“I don’t know why we welcome them, all they do is crowd up the place and ruin our city”, a young “Emirati” couple commented as they passed by me in Dubai Mall at 2:30am. The comment was clearly targeting tourists in the city during the festive Eid season, most of who come were from GCC countries. I found this rather surprising given that our culture is one known for its hospitality and warmth. This incident along with others I have been witnessing over the past few months has made me realize that certain important aspects of our culture are being lost and other not so important ones preserved.
The drive to do ‘good’, I believe, is an inherent part of human nature. To stand up against injustice, to promote what is good, and to cease what causes harm are all characteristics that should be a norm in our society. However, when you take a good look around you, you will notice that in the race to look out for one’s own benefit, our society’s reward and punishment structure has majorly changed. People are revered for acts that can be classified as evil or vicious and ridiculed or condemned for things that are considered humane or compassionate.
Although many different factors are involved in changing the reward and punishment structure in our society, in my point of view, the main factor leading to this shift is the post-oil syndrome or sudden wealth. This in turn has led to the appearance of a superficial society whose emphasis has deviated from strong moral values and moved towards material gain. Now, people are applauded for reasons such as bank account balance, how many fancy cars he/she owns, and genetic/ethnic background rather than being applauded for good educational background, hard work, and moral/ethical values. Over time, to be accepted by society under these new social rules has become essential in order to succeed socially and financially. The impact of this can be detrimental in the long run if left neglected. I believe it can potentially lead to a collapse in basic social, economic, and political functioning of our society. Some examples I have written about previously include marriage, employment, wealth distribution, and positions of leadership.
The question then becomes: how do we reverse this shift? What is evident is that a significant amount of effort needs to be exerted by like-minded people who recognize this negative paradigm shift as a recipe for disaster in the years to come. This effort should be focused in 3 broad areas.
First, It is crucial we understand Islamic principles of interactions. Islam has a detailed approach to how interactions should be conducted and managed. This includes how actions should be governed and how intentions should be purified. Understanding these principles can emphasize the focus on our actions on things that “matter”. This means, superficial value reduction and content value magnification.
Second, after understanding these principles, I believe they need to be taught to the immediate circles around us. This includes: families, friends, and loved ones. Speaking of these teachings and propagating them through society allows for the correction of the building block of all nations; the individual. A major success factor of spreading solid fundamentals in a society is making sure the “family” block is content which is a result of the individual understanding these very principles. Examples include: the Islamic upbringing of children, support for good causes, and speaking up against injustice done under the umbrella of culture.
Finally, by using being associated with interest groups that stand for similar values that allow to create positive impacts on society. This can range from things like Charitable Societies and Autism Centers, all the way to Anti-Terrorism or Anti-Racism efforts.
In summary, the current post-oil wealth that is evident around us has led to the loss of certain fundamental values that our society was built on. There has been a shift where evil behavior has become incentivized and revered as cultural acts and positive behavior is punishable due to it going against this newly created “culture”. However, I believe, by understanding Islamic principles (that are also general/basic human principles), spreading them amongst individuals, and associating ourselves with like-minded people, it is possible to reverse this newly created and unreasonable reward and punishment structure.
That said, would we embark on this journey? That’s something we should all ask ourselves.
Mohammed’s bi-monthly column aims to openly and honestly target issues around the native culture, society, religion, economy, and policy that have resulted as a consequence of the constantly changing demographics of the region. The column is characterized by a point-like articulate approach that gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the discussed issues.