Ismail Serageldin

Speeches


Liberating the Arab Mind: Essential Tasks for the Arab Renaissance

 21/10/1995 | Keynote Speech Delivered at the 28th AAUG Annual Conference, Washington, D.C.

1. Introduction:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored to have been invited here tonight to share with you dreams of an Arab renaissance. Our dreams. More importantly the dreams that animate each and every one of the millions that identify themselves as Arab.

There is a special reason to consider this meeting and this group as especially pertinent to discuss such a dream. For it is this group and others like it that have a primary responsibility to define the dream and to transform it into reality.

We are celebrating the 28th anniversary of the AAUG. An achievement of inter-Arab voluntary collaboration unmatched by any except a handful of groups in the Arab world. We have therefore proved both our dedication and our seriousness on the questions of the Arab future .

The AAUG itself is an association of intellectuals. And my thesis tonight is that it is the task of the intellectuals in the Arab world to trigger that renaissance. Perhaps more than most of our colleagues in the Arab world, we in the AAUG have greater freedom from the demands of a grinding daily life or the pressures of an intolerant fanaticism that surround the activities of the intellectuals in the Arab countries today.

Allow me to address five themes tonight:

First:

Second:

Third:

Fourth:

Finally:

2. The World Today: Global Contradictions

Consider the paradox of our times. We live in a world of plenty, of dazzling scientific advances and technological breakthroughs. Adventures in cyberspace are at hand. The Cold War is over, and with that we were offered the hope of global stability. Yet, our times are marred by conflict, violence, debilitating economic uncertainties and tragic poverty. And now so many of the rich want to turn their backs on the poor. Selfish concerns seem to displace enlightened self interest, for we are all our brother’s keeper and we are all downwind or downstream of each other. This is more than ever a time for an united front of the caring.

The World is in the grip of profound contradictory tendencies. The forces of globalization and homogenization are definitely at work, while the assertion of specificity—ethnic, religious or cultural—is also powerfully present in almost all societies.

Globalization is driven by the growing interdependence of the world's national economies, and the integration of the financial and telecommunications markets. The political boundaries that divide the sovereign nation states have become permeable to the ethereal commerce of ideas as well as funds.

A second forceful presence for the increased global consciousness is the environmental movement, which seeks to remind all humans that they are stewards of this earth.

A third force, significantly strengthened by the end of the Cold War, is the universal drive for the respect of Human Rights. A related and powerful aspect of which is the rise of Feminism and Gender consciousness, for an essential ingredient of any true conception of Human Rights is that these must apply to all human beings.

And yet, the local forces in practically every society assert themselves, seeking greater voice and greater power. This is on the whole a very healthy development. But the downside of this phenomenon is the emergence of hateful petty nationalisms that transform the rightful call for identity and participation into a call for hating your neighbor and ultimately even "ethnic cleansing".

Equally global, are the increasing inequities between societies and within societies. Insecurity fueled by structural unemployment and rising birthrates is the lot of the poor in every society. The loss of a heritage and a sense of place as pollution, poverty and urban chaos destroy the environment, robs a new generation of the opportunities to create a better world beyond mere shelter. The citizens of the world, generally, and the Arab world specifically, face the large, the new, the unknown, and feel profoundly insecure.

There is none of the optimism that once placed unbounded confidence in technology, and there is very real cynicism about the ability of governments to create utopia. In a word, there is a growing sense of unpredictability about the future. Under these circumstances, people tend to regress: if the future cannot be clearly defined as the goal, one lives for the present. If the present is troublesome and disconcerting, one falls back onto the past. The past here means one's ethnic or religious or cultural or national roots. It is a drawing closer of the circle within which one can feel secure. A regression back to the concept of tribe and clan.

The Arab societies of today are the crucible of all these competing forces. They want to define themselves in terms of the present and the future, retaining their links to their heritage but without remaining captives of the past. In so doing they are confronting the dominant, hegemonic constructs of hyper–mediated western societies, that are blithely setting the global agenda from world trade to consumer taste. The images of those western societies seem as pervasive as their discourse.

