Loving Failure

“Loss of face” is the single most damaging facet of Arab existence. Because of it, wars have been waged, egos tormented and even dishonour exhumed from the most unlikely crevasses of our psyche.

We cannot be seen to fail.


Yet, how are we to progress if we refuse to recognise that in order to succeed we must embrace failure?

Is this why, then, we are at the dire straits we find ourselves in? No original output for centuries. The only contribution we have is the creation of a cult of death and an invitation to regress 1500 years to a bygone era we romantically hold as golden? Refusing to understand that its patina has long lost its luster, not because of the ideals propagated then, but by the insular interpretation currently applied. Un-challenged by our intelligentsia and the masses alike for fear of reprisals by the self-styled righteous few?

It is high time that we disassociate ourselves from old ideals. From this church of stagnation. And push forth with new ideas and embrace failure. Without which no success could ever come forth.

Currently, the prerequisites are all in place: internal economic growth, a rapidly changing political climate and the inherent acceptance of competitive politics all contribute to this opportunity.

Are we good enough to grab hold of the monster’s tail and tame it to our whims? Or shall we continue in the quagmire of tensions that distance us from concentrating on the real issues which we must resolve or just simply accept to go forth?

All of this resolutely contributes to our regression in this modern age. To progress, we need to embrace change and never fear revolutionary interpretations or our situations.

We need to rise above the status quo.

The rest of the world are not our enemies.

They are just frustrated at our obstinacy.


  1. Abdulkarim

    Few years ago the Italian Prime Minster then, Silvio Berlusconi, was reported to have said that the Arabs (or was it the Muslims?) did nothing for humanity in the last 500 years. There was a huge outcry.

    You now seem to be saying the samething. Let’s hope you do not stair a similar outcry!

  2. Peter S

    Someone once asked Thomas Edison how he endured thousands of failed experiments before he discovered how to make a light bulb.

    He replied that he didn’t seem them as failures, insofar as he had conclusively established thousands of ways in which not to make a light bulb.

  3. Post

    Abdulkarim, that’s another of our traits. Escape into managed demonstrations and outcries rather than face reality and deal with it.

  4. steve the american

    Sometimes I read a post like this by Mahmood and I think I’m reading “Steve the American’s Den.”

  5. Capt. Arab

    There is no harm in the trial and error concept.. except when it happens on the account of others, which is wrong.
    Our problem is that we want change, and want everything to happen but we lack one main ingredient which is continuity (after the fact), kinda similar to “after sales service”. That is the key to success(after the acceptance of failure experience).
    Happy New Year 2008, and hope the coming year with hard work and dedication will prove to be fruitful, successful and last but not least objective. Prosperity and good health to all.

  6. Lee Ann

    As much as I like Arabs and admire a great many things about their culture…such as extended families and an overabundance of generosity to friends and strangers alike… I must also say that their inability to live in the here and now and not try to reside on past glories is irritating at best. Also…the absolute inability to unite and form a cohesive arab unit and thus combine all their talents and forces into establishing some weight in the political domain etc is only harming themeselves and holding them back.

    Soon as the arabs decide to wake up, unite and join the 21st century…they might actually be a force to reckon with

  7. underthedatetree

    Hands up anyone who’s heard ANY Bahraini governmental ministry say “We’ve failed”!

  8. Abdullatif


    Mahmood, on a side note, it seems you’ve been using too many big words lately.. any specific reason for you departing from “simple English”? 😉

  9. J


    thats the problem of human beings..arab men especially..bahrainis with a diverse complex spectrum of ego syndromes from low class to ultra-upper class!

  10. Anwar Y Abdulrahman

    Why do we, the Arabs, claim to have one of the best virtues, but at the same time have one of the worst “overall” living conditions..Is it because we sacred the past, the figures from the past to the extent we no longer need to employ our minds for anything that could make our lives better off..as we claim to have the “absolute” truth from the “past” which is non-negotiable..anyone dares to say otherwise would be nick-named and damned “by law”..As long as the majority mass choose to elect what someone else tell them what to do, we will remain in the darkness ages.. Happy New Year everyone.

  11. jared

    Arabs in the US where I live and work make significant positive contributions to civil and professional society. I believe this is because American society is very open and accepting compared to most others. The situation seems more complex in the EU, where some of the national cultures are somewhat less accepting than in America – Arabs fare well in many EU countries though.

    Stagnation of Arab societies in the Middle East seems to me largely a matter of local culture.

    I realize that’s very reductive.

    Maybe a better insight can be had by trying to understand the journey between the reported religious tolerance and scientific and literary progress of Al Andalus and the current situation in the Arab world.

  12. Anonny

    The only contribution we have is the creation of a cult of death

    Was Abraham an Arab? We can’t lay everything at your door.

  13. Barry

    While western media often only shows the negative sides of things in the Middle East, frequently what we see is exactly what you’re saying: “It’s not our fault! It’s the fault of others as to why we are like we are today!” A biased picture? Yes, but what you’re saying is reflecting that a bit.

    I think that anyone who plays the blame game or martyr (in a metaphorical secular rather than religious sense), really needs to pull it back, take a look at themselves and accept when they fail. I believe that if you constantly have “bad luck”, maybe it’s not outside factors, maybe there’s something you’re doing that just isn’t working?

    In order to learn, one needs to be able to take criticism, and learn from their mistakes. No living human is perfect, we all make mistakes, but those who fail to see that are doomed to keep making them and end up wondering “Why me?!” all the time.

