“Yesterday, I was clever, I wanted to change the world.Today I am wise,I am changing myself.” -Rumi
As if it lacked enough tragedy, 2016 refused to leave us without more; from the savage bombing of the Cairo Coptic church to the intensifying humanitarian disaster in Aleppo, the barbaric terrorist acts in Turkey and Germany just a few days before Christmas and news of the crashed Russian aeroplane in the Black Sea. Is this a reminder of how last year left us less human, or a warning to be careful what you wish for when we embrace the new year?
But you know, what I like most about this time of year is the outright revelation of humanity’s instinct to hope. No matter the amount of hatred, cruelty, and despair surrounding us, we like to think next year will be better. It seems to be embedded in humanity to hope, irrespective of their race, region, religion, and socio-economic bracket. Look around you. Endless lists of 2017 resolutions, ranging from very simple desires such as having enough food, clothing, and shelter, basic rights such as the need for millions of refugees around the world to return home, all the way to receiving an invite to meet in Manhattan’s mixed-use 58-story, Trump Tower.
We liberals know that the number of extremists is rising and indeed can sense the return of nationalism with a vengeance across the globe. But we live on with the hope that post-World War II global institutions would, at least partially, protect the values of liberalism and ensure any insanity or individual folly would not spread too far beyond a specific group or class.
We finance professionals know that the markets are still fragile post-global financial collapse. Deep down, I am sure you know that the level of income inequality in developed and developing nations has widened to a level that will jeopardise capitalism in its current form. We just do not know if, and when, things will blow up. But we live on the hope that policy makers will adopt effective reform programmes before it is too late…
We Muslims know that the world is getting fed up with us. We know that it is not helpful anymore to condemn the barbaric medieval acts of those criminals who torture, rape, and kill under the name of God. We know it is no longer possible to detach ourselves or convince non-Muslims about how peaceful Islamic values are, while the shots of insane people cheering Allaho Akbar (God is Great) when they smell blood are trending over the world’s media. We are rational enough not to expect normal people from other faiths to study different versions of Islam and come up with the original one. It is intuitive to think they would not, particularly when the majority of Muslims have not. It won’t help whether you explained the long history of religions (almost every religion) with blood and why. We just hope the world could generously wait a little longer until we develop our own weapons; a fully functioning political system, social justice, and economic empowerment.
Can I tell you something? I saw it in the eyes of a very close Christian friend a couple of weeks ago in Cairo, after the tragic bombing of their Orthodox church, not to mention the Facebook comments of many others. They implicitly, and perhaps unconsciously, put some blame on me. If you are one of those Muslims friends who pretend they do not care about others’ judgments as long as you have committed no harm to anyone, deep deep down, I am sure you do care.
We, Egyptians, know that we are trading away our standards of living that were already mediocre for the majority of our society. We know that super inflation, post-flotation of the Egyptian pound, is here to stay for some time. Yes, some Egyptians do hope wages will adjust upwards to fully compensate for the new price levels, but we specialists know that this is the exact opposite of the objectives of the economic reform in place.
We know it will take time to rebuild our country after tens of years of mismanagement. We know we trade very little with the rest of the world, compared to other developing nations who faced similar post-colonial military interventions, wars, and major political transformations; as little as 10% for Brazil, one third for Chile, one half for Argentina and two thirds for Angola. But we never doubted how great our nation is. We know that we can achieve in a few years what has taken others decades of hard work. We just live on the hope that one day we will unleash our country’s real potential and catch up with other great nations.
Folks, at this time of the year, we all deserve to practice “hope”.
Personally, I hope our ruling elite will learn the lessons of the past; democracy is not on top of the list of humankind’s best inventions, but in its national/local form, it is the most effective, and sustainable, way to protect a society’s social fabric. I also hope our policy makers will not get any relief in case the foreign inflows in the local stock market continue through 2017, and will continue to tackle the structural imbalances in the economy. By the same logic, I hope effective reform programmes will continue across the Gulf Cooperation Council nations irrespective of oil prices, which I expect to average higher in the next couple of years, and onwards. I also hope a super power would just eradicate all terrorists off the face of earth!
I wish you and your families and beloved ones a Merry Christmas and a year full of happiness, peace and love.
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.