Many in the Arab world -- as in many developing countries -- fear the spread of this "westernization", and seek refuge in a mythified image of the past. This is incapable of articulating a language that can respond to the needs of the Arab societies of today. Paradoxically, as Henry Gates of Harvard has observed, this is happening while the "western" societies themselves are increasingly insecure in their own value systems and fear the "browning of the west".

Precisely because the Arab world confronts these same forces in an acute form, it has the opportunity to rise to those challenges and make a contribution not just to the next Arab generation but to the world at large. Indeed, if we fail to make that contribution, the world will be the poorer for our failure.

Tonight, I will not spend time citing statistics or talking of economic development. I want to talk about the need to liberate the Arab mind, for it is in our minds that the new Arab renaissance will be created. And it is the responsibility of the intellectuals, all of us here and tens of thousands like us throughout the Arab world, to liberate the Arab mind from the fear of intolerant fanaticism or state despotism, from the shackles of political correctness or the insecurities of being disconnected from a rapidly evolving world. We must liberate the Arab mind so that we can soar, take in from the new and make it our own.

That, my friends, is the true revolution, creating a new order of things. There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain of success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovator has for enemies, all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.

But it is our destiny to have been here at this time, and we must try. For it is better to try and fail than too have failed to try. And the first thing we must try to break is that sterile, tired and tiresome debate about Modernity and Tradition.

3. The Arab World: Between Past and Future

3.1 Modernity and Tradition:

This hackneyed "Modernity vs. Tradition" debate has overwhelmed our lives. In practically every forum dealing with contemporary Arab or Muslim societies, someone can always be counted on to frame the issues under discussion in the form of a dichotomous relationship between "Tradition" (usually presented as harmonious and wonderful) and "Modernity" (usually presented as alienating, dehumanizing, and awful). Someone can also be counted on to immediately reverse the dichotomy, arguing that Arab or Muslim societies cannot live in the past and that modernity (here presented as science, technology, and progress) is the future.

I believe that this debate is not only technically and critically flawed (if not outright wrong), but that it is also highly unproductive and even counterproductive. The debate is unproductive because it usually leads to endless repetition and the marshaling of ever more examples and highly selective anecdotal evidence to buttress the a priori positions. The debate is also counter-productive because it tends to raise passions and make critical rational discourse even more difficult than it already is.

That this debate is technically flawed derives from the simplistic reductionism implicit in the dichotomous position. As if the rich tapestry representing the historical experience of the Arab world could be reduced to a single "tradition" (or traditional position in the debate), or that modernity -- a complex, evolving concept that is highly relative and intertwined with contemporaneity -- could be conveniently circumscribed into a single definable reality applicable from Mauritania to Oman and from Somalia to Syria.

It is also critically flawed because it does not use the tools of criticism to expand our understanding of the issues involved. Without such an expanded understanding we are unlikely to progress beyond the repetitious, sterile litanies of this tired and tiresome debate.

So let us, at least for tonight, set it aside.

Let us instead, talk of method and approach.

Let us recognize that the claims of cultural specificity that would deprive women of their basic human rights, or mutilate them in the name of convention, should not be given sanction, especially by those who, like myself, are proud of their Arab and Muslim identity and do not want to see the essence of that tradition debased by such claims.

Let us recognize that no society has progressed without making a major effort at empowering its women, through education and the end of discrimination.

This is not "tradition" that is being defended, it is a distorted form of political pseudo-theological "inquisition" that is being proposed, that would limit the freedoms of the non-Muslim minorities and would circumscribe the Muslim majority within the confines of dogmas articulated by a tiny minority.

We need to respect tradition and integrate it into the present and use it as a foundation for launching a better future. We need to fashion a critical approach that interprets tradition in contemporary terms, just as the great jurists such as al-Shafei did in their day.

Indeed we need to create a new discourse, and that new discourse, critical, open and tolerant of the contrarian view, will be the basis for the creation of a mode of cultural expression. A new language that permeates the arts, letters and the public realm, that incorporates the new but anchors it in the old.

A new language, where in the words of T.S. Eliot ...

Every phrase and sentence is right

When every word is at home

Taking its place to support the others

The word neither diffident nor ostentatious

 

An easy commerce of the old and the new

The common word exact without vulgarity

The formal word precise but not pedantic

The complete consort dancing together

Every phrase and every sentence

is an end and a beginning....

