According to Alexander Pope, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast” and to live without hope is to cease to live. A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success. As we eagerly enter the New Year amid the despair and evil that haunts our country and the world at large, good can come out of evil and there is a desperate need to believe that for the sake of our future generations.
We are faced with the multiple horrors of a troubled and divided world, with the horrific crisis of the bloodbath in Palestine, the Russia-Ukraine war, climate change, the rising tensions between the USA and China and the increasing poverty and polarisation at home with the spectre of a looming economic and political crisis after the elections. One can only hope and pray for peace on earth, stability, prosperity and an end to global poverty.
A small painting that hung in the cell of Nelson Mandela during his long prison term of 27 years was titled “Hope.” This painting by Frederick Watts showed a blindfolded young girl trying to play a harp with all its strings broken. And frankly speaking, the title of the painting should have been “Despair.” But as explained by Nelson Mandela, even when faced with a hopeless situation one must retain hope and this is what he personified during his 27 years of incarceration during which he suffered an attack of TB, faced death constantly and saw close friends go to the gallows. But he was always hopeful that one day he and his country will enjoy the fruits of complete freedom from the horrors of apartheid and white supremacist rule.
Today, in spite of the dark and gloomy atmosphere and whispers of doom and gloom there are flickers of hope. In Pakistan, elections have been announced and there is every hope that the new government after the elections will be able to put the country back on the track of political stability and economic recovery and exhibit the badly needed qualities of good governance and sensible economic management. History is witness that even in the direst circumstances of despair, hope can come alive in the presence of inspired leadership.
The mid-1960s were the height of the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union were almost on the brink of a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile crisis and then the speech of the visionary John F Kennedy in June 1963 inspired the very first nuclear test ban treaty between the bitter rivals Russia and America. The close collaboration and understanding between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev resulted in the biggest reduction of nuclear weapons in the history of the world, and the environmental breakthroughs in the 1980s, when far-sighted Russian and American scientists came together and finally addressed the hole in the ozone layer.
Environmental activism led to the 2015 Paris climate accord, a pact achieved at a time when protectionism was the order of the day. It was in 2008 when, during the biggest financial crisis since the 1930s, China and India were prepared to join in a solution, and the 20 richest countries, now known as the G20, underpinned the world economy with $1tn, the biggest international rescue package in history. None of these advances could have happened unless leaders, recognising the gravity of the crisis, were prepared to rally to a common cause.
Major turning points in world history are clear reasons to hope. The Middle Eastern crisis in Palestine has to end in a peace treaty and the implementation of the two-state formula to end the sufferings of the people of Palestine. Now the entire world especially the Muslim world has to work together to salvage a peace deal between Hamas and the rabidly fanatic far-right Zionist ruling faction in Israel. Saudi King Abdullah and his government can play a key role to ensure financial and security concerns for a durable and long lasting peace.
The Russian onslaught on Ukraine must be contained and peace ensured in the region. Climate change and the resulting horrors are now a reality and we know how to avert climate catastrophe, but the wealthiest oil-producing states who have gained trillions in windfall profits should be persuaded to take the first steps to funding the mitigation and adaptation desperately needed in the global south. World leaders and our national leaders know what is needed for the common good of the world and our own citizens suffering under the heavy yoke of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and disease - and what needs to be done to end the multiple horrors of poverty and illiteracy.
Change requires the wealthiest countries to step forward and take up responsibility for a world that they have so far only ruthlessly benefitted from.