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I have a friend who is infatuated with over-analyzing and theorizing, reading between the lines and attempting to interpret the situation. If he were to receive an SMS text message that simply read “Thanks…” he would get in a state of anxiety, attempting to interpret and deduce the “meaning” of the ellipses that follow the word thanks, and understand its “significance.” I can do no more than smile, and watch in amazement at my friend’s ability to misuse his intellect in this way.

My friend’s behaviour it not too far removed from that of the Arab public, indeed I might almost guarantee that he had personally contributed to this sad state of affairs! For example, if I happened to sit down with two Lebanese people then Conspiracy Theories would make up the fourth of our number, for everything revolves around conspiracy theories for the Lebanese, e.g. the hole in the Ozone which will melt the snow on the Faraya-Mzaar mountain-side causing real estates prices to plummet until we are all penniless. The Palestinians on the other hand are not in need of conspiracy theories anymore, they are able to create their own, to the point that an observer when looking at the Palestinian issue might say “how successful those boys are!”

I was passing through an Arab capital city one day when I saw a large poster that read “Dear Citizen, remember that the sidewalk is for you, and the street is for the cars.” I burst into laughter and commentated by saying “If we cannot decide on such issues then there is a big problem!”

Witnessing everything that is happened around me – whether it is happy or sad – I can do nothing other then be astonished and say to myself “How difficult it is to be an Arab these days!” It is difficult to see hope in the darkness, but is there any alternative to trying?

60 percent of our population are youths under the age of twenty, and they are abducted into extremist [ideology] of various directions; this is a frantic struggle over our people’s future in an anonymous world, meanwhile the news headlines have become a source of fear and doom.

A psychiatrist in a large Arab city informed me that he had noticed that number of patients visiting his clinic had increased by 200 percent, and that the various types of unprecedented psychological conditions had also increased as well.

There is a painful sense with regards to the importance of the past, and its connection to our future. There is a strong desire to punish those responsible for our backwardness; this has caused a struggle between the desire to forget, and the need for forgiveness. This is the fine line that South Africa managed to walk, and the problem which Sudan, Iran, Lebanon, and Palestine all failed to solve, by not studying the conduct of Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest leaders of the twentieth century.

My friend was so caught up with trying to deduce the meaning of the ellipses that followed the word “thanks” that he forgot to reply to the message with the words “you are welcome.” This is the situation that the Arabs are currently in. They concentrate and busy themselves with trivial details that they neglect what is truly important.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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