The world had been divided by historians and specialist in geography into the West, the East, the Near East, the Middle East and the Far East, etc.
The term ‘Middle East’ may have originated in the 1850s in the British India Office. However, it became more widely known when American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan used the term in 1907 to ‘designate the area between Arabia and India’.
The Balkans were designated together with the Ottoman Empire as the Near East and the countries located between Egypt and India would be referred to as ‘Middle East’.
In past history, Europe started only to exist as an important location with the Greek Empire and then the Roman Empire and today’s European Union since 1958. People’s behaviour and way of thinking in Europe is in its majority based on a present view. (The Carpe diem concept) – Enjoy and live with the present.
In the Far East and the development of China as a superpower and the most populated country, the vision has been modified whereby the future is seen with a 30-40 year future approach. With such a large population there seems to be no other choice than long-term planning option.
In the Middle East however things are totally different. People live either in the past, constantly reminding themselves of a past which has vanished since ages, or referring to a dreamy future which exists only in their minds. Being away from present reality is the way to live in the Middle East – people are surfing between the past and the future. It is not just religion which influences the attitude of the citizens in the Middle East, but a philosophical way of being, reciting poems, which they know by heart and which are used to substantiate arguments.
Intellectual honesty requires striving to understand the world not as we wish it to be, but as it is. The West believes in this approach.
Omar Khayyam said, “Living Life Tomorrow’s fate, though thou be wise, Thou canst not tell nor yet surmise; Pass, therefore, not today in vain, for it will never come again.” This perception makes the vision either sad or become an unreal world. Khayyam wrote, “All has already been written on the tablet and the pen remains silent- Crazy those who fight and crazier the one who mourns his defeat.”
Khalil Gibran wrote, “Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but wanting to control it.”
Rumi said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
Consequently, the entire political, social and even economy in the region gets affected by the vision of its future. So, we present it as prettier than today, but meanwhile, we forget today, which is the basis of tomorrow.
Many countries in the Middle East have tremendous ideas on the future of their countries, but fail to see what is making problems presently. In modern history with the development of the oil industry in the early 1910, the entire economy of the region was changed and very few alternatives were considered, imagining that this wealth would last forever. No we have started to witness the need to identify other sources of revenues based on other existing wealth in the region, which is not an easy task, because the education of the people did not prepare for such changes and encourage the citizens to be creative by themselves.
The Middle East, once the heart of civilisation, has gradually lost its values and attractiveness, because it forgot to build on its past, rather showing off its past achievements. Unless a more down-to-earth assessment of its potential is made, the future will not be very shiny. The clock is ticking. We hope that after the pandemic the thinking will start to change.