Monday, April 25, 2011

An-Nahar Newspaper: Arab World: Tyrants Vs. Leaders

[Administrator's Note: Octavia is now writing articles for An-Nahar Newspaper each week and we will provide them here after they are printed.]

Like love and respect, leadership cannot be bought or forced on anyone. A leader is liked or respected for his/her qualifications, morals, track record, service, sacrifice, and commitment to her/his people.

Those who force their leadership on people are called tyrants or dictators. They’re usually abusive, they rule by intimidation and they constantly devise ways to mute dissent. Tyrants are usually hated by the masses and they rule by intimidation knowing that any softening can jeopardize their rule.

With time, people get used to their leaders’ abuse and they adapt to it. They don’t criticize the regime; thus, they believe, life goes on trouble-free.

For years, Arab youth have watched their parents and grandparents accept the status quo and allow it to go on unchallenged. One day they had enough of the tyranny. They looked at those they called their “leaders” and saw them as their jailers, their torturers, and the ones holding them back.

The Arab youth had been traveling, listening to music, watching films, reading books and articles their countries have banned because they offer a different point of view. They were interacting with strangers on line and listening to opinions other than the broken records they were exposed to most of their life. They saw the real world, not the one that had been painted for them. They realized they’re very much like everyone else out there and they have nothing to fear. They even learned that they could win an argument or resolve a conflict through dialogue instead of waging wars and building fences. They saw no need to hide in corners afraid of what they imagined is a giant enemy only because their eyes were set on defeat rather than victory.

The Arab youth watched as their governments picked on activists and bloggers, threatened them, detained them, punished them instead of listening to them, widening their horizons and creating jobs and future opportunities for their growth and prosperity.

For years activists demanded reform in various ways. Some ended up in self-imposed or forced exile, others were thrown to rot in jail and still others waited patiently believing that one day things might turn around.

To anyone who was paying attention to the youth and how disenfranchised and shunned they were in their own societies, the Arab uprisings are not a surprise. Only their timing as well as their speed and efficiency are surprising. But the fact that young Arabs prefer to die than live under the boot is a natural trait. Just read the ancient Arabic poetry and history to get a sense of how proud and heroic Arabs are. They just fell under the spell of tyrants and their sidekicks for a long time. But now they’ve awakened and hopefully will remain alert.

Dear Arab leaders: Whether your country is witnessing an uprising at this moment or not, your turn will come as young Arabs will be demanding the same freedoms sooner or later. Act now while you might still be able to present yourselves as the heroes who ushered in true reform. Open your societies up and allow your people to breathe. Let them express themselves, give them the chance to live and perform their civic duties freely.

Include your people in the process of running and building their nation. Be truly inclusive not just in speeches and photo-ops.

Better yet, step out of the way and allow the young generations to lead.

In a few short months young Arab men and women were able to achieve what you couldn’t in over sixty years. They changed the way the world looks at Arabs. They earned respect and admiration. They gave hope to many that the yearning for freedom is universal and not exclusive to certain societies. They paid and continue to pay with their blood and their lives one demonstration after another, one city after another, one country after another, the high price for freedom.

From a distance you might see that unlike a leadership for life inherited or imposed, theirs is earned and worthy of following!

An-Nahar Newspaper

View this column in Arabic



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