It is the season to be thankful for what we have and I am always grateful. Of course, I can always be ungrateful and come up with a surging list of challenges, repackaged as a wish list about politics, the environment, finance, culture, entertainment and a ton of other lofty goals. Or perhaps I could whine about wars, terror, or implosion of countries supported by shaky foundations. However, I am a realist and a conservative and, like most people in the Middle East have been trained from childhood, I am thankful for what I have even as I always hope for a better tomorrow. A surge, in logic and goodwill, will be most welcome.
“Goodwill begets goodwill” were the words of the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush, in his keynote inauguration speech about the New World Order after communism. It might be useful to reflect upon the past nineteen years with those words in mind and consider how we all managed to squander so many chances for real peace and tranquility. Is it really a good idea to replace diplomacy with trash talk and cheap labels borrowed from Europe’s days between the two world wars?
In this part of the world, people wish for common courtesy and the essence of civility. Admittedly, at times, emotions and frustration tend to overtake the region’s ability to maintain a cool head and a calm posture. However, the desires and wishes of people in this part of the world are no different from Main Street, USA: an enigmatic desire for equitable peace, fairness in a quest for justice, and an insistence on preserving one’s dignity and mutual respect. The rest will fall into place and cool-headed exchanges around a table will follow. Who knows, commerce and good humor might even follow and the material side of life might improve in due course! Shopping is a surge in human rights these days!
As a realist, unfortunately, I tend to predict more instability in the region. Double standards and various derivatives of apartheid will “keep the soup boiling”. There will be lots of talk, spin and photo opportunities, but alas, real and tangible results will continue to be brittle, thin and shallow. The dark forces of divide-and-dominate will continue the loud insistence of hype over logic and international law. Iraq will be a confusing situation as it needs a rapid deployment of a grand plan to reformat its economic pyramid oil-for-goods structure. Aside from the Pakistan mess, we are likely to see similar problems in Egypt. The strongman president will present a carbon copy of the Pakistani plan and similar false choices to keep the democratic process at bay. Once again, the argument will tilt towards masked corrupt repression. Locking up lawyers, intellectuals, and party leaders will be “good” preventive medicine against some sort of “bad” scare story. I cannot help but recall Donald Rumsfeld’s theory of “known unknowns” compared with the “unknown unknowns”.
We are all students of history in this part of the world. We tend to see thru the amateurish thin veils cast over “knowns” and subsequently sold as “unknowns” whilst goodwill is junked away by the undercurrent in bright daylight. A few cameras and microphones will report it as “policy”.
This is why I am thankful for what we have today. Tomorrow’s logic might well be even more warped and deformed than today’s fare!
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