When Hope Dwindles

We, too, can attain economic independence if only we resolve to help ourselves as well as those around us to persevere and make the best of whatever we have at our disposal.

When Hope Dwindles

“Hope itself is like a star—not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity”Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Many a times we wonder why the majority of the world’s population is impoverished while prosperity is mostly restricted to a few. This is true in terms of individuals, corporations and even nations. It seems as if blessings are meant for only a3 handful and the rest are destined to struggle throughout their lives or existence. Is this fair? Obviously not; but who is to blame? Knowing who we are, we have to find someone or something upon whom to shift the responsibility of our failures because we are ‘incapable of making any mistakes’ and anything bad that happens to us is on account of someone else’s doings. Undeniably, there are certain events or conduct of individuals that do trigger misfortune in others’ lives.

On this note one can find innumerable examples. Perhaps someone in the family behaves in a manner that has serious repercussions for the immediate members and sometimes even for subsequent generations. Another illustration can be derived from history where inventions of certain warfare weapons in one part of the world have in some other part(s), eliminated breadwinners forcing their dependents into extremely harsh living circumstances. In the present days, global profit-hungry corporations and pollution causing countries have disrupted the entire ecological foundations of the planet, resulting in environmental imbalances affecting the poor and downtrodden located in the Third World. So, it is important to remember that whatever we say or do, not only influences us directly but its ripple effects can even extend to strangers. One can liken this to thousands of domino tiles lined up where hitting the first tile eventually knocks off the last one in the stack.

Despite this proposition, generally speaking, we are all responsible for our own deeds. Daily we come across many problems, solutions to which are either apparent or hidden yet we prefer grumbling or shifting blame on others’ shoulders rather than admitting responsibility or seeking ways to smoothen them. Individuals are born with unique capabilities which if appropriately exploited can reward them financially. However, before this journey can be undertaken there are a couple of things to be kept in mind. One, that these talents must be recognized and two, surroundings should be amicable enough to obtain beneficial outcomes from these qualities. However, both these rules can only be observed if the level of consciousness is relatively high.

Our society caters for quite a rigid social system where everything and everyone are tuned to revolve around certain norms that have evolved over time. Amid these regulations, there is left hardly any scope for natural leanings and changed mindset. Any deviation is viewed with suspicion or reservation sometimes to the extent that severe retributions are prescribed for acts that are in defiance of traditional ideas. This is where the roots of all problems lie and which should be given consideration by all sane minds.

By no means can we stop the first domino tile from falling or better still we cannot prevent someone who is thousands of miles away from doing something, the effects of which may eventually put us in a detrimental position but when engulfed in one, we can at least find our way out. Frustration is definitely not the answer nor is escapism. All it requires is a conscious effort to perceive and analyse with the objective of finding solutions. Done on individual basis it will bring prosperity to that individual which means that on a collective level, the entire group, society or even nation is bound to flourish.

Exactly what are the things that cause human beings to suffer or become fatalistic? Well, a short answer would be self-created dos and don’ts. For example, a graduate would sit and lament for months that he is unable to find employment but will shy away from doing a menial job. Parents always want their children to follow a fancy profession even if they lack necessary aptitude or are more inclined towards a vocation pursued by a lower stratum of society. Particularly in our society, girls gifted with intelligence usually waste away their lives because of social stigmas attached to working women or considered as such by some families. They would rather perish in poverty if they have indolent sons, but would die of shame if their daughters even mention taking on financial responsibilities.

The regressive notions that we harbor are some of the reasons why the majority sustain a hand-to-mouth living while a few seem to be rolling in wealth. The deprived ones mostly find excuses for their predicaments by complaining about dearth of opportunities, hostile and competitive environments, unsympathetic people, absence of level playing field or anything that they can point their finger at. Never will they try to look within to see where they are going wrong or why they are unable to create the atmosphere where they can grow and help others to grow as well.

Similarly, nations that lag behind do so because they are deficient in converting adversities to their advantage. Social scientists have tried to study the causes whereby some countries prosper while others seem quite under-privileged and their studies clearly speak of one common thing, that climate, soil or such other factors have nothing to do with prosperity. Nations such as the Scandinavians, Icelanders, Emiratis etc. who face harsh climatic conditions have successfully overcome nature to lead their countries to the forefront of prosperity. On the contrary, some African, South American and Asian nations, rich in minerals and perfect climatic conditions are suffering on account of their own misdoings.

An excerpt from an article authored by Ellington and Ferrarini shows the contrast between two neighbouring states: “Economists have debated for years why it is that some nations prosper while others do not. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea, DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea, ROK), for example, started out as poor nations after World War II. Now, South Korea has the same wealth as Western European nations, on average, yet North Korea firmly remains at the bottom of the world’s development ladder. This article suggests that institutions matter and that key institutions are fundamental to economic success.”

In a nutshell, one can refer to Aesop’s moral lesson “God helps those who help themselves” which is still true even after the passage of many centuries. We, too, can attain economic independence if only we resolve to help ourselves as well as those around us to persevere and make the best of whatever we have at our disposal.

The writer is a lawyer and author, and an Adjunct Faculty at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)