Ray of Hope

Following my latest post, Khaled has written that although we have plenty of good blogs, we are still far behind our counterparts in countries like Egypt and Kuwait when it comes to using blogs as tools for stimulating political and social change. I agree with him, but I think this is not surprising, and I have written about it on previous occasions.

There are, imho, two main reasons behind this. First, the process of making decision in our country has always been restricted to an exclusive circle. Normal people hardly have any history of political participation, and our first, and only so far, democratic experience took place two years ago when we voted to elect half the members of municipal councils that we yet to see their effect on improving the quality of our everyday life. Second, I think that we as a society, as I perviously wrote here, lack the concept of collective action, even in fields that might be considered much less sensitive and dangerous than politics.

However, this is changing. The past few years have witnessed a notable increase in political awareness, and thanks to the revolution of communication and new media, people now have greater access to information and more outlets for free expression, and they are more willing to voice their opinions and discuss issues that used to be taboos. Just look at our blogosphere today and you would see a new rising generation of young tech- and political-savvy Saudis who consider reforming their country a noble cause that is worth fighting for and should not be let go, and are more than determined to make the change they dream of a reality everyone can touch. They are the hope of this nation, and we cannot afford to lose this hope.

7 thoughts on “Ray of Hope

  1. I agree that the media has indeed opened up but wonder,Ahmed, as a blogger here in the Kingdom, do you feel that you can write freely and openly whatever you wish? To be frank, as a fellow blogger, I still feel I must use some restraint and caution in what I write for a fear of otherwise being shut down. I try to be fair and open in my postings but have learned to reread what I have written a few times; especially if it is a topic which has touched an emotional chord.


  2. My fellow Saudis (and Arabs in general) for the most part suffer from what I like to call clinical pessimism. “Nothing will ever change”, “We’ll always drink at the shallow end of the pool”, “Why bother? Just keep your head low.” and others are the mottoes people wave around when you talk about the need for change.

    Perhaps I’m naive and overly optimistic, but I see the younger generation rapidly getting rid of this mentality. Let’s hope so anyway, otherwise we may need to dump some Prozac in the water supply.

  3. “Normal people hardly have any history of political participation, “

    …you can even say no history of participation PERIOD.

    I can argue that this is the reason behind the lack of collective action. One is a result of the other.

  4. Just a small correction Ahmed, the municipal elections were held two years ago in 2005.

    I agree that the municipal councils have not been very good at promoting the work they have been doing, but don’t think they are sitting idle.

    I interviewed an elected member of the Makkah council and an elected member of the Jeddah council and they both impressed me with their enthusiasm and work they’ve put into improving municipal services. The problem is that much of their work is in projects that will not be fully completed for 3-5 years, which leaves some people wondering what they are doing when they don’t see instant results.
    Too many Saudis are impatient and want immediate results. This won’t happen.
    Also, municipal councils across the country have their hands tied as so many services, like water supply and electricity are not controlled by them but by the central government.

  5. Municipal councils are a good place to introduce democratic principles. There need not be party politics at that level since the councils decide on the mundane issues that face a city. In addition, democracy works best at the lowest level. City Councils, County Commissioners, Township Trustees here in America are more responsive to public input and wishes than State and Federal representatives. Local government is closer to the pulse of the people.

  6. Carol, of course the freedom available here is not absolute, but I can safely say that there are only a few subjects that I won’t write about on this blog. Still, blogging offers much more freedom that what you can find in MSM.

    Rasheed, thanks for the correction. I’m glad they are working, but I also would like if they could be more accessible to the people who elected them and to the media.

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