Last Updated: Fri Dec 09, 2011 13:48 pm (KSA) 10:48 am (GMT)

Dina al-Shibeeb: Do you want to be a leader, or the subject of a comedy routine?

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad joined a list of zany leaders when he told journalist Barbara Walters in a TV interview that only “crazy” leaders order the killing of their own people. (Illustration by Armajit Sidhu)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad joined a list of zany leaders when he told journalist Barbara Walters in a TV interview that only “crazy” leaders order the killing of their own people. (Illustration by Armajit Sidhu)

There was a time when everyone poked fun at George W. Bush; in fact, stand up comedians do really miss his gestures, folksy style, and his inability to find the right answer amid serious summits and meetings while his more serious-seeming counterparts were resplendent in their elegant intelligence.

After Bush, there was Sarah Palin, a hardline Tea Partier and an adamant anti-abortion advocate because God said so. The U.S. and the world were “mesmerized” at her alleged lack of knowledge; once she even failed to know that Africa is a continent.

But people can say that the examples of Bush and Palin constitute an American phenomenon…an American bubble that they cannot burst!

European officials are made fun of by the rest of the world for their sex scandals and not for their lack of political ‘encyclopedianess’ or correctness.

But who can defy Angela Merkel …Yes, she was a typical German in calling Spaniards, Greeks and Italians indirectly “lazy” in an attempt to find a scapegoat for the EU debt crisis. But still, she does not qualify as material for a standup comedy skit. She is too serious and her country, in comparison to other EU countries, is doing fairly well.

In the Arab World, the story is twisted and tilted to excuse – or deny − violent crackdowns against dissidents and protesters.

Muammar Qaddafi was by far the most inspiring dictator for aspiring comedians to base their skits on. In my opinion, Bush was no competition for the Libyan strongman; if the two appeared on World’s Politicians Can Actually Have A Talent, Qaddafi would win easily.

His eccentric way of dressing – he looked “cooler” than most rock stars – and his habit of brushing off protesters as disarrayed youth swallowing ‘hallucination’ pills and promising to eradicate them from every “zanga, zanga” or “alley, alley” were but two examples of his absurd eccentricity. In fact, the latter served as inspiration for comedians, who have come up with clever “zanga” songs.

And that Arab phenomenon keeps on going.

Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, who was once hailed as a reformer, a progressive leader, who was seen as humble, a young Western-educated, beacon of hope for Syrians failed in the attempt to keep himself respected as a serious eye doctor.

Instead, he joined the camp, the funny camp, of really funny and twisted politicians.

In his country, women are kidnapped to bend the knees of their male relatives, members of the opposition. In his country, children are also killed; in his country, more than 4,000 human beings have been killed and maimed by the regime’s thugs, the Shabiha, and other the security forces.

And those pro-Syrian regime enthusiasts, who still insist that Assad is innocent and blame his highly influential close circle for the daily bloodshed, fail to realize that Assad still has power. He is Syria’s president and leader of the country’s military and the armed forces, and has been since 2000. They also fail to understand that even if we disagree with others, killing is not an option nor a wise solution. And like Qaddafi, Assad is making the same mistakes by brushing off dissent’s action as that of terrorists.

Assad topped his list of craziness by far when he said that his government does not kill people and that only “crazy” leaders order the killing of their citizens. All of the sudden, this serious eye doctor turned into a typical dictator.

Typical dictators are those who lack respect for their very own intelligence and the intelligence of others. He even failed when he attempted to employ “sophisticated” loopholes in his argument by saying that “there is a difference between having a policy to crack down and between having some mistakes committed by some officials.”

But can a leader of a country be allowed to exempt himself from normal behavior in an attempt to stay in power despite his inability to contain a bloody eight-month long protests? Or can he exempt those officials who are committing grave mistakes? Where did the accountability go?

Greece’s former prime minister, George Papandreou, did not survive a confidence vote and was forced to leave office as his people decided that he was unable to circumvent the roiling debt crisis.

The Italians, too, decided to boot out their prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi; his sex scandals were embarrassing and the EU debt crisis was attacking Italy’s stability as well.

Dictators and leaders must know that it is okay to leave their thrones, especially if they cannot deliver the expected change and promises they made. It is just like firing an incompetent employee. It’s normal.

But reckless speeches that disrespect people’s intellect and knowledge are a sign of hyper dictatorship that is careless, and cares only about keeping itself in power. It assumes that people will not be able to counterattack with logic, arguments, truisms; it also assumes that people lack both the willpower and clout, hence the governance structure, being dictatorial, which can guarantee crushed voices as opposes to critical ones.

Hosni Mubarak warned that if the Islamists gained power in Egypt the country would be ruined.

The the Islamists did win elections in Egypt, and even worse in my opinion, the archaic-minded Salafists won a shocking 25 percent of parliamentary seats, but does that justify the reckless jargon and the dictatorial rhetoric being practiced?

A politician is a human being who is supposed to serve the people. A politician has to be intelligent and sensitive enough to know that there other intelligent people watching and that he or she should be convincing enough to be able to lead.

Thank goodness, the Middle East does have some responsible politicians and leaders.

With the U.S., Israel and their allies pushing to punish the Iranian people with tougher sanctions, the UAE’s vice president, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashed al-Maktoum, lowered the volume of the harsh rhetoric against Iran and in my book he has won the token for being the smartest politician of 2011.

He ruled out the idea that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Translation: we do not want more war in the Middle East, and we want to take care of business, and seriously, we like showing off, having Tom Cruise in our ever so trendy, sprawling city of Dubai.

He showed himself as a man of peace; he is ambitious to see his country prospering, and he knows with speeches like his, Iran will think hard before it harms the UAE.

His announcement showed that he is politically savvy, shrewd and progressive and is capable of telling the West that he does not want to be embroiled further in that plot against Iran.

But he is also vigilant and alert, and knows that his country’s alliance has earned him some nice weapons deals with the United States. The latest was a deal for 600 “bunker buster” bombs that can be used to knock off nuclear warheads deep within the “brotherly” soil of Iran. There is no surprise that in the UAE, Emiratis celebrate their national day as if it is all of their birthdays happening in a one-day coincidence.

Leaders of peace are men and women who love their countries and want to see their sons and daughters grow in a free land that embraces a culture of critical thinking to herald the birth of a smart nation.

This style of leadership is much better than the type that provides material for comedy acts.

Comments »

Post Your Comment »

Social Media »