By Ray Petersen — Oman is a land of tolerance and courtesy,” wrote Dr Paul W Harrison, in Volume 5 of ‘Neglected Arabia,’ in 1928. It’s amazing how, in many respects, Oman has stood the test of time in terms of what it, and its people are today, compared to yesterday. As time moved on, a British soldier serving here, David Gwynne-Jones, wrote, “Providing we respected their Islamic culture — and we had been well briefed on this beforehand — we were accepted without hesitation and with good grace.
“Our abiding impression of Omanis was of a people who were devoid of prejudice, intrigued by our presence and who genuinely wanted to like us.” I perceive that both men fifty years apart, had seen the same or similar qualities in Omanis that we see, every day.
There is a compelling case for the good nature of the Omani people to be questioned really, for although the nation has certainly benefited from the discovery of oil and gas, and the bounty thereof, it’s also something of a poisoned chalice, as the recent, in global terms, oil price crash has created severe economic difficulties for the nation as a whole, and the government and big business entities of the Sultanate, in particular.
These reverses have required a very mature response to general price rises, on the back of petrol and diesel price rises, with the inescapable consequence of rises in the cost of centrally
There is however, a form of pragmatic stoicism that has revealed itself over recent months, with the irony of the oil and gas ‘bubble,’ not lost on many Omanis, and as one said to me the other day, “Well, we had nothing before the oil, and we survived, so…”
In doing so, he epitomized the attitude of the Omani to the current situation, or as William Clifford Palgrave wrote in 1863, “In disposition they are decidedly, so far as my experience goes, the best tempered, the most hospitable, in a word the most amiable, of all the Arab race.
“Toleration to a degree not often attained even in Europe, exists here for all races, religions, and customs.”
Is this amiability a good thing? If I’m honest, my own self-appraisal would be that I am quick to take offence, intolerant in the face of inconvenience, and scornful of incompetence.
Like many others, I am guilty of reacting, maybe not too quickly, but of taking personal offence where it is not intended.
There is a distinctly less elastic expectation of quality in much of the world, that for me, harks back to an acceptance of responsibility.
In much of the Western world, we want to be given responsibility, and we thrive on opportunities to prove ourselves to others.
We thrive on the challenges of work or play, and have an absolute determination to be exactly what our boss, manager, or employer, not only wants us to be, but expects us to be.
Here, not so much.
And yet, I’m not certain who has got it right!
Samuel Zwemer wrote, more than a hundred years ago: “The Omani is most friendly in a general way to everyone. The men’s majlises (meeting places) are freer than elsewhere, and no great division of social standing exists.
“Often in a shaikhs’ majlis slaves and masters, Bedouin camel-men and rich merchants meet on a common plane to have a friendly chat.
“This same picture can be found in other parts of Arabia, but in Oman, there is more of a democratic spirit.
This creates a fine type and spirit of community brotherhood.”
Perhaps it is this brotherhood, of which we are necessarily not a part, is the reason why few Omanis get their, “knickers in a twist,” when things don’t go, or aren’t going, exactly the way we planned.
Dr Jerry Deffenbacher, in 1966, came out with a researched ‘model of anger’ and/or, unreasonable response, and laid it at the door, not of the incident that had just occurred, but at a build-up of tension from previous incidents that had not been ‘parked,’ appropriately.
Narcissism can too play a part in our reactions. Maybe, for example, we consider ourselves excellent drivers, guardians of the road, and ‘pseudo’ traffic cops? Thus armed, we take extreme offence at speeders, tailgaters, slow big trucks, slow old drivers, and anyone else who doesn’t meet our own high standards, and ‘go off on one!”
And there we come to it.
I’m not an amenable, amiable, always pleasant individual.
I am flawed, human, and sometimes intolerant… and I continue to have issues with, and be incensed by drivers who use mobile phones when they are driving.
Bad enough drivers of cars, much worse when they are big truck drivers (no, not ‘big’ truck drivers, ‘big truck’ drivers), but absolutely unforgivable are the school, college and university bus drivers who flirt with my good nature, the law of the Sultanate, and their passengers, by calling and texting while they are driving.
For such a genial, amiable group of men, they should offer more thought to those they are entrusted with.
It has to stop.
It must stop, before a large number of people get hurt.
It will be too late for reflection then.