Who will do this? Who will create this new language? It is the intellectual.

The intellectual ... an ... "individual endowed with a faculty for representing, embodying, articulating a message, a view, an attitude, philosophy or opinion to, as well as for, a public. ... someone whose place it is publicly to raise embarrassing questions, to confront orthodoxy and dogma (rather than to produce them), to be someone who cannot easily be co-opted by governments or corporations, and whose raison d’être is to represent all those people and issues that are routinely forgotten or swept under the rug."

3.2 The Evolving Role of the Arab Intellectual:

Edward Said, the quintessential Arab Intellectual, has carefully argued the need for the intellectuals to maintain a critical posture towards society generally and the state specifically. That is how they command the legitimacy to create a climate of thought that permeates a culture. That is how they can maintain the moral consistency that gives them credibility. The moral consistency that recognizes the indivisibility of basic human rights, the need to defend the freedoms of others we disagree with. It is here that the sense of values comes to the fore. While celebrating the specificity of the Arab culture or the Muslims heritage, I can see them as our contribution to the larger universal heritage of humanity, an essential contribution that enriches the whole of humanity and shapes its universal values.

It is a contribution without which the world would be much poorer.

To do this, the Arab intellectuals must create the space of freedom necessary for the articulation of the mirrors and windows that shape the boundaries of our minds where the "us" ends and the "them" begins. That is how culture is defined.

Culture involves a whole climate of opinion within society. In today’s world the thoughts of Newton, Darwin, Freud, Adam Smith and Marx--if not also Einstein, Russell, Keynes, and Sartre--permeate the collective consciousness of the west, and by extension the rest of the world. The boundaries of accepted, conventional wisdom, is defined by the main thrust of these thoughts without people necessarily thinking in terms of attributing particular thoughts to particular thinkers.

In the Arab world we saw a similar transformation of thought in the first half of this century. From Muhammad Abduh to Taha Husain to Khalil Gibran to Abbas Al-Aqqad to Ahmad Shawqi to Abul-Qasim Al-Shabi to Michel Aflaq to Sate’ Al-Husari to Ibrahim Tuqan to so many others who have shaped our collective consciousness and defined the boundaries of our discourse. Critical intellectuals all!

The climate they created was, on the whole, open, forward looking and tolerant of debate, seeing the search for "truth" as an ongoing process not a given finality. But it was a culture that did not fully permeate the totality of society and its world view. Counter-currents, including those who tried to prosecute Taha Husain, were there. This fragility was to prove disastrous for the Arab world.

The second half of the century saw a different evolution. From the time of the takeovers of Hosny Al-Zaim and Gamal Abdel Nasser, the intellectuals accepted, nay promoted, the tutelage of the state as the agent of social change. In so doing, the intellectuals have legitimated the loss of liberty, free inquiry and the right to criticize. The Faustian bargain between the intellectuals and the state has created a loss of credibility and linked the intellectuals to the fortunes of the state--a state that became increasingly intolerant of dissent.

The resurgent militant Islamic opposition has mirrored the intolerance of the states...They have no room for dissent or criticism. Forty years of intolerance, political correctness and cronyism have destroyed the space of freedom necessary for the exercise of thought. The critical discourse so necessary for intellectuals to function has vanished.

Yet the excesses of intolerance from militant Muslim assassinations of writers, editors and musicians; and state abuses of human rights, have raised awareness among the intellectuals, the nascent civil society and the public at large of the imperative to liberate both mind and tongue. The intellectuals are once again reclaiming their critical posture, their independence and their moral consistency.

So today, we come together, to confront our shortcomings and celebrate our strengths more aware than ever of our responsibility to be the artisans of the climate necessary for the new Arab Renaissance.

3.3 Inventing the Future:

If I focus so much on ideas and the role of the intellectuals it is because I believe that that which is, existed before as an idea. That which will be, must also be first imagined.

We are, by our thoughts, even at this very moment, inventing the future in the crucible of our minds.

But the intellectuals are not alone in this task of inventing the future. There are others, which I more broadly call the intelligentsia, who by their actions or inaction, can be stifling or supporting the creative role of the intellectuals.

The intelligentsia, which I here define as the academics, the scholars, the media the decision-makers and the role models. All those who by word and deed create mirrors in which we see ourselves, and the windows through which we see the world.

