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The Fear, the Window and the Train

The Fear, the Window and the Train

Monday, 6 December, 2021 - 07:45
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Opening the window doesn't necessarily mean entering the storm, approaching chaos or threatening one's identity. There is no room in the new world for the fearful, for those who hesitate in trying or taking chances or risks, for those who do not accept competition or are unprepared for them.


Countries are no longer judged based on the strength of their armies or their ability to wage attacks or worry their neighbors. This is a world of numbers, not of fears or delusions. Your real fortress is a vibrant economy that belongs to the present moment of the world and that is open to progress. Your strength lies in flexibility and renewal, not in remaining unchanging. It lies in taking the initiative and innovating, not on looking back to eras gone by. Your identity deepens and becomes richer by embracing diversity and differences. Your immunity is consolidated by having the youth join in shaping the future.


It is a new world with new conditions. The first condition is an education that teaches about successive scientific and technological revolutions. Gone is the age of closed fortresses that fear interacting with the unknown and those who are alien to them. There is a need for a university that hones capabilities and provides opportunities, not just jobs. A university that consolidates skills and creates others. Graduates must be readily capable to constantly learn and renew themselves. There is no room for early contentment that is akin to early retirement.


Opening the window allows the individual to learn and for his capabilities to give him an opportunity to land a job. Opening the window allows him to become a productive partner in shaping a dynamic economy that provides a decent life that can provide success, hope and joy.


Opening the window is part of a clear vision that repels dangers, instead of attracting them. China today boasts the world's second strongest economy and is alarming Washington withe advent of the "Chinese age". The land of Mao Zedong could not have reached this position without Deng Xiaoping, the son of the Chinese revolution with a keen eye on spotting weaknesses. He realized that failure to open the window will spell the end of the regime and drown the world's largest country in poverty and despair. Can we even imagine a China that is being torn apart and exporting refugees to its neighbors and the world?


Opening the window was not easy. There was always the "old guard" that prefers to be weighed down by concerns over taking the initiative to go through a test. The old guard fears different ideas and new ways. But change demands a vision and someone who can light the flame and attract determined people. It demands trial and error and pumping new blood in society. It also needs to overcome walls that have long thought to be insurmountable or built to last forever. Opening the window needs a convincing idea, an attractive dream and an extraordinary man. Above all, it needs to uproot the trees of fear that have dug themselves deep in the soil and the people's minds.


As I visited Riyadh, which has become a destination for several events and source of initiatives, I recalled how the Chinese window was opened. I remembered, as an Arab journalist, cities that are burdened by fear and that continue to take pills that have long expired.


Cities are living creatures. They can feel joy and sadness, fatigue and regret, they grow up and become wiser. They grow old and begin to show their age. They can hide their emotions for a long time before suddenly erupting. They destroy symbols and remove road signs. In these cities, this wandering journalist met many people. He met decision-makers and those who would harm them if they had the chance. In the majority of Arab capitals, this journalist met with an Arab citizen called fear, who enjoyed the rank of general.


I am not exaggerating. The smell of fear would engulf me before I returned to my hotel room. It used to accompany me at my farewell at the airport after a trip in search of an interview or a story. It was no secret that this trip of fear destroyed several maps and capitals. It can also be said that it has destroyed entire generations. Fear captures the imagination before it captures people. The captured imagination drowns in bitterness and spite. The father worries that he would transmit his infection to his children, whose dreams would be paralyzed by fear. Students grow up in the cradle of fear. They fear their fellow colleagues at university and at work. The citizen constantly feels that he is being watched from morning to night; that his dreams are being monitored and that reports about him are being sent to the side that never sleeps.


Cities used to be afraid of tourists. They feared that they would expose their fragility or sell their secrets. Security agencies used to recruit taxi drivers to keep their eyes on the tourists if they took a photo this place or that. Men with concealed weapons used to shadow the strangers just as radars detect infiltrating planes.


There are many kinds of fear: The fear one map has of another map; a small fear and a large fear; fear of poverty and fear of the rich; fear of civilians from the military; fear of the military from the military; the fear of one side of the other; the fear of minorities and the fears of the sons of the poverty belt; fears that the constitution would be molded to the whims of the strong.


Fear has devoured institutions and depleted budgets. Fear has devoured the capabilities of the regular citizen and their right to smile and enjoy life. Fear has devoured the capabilities of universities and research centers and the right to ask questions and innovate. Fear has hollowed out normal life and left collapse as the only choice against any change.


The worst thing committed by fear is assassinate hope. It is guilty of the crime of giving off the impression that there is no hope and nothing on the horizon. Closing off the horizon will only pave the way for extremism, a clash and an explosion. Suicidal tendencies are born out of the dark maps. Light helps find hope. Opening the windows will reopen horizons and liberate the minds.


Arabs long that all our capitals can kill an old enemy called fear of the age of progress, openness and engaging with the world. I visited Riyadh Boulevard and witnessed a place that was flooded with people and different colors. The will to live and progress without fear and with absolute confidence. A river of visitors from different parts of the world. Companies, investment, songs, tourists, art and dedication to the environment and climate. The Saudi youths are racing to build an experience that inspires the region and world.


The Saudi state is awake, is bold and is taking the initiative. The numbers validate its ambitions. This country has opened the window and embarked on the train headed towards the future. Progress, success and quality of life. Mohammed bin Salman lit the spark of renaissance and the youth have embraced it to shape a different fate. Every country has the right to find its way. The Saudi experience certainly confirms the Arabs' ability to advance, compete and shape a better future for their children. Breaking the fear is a condition for joining the train and hope is the best advisor.


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