Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reaching Out To The People

By Ahmad Y. Majdoubeh
This commentary was published in The Jordan Times on 28/01/2011
The Arab world is in shambles at this moment in time. The situation in some Arab countries, which either have a desperate popular uprising (as in the cases of Tunisia and Egypt) or witness acute political divisions that threaten national unity (as in the case of Sudan, Palestine and Lebanon), is indeed worrying. In these countries, we have clear examples of selfish or ill-advised governments that have failed to live up to the expectations of the people.

The answer to such an almost unprecedented challenge is not suppression of the people or intransigence on the part of the warring factions, but reaching out to the people and eliminating the rift that divides the various political factions within the ruling bodies.

We live in a world that is hit hard by an economic crisis that has spared no one, not even the most developed countries. The case in the underdeveloped or developing part of the world is, naturally, much worse. This is why conscious effort needs to be exerted to alleviate the hard conditions of the people and to build understanding and solidarity among the deadlocked political parties in charge.

In the absence of vibrant democracies that manage political differences and channel them in positive, constructive ways (look, for example, at how America deals with its internal political differences), the Arab world will be much harmed by popular uprisings and political divisions.
Because Arab countries are either underdeveloped or developing, what they need more than anything else at present is stability. Chaos and division, no matter under what shape or name they come, are in the interest of neither people nor governments.

One can understand why people go out into the streets of some Arab countries and demonstrate, peacefully or violently. There is a genuine feeling that they are let down, both economically and politically. But such uprisings can seriously harm the security and stability of these countries, making them prey to opportunists and troublemakers of all sorts (both from inside and from outside), who want nothing but the destruction of these countries and doom. The same goes for political division.

Is the division between south and north Sudan in the interest of the Sudanese people? Is the division between Fateh and Hamas in the interest of the Palestinian cause? Is the division in Lebanon in the interest of the Lebanese? Absolutely not.

The media and political “analysts” who we see daily on suspect satellite stations and ill-meaning talk shows screaming at the top of their lungs in favour of political shakeups, and who see in popular uprisings or political divisions the seeds of future bliss are direly mistaken.

Our countries - which need much time and all the unity they can muster to attain economic and political development - cannot afford popular rage or political gambling.

The Arab world needs to build democratic political institutions and viable, effective governments that serve - not manipulate or hijack - peoples’ interests, institutions and governments that work for the public good, and for political, economic, scientific and social development.

What is required now is not demonstrations or uprisings (no matter how appealing these are to some), nor petty competition over positions among politicians, but honest, genuine dialogue, and cool, rational thinking and planning.

Above all, in these dire times, governments need to reach out to the people, not oppress them.

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