This article initially appeared in Yemen Today in 2009.
by: Mahwash Ajaz.
The theory of evolution suggests one simple phenomenon: survival of the fittest.
As the world grows in population and competition simultaneously, the boom of inventions and discoveries have reaches peaks never known to mankind ever before. Some say that the past 200 years of mankind have been tantamount to more significance than many centuries put together. That is all due to the rapid and vast amount of development in intelligence and use of that intelligence to make life easier and more livable than ever before. From the steam engine to the microchip-controlled robot developing somewhere in Japan right now that can pick up real-life cues and tell you that you need milk in your fridge – the past given centuries have brought man to a point where he can no longer make excuses.
Excuses for what, you may ask. We’re all surviving. We’re surviving wars on terror, global warming, population explosion, poverty, natural disasters, social crimes – if there’s one thing human beings are good at … it is survival. And that we very much are doing. Even in war-torn areas and places where infants are dying by inches due to lack of food and health services.
Which brings me to the elite. The powerful. The bourgeoisie.
And not just any elite. The elite that exists in Yemen.
Yemen ranks 175th when it comes to calculating per capita income. 45% of its people are living below poverty line and I don’t know if you want to call it a blessing or a curse but Yemen did not get affected by the global economic crises because its economic infrastructure was not well-integrated into the international community.
All in a country where you can easily find Porsches and Land Cruisers and Mercedes-Benz and Hummers running around on streets like cattle.
The fact that many Yemenis face grave issues like abject poverty, effects of tribal warfare and social dilemmas like child marriage and female genital mutilation – are all the more reason to take these paradoxes seriously. Is the upper class of this society considering the plight of the children of the lesser God? Are they choosing to be consciously blind? Or is it just another social structure that is justified by practice, history and commonality?
The truth is that you cannot blame the elite for not realizing the paradox. It seems that even they are the victims of what we call a cocoon of complacency. Given their qat and their cars, the elite have a pretty good dream scenario working for them – and little do they know that the world is speeding by in something much more significant than a Land Cruiser.
The Quran has similar words to the wise. God does not change the condition of a people unless they want to change their conditions themselves. Therein lies the dilemma. Do Yemenis want change? Does it want to keep up with the world? Does it, in earnest, want to solve its problems and move on and compete in the international market? Does it understand that there is more to the world than what it appears to be?
It all boils down to what the people of Yemen consider their priority. Do they want to compete with the world? Just how serious are they about making a name for themselves in the arena of global competition and survival? Do they not want to be known in the news as the country that is characterized for news bites other than child marriage and Al-Qaeda links?
From an expat’s eye, objectively it can be seen that Yemen is not without potential. Their historical assets are plenty and the variety of terrains present in the country (coastlines, mountains etc) can prove to be viable development areas for the country and its people. I’ve talked many a times about how unique its culture is, how decidedly original the Yemeni lifestyle is. What I cannot understand is why all this potential goes unexploited day in and day out – and the only thing the world knows about Yemen is that it’s an Arab country where underage marriage is thriving.
That really isn’t the face of Yemen.
Not unless Yemeni s want it to be.