Do these mirrors show us victims, objects of hate, the instruments of god on earth, or the chosen people, or those with manifest destiny? These mirrored images of the self cannot but affect our behavior.

But they also create the windows through which we see the world. It can be a hostile world out to destroy us, or it can be a world full of promise and opportunities. These windows define our attitude towards the "other".

It is this combination of mirrors and windows that creates the boundaries in our minds, the boundaries where the "us" ends and the "them" begins.

This view of the self and the other is at the heart of the intolerance and terrorism within which the Arab intellectuals live as a national reality.

4. The Arab Reality Today:

4.1 The Context of Global Knowledge:

Allow me now to turn to the global reality in which the Arab intellectuals function. The reality of an enormous and frightening knowledge gap and the risks inherent in it.

There is a vast and growing gap in the production and availability of scientists and engineers between the north and the south ( 3800 per million population in the north vs. less than 200 in the south, as of 1990). The Arab world does not escape this remarkable inequity. Furthermore, many of our institutions of science and technology are deprived of equipment and supplies, and voided of their standards of excellence in the service of political expediency and cronyism. We are still struggling with the needs of basic laboratory equipment at a time when the north is mainstreaming computers for the average person to use as simply as telephones.

Ill-equipped as we are, we are confronted by an amazing information explosion...

In the United States alone, there are 14,000 magazines published for the general public. There are over 55,000 trade books published annually: that is one book every 10 minutes, not counting the specialized journals and scientific books! In the library of Congress items are doubling every 14 years and, at the rate things are going, will soon be doubling every 7 years. In some fields, such as environmental management in developing countries, the number of publications is doubling every 18 months.

Matching this information explosion is the explosion in computing and communications. The world is becoming a global village with telecommunications reaching the farthest recesses of the globe. Many of today’s PCs are more powerful than the mainframe computers of a generation ago! And early in the new century we can expect that the CPUs of 16 Cray YMP computers costing $320 million today will be replaced by a single microchip costing about $100 . Such a microchip would contain the equivalent of one billion transistors to today's 20 million for the cutting edge technology.

Today, there are more computers than cars in the United States. Even more important, is the trend towards networking. In the United States, which prefigures the rest of the world, we have seen the proportion of computers hooked into networks rise from 10% to 60% between 1989 and 1993!

On the Internet, there were 1,025 computers directly connected in 1984, and 10 years later there are 3.8 million! A billion e-mail messages pass between 35 million users, and the volume of traffic on the Internet is doubling every 10 months!

For the next ten years information will be everywhere around us, and with simple and inexpensive tools the most remote locations will not be excluded from tapping into it. We can leapfrog some of the slavish location-specific patterns of development of science and knowledge accumulation that earlier generations had to adhere to. PCs and network hookups will be as cheap and available as transistor radios are today.

Against this background, I say to you : never before has need for the scientific enterprise of the developing countries -- our scientific enterprise -- been greater, and never before has the potential for its success been as present as it is today.

And yet, my friends, as the world explores the marvels of the genes and breaks down the secrets of the atom and reaches to the stars and calculates the age of the oldest rocks,... we debate "the hadith of the fly"... we debate whether a woman’s nail polish prevents her from having full ablutions, we look with suspicion on the new and try to erect barriers to where our minds may range....

4.2 The Challenge to the Universities:

It is clear that the arenas where ideas are developed and communicated to the next generation are the universities, even if the mass media play a formidable role in mobilizing society as a whole. Yet, it is equally clear that universities in the Arab world are facing far more than a financial challenge. Indeed, the biggest challenges facing our universities today are the absence of freedom of inquiry, a loss of public prestige due to political interference, and a more general and profound questioning of the traditional functions of institutions of higher learning in most societies.

There were three traditional functions that universities were expected to perform :

i. A certification function. After a certain amount of skill imparting instruction, a test was conducted and the student was certified as competent in the subject matter. A degree was granted. Increasingly, however, this was supplanted with continuing education and re-certification and other forms of professional peer-reviewed certification and professional licensing arrangements. This was only partly due to the parochialism of the professional societies. It has a lot more to do with the recognition of the speed at which knowledge, especially in scientific and technical fields, is exploding, making obsolescence of technical knowledge one of the great problems of our time.

