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Under the Microscope - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The latest events that took place in the United States recently have put what is happening in the rest of the world under the microscope. Katrina was the most important of theses events. It has shown the American people and the world that humanity travels in the same boat. It showed them that people of the world should support each other in the face of natural disasters, regardless of the country they come from, be it advanced or under-developed. Katrina might be a good motivation for humanity also to ponder the damage they have inflicted on environment in the process of industrial advancement, and the need to go back to basics in their dealings with nature and with one another. These lessons have been reflected in the most recent forum initiated by the American ex-president Bill Clinton in New York, attended by hundreds of world leaders, politicians, and public figures. The forum called for alleviating poverty, good governance, ending inter-religious conflicts, and respecting the environment. The forum”s proceedings soon revealed that all the issues were interrelated. Some of the audience signed commitments to reduce the gap between the rich and poor, and dedicating some resources for pressing cases in Asia and Africa.

At the same time, the United Nations General Assembly was busy with scores of presidential speeches, and formulating the concluding report, that will join its proceedings reports in the UN”s filing cabinet. The discussions, however, revealed a number of international concerns. One of them was the growth pace of South Asian countries, especially China and India. Another was the African countries anxiety over the American and European protective support for their own agricultural products, negatively affecting international competitiveness. Some Islamic countries were concerned about the current convicted status of Islam and Muslims, and the evolving strife between Islam and the West. As for those who have lost rights, they expressed doubts that the world will even pay heed. Everyone, however, agreed that the media today rules the world, and that no one can any longer tell what truth actually is. International media manufactures opinions today and shapes stands, and the real modern battlefield is one of stories and images. There was also an undeclared general accord that the world today needs more elaborated policies, not rash and self-serving decisions. In the corridors and during breaks, everybody was talking about the need for more honesty, courage, leadership, social equality and human dignity.

Some of the most important conclusions of the discussions were a call to go back to the basics and to common sense when reflecting upon the battle between idealism and materialism; between benevolence and greed. One certain thing, however, is that all countries are in a race for subduing any international transformation to their own interests. Regardless of the differences in opinions, the battle today is one of thought, the rightful mover of humanity and history, not of material and money; a philosophy proposed long ago by Arabs at the height of their intellectual development. Different contributions of different countries have shown that globalization, in its imposed superficial connotation, has no bearing on reality. Appreciation was restored to the individuality of each country, nation and culture, and local wisdom regained its credibility. Again, a return to the original and basic respect for human thought, morals and courage.

All of these conclusions came to defeat the falsity promoted by certain circles that modernization and development are interconnected with power, only to the dismay and despair of those who have lost their rights. Katrina and the New York discussions have put the movement of history under a microscope, only to prove that man is the ultimate purpose of life, and its point of departure. It is man who makes history, and it is man who is the most valuable capital for development.

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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