Thursday, August 13, 2015

Consumerism vs. Innovation: Where Do Arabs Stand?

Plato said, "necessity is the mother of invention." But what is necessity today?

In a time when the most populous nation on earth has morphed into producing and exporting every patented idea that ever existed, what needs could there still be unsatisfied? It is obvious to all now that we live in an age of tool-abundance. Even the poorest or the least privileged have access to affordable instruments; African tribes and rural communities in Asia and Latin America use plastic utensils and toys, manufactured fabrics and clothes, and two-generations-old communication devices.  While in less needy societies, the abundance of tools and products has turned people into consumers whose hardest choice would be to choose one of many similar or better alternatives to any product they 'need' to substitute.

There are no more needs for the day; no reason to think hard for a solution; no minds trained to innovate; no motivation to create. So much fresh grass to chew, no point in thinking far.

Sorry, Plato. Necessity has gone menopausal and invention needs a new parent.

In our Arab world, consumerism is on the rise. With the rise of a shy middle class and the increase in the wealth of millionaires, people have willingly enslaved their aspirations to world renowned brands that, for no good reason, have become synonymous to rare commodities. In the past, to secure their future, people used to stock up on gold and silver, each to their financial abilities. Now, to sedate their insecurities, people buy iPhones and Vertu phones.

The elephant in the room is, why don't Arabs have a hand in creating the future when they posses abilities just like any other nation on Earth, especially those who plan to colonize space in the near future? Why is it enough for Arabs to stay consumers when that was never enough for their neighboring Europeans and Asians?

Westerners of Arab origin are of the most productive among their fellow citizens, so why do Arab societies who live in Arab countries decide to compensate their sociopolitical failures with sedating their insecurities instead of facing their problems head on and standing up to the challenges of their future and the future of humanity? (hint: religion)

So if necessity is a parent of invention, and the Arab world much like everyone else has ceased to have unsatisfied needs, then meet the other parent of invention: the "inquisitive mind". While Arab youth run to stock up on designer products when they go on sale, other nations' youth invest their days in laboratories and deep jungles looking for solutions for problems that have not yet occurred. These are the minds that bring inventions.

People who could imagine the future, can imagine the needs of the future. If today's necessity has gone menopausal, future's necessity is yet to be born. Arabs must use their resources not to sedate their minds, but to build instruments that could fly them away from their past failures and stagnant present.

by Nael Gharzeddine

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