What a miserable year! I don’t say this lightly, but only after some reflection. It’s not just that on the political end the list of existing and exacerbating conflagrations seemed endless—Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan, Somalia, and Sri Lanka mark but not exhaust that list. Democratic processes did not improve, and indeed weakened, in a number of places—Russia, Thailand, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Egypt to name a few. Nothing really was done about global warming or oil dependency, the WTO process was paralyzed, Europe’s longstanding respect for diversity became suspect, the misguided, dangerous, and wasteful “war against terror” continued to confound and anger one-fifth of the world’s population, and, to really sum up the horribleness of 2006, worldwide arms spending went through the roof—a clear harbinger for worse things to come.
Yes, the Republicans lost control of the House and the Senate, ten presidential elections were held in Latin America in a decisive signal toward consolidation of the democratic process in that region, a group of poor countries received substantial debt relief, emerging Asian economies marched on, and, and I say this charitably, world markets came across as more capable of handling major shocks than conventionally perceived. On a net basis, however, bad things and bad news dominated the good during this sad, sad year.
It is not easy to be hopeful about 2007 either. In fact, it may well give 2006 a run for its money as America’s capricious focus (or the lack of it) on global issues here and there undermine further any international initiative to protect the global climate, reduce trade barriers, alleviate poverty, reduce nuclear proliferation, etc. While America struggles, it is hard to see anything else than more of the same: pockets of prosperity and promise here and there, grinding misery and violence and sheer hopelessness in many more places.
Yet, as the spread of the internet continues to complement globalization, and as the economic pull of emerging India and China become even stronger, one can dare to hope that it is not all doom and gloom. May be there is hope at the political end as well: could 2007 see a renewed attempt to bring the Israelis to ease up on their murderous occupation of the West Bank and the blockade on Gaza? May be, just may be, the U.S. will choose to bring Iran and Syria to the table to raise the hope for peace in Iraq. The burden for much of this is on the leadership of the Democrats, which I hope will focus on challenging the White House in getting things done, as opposed to fixating on the 2008 Presidential elections.
Also, in my narrow, personal sphere, as I see friends rejoice with their first-borns, bright eyed, enormously gifted nieces and nephews embrace higher education and work, and perhaps most importantly, reason and faith co-mingle without any contradiction in my father’s life, I see a ray of light. When Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Laureate, said audaciously that he envisions a future when people will visit museums to see what poverty used to be all about, he exemplified the capacity of the human mind to generate visions that can galvanize a generation. A world without challenge and disappointment is impossible, but as new spirits join this planet and new minds enter the world dynamic, may be we can all expect raindrops of good to shower on us in the new-year, giving us energy to move and look forward.
2007, here we come.