A Wish for the Year 2009

A Wish for the Year 2009

by Mirza A. Beg

On December 31, the year 2008 will fade into history. Though January 1, 2009 will not be materially different, but the year 2009 can be, and I hope will be a harbinger of better tomorrows. Many will take stock of their hopes and desires for the future, but some will find refuge in this season of festivities and let desires negate hope and trump reality. The poor and dispossessed of the world will go on toiling towards dashed hopes and early deaths. The challenge is to bring changes to these lives and usher in a new millennium of peace and cooperation that is still waiting for the last eight years of the chronological millennium.

The year 2008 has been one of the most miserable years in more than half a century. Not only do the wars still rage in Iraq and Afghanistan, but no less devastating regional civil wars in Sri Lanka, Darfur, Congo and many other places go on unabated; Mr. Mugabe, in resource-rich Zimbabwe has led its citizens to unbelievable destitution, while the world can awkwardly condemns as a bystander. The terrorism of state and non-state actors in many regions is on the rise.

Dictators and oppressors persist and terrorist attacks come with the regularity of tides. We have only limited attention span, and are overwhelmed by so many crises. The crisis of the past month fades, replaced by a new crisis of the month or even the week. The Junta in Burma (Myanmar) perseveres in its horrible record of oppression. The world focused on it for a few weeks, then moved on.

All the crises have been dwarfed by the economic meltdown of 2008, which started with the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States. This was only the proverbial straw. If not this, some other unraveling of the economic pyramid scheme would have burst the bubble of unregulated greed of unscrupulous funds managers on Wall Street, who ran amok under a blind eye of a government that willfully dismantled the instruments of governmental regulatory responsibilities.

To dispel all doubts that we are living in a global economy, the US economic crisis has reverberated through the world economies, including the very poor countries that are dependent on the aid and charity of the wealthier nations. The governments of all major economies, including the United States, have come to realize that they can not manage it alone and have been forced to coordinate their efforts to dig themselves out of this self-made morass.

But the year 2008 has also been a watershed year. The situation became so bad that it may have woken us from a long slumber of complacent inattention.

In America, in the wake of the shock of 9/11 in 2001, fear took hold. Loud voices of the prophets of fear and greed found a fertile ground. Americans opted for erosion of their constitutional freedoms in exchange for a feeling of safety.

After eight years of utter mismanagement, Americans realized that their pocket-books are dwindling and even the substandard employment of eight years is about to turn in to unemployment and their future as a great nation has been jeopardized.

Against all odds, in contradiction of the conventional wisdom, Americans rose above their prejudices and voted Barack Obama as the president-elect of the United States. No one could have even ventured to predict that a black American could win the election in 2008.

This is of even greater significance because Mr. Obama avoided the mean and negative campaigning that has been the hall-mark of the past successful elections. A majority of Americans rejected the petty politics of fear and rose to vote for a future of hope and equity. Americans voted for Mr. Obama even though he did not take the bait of demonizing those who disagreed with American policies and offered dialogue to reach a better and equitable understanding instead of hubris.

The American Revolution was one of the most important engines for the flowering of democracies in the world. This change in American attitudes and government is a harbinger of a better tomorrow of dialogue and understanding among the peoples of the world. In this interconnected world of fast communications and global economy, no place is too far, or too insulated to escape the consequences of oppression of supposedly distant people. It is time to think of others empathetically to develop common platforms and aspirations.

Industrial revolution has conclusively proven that prosperity is not a zero-sum proposition. For some to be rich, many do not have to be poor. Human ingenuity can help produce more with less effort and invent new techniques and materials of comfort, for the betterment of all.

This is not a new idea; European prosperity rose from the ashes of the conflagration of two world wars on this concept. Leaders reflect our collective will and hopes. No leader, including Mr. Obama by himself can bring about the millennium of peace and cooperation, but with the help of all those who choose a better tomorrow, not only for themselves, but for all, this may be a time for that momentous change. Let us make the year 2009 the start. With best wishes,