Furthermore, the structural unemployment that dogs today's societies, even industrial societies, makes the implicit promise of a job at the end of the university degree increasingly uncertain. The doubt about the relevance and the rigor of the training is therefore exacerbated.

ii. The advancement of knowledge and the search for truth. This, too, is being eroded, as the validity of "truth" is increasingly called into question by a rising tide of relativism and the conflicting claims of competing dogmas.

Gone are the days of innocence when Gibran could write: "I shall follow the path to wherever... my mission for Truth shall take me."

iii. A socializing function. All youths get to learn a set of behavioral and social skills that their society values, and puts store on. In addition, the grounding of the national cultural identity through an emphasis on teaching courses about the peoples culture, history and current societal institutions was a key part of educating the future generation.

Yet today, in the wake of the multi-cultural pluri-ethnic environment, we are confronted with a lot more questioning of the prevalent social values, and profound doubt about the validity of any single unifying cultural construct. University education was the place to explore the boundaries of pluralism without jeopardizing the cohesiveness of the national identity. These problems have exploded with particular vehemence in the wake of the intolerant fanaticism of Muslim so-called fundamentalists and the ideological politicized positions of many on the campuses. Fear of the hegemonic west looms ever larger for an insecure faculty, ill-equipped to handle the challenges of the day, and the domain of inquiry is ever more circumscribed by the bigotry and intolerance that pervade our societies.

Thus, it is not just a matter of pouring money in the universities of the Arab world to enable them to be "centers of excellence" in science and technology that is required. Far from it. It is a rethinking of the University as a vector of social change in our modernizing societies, in the rapidly changing world environment of today, that is called for.

This will require liberating the Arab mind from fear of the different, the new and the foreign, and the promotion of the respect of diversity in a shared collectivity. These are values inherent in the scientific outlook, that promotes bonds that transcend race and culture to reshape culture in the broader, more tolerant framework that the true scientific enterprise requires and engenders.

It is a profound challenge. Paradoxically, this challenge can only be answered by promoting the scientific outlook throughout society. For the scientific outlook helps in the modernization (as distinct from "westernization") of society, and that kind of modernization will strengthen the possibility of universities to play their full role, in arts and philosophy as well as science. And as universities play their full societal role, they will further help to promote the scientific outlook.

5. The Scientific Method and the Values of Science:

These issues go to the very heart of the meaning of development. The promotion of science per se is an integral part of the modernization process. Without it, the social transformation that is implicit in modernization will not take place.

I hasten to add that modernization here is not synonymous with westernization, although there is a central core of universal values that any truly modern society must possess, and these are very much the values that science promotes: rationality, creativity, the search for truth, adherence to codes of behavior and a certain constructive subversiveness.

5.1 The meaning of science:

Let me start by asserting, along with Bronowski, that "I define science as the organization of our knowledge in such a way that it commands more of the hidden potential in nature." In that definition, it is clear that it goes far beyond the utilitarian application of knowledge. It impacts on an entire world outlook from cosmology to being. It is an enterprise that forces upon its practitioners values and outlooks peculiar to science and that in its essence are the keys to modernization.

Values are not rules. They are in Bronowski's beautiful phrase: "... those deeper illuminations in whose light justice and injustice, good and evil, means and ends are seen in fearful sharpness of outline." This is a critical thought in the context of the intolerant debate that permeates so much of the public discourse in the Arab World today, where a person is judged by the color of their skin or the god they choose to worship or the ethnic group they were born into, or even their gender.

This thought, that the exactness of science can give a context for our judgments, is a powerful reason to rethink the need to promote science as an essential element in the development process.

5.2 The humanist perspective:

I think that all present here today would agree that the essence of development is a deep humanism. Humanism is itself defined by a set of profound values that, in my mind require the scientific outlook and the values of science. Sadly, there are many who fear this view in the Arab countries today. The rise of intolerant fundamentalism is a manifestation of this fear.This fear starts from a view that concepts of value - justice and honor, dignity and tolerance - have an inwardness which is not accessible to experience. and accordingly, "because they believe that there is no rational foundation for values, they fear that an appeal to logic can lead only first to irreverence and then to hedonism."

