New roles for Arab intellectuals |
Saudi Gazette - 19 June, 2012
Author: Khalid Al-Seghayer
A friend asked me somewhat pessimistically, "Do you still think that the Arab world can expect a bright future?" "Yes, I do think so," I responded firmly, "and frankly speaking I am more sure of it than ever."
I strongly believe this to be true because those who are going to make it happen have come to a new realization and are more willing to take part in laying the foundation for a colorful and fruitful future for the Arab world. In the past, a considerable number of Arab intellectuals were merely playing the role of soldiers whose job was to back regimes. They were, therefore, functioning as government propagandists and bureaucrats.
In other words, a number of Arab intellectuals were fighting for a common goal as defined by the government rather than pursuing truth, professional integrity or supporting Arab causes. However, Arab intellectuals now seem to be assuming new roles locally, regionally, and internationally, all of which, in my perspective, will ultimately yield a far better future for the Arab world.
Locally, Arab intellectuals are now taking more responsibility in openly pinpointing our shortcomings in all aspects and proposing practical ideas to overcome our deficiencies. Thus, they are not forming, as they used to, permanent views of anything just for the sake of being there and sounding different or opposing common values and perspectives. They are not distancing themselves, but rather they are becoming more involved in the life of local people.
Regionally, they played a role in the past in deepening the state of isolation and fanaticism or the cultural and political pluralisms that have dominated the social, political, and cultural climate of the Arab world. Currently, this situation, at least the way I see it, is changing and they are now working hard to discard differences.
Furthermore, they are striving to remedy the problems which the Arab world faces by exploiting their superior intellectual talents, sharing their knowledge and experiences, and proposing solutions that will enable the Arab world to play an important role in the world community of nations. They are also working with the people involved to assist in tackling the most urgent issues facing the Arab world, including the settling of inter-Arab disputes, the setting up of an Arab Free Trade Zone as the road toward an Arab common market, and the economic and social development of the Arab world.
In short, Arab intellectuals are now working toward common goals, such as the solidarity, integration and unity of the Arab people.
Internationally, their attitudes and concerns have taken different directions as they have realized that they have miscalculated the impact of globalization on Arab societies and cultures. In the past, Arab intellectuals viewed globalization as cultural standardization aimed at creating a single cultural norm on a global scale, with standardization being the generalization of American cultural values and the rejection of all other values.
Time, however, has proven that their point of view was not accurate, especially when they came to realize that they had not taken into consideration the opening of new markets, or the delocalization of multinationals or initial public offerings by nationalized enterprises. Then, they started to call for forging mutual understanding and trust with other societies and attempted to learn from other nations. They are driven by the fact that peaceful coexistence and eventual long-lasting harmony are the consequences of mutual understanding and respect.
Arab intellectuals are also working in the world arena to present a true image of who we are as a nation of people who care about the development, stability, security, and prosperity of the world. Arab intellectuals are also working on a vital mission of reviving the superpowers and bringing about the resurgence of Arab culture and civilization. We, the Arab citizens, need to exert every effort to help Arab intellectuals fulfill their promising newfound roles.
The writer is a Saudi academic who can be reached at email@example.com.