OMMENT: To hope or not to hope —Andleeb Abbas - Sunday, January 02, 2011

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The real reason for worry is the corrupt and inefficient leadership that, despite being openly accused of bankrupting the government and having policies detrimental to national security and economic stability, will continue to run under the guise of a misplaced perception of safeguarding democracy in Pakistan

A decade into the 21st century and sentiments around the world are those of an anti-climax. This century was heralded as a century of progress and development with the world witnessing historical improvements in the way people live, travel, work and interact, leading to a new world order that is more equal, less turbulent and more meaningful. However, the first decade of this century has fallen short of these expectations. The start to this century has been similar to the start of the 20th century. The world then was more cut off than it is now but had the same aggression and oppression designs we witness today. The two ferocious World Wars dominated the first half of the 20th century while the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made this decade reminiscent of an era where we felt that lack of information and global connectivity had contributed to a less aware and disjointed world. However, the lessons of the first 10 years into this century prove that to develop amazing inventions is easy but to rein in the human ego is perhaps still as complex as it was a century ago.

The biggest spurs to activity in the world are the emotions and sentiments of human beings. A charged creative mind can develop inventions that will transform lifestyles and world orders, and a destructive thought process can plunge the world into massacres and violent aggression. The way the collective thought processes of individuals work determines the shape of things to come. Thus the barometer to check what the general perceptions of people around the world are regarding the coming year is a fair indicator of how the world’s socio-political economy will fare in 2011. The Global Survey of Hope and Despair carried out by Gallup International annually surveys the sentiments of people across various countries to deduce trends in thinking and perception. Out of the 53 countries surveyed for 2010, 19 were hopeful for a better and more prosperous 2011 while 34 were pessimistic about the coming year. Most of the countries in the pessimistic group were high on per capita and low on hope while those that were optimistic were low on per capita and high on hope. The reason behind this dismal outlook of people in the West is because of the financial tsunami that has ravaged the banking system and corporate world, razing to the ground the biggest of names and mightiest of corporations. Confidence has been totally shaken as unemployment has hit the UK and US in huge numbers, reminding one of the Great Depression in the early 20th century. Many countries like Ireland and Greece have had to depend on EU largesse, while Spain and Portugal are standing in queue for more bailouts.

The same survey in Pakistan shows the despair of the nation. Only 13 percent think that there is hope for prosperity in Pakistan in 2011 while 34 percent think that it is going to be a year of difficulty, leaving a net hope score of 21 percent. This is in sharp contrast to India where the net hope score is 24 percent; one of the rare times that the net hope score in India is higher than in Pakistan. The reasons are obviously more political than economic. While in the West, the economic recession has acted as a dampener on people’s expectations, in Pakistan the economic recession, terrorism and floods are not the root cause of this despondency. The real reason for worry is the corrupt and inefficient leadership that, despite being openly accused of bankrupting the government and having policies detrimental to national security and economic stability, will continue to run under the guise of a misplaced perception of safeguarding democracy in Pakistan. With opposition parties being equally inept and corrupt, the public fails to see even a flicker of a silver lining in the stormy political landscape. The potential in the people of Pakistan is indisputable but the individual stardom that we witness from time to time in the form of academic distinctions, sporting brilliance and scientific inventions that beat the rest of the world are somehow never translated into collective national eminence due to a vacuum of visionary and inspiring leadership.

What can we do to make the next decade brighter and the world a better place? The answer is to go back to the basics and follow the fundamentals of being a human being. In the pursuit of more and more, the world has sacrificed contentment. Extremism of all sorts takes you away from the basics and creates an imbalance that finally results in a world losing its meaning and purpose. The blind race of consumerism where you earn madly to spend blindly and then pay for it dearly has become a tested and tried mantra for an eventual loss in direction and soul satisfaction. The speed of life is another extreme where the time to sit and reflect where we are and where we are heading is a luxury unaffordable, with the result that life flashes past you so fast that, at the end of it all, it is a blur where you are full of regrets. The loss of time for yourself and for those who matter to you is never felt till it is too late. The fast lane exhilarates for a while, leading to a temporary high but with severe hangovers of frustration it culminates in an eventual unhappy and cynical existence where being hopeful is considered crass and being sarcastic sophisticated. Thus the basics of living a simple life with minimum dependencies on externalities is an absolutely obsolete and outdated concept, which the modern day go-getter feels is part of the slow-motion lifestyle of the 20th century. However, fundamental principles have nothing to do with the 20th or the 30th century. They are ground rules of humanity that, whenever violated, are going to rob a human being of the capacity to live life to the fullest. Living to the fullest in today’s terms means having more money and power to out-buy things, outsmart people and oust countries; herein lies the problem. Thus the inauspicious beginning to this century is attributable to the extreme imbalance in the human desire to get rather than give, avenge rather than forgive, to control rather than share and to humiliate rather than respect. To restore hope for a better 2011 lies not in the obsession of more control over others but more control of our own baser inhuman instincts, which deny and degrade the very reason for us to be titled as God’s most superior creation.

The writer is a consultant and can be reached at

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