How mistaken they can be.

Science values originality as a mark of great achievement. But originality is a corollary of independence, of dissent against the received wisdom. It requires the challenge of the established order, the right to be heard however outlandish the assertion, subject only to the test of rigorous method.

Independence, originality, and therefore dissent -- these are the hallmarks of the progress of contemporary civilization. ... (For)..."Dissent is the mark of freedom as originality is the mark of independence of mind."

5.3 The value of modernization and the modernization of values:

We all know that effective pursuit of science requires the protection of independence. Without independence of inquiry, there can be no true scientific research. The safeguards which independence requires are obvious: free inquiry, free thought, free speech, tolerance, and the willingness to arbitrate disputes on the basis of evidence. These are societal values worth defending, not just to promote the pursuit of science, but to have a better and more humane society. A society that is capable of adapting to change and embracing the new. A tolerant society.

Tolerance based on the adoption of the values of science is different from the tolerance begotten by indifference to the behavior of others, dismissing them without engaging them. Tolerance among scientists " must be based on respect. Respect as a personal value implies, in any society, the public acknowledgments of justice and due honor. ... If these values did not exist the society of scientists would have had to invent them to make the practice of science possible. In societies where these values did not exist, science has had to create them."

5.4 Promoting the scientific outlook:

So, if we accept that science promotes certain values that we hold as essential for the true modernization of a developing society, how does one promote this broad concept of science? How does one involve the leaders and decision-makers in the promotion of scientific outlook? Can such ideas resonate in a society wracked by poverty and hunger, riven by civil strife and worried about fiscal crisis? I can already hear the nay sayers, and their emphasis on pragmatism, realism, and the urgent. But they are wrong.

Science does have the capacity to capture the imagination and to move the emotions. As Steven Weinberg noted: "Today's basic scientific research is part of the culture of our times".

Weinberg is right. We must see science as an integral part of our culture, that informs our worldview and affects our behavior. It promotes fundamental ethical values. Indeed, "Those who think that science is ethically neutral confuse the findings of science, which are, with the activity of science which is not."

Even more, science is itself a culture of global dimensions. To the extent that culture can be defined as comprising both an activity, and a vision - a way of doing things, and a way of thinking and feeling about them - then science is a culture, or at least a cultural current that affects strongly the society where it flourishes.

It brings imagination and vision to bear on concrete problems and theoretical speculation. After all, in Blake's immortal phrase: "What is now proved was once only imagin'd." Imagination and vision are at the very heart of the scientific enterprise. Again, Bronowski put it beautifully when he said: "..we are the visionaries of action; we are inspired with change. We think the past preserves itself in the future of itself, the way Isaac Newton is changed and still preserved in Albert Einstein. We are the culture of living change."

How different is this vision of continuity with its respect for past achievements reborn in contemporary ones, from that of the Muslim fundamentalists who would freeze us forever in their own interpretation of the past.

In fact, the values promoted by that scientific outlook: honesty, honor, truth, and the use of reason, are profoundly Islamic values. These were the values in the period when Islamic science was defined as the contributions that Muslims made to the collective scientific enterprise, rather than an effort to dissociate ourselves from the rigor of scientific debate by claiming a separateness to our scientific enterprise. So let us not allow the essence of these arguments to be sidelined by arguments about Islam and the west. Let us reclaim, as intellectuals, our right to reason, let us liberate the Arab mind.

Let us accept that the promotion of the scientific outlook is necessary and unavoidable for the pursuit of science, and is in itself a major part of promoting the societal values that are at the core of modernization and development. These are not two separate tasks, promoting two separate endeavors, they are a single, more effective way of doing either or both.

I submit that the scientific outlook, as I have described it here, will make it possible to empower philosophers, writers, artists and critics to pour forth their myriad contributions that fashion culture, identity and the very fabric of society.

Thus are all intellectuals, not just scientists, the artisans of this new Arab renaissance. Thus will they rise up to the tide of challenges that confronts us today...

6. There is a Tide...

For there is a tide out there ...

There is a tide

There is a tide of humanity,

a population growing and multiplying

in the remotest corners of this vast Arab world,

Millions of young people demanding a right to a decent life,

a life without fear or despair,

a chance to break free of the misery of poverty...

