Opinion

Non-local solutions for local problems

October 04, 2018
Non-local solutions for local problems
Abdullatif Al-Dhuwaihi

Okaz newspaper

THROUGHOUT history Saudis remained loyal to their family, community and economy through tribal links, friends circles and the local culture.

Saudis did not leave their local communities and traveled to other places including major cities except when they were forced to look for jobs or to fulfill an important personal need such as education. However, these Saudis will not miss any chance to return to their villages and local communities the moment they have a chance, either during vacations or by way of transfer or after retirement.

In my opinion, this is a natural instinct in all conservative societies. In modern societies, a person is born in one city, goes to university in another, and get married and work in a third, which is almost rare for Saudis. The majority of our people study, work and marry from the same city or village where they were born.

Last week, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman inaugurated the Haramain Express Railway, which links the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, and pass through Jeddah and Rabigh. This train service, without doubt, has great value in the movement of Haj and Umrah pilgrims, as well as Saudis and expatriate residents visiting the holy cities.

That of course is in a addition to the commercial, environmental and scientific benefits of the project. The train service will shorten the distance between Makkah and Madinah by half.

The trains operate using clean energy, which will contribute positively to the environment. According to estimates, the Haramain Railway will transport around 60 million passengers annually and will significantly cut down the number of buses and taxis in service. This of course will have a positive effect on the environment.

The Haramain Railway is one of several other railroad projects that are soon expected to carry passengers and goods in central, northern and eastern areas of the Kingdom. This is in addition to the metro systems in Riyadh and Jeddah.

The train service not only will have a positive impact on the economy at many levels, but will also have social and cultural impacts.

Many colonized countries, after gaining independence last century, started building railway networks in their bid to unite their people and regions. Means of transportation, including railways, are a key factor in bringing people close to each other and serving their common economic interests. Access to easy transportation helps in cultural exchange and in resolving local social problems with non-local solutions.

Despite the brotherly bond between the Saudi people, some communities in the Kingdom still tend to seek solutions for their indigenous social problems in their surroundings. They did not succeed in breaking this psychological barrier by searching for non-local solutions when the local solutions fail. Maybe this was because these communities remained isolated with or without their members realizing this fact. Perhaps it was because the only thing these communities were familiar with was their local culture and traditions, and no one did take any initiative to find non-local solutions to their local problems.

This reality give rise to several problems in each community and some of these problems have become permanent because the community or the village was not forthcoming with solutions other than local ones.

I do not have any statistics before me, but I am sure the problem of spinsterhood, for example, in Hail or Madinah cannot be resolved only through solutions from these two cities. We cannot find a solution for the problem of the high rate of divorce in Najran or Qassim by searching in those two cities alone. We cannot end unemployment in Al-Jouf or Asir by searching for solutions in these two regions only.

That is why I said the train service in the Kingdom will give rise to a cultural movement that will free people out of their domestic confinement. Planners need to take into consideration that one of the many goals of the railway service is the change that the train service will bring about by encouraging migration from one city to another.

I am not an advocate of weak family values. In my opinion, the family is the most important human institution. I am also not calling for the melting of local cultures, but it is important to say that the tribal and regional extensions has created many social divisions that cannot be bridged with local solutions alone. This created a culture of surrender with the illusion that there are no better solutions to a certain problem than the one already provided.


October 04, 2018
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