  14. Alfie

    I totally agree with Mahmood, almost all the Arabs are living in their past glory, but that does not mean Arabs have not made contributions to the World community. They have… the only thing is Arabs living in their own homeland has made almost zero contributions, but the Arab diaspora has made significant contributions, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_diaspora

    Carlos Slim Helú (Lebanese origin), Mexican businessman. He was listed as the richest man in the world by Forbes.
    Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc. (Syrian father)
    John H. Sununu, (Lebanese) Governor of New Hampshire and White House Chief of Staff under George H. W. Bush
    John E. Sununu, (Lebanese) Senator from New Hampshire
    John Abizaid, (Lebanese), retired US 4 Star General.
    Abdalá Bucaram (Lebanese origin), former President of Ecuador
    Alberto Dahik (Lebanese origin), former Vice President of Ecuador
    Andres Dauhajre (Syrian origin), prominent Dominican Economist
    Antonio Saca (Palestinian origin), current President of El Salvador
    Jacobo Majluta (Lebanese origin), former President of Dominican Republic
    Salvador Jorge Blanco (Syrian origin), former President of Dominican Republic
    Jamil Mahuad (Lebanese origin), former President of Ecuador
    Carlos Menem (Syrian origin), former President of Argentina
    Said Musa (Palestinian origin), current Prime Minister of Belize
    Edward Seaga (Lebanese origin), former Prime Minister of Jamaica
    Ralph Nader (Lebanese origin), 2004 US presidential candidate
    Edward Saïd (Palestinian origin), US intellectual
    Julio Cesar Turbay (Lebanese origin), former President of Colombia
    Tariq Ramadan (Egyptian origin), Swiss intellectual
    Carlos Ghosn (Lebanese origin), Brazilian born businessman, CEO of Nissan and Renault, former CEO of Michelin.

    These people succeeded well beyond many people’s imagination because they left their past behind, worked hard and struggled to get to the top also they lived in countries that did not discriminate against you, based on your race.

    Most people in the Gulf, just expects things to be handed to them in a platter, let the expats do the hard work and sit back and live in their glory days of the past, and then they complain why things are going bad there.

  15. steve the american

    An interesting excerpt from “Arab Culture and Arab Military Performance: Tracing the Transmission Mechanism“:

    “Arab training and exercises were hopelessly unrealistic. At every level, Arab drills and maneuvers were heavily scripted, allowing the soldiers and officers to learn them through rote memorization and relieving tactical commanders of the need to show independent initiative or improvisation. Even today, Egyptian F-16 pilots invariably know every detail of an exercise–including–what he will face, what he is to do and when, what his opponent will do and when, and who will “win” in simulated dogfights. In addition, US air force pilots who have served in Egypt as instructor pilots with Cairo’s F-16 and F-4 squadrons report that Egyptian pilots almost never debrief after a training mission because doing so would involve criticizing a member of the squadron, thus shaming him. On those rare occasions when their American advisers forced them to debrief, Egyptian flight leaders would simply praise everyone for having performed their assignments perfectly ….”

    In other words, Egyptian fighter pilots were prevented from learning all they could from their practice fights because debriefing each other thoroughly would shame them. The Israeli air force, unhindered by such cultural constraints and following the Western model, eaily and completely beat the inept Egyptian air force. So saving themselves shame in the briefing room shamed them in combat when it counted the most.

    When you fly fighters in the US Air Force, the debriefing which takes place after a mission is considered the most important part of a training mission. Your feelings are not spared in Air Force fighter debriefings. Mistakes are identified, assigned to the person who made them, and the proper course of action is laid out in detail. For a young rookie, it’s like taking a bath in acid. It’s not pleasant, but it’s terrifically educational. You’re drinking from the fire hydrant of knowledge.

    For the first few dozen missions, I would write down fifty errors pointed out to me in debrief, fix a dozen of them for the next mission, then write down another fifty things I did wrong on that mission, laid out for me with somewhat gleeful derision by everyone in the room, all of whom knew more than me. It was brutal for self esteem.

    Nobody was exempt from criticism in debrief, though they took it a little easier on the colonels if they made a mistake. However, coming up through that system of scathing self-criticism, the colonels rarely made mistakes.

    Wisdom sits at the peak of a mountain of bad judgement, but you have to identify, analyze, and correct that bad judgement to extract the wisdom from it and elevate yourself. As long as Arabs find it too shameful to debrief themselves on their errors, they doom themselves to make the same errors endlessly. The irony is that by trying to preserve their honor in this fashion on the small scale, it inevitably leads them to shame themselves on a grand scale.

    This cultural flaw, along with others, guarantees the failure of Arabs when engaged in war, so it benefits their enemies. However, in the long run, it is to everyone’s advantage for the Arabs to abandon their shame culture so they can fix their own problems rather than let them become so big that foreign armies must intervene to contain their threat.

    The fact is that we in the West want you to fix yourselves. We’d rather you be like Canada. We don’t want our troops in the Middle East and would be happy if they all came home, aside from the odd Marine or two at the embassies. The perfect state of affairs would be for us to buy oil from Middle East democracies who plow those petrodollars back into infrastructure and universities, where Arabs are building homes and businesses and futures for their kids instead of running through the streets like murderous idiots raving “Death to America!”

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  17. Mike

    Alfie, I think perhaps you have confused success in personal life with contributing to society. Using your logic Adolf Hitler and Paris Hilton would be top of your list of those who have “made significant contributions”.

  18. wawawewa

    Yes yes, we get it already, the whole of society is wrong, the whole of society has lost its way, the whole of society doesn’t know what it’s doing…with the exception of you. We’re all roaming a giant wilderness but thank god, the fat crusader has come to our rescue with his idiotic generalizations and suggestions.

    There’s an Arabic saying that goes something like this: Oppose the general flow and you’ll become famous.

    You seem to have taken that saying to a whole new level.

  19. rohan

    The problem lies in the difference between a shame-based society, and a guilt-based one.

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