Many Arabs believe that the Arab Spring is a Western, and more specifically an American, plan since the days of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to divide the Middle East into smaller rival nations to breed discord and plunder their wealth. Some subscribe to the theory that recent events in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria point to a calculated plot to destroy Arab and Islamic countries and wipe out their rich heritage and history. The truth is that these theories generate self-loathing, suffering and pain, and, if they become firm convictions in the Arab mind, will invariably lead to the destruction of the Arab people. Such beliefs are highly dangerous and may cause a kind of psychological, moral and intellectual death among Arabs who keep feeling defeated and hopeless after this image has been planted in their minds.
Although I am not defending the United States and its Western allies, I am not at all surprised if they are planning to achieve their strategic goals by all available means to protect their interests in the Middle East. This should not be surprising, because this is how the game of international interests is played. Countries would be considered stupid and naïve if they do not look out for their own interests and do everything possible to protect their national interests. There is no place for ideals, justice or even ethics in the world of politics. It is all about (and nothing but) interests. This is what all previous civilizations — including the Arab and Islamic civilization — have striven for over the centuries. The love of domination and control and the lust for money and power over other people and nations have been a common objective for all of these civilizations, with only slight differences in execution. However, we must accept the fact that we often blame others for our problems without taking on any of the responsibility ourselves. This is unacceptable because it leads to defeat, surrender and submission.
The Arab Spring is a phenomenon of ordinary citizens rebelling against repression, much like other well-known revolutions. However, protesting in the streets is ineffective without self-liberation from ignorance, fear, surrender, and defeatism. Once the Arab world began speaking about elections and ballot boxes as a purpose and not a means to an end, Western countries seized upon this development as a way to benefit from these uprisings. Whether true democracy can succeed in these Arab nations remains to be seen. Underlying conditions such as extreme poverty, frightening ignorance, illiteracy, and widespread corruption must be addressed by new governments regardless of their adherence to democratic principles.
Yet, if one believes that America is the root cause of all of our problems, then I believe that only two options are possible:
The first is to surrender to the bitter reality and keep on complaining about what others are doing to us and blame them for everything. This will leave us with no other choice but to give up and accept this as our fate. We will have to spend the rest of our lives teaching our children and the coming generations that we have no other choice but to curse America, thereby admitting to ourselves and to the world that we are nothing but mindless sheep controlled by others.
The other option is to admit that the United States and its allies are not the real enemies, but instead is our defeatist attitudes. We must realize that the only way forward is to change our way of seeing things and restructure our way of thinking. We should remember that the Holy Qu'ran says: "Allah does not change a people's lot unless they change what is in their hearts."
Changing ourselves is not an easy task but it can be done if we follow these steps:
First: We must liberate ourselves from the notion that we are victims of a vast conspiracy to control our destiny. The idols of fear, cowardice, negativity, ignorance, and defeatism serve no purpose and prevent us from improving our lives. We must take responsibility for our mistakes. If it is true that the entire world is scheming to divide the Middle East and steal our resources, we should accept that reality and start thinking immediately of how to build an intellectual, cultural and civilized plan to combat the situation rather than continue to complain and wallow in fear.
Second: If, however, this conspiracy theory is nothing but an illusion that has nested in our minds, then we must realize that there still is a so-called game of international interests and that this game is an art that we have to learn how to play, even if we will not be able to reap the fruits right away.
Third: Idolizing others and perceiving them as symbols of absolute power reflect a sense of inferiority and disadvantage, which we have to get rid of right away, because any force in the world, no matter how big it is, is bound to have many weaknesses. A good example is what happened to America — the only superpower in the world — on Sept. 11, 2001 when a few individuals were able to attack it in a hideous terrorist attack.
Fourth: When people live in hatred and love of vengeance, they pave the way to destruction. Many nations have faced past challenges and difficulties but were able to leave them behind and move forward, like the tragedy of the Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese decided that the best solution was to turn the page and focus on the future. They have not looked back since, and now we see them in the highest rank of the world's developed nations.
Thus, the time has come for all Arabs to rid themselves of this deep-rooted sense of inferiority and to confidently realize that the Earth is not heaven and not everyone on it are angels but human beings who vary in their love for good and evil. We must recognize that the game of interests and the lust for power and control over other people and their wealth have been and will always be a strategic goal for all nations till the end of time. There is no question that we can begin a new chapter of coexistence and self-confidence and stop blaming others for the Arab Spring out of an irrational fear based on a theory of international conspiracy.
- Dr. Khalid Alnowaiser is a columnist and a Saudi attorney with offices in Riyadh and Jeddah. He can be reached at: [email protected] and/or