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In the Absence of Leadership

Four days ago, I was asked to write a little something about what the term "leadership" could promise in conflict-driven regions, and what it could particularly signify to young women in conflict-driven regions today. Some of my thoughts:

In the Middle East context, the more I think of the term "youth leadership", the more I realize that we as youth in the Middle East question that role, as we have repeatedly watched our leaders let us down. Leadership roles for so many years have proved to lack in power. We have watched leaders get turned down, shunned and ignored as they keep asking for permits, for freedom of movement, for justice, the recognition of basic rights, for some attention, some sympathy; we have watched them complain yet and again, we have watched them fail. Leadership and whatever the term leadership entails; be it self-respect, admiration or power to change, that type of leadership has failed before our eyes.

Engraved in our memory today, as youth from a conflict-driven area, is the lack of justice towards our people. Everyday we deal with discrimination, injustice, war and lack of peace and security. We would not be surprised if at any moment chaos erupts and turns the tables upside down. Anything could happen in our region at any time, and when it happens, nobody could stop it from happening. It could be something completely unfair, unjust and insane yet there is no legal entity or authority that would protect us from its happening. Lands could be shelled, houses torn to pieces, schools bombed, families kept from seeing each other, walls built violating human rights (...) the list goes on.

It is highly important to note that when war has erupted in Palestine, one after the other, nobody could stop it from erupting. Nobody could stop the people from dying, nobody is stopping the walls from getting built and nobody is stopping houses from getting confiscated. Alas, if an old man is walking down the street and a soldier decides to shoot him for no reason whatsoever, nobody, no matter how powerful nationally or internationally, could stop it from happening. We as youth are hence not easily comforted by promises and assurances because our memory has taught us otherwise. All of our experiences have turned us to become the generation of PARANOIA; filled with conspiracy theories and left unprotected, as we can count on no one to cover our back.

The more I think of the term "leadership" in our conflict-driven region, the more I see that the youth in our region do not aspire to become such leaders in that respect, because we keep observing the leaders as they fail, and we do not aspire to be in their shoes.

In the era of failure and defeat, one recognizes a leader when one comes across a person who remains undefeated despite all the suffering. A young woman friend from Gaza, recently after the war on Gaza, shared these words in the local papers. She said that having seen the blankness of the world, as they turned their eyes from the war while she watched people die left and right before her; she was suddenly shaken by the meaninglessness of it all. It was a scary moment, she said, but having taken it in, she decided then and there that life is here and it is here now. For some of us, this is all we've got, but if the case is so, then that is good enough! "I decided to live with what I've got," she said, "and I decided to live it well." That by itself could signify leadership.

One could perhaps not be able to imagine how women in Gaza cope with no water, no electricity, no freedom of movement and no basic rights, with the possibility of war erupting at any given moment and with no media coverage; leaving its citizens with nothing but paranoia on their minds. At the same time, one cannot measure pain. It may be the 21st century, but there is harshness and cruelty still. Women are constantly stigmatized, and to this day women are abused in all parts of the world. Difficulties that women are facing somewhere else may not include lack of water and electricity, but there are difficulties still. One could perhaps not see the pain some women are enduring, yet every now and then, we pass across a few who carry their pain with strength and go through life with no bitterness. These are where leadership traits start to appear and spark a light of hope. It is from insisting, that even when the world seems to have crushed itself into pieces, we have not yet given up on the world. We still aspire, get inspired and inspire, as we move on and move forward.

I thank each and every one of you for recognizing the pain that women are enduring and for knowing that strength comes not from closing one's eyes in delusion, but from opening them up. I thank you for giving importance to building the strength within and letting our voices be heard. You may not be hearing my actual voice right now, nor can you see my face as I speak, yet if my words have come through, then I have no reason to complain. For it is now that matters, and if this is what we've got now, then that's good enough!

NOTE: Just as I was sending this message, I found an email from Paolo Coelho's Warriors of the Light mailing list and it was under the title: "In search of the perfect leader." Strangely enough, I had just finished writing my message and found that his thoughts could perhaps conclude mine! Here is some of what he wrote:

"The truth is that the great revolutions and the progress made by humanity were brought about by people just like us - the only difference being that they had the courage to make a key decision at a crucial moment.

"A long time ago, in my unconscious, I changed the word "leader" for the expression "warrior of light". What is a warrior of light?

"Warriors of light keep the spark in their eyes.

"They are in the world, are part of other people's lives, and began their journey without a rucksack and sandals. They are often cowards. They don't always act right.

"Warriors of light suffer over useless things, have some petty attitudes, and at times feel they are incapable of growing. They frequently believe they are unworthy of any blessing or miracle.

"Warriors of light are not always sure what they are doing here. Often they stay up all night thinking that their lives have no meaning.

"Every warrior of light has felt the fear of joining in battle. Every warrior of light has once lost faith in the future.

"Every warrior of light has once trodden a path that was not his. Every warrior of light has once felt that he was not a warrior of light. Every warrior of light has once failed in his spiritual obligations.

"That is what makes him a warrior of light; because he has been through all this and has not lost the hope of becoming better than he was.

"That is why they are warriors of light. Because they make mistakes. Because they wonder. Because they look for a reason - and they will certainly find one."

