardness. Another thing that needs to be pointed out is that, generally speaking, all change doesn’t necessarily occur at the same pace. That is, it sometimes goes faster and occasionally goes slower. Its speed is governed by the conditions of the environment in which alteration happens. This leads us to the conclusion that each society has its own characteristic features that make it distinguished from other societies with regard to their change. Notwithstanding these differences, there is a common denominator between them. That is, there is a mutual interaction between the people of the world’s communities.
This modern age is described by many experts as the age of information and knowledge, where the cultural interaction between nations has became very close owing to the existence of an integrative scientific system. Therefore, any change in the life of people in any country, especially the developed, is easily transferred to the others. Of course, the developed countries are very much aware of the significance of exporting their material as well as cultural products to the developing ones. This material  entails a cultural and educational subordination, which means consuming both the material and cultural output of the industrial West really puts the fat into the fire.
To interact with the culture of other societies is a healthy phenomenon and an indicator of a civilized sense of the significance of international communication between nations. But consuming the product and cultural value related to it leads to many bad outcomes. It is indeed ominous. This is because each society has its own traditions and culture which they have evolved over a long period of time. In this respect we cannot fail to remember the oft-repeated English proverb that says: “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.” So if we consume the culture of any society, it may not be useful to us. Rather it can be destructive. Because if we think that by consuming the other’s culture and output, we can be like them and make good steps towards progress and advancement, we are definitely and beyond any doubt living in a fool’s paradise. If we don’t position our culture as a cornerstone for the future growth of our development and realize our welfare, we will not be able to move even a single step towards a more glorious future.
Of course, any change in the system of the body of the social structure shows its effect on the other systems. One such system is that of values which is structurally and functionally affected by the change that occurs in the other systems. This is because these values mirror the real situation and define the cardinal and fundamental dimensions of the social relationship. It is also because the system of values makes it clear to what extent the social alterations have had an impact  on the life of the people.
I will not go beyond this, rather I will limit myself to revealing some abnormal and unusual phenomena that have recently appeared on the screen of our society.
The Yemeni society is known for its conservativeness and tight clinging to the traditional values which have gradually begun to melt and vanish from the screen. This strange and poisonous social phenomena are the kidnappings of little children and foreigners, murdering of husbands by their wives and vice versa, loitering in the streets, the stupid behavior of students with their teachers and  so forth. We should not really deem these exotic phenomena trivial. They are truly a heavy burden and a big source of worry and anxiety for a good many people who really care for the future of our generation.
An example of a really sorry state is to hear your student telling you not to write the title ‘teacher’ before your name. It is also depressing to hear that a wife has murdered her husband. These phenomena were not commonly found in the past. This is why we should look at them with an open eye and try to seek the reason that lies behind them so that we can prescribe a possible remedy for this fatal virus.
From a psychological point of view the reasons behind the collapse and withering of the values and all ethical norms arise from the state of imbalance between the material changes that coincide with the development process and the spiritual, educational and cultural changes. Therefore, this leads to the emergence of what is really called “cultural backwardness,” and there a conflict between the past and present breaks out.
Another reason could be the attempt of some people to import even the cultural output of the West and try to totally apply it in their societies which means a reconciliation between two irreconcilable and conflicting components.
Economy, beyond any doubt, is at the core. That is to say the deteriorating economic situation could also be a vital source behind the appearance of the aforementioned strange phenomena. In the final analysis, this goes back to the Gulf crisis which caused the return of a good number of expatriates. These expatriates were actually living in the lap of luxury. But when they came back to their homeland, they were completely shocked to find themselves with no guarantee of jobs, no way to ensure their survival. As a matter of fact, the crisis and war did not affect only those who came from the Gulf countries but also the people inside. The financial support from these countries to our government was given up. Consequently, the value of the dollar went up and the price of the local  currency took a free fall, hence the rate of inflation went up. This made some people in the villages seek refuge in cities so as to find jobs. Most of them became jobless and the rate of unemployment soared upward. Naturally, this dismal and gloomy state forced them to exercise many bad things. Unfortunately, we have begun to notice streetwalkers, loafers, kidnappers and many other evils.
All these facts indicate that these bad changes come as a result of the changes in the economy. And doubtless there cannot be any possibility of establishing an ideal society without having an appropriate atmosphere for  social joint liability. But we should not lose sight of the fact that the attempt to holdup and seize noble values in any society is very much stimulated by the occurrence of a social system based on equality and justice. Accordingly, this system must have a strong economic basis for establishing a judicial system and bridging the gap between the social classes. Of course, this needs serious concentrated efforts between the government and its institutions in order to render a society based on equality. Only in this way can we can find stability, otherwise there will be a big conflict which leads many people to digging their graves with their own hands. For the existence of a stable society, there must be job opportunities for those who are able to work and a social guarantee for those who are not. In this case we will have the safety-valve for establishing a sound society.
We also cannot fail to remember that well-established education is known to be the backbone and cornerstone of any civilization. Therefore, it should be given our complete attention and care. However, the educational system in our society faces a lot of difficulties and problems that worsen the situation. The level of our students is somehow unacceptable. The respect between the students and their headmasters and teachers has begun to wither and become a thing of the past. The students have started to hate  their schools and teachers. If you advise any of them to work hard and study well, they will shrug their shoulders and say; “Of what use it to study? Our future is dismal today and tomorrow will be even more gloomy!” Of  course, this reply brings up the question of who is responsible for spreading this sense of despair among our students and making their spirits very weak. As a matter of fact, the economic situation cannot be forgotten. The people in charge should reconsider this situation and keep an open eye on our future generation. The role of the fathers, teachers and mass media is very important. We desperately need in particular, a very informative system which could provide useful information lest our students deviate and go astray. This system should undertake its sacred responsibility in educating people and raising public awareness to the danger of spreading such strange phenomena in our society.
By and by, all what has been discussed above leads us to the conclusion that our society desperately needs a collective and cooperative effort from the government and non-governmental organizations to play a major role in protecting and fortifying it from destruction and all kinds of perversion and deviation. This can be fulfilled if everyone shoulders their responsibilities dutifully.  Will we be aware and do something to stop the virus or wait until it devours the whole body?