That tide, that unstoppable tide of human ambition will not be denied...

And if it is, then it will be a tide of anger, of hate, of violence, that will engulf all before it and consume us all in its fiery embrace of rejected present and a foregone tomorrow.

There is a tide ..

A Tide of suffering,

Of Children malnourished, stunted, deprived,

haunt our television screens and our dreams..

In Somalia, in Sudan, ... Our brothers and sisters, our children, fellow human beings ..

Left to their fate...

While a new class of rich consumers discuss the prices of everything and the value of nothing...

There is a tide of pollution

from our cities and our factories

that destroys our rivers,

from the industrial waste in the Nile

to the human waste in the slums...

...A tide of destructive chemicals in the food we eat and

in the air we breathe...

There is a tide of ignorance and greed

that ravages the trees and destroys our heritage...

A tide of intolerance and obscurantism,

That wants to stop the march of time and freeze our minds

That teaches hatred and fear

But also...There is a tide of new awareness

There is a tide of

understanding of our interdependence,

not just among economies,

but among all people and even all living things...

A tide of awareness that the rights of all women and minorities and the weak and the poor are indivisible from our own...

There is a tide of awareness that the past practices of governance and the new specter of intolerance and bigotry cannot be accepted, for they will surely bring misery and wretchedness on our selves and our children..

There is a tide of awareness that we cannot let the world move into the dawn of a new tomorrow while we remain debating the glories of our yesterdays...

There is a tide of new technologies,

that can help us to grapple with the complex realities of our lives..

There is a tide of new possibilities...

We have the knowledge, the science, the expertise,

to be part of the scientific revolution that is accompanying the new millennium,

computers whose power and speed defy the imagination.

Knowledge that can cure disease and double harvests,

bring water to the deserts and create humane cities, where equity and justice can prevail.

There is a tide of possibilities that the genius of the Arab people can unleash..

But that genius can only be unlocked by freedom and thrives on liberty, unbounded inquiry and tolerance.

Yes, there is a tide..

There is a vista of possibilities

where the scope of our achievements is bounded only by our imagination and constrained only by our determination to succeed.

Yes...there is a tide in the affairs of Men ...

which taken at the flood leads on to fortune

Fortune, not just in terms of more economic growth,

although that, too, can be accommodated...

Fortune, not in terms of accumulation of dollars in national or foreign bank accounts..

but fortune in terms of true well-being.

Fortune in terms of quality of life.

Fortune in terms of the satisfaction of doing what is good.

Fortune in terms of a better understanding of ourselves and our neighbors.

Fortune in terms of leaving for our children,

and our children's children,

a better world.

Yes ...

There is a tide that leads on to fortune.

Omitted, all the voyage of their lives

is bound in shallows

If

If

If

If

Then the poor among our nations will indeed suffer, the world will indeed be poorer and future generations will indeed suffer.

Then our future will indeed be bound in shallows and in miseries ..

On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures

The sea is indeed full, it is full of threats, and full of promise.

We have the opportunity not just to navigate this sea, but in fact to show the way towards a more responsible relationship with each other and with the world, to show how development can be indeed equitable and sustainable.

This is the vision of a new Arab future...

A true Arab Renaissance...

A vision that is people-centered and gender-conscious. That seeks equity for all and empowerment of the weak and the vulnerable everywhere - so that they may be the producers of their own welfare and bounty, not the recipients of charity or aid.

A vision that places short-term actions within the long-term framework.

A vision that is environmentally sustainable, that will leave the future generations as much if not more than what we found ourselves, that will husband the resources of this fragile planet just as we learn to use its bounty.

A vision where a people’s greatness is measured by the quality of the lives of their poorest citizens not by the size of their armies or the scale of their buildings..

A vision of a people, secure in their knowledge of themselves, and their openness to the "Other" in a free commerce of ideas and of knowledge...

Yes! We have the opportunity to change the way the Arab people relate to each other and to the world around them.

We cannot afford to let this opportunity escape us - either by commission or omission.

We must convince ourselves and convince the world at large.

It can be done, it must be done, it will be done.

There is a tide out there ...

a tide in the Affairs of Men...

Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.

Omitted, all the voyage of their lives

is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat

and we must take the current when it serves

or lose our ventures.


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