February 5, 2009

Comments

jadefrank's picture

The power of the youth

Arda,

Your words move me. As a young Israeli speaking on the lack of leadership in Israel and Palestine - you have so eloquently shared your very personal relationship with this war and the harsh realities that people, especially women, face in your region. It is so painful to imagine these women in Gaza with no water, no electricity and no food, who fear daily for the safety of themselves and their families. My hope is in the power of the youth. The power of young women like you who see the need for change and who understand that with failure of leadership - the worst of humanity takes over. My hope is in you dear Arda. That the leaders of tomorrow will have your grace, your passion, your sense of justice and your humility. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on leadership. Your voice is so powerful. YOU are a leader.

Warm regards,
Jade

Arda's picture

Thank you Jade!

Dear Jade,

I just joined ''World Pulse'' yesterday and thought I would post this as it is connected with everything that this website seems to represent. I am so surprised that I got a response so fast, and quite thrilled with your reply!

I have thought so much about the latest war on Gaza and of what the insanity of the occupation has gotten away with, and the insanity it draws back to it. But on the positive side, we live in a region that keeps the lucky ones among us question the so-called reality with all the justification it entails, and look instead at the questions that come up along the way.

By the way, it took me time to realize that by ''young Israeli'', you were referring to me! It's just a bit odd to be referred to as an Israeli! Yes, I was born and raised here in Jerusalem, but to this day East Jerusalem still has a question mark on it. The truth is, I could not find ''Palestine'' or ''Occupied Palestinian Territories'' on the list of nationalities so I went ahead and chose ''Israel''. I guess I could have chosen ''Armenia'' as I am originally ARmenian, but I haven't visited Armenia yet. I wonder if this suggestion could be considered, as there may be others from Palestine who wouldn't know how to find their nationality on the website?

Thank you again for the beautiful reply!

Arda

jadefrank's picture

Palestine flag now available

Hi Arda,

I wanted to let you know that there is now a Palestine flag available to include on your profile. When you joined PulseWire, this flag was not available, but we have added it to the list of country options as we feel that it is important for the people of Palestine to feel comfortable in our community and that they are supported and represented here. Thank you for being patient with us in adding the option and for bringing this issue to our attention.

If you are interested in changing the flag attached to your profile, please follow these simple steps:

1. Go to "My Voice" located in upper right corner of the PulseWire homepage
2. Click on the "Edit Account" tab
3. Click on the "Edit Profile" sub-tab
4. Below the "Country" category, highlight Palestine
5. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen and click the "Submit" button

Please let me know if you experience any difficulties and need assistance.

Warm regards,
Jade

Arda's picture

Thank you!

Hi Jade,

You have no idea how good it feels to know that I was responsible for that change. I know it's only a small alteration, but it means a lot to know that my pointing out to it made a difference.

Very warm regards!
Arda

Arda's picture

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Jensine's picture

Stunning

Dearest Arda -
Your voice is like a fireworks to be heard around the world. I was so captivated by every word of your writing. Thank you for revealing the mountaintops and fields of your mind. I can feel the raw insanity you convey, we sense it through the newswires, but through your pen it becomes a part of me, something close, instead of something far away. Clearly you are a powerful leader, who will move and mobilize many. I hope you find connection and peace here in our growing and supportive community. We are uniting our power and voices from over 120 countries.

Also thank you for bringing to attention the flag! We will be seeing what we can do very soon.

Love,

Jensine Larsen
World Pulse

Cultural Correspondent's picture

Incredibly Moving.

Arda,

Thank you so much for your beautifully inspiring words; it was as though they were being lifted directly off the computer screen, and we were sitting together engaged in conversation.

I commenced my (regular) international travels in 2003, and visited Israel in 2004, a young Jewish woman just beginning to grasp the complexity of our world and those inhabiting it. Time and time again, I am faced with the Israel vs. Palestinian argument, and it pains me because, when you break it down to the fundamentals, we are all human beings -- most of us good -- who essentially want the same honourable things in life.

I know I am making this sound so basic, so easy, but that is because I believe that if we strip away the hatred, the politics, the conflict, it is easy to see that it just leaves you and me, two young women looking to make the earth a better, safer place in which to reside.

I will not try to place myself in your shoes or those of others living in the Middle East; I wouldn't dare pretend to know how you feel or what you are going through, but I will be here to listen to you, Arda.

"Next Year in Jerusalem" is a book that I think you will thoroughly enjoy. I read it last year and the author, Daphna Golan-Agnon, wrote in such a way that humanized the situation.

http://www.amazon.ca/Next-Year-Jerusalem-Everyday-Divided/dp/1565849302/...

I will look forward to hearing more from you and welcome you to the PulseWire community!

Warmly,

Jackie

childrightsactivist's picture

hi Arda

I have heard a lot of pain staking information about the conflict ridden Middle East and i must say that your information is timely

Lets stay in touch and i need your response

Fredrick
Cellphone +256751548255
Uganda

CFGULUMA

Tina's picture

Insightful and Moving

Hey Arda,
You are a beautiful writer. We know about the conflict and see so much of the violence from our media, yet you have helped me to feel it. I feel very moved and honored to hear about your world as seen from your eyes and your heart.
Thank you

LauraB's picture

Keep writing Arda

Hi Arda,
In the US, across the airwaves and in print the conflict and the horrors of the Middle East are reported. Burdened by the violent news, honestly I feel helpless. You though, bring the story of Palestine to me, to us. I can connect with you, and thus come to a better understanding...a human understanding. We need heart, not just news. I'm witnessing rising voices, like yours, emerge with an altered, frankly more enlightened consciousness. You ARE a leader and here you have a forum. Look at the comments you have received to believe this.

Thanks Arda, I will be reading your words and remember them when I watch the news or read the paper. You're words ring true!

Laura

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