Posts Tagged protests
To the Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, the Arab Spring was an expression of frustration by young people in the region of how little change was happening in their societies. He tells Arabic Knowledge@Wharton his advice to young demonstrators in the Arab world, and elsewhere, is to take responsibility for seeing that change happen.
“Young people see solutions are possible, they see a new life is possible. The old generation is still looking at the traditional way of handling everything. And that is the mismatch that will cause more problems. In 20 years from now the world will be completely different, because of that wave of technology, because of that wave of regeneration coming in.
“Just go ahead, take responsibility and make it happen. They will appreciate you for it. They’re not your enemies. Simply they don’t feel you are mature enough to handle that. Show them you are. It’s like any parent and their kids; they’ll treat them that way even if they are grown up. Not only have you grown up, you have much more experience and ideas than they do, in this short time, because your speed is much faster than theirs.”
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An entire generation of Egyptians grew up under strongman Hosni Mubarak, and few could ever see an alternative to his rule, often quietly joking he was the ‘pharaoh for life.’ Journalist Randa Fouad says she was among the skeptics when protestors first gathered at Tahrir Square.
But the swift end to Mubarak’s military regime, she says, emboldened her countrymen to rethink Egypt’s future. Despite the country’s ongoing political and social turmoil, Fouad is optimistic, telling Arabic Knowledge@Wharton that whatever develops, “Egypt belongs to the Egyptians now. It does not belong to any regime.”
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The surge of artistic output by contemporary amateur and professional Arab artists since the Arab Spring fall into what Jeremy Johns, an Islamic art history professor at Oxford University, considers an “extraordinary Arab cultural renaissance at the beginning of the 21st century.”
“No time in history has it been possible to listen to as much Arab music, to see as much Arab architecture, to read as much Arabic literature as is in the case today,” Johns said during the recent Festival of Thinkers conference in Abu Dhabi. “The renaissance that’s happening in the Arab world is fundamentally…changing the whole world.”
Even so, Johns said that as an art historian, he also cautions that this could be as a “dangerous moment,” wherein the continuum with a rich cultural past could fray. He said studying art could bridge the gap, helping link traditional arts and current aesthetics, which emerging artists are adopting.
“There are many artists working in the Arab world today, many architects, many writers, many musicians, who are drawing upon their classical traditional Arab-(identified) heritage, building upon it in an immensely exciting way,” Johns said. “Embrace the new, exciting, globalized culture, but for heaven’s sake, don’t lose track with tradition because that’s where you’re grounded, that’s where you come from.”
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When protestors first took to the streets across the Middle East early this year, the world watched as thousands of Arabs demanded an end to governments that were corrupt and self-serving. Dubbed the Arab Spring, it was a movement propelled by technology, imbued with optimism for change, and aiming to create a more equitable economy.
After the initial blush with relatively peaceful demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, the social revolution has led to strife rather than reform, as Yemen, Bahrain and Egypt have all witnessed bloody protests, while Syria and Libya have been plunged into all-out civil war. Much of this violent turn of events, says Wharton’s Stuart Diamond, is because of dashed expectations.
“Entrepreneurs know that the idea is just the start; without building out an enterprise, no value is created,” says Diamond, who teaches negotiation courses at Wharton, and is a Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author of Getting More: How To Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World. “This is the problem with the Arab Spring. Now that many have more power, they actually have to do the hard work to build out a different sort of economy.”
Another failing of the movement is the emphasis on past grievances — putting Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak on trial, Diamond says, is the wrong way to start rebuilding Egypt. “Negotiate with him on what he and others in his circle will provide,” he suggests. “Leave them with something to get them to agree. Now that would better help in building a new Egypt than a trial of a sick old man.”
For those challenging leadership, such as protestors in Syria, the best thing would be to avoid confrontation, he adds. “If Syrian protestors stop the violence, all the negative focus will be on the existing government, which will not be able to withstand the continuing criticism. The goal of the protestors now should be to document everything and keep telling the world.”
Diamond adds that the situation in Libya, “is perhaps the best example today of the stupidity of not negotiating … Libya will never be able to provide a better life for its citizens until the war stops. And the quickest way to do that is negotiate with Qaddafi.”
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