The braveness to heal | Opinions Information
There is no doubt that we Khalijis – people of the Arab Gulf States – are fully feeling the effects of the economic challenges that come with every drop in oil prices. The oil era that changed the lives of Gulf residents tremendously decades ago is coming to an end.
With another big change looming, it’s not enough to be aware of it – we need to be proactive. We hope, of course, that our countries will steer the changing international and regional dynamics in order to avoid negative effects. But we would be fooled into believing that this would be an easy task and that we couldn’t play a role.
Oil brought a disease to our region – oil addiction – and we must heal ourselves before we can move forward. The shift in oil goes beyond diversifying economies and restructuring government spending. It has to involve social change.
The Gulf States must either face their reindeer addiction and rid themselves of the disease, or face a painful awakening when it is too late. Over the past 50 years we have got used to a lifestyle that is unsustainable and even harmful. As Ibn Khaldun tells us in The Muqaddimah, living in luxury hinders clear visions and weakens the will to change. If we are to enter the post-oil era strong and prepared for new challenges, we must change the way we live, learn, and prosper.
The luxury style that some Khalijis have adopted is sophisticated and made up. It often means living beyond your means and making false appearances. It’s luxury in the extreme, or maybe extremism in luxury. This type of spending drags people into debt, prevents them from making substantial investments in their children’s education, and weighs them down with family problems and instability.
The faulty educational system in the region undermines the development of the social and economic potential of the Khaliji people. Spoon-feeding and memorization-based education does not encourage critical thinking. Of course, there are many promising signs of educational achievement in the Gulf, but in most Gulf states, public education is still lagging behind in philosophy and teaching methods.
The only way forward is for us to heal ourselves from our society’s oil addiction. There will be painful changes along the way, and we must face the many challenges our countries face in an increasingly troubled region and with the effects of climate change.
In fact, we are not immune to the effects of global warming. A 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the Gulf region would be uninhabitable by the end of this century due to rising temperatures and the unavailability of water. Like the rest of the world, the Gulf States urgently need to take action against climate change to prevent this process from leading to a point of no return.
Separation from fossil fuels will be difficult, but not impossible, given our over-reliance on them. Our countries already have the natural resources that can facilitate the transition to renewable energies, especially solar energy. Such a move away from hydrocarbons requires not only economic but also social changes.
With that in mind, the new reality of the coronavirus pandemic offers us a unique opportunity to take stock and reconsider our priorities. It showed us how closely the world is connected in its suffering when a catastrophe occurs and how important it is to act together in solidarity. It has also helped us to see that a life of compulsions and little self-sacrifice for the common good is not that difficult.
Like the rest of the world, Khalijis are increasingly realizing that “business as usual” cannot continue and change is inevitable if we are to survive as nations and as a human civilization. What the Gulf States need is an unconventional vision for social change and solid leadership.
We need to start investing heavily in the new generation, starting with parents changing the way they approach their children. They must lead by example and teach their children the importance of independent thinking and personal responsibility.
We also need an educational revolution that abandons old-fashioned teaching methods and creates instructions that promote critical thinking, skills and moral values. As a Muslim society, we must bridge the gap between performing Islamic worship rituals and observing their moral values in daily life, and as a nation we must prepare a new generation that can help develop a sustainable, prosperous and oil-free future for our nations.
The work of young people in all areas must be guided by the values of national construction, and it is important that they also make a contribution internationally, as we cannot part with the wars and disasters that are happening around us.
We also need a new development model. The current one is designed to provide citizens with the means to live a dignified life that is quantitatively rather than qualitatively defined and is proving increasingly dysfunctional. We must therefore put quality over quantity in all aspects of social life in the Gulf, including education, health and, above all, management.
A change in the development model would also mean a change in the social contract in our countries. It is now time to revise it, which of course will lead not only to economic and social change, but also to political change. This can occur in different forms depending on the circumstances of the respective golf country.
Real change takes time, but it is urgently needed now that we have started to see developments that we never expected. Unless we take urgent action, a growing number of young people who cannot find work become angry and react violently. After all, they feel entitled to have their share of the oil wealth, which is now dwindling. The moral decline in the new generation will be the bitter consequence of our refusal to even address neglect of religious values.
Nations that make the tough decisions today will be ahead. You can adequately prepare for the future by taking advantage of economic development powered by green technology and alternative energy. Those who avoid these choices will be utterly unprepared for the many crises to come.
My grandmother, God rest her soul, always said, “The worse the taste, the better the healing.” We have to be courageous and honest with ourselves. We must now have the courage to drink the bitter medicine. We have to heal.
The views expressed in this article are from the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.