January 18, 2008

Between fitna, fawda, and the deep blue sea

IT IS not easy to be an Arab these days. If you are old, the place where you live is likely to have changed so much that little seems friendly and familiar. If you are young, years of rote learning in dreary state schools did not prepare you well for this new world. In your own country you have few rights. Travel abroad and they take you for a terrorist. Even your leaders don't count for much in the wider world. Some are big on money, others on bombast, but few are inspiring or visionary.

These are gross generalisations, of course. Huge differences persist among 300m-odd Arabic speakers and 22 countries of the Arab League. With oil prices touching record highs, some Arab economies are booming. The gulf between a Darfuri refugee and a Porsche-driving financier in Dubai is as great as between any two people on earth. Yet to travel through the Arab world right now is to experience a peculiar sameness of spirit. Particularly among people under 30, who make up the vast majority of Arabs, the mood is one of disgruntlement and doubt.

Those of you interested in all things Middle East should check out the Economist article -- written by, Abu Muqawama is guessing, Max Rodenbeck -- on the state of the Arabs.