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The Inevitability of Change

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Mohammad Fadhel Al Obaidly

Advisor, Public Opinion Research Center

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What was the situation in the Arab world before 1955?  What was the situation each decade later, in 1965, 1975, 1985 and so on, up to today?
Typical answers would show that the situation gradually changed over the decadesa view some current answers seem to deny when they speak of revolution.  Instead, evolution and change is a universal law of nature.  Cumulating the answers to the what was the situation question reveals not only what happened over the decades, but, more importantly, emphasizes the inevitability of what happened. Whatever ones views, sentiments, or even the most biased stereotypic positions, the answers reveal that dynamism, not immobility, is a sign of life.
Sometimes emotions mislead.  Facts, justice and objectivity require impartiality, self denial, and sacrifice which can seem to compromise our individual feelings and intuitions.
Thus, we can lose the truth about the inevitability of evolution and change when we speak proudly about our history.  Yes, much has been achieved over decades, and most Arab states are quite different today.   In many respects, a dream has been achieved over the years.  Nowadays some have taken such changes for granted, each change being seen as due to the Creator, the ways of the universe and nature.   How should we understand these things when such explanations fail?
Since the beginning of the year, the Arab revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and those that are under way now in Syria, Libya and Yemen, have revealed much.  Discussion of these will lead us only to the customary political debate, but the implications of these changes are most important.
The revolutions that have overtaken several Arab states have revealed much for us to learn and absorb, including key facts:  Arab countries need a continuing policy for reform and the pre-emptive initiatives that many Governments have undertaken indicate this need for change. This is the message that Arab governments must accept. 
For reform to be effective and of least cost more Arab politicians need to stop making hasty decisions to resist developments.  Reading events from the perspective of either being with us or against us should stop.  The policy of a single solution with no alternative should be removed from the Arab politicians vocabulary.  This kind of political response is destructive, an artificial barrier that prevents the creativity of thinking and foreshortens the horizons of the human mind.   
Arab politicians need to contemplate these matters. This should lead them to agree even with their severest critics on one thing:  the great difference between the situation today and that which held sway five or six decades ago is that change sustains life.
Also demonstrated by the tremendous changes that we see today is our lack of reliable tools and or ability for predicting even the near future.  No government, whether in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria or Yemen, predicted this wide-scale outbreak of protests.  This is because Arab governments are still far behind modern methods of scientific thinking in policy making and governance. In Arab governance, policies are not based on studies or research, but on the experience of a small circle of people in power.  Serious failures usually appear in the proven inability of the vast security services to predict or warn of possible events.
This is also a failure of the opposition elites.  That no one was able to predict such revolutions, including the opposition parties, rendered them ineffective.
What of the future?  What is the main problem to deal with, whether in planning or preparation?  It is no use saying that very few in the United States or in the rest of the world were able to predict the Arab Spring.  This is an excuse, an observation that alters nothing.  The implications that these major revolutions by a new generation of Arabs reveal the same evidence day after day:  that life is dynamic and can evolve with purpose.  However, the most important lesson is that such development and growth should be conscious and persistent to avoid bloodshed and great cost.
MFA 19 July 2011

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