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The Industry of Turning Tragedies into "Enormous Successes"! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In an indirect difference between secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and Victor H. Mair, a professor of Chinese language at the University of Pennsylvania about the meaning of the term “wei-ji”, no wise person will hesitate to trust the language professor rather than Rice especially in the light of Rice’s own confession that she does not read Chinese, but “I am told that the Chinese character for crisis is wei-ji, which means both danger and opportunity”, she said in Riyadh. “And I think that states it very well. We’ll try to maximize the opportunity”. But Victor H. Mair, a professor of Chinese language said “a whole industry of pundits and therapists has grown up around this one grossly inaccurate formulation”. He said the character “ji” actually means “incipient moment” or a “crucial point”. Thus, he said, wi-ji “is indeed a genuine crisis, a dangerous moment, a time when things start to go awry”.

The difference between the real meaning of “wei-ji” which is rampant with danger and between the meaning as conveyed to Ms. Rice as presenting an opportunity is greatly similar to the difference between what is truly happening in the Middle East versus what is conveyed to Ms. Rice about the Middle East and is also similar to what needs to be done in order to make the Middle East a more peaceful and secure region versus policy papers written to Ms. Rice concerning what needs to be done in order to achieve stability and security in the Middle East.

As Ms. Rice volunteers to translate a Chinese idiom without any knowledge of the Chinese language, she also volunteers to suggest a map for “reordering” a “Middle East” she has no knowledge of its language, people, culture or even history, committing in both cases a vital error which is by far more dangerous in the second case. The problem is that the error made by Secretary Rice affects the lives of millions of people in the Middle East as the people here do not have the luxury Ms. Rice has of viewing Baghdad from 37.000 feet from where the city seemed sparkling and calm! Iraqis have to live there among death squads and kidnappers and criminal gangs who have turned Iraq into an absolute state of anarchy.

A similar difference was detected by EU Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana, who was struck during a tour Saturday of West Bank Arab towns on Jerusalem’s eastern slopes by the growth of settlements and the barrier [apartheid wall] cutting into land that Palestinians want for a state, or rather grapping the Palestinians land to give it to settlers. What would it talk to shake top politicians of the world out of the five stars life they are leading to notice the dire reality and disastrous way of life that their decisions are causing to ordinary people of all faiths and ethnicities who only want to live happily with their children? What would it take to show vice president Cheney that what American policy has scored in Iraq is not “enormous successes” but enormous chaos, and how would he react if someone asked him to send his daughter to live in Iraq, not in the green zone, and to face the danger and death Iraqi women are facing everyday, would he then change his opinion about the “enormous successes” and try to find a way to protect his daughter?

One would have hoped that decision makers in the world are able to see that is happening away from their private jets and very comfortable offices, because they are supposed to understand and protect the lives of ordinary people and not to inflict unprecedented suffering on them with every sunrise and sunset.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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