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Ayoon Wa Azan (Overhyped Things in Our Countries).

Who was the most important figure in the history of the world? Religious Muslims will say Mohammed, Christians will say Jesus Christ, and the Jews will say Moses. If a secular person or an atheist was asked this question, he or she may choose a philosopher, inventor, or explorer as the most important figure in history.

It is then a matter of opinion that reflects a person's views of how important some people or issues are. Hardly a year goes by without a book on this subject being published, listing the most important cities, or monuments, resorts, movies, actors, books, etc.

In 1978, a book written by Michael Hart caused widespread controversy at the time. The book has since been reprinted and revised several times. The book is "The 100: A ranking of the most influential persons in history".

Many readers have no doubt heard about this book. Its (Christian) American writer chose Prophet Muhammad as the most influential person in history, followed by Isaac Newton, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Confucius, St. Paul, Ts'ai Lun, Johann Gutenberg, Christopher Columbus and then Albert Einstein.

The above is the book's top-ten list. The remainder of the list included Napoleon, Pasteur, Freud, Lenin, Peter the Great and Aristotle. The Caliph 'Umar ibn al-Khattab came in 52nd place. (Ts'ai Lun is a Chinese man who invented paper. The Arabs introduced the paper industry to Europe through Andalusia, which enabled Gutenberg later to invent the printing press. Without paper, the Renaissance would have never seen the light).

I was reminded of this book as I read another book that included a different kind of lists, and was entitled "The 50 Most Overhyped Things in History", written by Mark Juddery. The book was met with controversy in the United States, because of some of its picks which included both things and people.

I would have probably dismissed the book had I not read the comments of some of the readers in response to critics and reviewers: They almost left nothing without considering it overhyped, from the Statue of Liberty in New York to the scores of singers and actors who were killed by drugs, and even the year 1999 which paved the way for the third millennium.

Near the end of this article, I will add my own contributions to the list of overhyped things, and I hope that the reader will take this as encouragement to write me a list of what they consider to be overhyped.

Going back to Juddery's book, what persuaded me to purchase it was the author's opinion on Ronald Reagan. The former U.S president ranked eighth out of fifty. In fact, Juddery hung him out to dry when he said that Reagan threatened world peace with his arms build-up, mentioning that Reagan was behind the Iran-Contra affair, and proving that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer while still in office. The author also denied that Reagan helped bring about the strong economic performance seen under Clinton, and said that the Soviet Union went bankrupt and collapsed because of its occupation of Afghanistan in 1979, when Reagan was still in California.

The names that preceded Reagan in the list begin with the inventor Thomas Edison, who, according to the author, took credit for the inventions of his subordinates. Also in the list are Mahatma Gandhi and Lady Godiva who pleaded with her tyrannical husband to better treat the people, and rode a white horse in Coventry while she was naked in protest. Then there is Christopher Columbus who did not know that he discovered a new continent, Marconi who the author insists did not invent the radio, but rather that it was his assistant Nikola Tesla who did, the gangster 'Machine Gun' Kelly, and King Arthur, who is a mythical figure along with his knights.

Edison and Marconi occupy high ranks in the book on the one hundred most influential persons in the history of the world. However, Juddery provides correct information regarding the inventors involved along with these two personalities. While Marconi patented the radio in Europe and the United States, the U.S. Patent Office gave the patent back to Tesla in 1943. However, both Maroni and Tesla had been dead by then.

I end with my own choices of overhyped things in our countries, from bottom to top. In the tenth position, there is the issue of the Western Sahara and the dispute over it which is decades-old. It would not matter whether the Sahara is independent, Algerian or Moroccan, as it would in all cases be still Arab, and hence, there is no problem with any of these scenarios. The ninth overhyped thing is foreign military presence in our countries which serves foreign parties only and does not serve any Arab interest. The eighth is the Huthis who are rebels without a cause, the seventh is the Iraqi parliamentary elections which do more harm than good, and the sixth is the issue of the so called honor crimes which instead are dishonorable and go against religion. In the fifth place there are the television preachers who lack in knowledge but not in extremism, while the fourth place goes to the Arab governments that do not serve their peoples, the third to the Arab peoples who are more backwards than their governments, and the second to Arab weapons which never seem to kill non-Arabs.

In the first place there is petroleum. It is definitely a blessing, as oil revenues can lay the foundations for the progress and wellbeing of the nation. However, it is also a curse because it made us the focal point of the ambitions of both the East and the West, and made us a vulnerable target for occupation, blackmail and various other threats. Since the world's need for oil is increasing, the risks the nation faces increase in parallel with this need.

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Publication:Dar Al Hayat, International ed. (Beirut, Lebanon)
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:60NOR
Date:Oct 22, 2010
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