I, too, had a dream – the one shared by the 380 million people who make up the Arab world. But while we’re on the verge of fulfilling our dreams, others, mainly in the West, are having nightmares.
The people of the Arab world have long been denied human rights and economic empowerment at the hands of authoritarian regimes backed by colonialist powers, then superpowers – from the British and French who carved up the Arab world with the Sykes–Picot Agreement of 1916 to the Americans, whose control and dominance remains economic. As the framers of contemporary Mideast policy, the Dulles brothers, put it, “You’re either with us or against us, there is no such thing as neutrality.”
But here we are, on the verge of a new dawn, and for the first time in ages, the Arab world, led by Egypt, will be self governing. It’s the stuff of dreams. Nasser dreamed of an Arab union, but the West wouldn’t allow it. Sadat dreamed of a union among Egypt, Libya and the Sudan, but egos along with Western influence, got in the way.
For sure, the road ahead is long with many obstacles, and we’ll make some mistakes. But it’s as much about the journey as the destination, which in this globalized network economy is forever changing anyway. If the Egyptian people can maintain the momentum of the last 18 days (and there’s every reason to believe we will), they will overcome, for the Egyptian people are ingenious. After all, it was the Egyptian army, who after a crushing defeat in 1967, made a comeback in 1973 against all odds, crossing the Bar Lev line with water hoses. So don’t bet against us.
I dream of a common currency that would facilitate commerce and open boarders for labor migration. I dream about agricultural development in places like Sudan that can become the bread basket of the world, freeing us from expensive imported wheat. I dream about energy, and lots of it, but forget oil and gas. How about renewable energy, from the sun and wind we have in abundance, captured with equipment manufactured locally for global export. I dream about gold, which we also have lots of recently discovered in desert mines, at a time when the world is returning to a gold standard.
Perhaps an EU style cooperative, in which we could maintain our local identity and yet flourish as a group is possible. Our consumer market includes 380 million Arabs, mostly under the age of 25, and an African market of over one billion. The West? Who needs whom? They must be in awe, and they must be a little afraid.
As I said, I had a dream. So what’s in your water pipe?