Sunday, August 17, 2003

Martian Spying on the Arab World

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi •

Some of my friends accused me of living in “another world” because I have not been following the events of the Superstar show now showing on the Lebanese-Saudi-owned satellite channel Future TV. This show takes the form of a competition to choose the best amateur singer in the Arab world by tallying votes cast by phone, e-mail and mobile text messages.
Crowds went wild in Lebanon because the Lebanese candidate was voted out as a result of organized calling campaigns by public and private Syrian and Jordanian authorities.
I imagined a Martian spying on the Arab world and speculated on what he would write about us:
“After examining domestic and international records of economic and societal conditions in the Arab world, I found out that unemployment rates reach over 40 percent, even in countries rich in natural resources. The gap between rich and poor is getting wider, with 10 percent of the population owning 80 percent of resources. The Arab world is not only poor by international poverty standards, but it is also extremely poor in its scientific and cultural productivity.
“For the last 500 years, it has not produced any significant scientific contribution to human civilization. Since the fall of Andalusia, the southern part of Spain, it is living on the remnants of other civilizations, depending on other nations for just about everything — from the needle to the rocket. People in the Arab world eat what they don’t cultivate, dress in what they don’t make and reside in what they don’t build. This absolute dependence encouraged others to occupy and exploit their countries and kept them in the dark ages.
“Despite all these serious failings, one gets a different impression when one follows their media. Arabs are busy following sports and entertainment news. They spend on such activities more than they do on universities and academic institutions. People demonstrate not to demand social justice, human and political rights or revolt against state oppression and failures, but rather to chant slogans in support of the candidacy of a singer. This is happening in an Arab country, Lebanon, whose capital and southern borders are periodically subject to military strikes from a historical enemy, Israel.
“What is more baffling is that governments and elites share this interest to the extent that they allocate free international telephone lines, organize campaigns and encourage citizens, rich and poor, privileged and oppressed, working and unemployed, to call and vote for their national hero or heroine ‘to preserve the honor and good name of their country’.
“I might be growing old and stupid and therefore I have to retire from this job, or that the Arabs really deserve what they befallen them and their place in history’s junk yard.”

1 comment:

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