Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Recent Dinner Conversation

The Setting: A dinner party with a variety of people from the area where we reside.

I got a plate of food and I proceeded to sit at a table set for 9. I sit down at the same time as two Omani gentlemen. We exchanged greetings. Then, a German gentleman joins us, then a Swedish couple, an Omani couple, and then my wife joined us to complete the table. For those you not keeping score, the breakdown would be: 4 Omanis, 2 Americans, 2 Swedes, and 1 German. This has the makings of a joke, right?

The two Omani men and the German man engaged in a lively, animated, yet pleasantly spirited discussion regarding the current events that are going down in the Middle East. The other parties at the table were all engaged in other conversations; but slowly, gradually, each party began to get pulled, like paper clips to a magnet into the conversation that the 3 men were having. And, soon enough, we all entered the conversation.

The conversation included the following:

  • The events that are currently taking place in Egypt, Libya, Oman, and Syria. 
  • The ineptitude of some of the leaders and cabinets in the Middle East. 
  • A historical perspective of what took place in the region during the beginning of the Iraq War back in 2003; such as some of the protests that took place in Oman during that time. 
  • Historically, why certain countries selectively choose to invade countries based on the resources the invaded countries possess (i.e. oil). 
  • Currently, countries where regime change would not be a bad idea (i.e. North Korea, Zimbabwe, and the Ivory Coast [Cote d’Ivoire]. The Ivory Coast is working on it with help from friends to oust the former President who was voted out of office, but refuses to leave). 
  • How France is trying to reclaim its identity on a global stage.
  • What the future holds for the Middle East? 
As one could expect due to the variety of topics, the conversation lasted awhile and it was great! Everyone at the table had something to contribute: thoughtful statements, provocative statements, different perspectives, intellectually stimulating questions. And, it didn’t escape me that everyone at the table with the exception of my wife and I (The two Americans) spoke fluently in at least two languages (We have to do something about this).

At the conclusion of the conversation, as if a sparring match had just concluded; handshakes were given, business cards exchanged, and pleasantries offered. All the parties that participated in the conversation either went separate ways or resumed previous conversations.

As I later thought about the evening, I couldn’t help but think there is something special about diverse gatherings of people where conversations regarding potentially volatile issues/events can take place civilly and intelligently so that greater learning and deeper understanding can come from such interactions. The dinner conversation that I was fortunate to be a part of made my day!

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