Viewpoint [Archives:2000/04/Viewpoint]

January 24 2000

I dedicate this view point to answering a question that jumps to the minds of many visitors and foreigners who come to Yemen. That question is, “why are developments and improvements so slow in Yemen?” It is the immediate question that comes to mind when seeing that Hayel Street has been suffering from floating of sewage all over the area, with the same smell intensifying and getting worse year after year. It also is asked when looking at how the very same neighborhoods suffer from the lack of water services that have been promised years ago. The same question arises again when looking at the traffic at Al-Tahrir where you could barely cross the road because of crazy cars and ‘dabbabs’ here and there moving around as if they were in a race zone. We see that things have stayed the same over the years.
For example, walking into Hayel street gives you the impression that people like it that way, even if the poisonous gases flow in the air 24 hours a day, they simply don’t care. Dabbabs (minibuses) in that street are used to go through the messy areas that were created by the fluids emerging from the sewage pits here and there. The way cars move around making crossing the street a risky task sometimes, gives the impression that traffic authorities in the country have been promoting this over the years. What is going on in this country? Why aren’t we able to improve? What is holding us back?
A straightforward answer is, “because we were raised to be passive, do what we are told, and if we are still alive, we don’t care to make our conditions better.”
The process starts from childhood, when mothers show no care for their children when walking in the streets bare footed with dirty -or no- clothes on them throwing stones on cars and playing around with mud, etc. When a child with such a childhood grows up, he continues to walk barely footed and with dirty clothes insulting this person and that.
A Yemeni is taught at school to only due his homework in the same old fashion, he is never told to promote his own ideas, or develop new solutions. Consequently, when he grows up, his job routine is repeated every day. He goes to work at 8:00 am and comes back at 2:00 pm, chews qat, sleeps, and so on. He never thinks that he should develop new ideas, or improve his standard of living by learning another profession, or even developing more skills in his work. The same implies for ‘dabbab’ drivers. As long as they get the money enough for qat and food, they just continue living on with the same routine without even thinking of earning money and obtaining their own dabbabs instead of working for someone else. It sometimes reaches the extent where if a driver’s fuel cover is lost, he just covers it with plastic bags, until the bag is torn apart, he gets another plastic bag. In other words, he doesn’t think of buying a new cover for his car. There are yet many and many examples that share something common, and that is, Yemenis are taught to be passive and continue doing what they do without improving themselves.
This passiveness while being an obstacle in front of the development of Yemen, it has become a chance for creative person to rise and be successful in such an environment. This is what happened to many businessmen who took advantage of the laziness of the majority and worked hard to establish new businesses and enterprises, that in time grew fast and brought them prosperity. These people are the ones who become successful, and they are the ones that are valued in developed countries.
If every minister continued to live with the same old mentality (mentioned above,) what would we expect? But if creative and hard working people replaced them, we expect the country to flourish and begin competing with other countries in the area.
I have been asked many times why Yemen Times improved in such a short time of 9 years. All I had to say was, “because it hires creative people. Because we give freedom to develop, improve, and bring about good changes.”
This creativity is what we need, and it is what our children should be taught at schools. Let them for once begin feeling they have minds that should be used instead of doing just what they are told. Let us give them the opportunity to invent to do something that is out of the routine work. Only then, will our country have hope for development.
Yemenis are smart and clever, however, they are not given the chance to use their minds. They have been educated in a way that kills talents, ambitions, and any hope for self-improvement.
Again I repeat, the cornerstone for any future is in our children, we need to begin acting now if we want any change to the better. We need to implement a good educational system that would convert our citizens from passive creatures who live to eat, to creative intellectuals who can build a modern state.
Walid Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf      
Chief Editor