Save Your Grandchildren, Don’t Avenge Your Ancestors

Save Your Grandchildren, Don’t Avenge Your Ancestors

Monday, 9 April, 2018 - 08:30
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper
On the way from San Francisco to Paris, questions hunt you no matter how hard you try to escape: When will the Arabs have a modern city which contributes to shaping their future? When will they have a vibrant city with its economy, education and services? A city that offers them a normal life, which meets their needs and respects their humanity?

In San Francisco, you feel as though the future of the world is being made here, with enormous investments, extraordinary fantasies and exceptional abilities to innovate and develop, as if the people of these giant companies were the poets of the coming days, making the impossible a reality, broadening the boundaries of mind and knowledge, and changing the economy, the people’s lives, culture, and all aspects of life on this planet.

The wars of the future are happening here with ferocity and relentlessness. The numbers are merciless. You have to succeed. And you have to win. Your failure means you are out of the race. The failure of your company entails its disintegration. It is a permanent test for the president and the subordinate. He, who masters swimming and generating new ideas, can survive the waves. There is no room for sagginess, laziness and pausing at turning points.

Army generals used to draw the fate of maps and nations. That time has gone. You are now in the hands of the Silicon Valley generals. Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and others… Do not try to evade this change by saying that you are from another world. You are part of the global village, whether you like it or not. The longer you delay your engagement in the storm of progress, the more costly the consequences are.

You have no choice but to participate. Every other option means that you become dependent on the world. You remain on the margin, your economy collapses and your cities keep aging. It is either that your country gets involved, or everything in it regresses, including universities, hospitals, the army and the postal service. You will be completely wrong if you try to take shelter under the glories of history and sleep its splendors. The winner is the one who writes the history of the future, not the past.

I am not saying that the journey is easy, and boarding the train will not lead to ruptures, but we have experiences that we can learn from. Europe has gone through the same situation that’s now happening in the Middle East: some men emerged believing to have received a firm mandate from the spirit of the nation or the depth of history… A mandate without borders that allows them to impose their color on the Continent, to uphold a nation and to violate another, to impose the rule of a certain race over other races, to spread a culture and erase others… A mandate that allows them to remove international borders, to play with maps and demographic balances, to remake cities and manipulate their role, history and present time. A mandate based on subordination or suppression of the other, where coexistence is considered an obstacle or an impossible achievement.

Europe has witnessed scenes it had never expected to see. It saw Adolf Hitler display his pride on the Champs-Elysées avenue. It has seen the Europeans scramble to be deployed on the barricades of the Spanish Civil War. It saw convoys of displaced and immigrants, burned neighborhoods, and capitals filled with fear and rubble. It has witnessed oppression, darkness and horror and the rupture of countries and families. The Old Continent was the theater that saw the spark of two world wars, but the guns were silenced in the end. From the pile of corpses and pools of blood, the Europeans had to conclude what helped to prevent the tragedy from recurring. They had to decide: either use the truce to prepare for a new war or use it to arrange conditions for coexistence. Coexistence does not eliminate differences but prohibits the use of war as a means of resolving them.

Europe has seen all sorts of wars in the past centuries. It has experienced the wars of roles and control. It also went through religious and sectarian wars. It saw the wars of uprooting and erasing features. Following the horrors of two world wars, Europe understood that the future cannot be built with stones of the past. If you succumbed to the logic of open revenge, the French-German blood waterfall would still be pouring. If the memory of the French and British vessels were still being traded, artillery would still be exchanged, stamped with sailors’ blood.

Europe was soaked in blood, tears and rubble… A mass of ​​widows, orphans and people with no source of living... Damaged cities and devastated economies… One of the harshest feelings was that Europe did not learn from the lessons of World War I and fell into hell again. Politicians, diplomats and writers had to make a choice at the turning point. The Europeans chose to distance themselves from the path that gave rise to the disaster. They chose stability, reconstruction and coexistence on the Continent and within their countries. Although the Continent was partitioned by the world of the two camps, the Europeans did not allow themselves to slip into a war that this time could have destroyed the world, not only Europe.

Europe has developed the choice of stability to find prosperity. It has turned the walls of international borders into gates for the passage of people, goods and ideas. Ideas for the search for economic exchange, political coordination and cooperation in the face of challenges. Hence, your neighbor is no longer your enemy, he is your partner, with whom you discuss the expansion of common areas, not rushing the dates of divorce. Competition replaced fighting, cooperation replaced discord, and the differences were settled under the umbrella of concern for stability and aspiration to prosperity. Reasonable policies have replaced reckless strategies. People with practical minds have taken the place of those selling illusions.

The only solution is to be part of the world that is heading towards the future… to learn, train and adapt, to free hands and imaginations, and to enable your countrymen to benefit from the rewards of great technological developments to improve your economy, maintain your stability, and create conditions for your prosperity… to engage, attract expertise and training, and provide the right environment for investors and tourists alike. The only solution is to have a plan, to bet on the abilities of the younger generations, and to get them out of the wars of ancient history and the road to slow destruction.

Do not try to escape the challenges by resorting to the caves of history. Others have a history that matches or surpasses yours. If they had chosen to surrender to the past, Vienna would not have been Vienna, Berlin would not have become Berlin, Paris would not have been Paris… Belonging to the future saves your history from extinction. It turns your history into the fuel for the locomotive of progress. Do not delay or hesitate. It is your battle. Your duty is to save your grandchildren not to avenge your ancestors.

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