A thinker, dreamer, idealist, ardent observer and traveller

Month: August, 2007

Celebrating Civilization

The great ancient civilizations were created by noble people. Just like societies are made by people and cultures are kept alive through the future generations of a community, it requires exalted minds to promote an entire world-view around which human beings can center their lives. Humanity is the essence of civilization. They created great cultures and turned the world into the fascinating museum it is today.

Human beings live and always have lived in a multi-civilizational world, full of diversified interaction between human cultures. In ancient times, trade links and conquests formed the basis for inter-civilizational contact. Today, it is easier to share knowledge about these dealings, and the rise and fall of civilizations. This is because our world has become smaller in terms of accessibility and awareness about people and places.

There is no such thing as an uncivilized culture because it is all a matter of interpretation of world-views. Hence, no civilization is better than the other because whether it was the Mesopotamian, Chinese, Egyptian Nile Valley, Indus Valley, Greco-Roman, Mayan or any other significant civilization, they all have contributed to the socio-cultural, politico-economic evolution of humanity. Therefore, in our diversities is our strength, in our shared beliefs the common ground for cross-civilizational discourse and thus the meeting of cultures in peace. In so saying, civilization and culture are distinct, yet inseparable. They are like the pea in the pod, in symbiosis with each other.

It is through the search for knowledge and by unraveling the secrets of the past that we are able to understand our origins, the present and our identity. Most importantly, these discoveries can help us become better human beings. They give us courage to forge friendships with others and getting to know others as we know ourselves, hence, reducing fear of the unknown. This is one way to celebrate civilization. Another way to celebrate civilization is to share your knowledge with others and create platforms for people to come together as professionals, researchers and academics, but most importantly, as friends. Friendships create harmony between human beings. Inter-cultural friendships create familiarity and harmony between nations. This is how peace prevails in the world. This is also the finest way to celebrate civilization.

In light of the above, I cannot help thinking about archeologists contributions in uncovering the heritage of Man and to the study of civilizations. In this connection, Pakistan’s historical and archeological past renders it as one of the world’s breeding ground of civilizations. Inter-disciplinary research collaborations between archeologists, historians and linguists have facilitated discoveries of ancient secrets, in order to better understand our present. Moreover, the ideal connection between the past and present is the youth of any society. Nonetheless, this social segment needs role models to give them a platform to express themselves and make their presence felt in a world of inter-civilizational discourses and clashes. Given the right encouragement our thoughts should lead to action and create better world, if not for ourselves, at least for the future generations to come.


A visitor’s fascination with the UAE

People who have spent many years in the United Arab Emirates, and then return to their countries of origin due to children’s marriage, further education or retirements, always seem to find flaws with everything there. Their home countries are dirty, there is no freedom of movement, no safety, criminality, drugs and other sorts of socially deviant behaviour, no standards of quality in anything, not to mention the way of life they left behind. Totally opposite of the UAE, which is the realization of the global village.

The Dubai returnees, as they are known, on the other hand, are disliked because they think they are better than the rest. They are too modern, and had they continued living in their countries of origin they would never had managed to even remotely live life the way they do. Afterall, one can’t transplant Dubai in any other country, though attempted through housing development schemes, or they pretend they are still in Dubai, when they actually are elsewhere. The countries of origin can only expect the returnees to accept things the way they are or leave, and mostly, those who returned due to educational purposes always return to the UAE once their mission is accomplished, or they have managed to get another job placement there.

I must admit when I went to the UAE the first time some years ago, I was not very enthusiastic about going. I thought it would just be a modern oasis in the desert, crowded with lots of malls and other commercial stuff totally out of cultural context. Infact, I believed the only touch of Arab culture would be the men and women in their traditional clothes, the dishdasha for men, sheiyla and abaya for women, big jeeps and lots of date palm trees. This was it. Yet the UAE is more than what meets the eye, as its charm lies in its atmosphere which gives everyone a space which makes them better off than they were where they came from.

In order to really appreciate the UAE, one must have experienced it. Not simply by its beaches, nightclubs, restaurants, centers and associations, but it’s nature, the aesthetic city planning, specifically, its emphasis on multiculturalism, and making this a semi-permanent home for everyone, residents and visitors alike, no matter their origin. It can be melting pot for those who are able to transcend the status barriers through bling-a-ling and friendships with benefits. It is a lovely place where law and order, and balanced living are implemented. Stay within limits and everything will be fine. There is something for everyone, young and old alike. There is a sincere interest in its youth, their interests and healthy development. Creative activities are planned to keep children productively engaged during their vacations, e.g. Dubai Summer Festival and various summer camps in clubs and educational institutions. It is the ideal place to live for families, to grow up for youngsters, and an ideal place to work for professionals and labourers alike. Yet, all that glitters is not gold, nonetheless, if you got a nice job or you’re there on vacation, it is a treat of a place.

Discrimination in one form or another is a universal phenomena and this can never be totally eliminated. It can only be controlled. Initially it seemed to me to be controlled in the UAE. The remarkable aspect of the demographic composition of the population is that the expatriate community is greater than the local population. According to 2009 statistics ( 16.6% of the population are Emirati, 23% from other Arab countries, 42.3% South Asian, 12.1% other Asian countries, such as Iran, Afghanistan, China, Phillipines, South Korea, Thailand, 6% from Europe, Australia, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa an Latin America In the UAE, they are an accepted part of the ethnic-social-demographic landscape, as long as they live within the law of the state and do what they are supposed to do.

In so saying, Emirati culture is Islamic culture because the values mentioned above are Islamic values. The best of it all is that a conscientious effort is being done to adhere to these values. So, other than the locals in their traditional clothing, the date palm trees and big jeeps, the greatest symbol of Islamic culture is manifested in the UAE is its willingness to accommodate different influences and needs, in order to make it a pleasant place for everyone. Clearly, if people are happy they are also more creative and productive.

It could be my impressions,as gathered by my frequent visits to the UAE, may be too naïve and romantic. Undoubtedly, negative elements do exist. The Arabs in general are a funny community. Anyone who isn’t Arab is not Muslim according to them. Being Pakistani, or rather Baykistani since the Arabic language doesn’t have the letter p, is even worse. The Emiratis have a racial employment strategy. Priority will be to hire an Emirati, but no one is qualified enough, and the ones who are, are not Emiratis they are Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, Egyptians, Iranians who have stayed long enough and acquired Emirati nationality. The next choice will be European, or other Western national, then another Arab, then Philipino, Indian and then a Baykistani will be brought in to clean up the mess of previous incompetent people. Baykistanis are boor beoble, but Emiratis always seem to rely on them to sort out their mess.

In conclusion, this strange kind of hypocrisy is beyond my comprehension. Arabs may be white, but they are just as pathetic as the other immigrant communities. Infact, in Denmark, the Arab and North African community are considered more primitive than the South Asian community, so no one is really better than anyone.