By Albert Khawarizmi
For anyone familiar with the Middle East, these are dark days. From politics to business, never before has the region looked so dark. Everywhere you look, the region seems riddled with conflict and tensions. Old status quos are breaking down and fragile populations are being put under duress.
I will share with you a recent story and my “a-ha moment”.
Stuck in the usual, monstrous traffic that takes you 1h 30 mins to travel a mere 19km, Lebanese, like many other people in the Middle East, are subjected to harsh conditions. Ironic, considering these lands are bathed daily with sun and blue skies, and where arable land can provide food. These should be lands of hope; instead they are lands of despair.
Every day is a struggle to achieve even the smallest thing. Things some take for granted are a daily fight.
I finished my day wondering how and why someone would put up with such daily frustrations. Why is the Middle East not changing its way? Why, like the French, would the Lebanese not chop off the heads of those corrupted politicians that have maintained their country in such decay, 25 years after war.
Frustration and despair, like a cancer, spread. From Beirut to Tunis, from Amman to Algiers and Casablanca, the Gulf has not been immunized and is contaminated with frustration and despair.
My ‘a-ha moment’ occurred when I realized that this daily frustration the Middle East is experiencing is what’s holding them back from changing things. It is enslaving them to be content on achieving small, daily gains. Futile things, such as having a retailer deliver on time or respect its commitment is a victory, telco operators or electricity providers fixing what they are supposed to, an incredible achievement.
Despair: the complete loss or absence of hope.
In the Gulf this despair is palpable at the population and business level. Businesses and executives, having fought too long following the 2008/2009 crisis, the Arab spring and drop in oil prices, have surrendered. Unsure of what the future holds and unaware of the bigger picture or the vision, business executives have relinquished their power to change things. They have become subservient of the regional situation, waiting and expecting for things to get worse.
Hope: a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.
Today, more than ever, the Middle East is in desperate need of hope to see that things will get better. Hope in impacting the changes that can make things better. If hope is a desire for a particular outcome, the population needs to wish for a better life and take steps toward that.
Political leadership has been absent in the region. Politicians have an important role to play in infusing this hope and helping cultivate it. It needs to start with a clear vision that is hammered over and over, with the path laid out to reach a better society. It needs to bring in the youth that is being left behind, to unleash the energy of entrepreneurs, but, most importantly, to include women to help bring this sense of hope.
The present is dark, but this darkness can be lifted by hope. It is everyone’s role to help propagate this feeling and desire for a better future.
What are you going to do about it?