Commentary | We need advice, not encouragement

A response to Dr. Tamim Al-Barghouti’s talk at last weekend’s Envision Arabia Summit

While attending the Envision Arabia Summit the weekend of October 7th to 9th, I was most looking forward to hearing speaker Dr. Tamim Al-Barghouti’s talk entitled “Challenges of today and Ways to Overcome Them”. Dr. Barghouti, a Palestinian Poet and Poliical theorist had a lot to say about the political accomplishments of the Arab world, but mentioned virtually nothing of what the title of his talk promised.

With all Dr. Barghouti’s claims of the Arab world being ‘innovators not imitators’, it was ironic that his speech lacked innovation. Recurring platitudes, like ‘we must form an alliance in our region’ and ‘the youth are the change’, comprised the majority of his talk . They served to give him the occasional round of applause, but bypassed the overbearing key issues that were begging to be addressed on such a platform.

Barghouti reinforced the fact that Arab citizens are beginning to make a dent in the foundations of ruthless regime control that have defined their countries since colonial times. As he went on to describe, it was not long ago that upwards of 20 million Egyptians created a self-government that lasted 17 days and catalyzed what is now a full blown democratic upheaval. What he failed to conclude from these achievements is that a pat on the back is not what is needed right now for politically aware Arab youth.

But, While these complements are deserved, I think we should move past them and tackle the issues that will confront us. It appears that Western Arabs are stuck in a sort of purgatory – an uneasy limbo between the grandeur of their accomplishments and the equal vastness of their future hopes. What’s really needed is direction in order to approach the multitude of bright prospects that have become hazy with time.

We all agree that change is possible, and that the initiative has been taken to create it. It has been emphasized that it is the responsibility of today’s youth to continue that change. However it’s notable that it is up to socio-political influences, like Dr. Barghouti, to shift the discourse from ‘lets change things’ to ‘here’s how.’ The older generation must work with the younger, not only by describing possible ideological futures, but also by working cohesively to create a new proactive dialogue for social change. Real motivation is rooted in addressing the first step in a future victory: acknowledging what is lacking today.

Unfortunately, Dr. Barghouti failed to take this essential leap into realistic terrain. Much like any other struggle, we can only rejoice so much in our accomplishments before becoming willfully deluded about the situation at hand. The topic of furthering social change in the Arab world needs to be addressed logistically, not like some sort of spirit rally.

I can safely say I have the spirit, Dr. Barghouti. Now what do I do with it?

Arezu Riahi is a U1 Philosophy student. She can be reached at arezu.riahi@mail.mcgill.ca


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