Friday, November 20, 2009

The "Arab World"

The Economist's Special Report on the Arab World is at the same time enlightening and disturbing. The overall tone is that the Arab World, (if you can even call it one world) is rapidly changing, yet also stagnating. The Arab population is younger, (the majority of Arab people are under the age of 25), more educated, and more urban than ever before, yet they are ruled by presidents who have been in power since before they were born. Imagine a president claiming to be "freely elected" for 28 years as Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt does! And in this climate of youth, increasing international interest, political corruption and nearly constant warfare, reform is imminent. But lasting reform has to come from within. The Bush Administrations attempt to force democracy into the Arab world, "lies in tatters" as one author of the article suggests, and many Americans feel. And many Arabs seem to feel the same way, as Hossam Bahgat, a director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights says, "What we learnt from the Bush years was that reform was our own business."

One major point of the report that I found particularly interesting was the description of the Arab world. Its easy to lump the region together into a neatly packaged "world" yet the reality is far from unified. Even within countries, the people are fractured and on the brink of warfare. This stems from the practically arbitrary division of nations after the European colonial era, and the nature of the Arab peoples. The nearly constant bloody warfare doesn't help either. Approximately 1 million Arabs have died violently since 1990, and all of this death must leave deep psychological scars. Beyond that, the "Arab" is such a loosely defined term, to Americans it is anyone from the itself vaguely defined Middle East. But to "Arabs" themselves, it is a term they may never even describe themselves as. It is not connected to a region, to a religion, to an ethnic group, or even a language, as not all "Arabs" speak Arabic, and it is so varied in dialect that Arabic speakers from different regions may not even be able to understand each other.

I found these readings incredibly informative, and easy to read (if you didn't read the Economist, I STRONGLY recommend it.) In addition to all of these thoughts, I've started to consider my own misconceptions about the Arab World. I never would have imagined how young, and rapidly growing the population is, and I was completely unaware of just how many civil wars/revolutions there were in the Middle East. If we, as a nation are so deeply invested and involved in a region, how can we be so ignorant of the true situation? I consider myself relatively aware, but I suppose the more you know, the more you realize you don't know...

1 comment:

  1. That was a really interesting fact that you pointed out. I think the average American really knows only what they are told by the media with things like the Middle East. The general population does not take the extra step to do research to discover the true situation, instead are content with what they are told and hope for the best. Also, it's said that Americans are rather narrow-minded when it comes to the rest of the world and I think that that is true for the most part. The average American does not feel the impact of these civil wars or growth of the Arab youth on the other side of the world, so they simply don't care or don't know to explore more.