Read Lubna’s blog insights where she takes a fresh look at governance to create stronger countries and business

It was a time of sadness – but one of hope, too

Lubna Qassim posted this on


I personally felt as if I were living at the speed of Concorde; I am not sure that 2008 gave the world a chance to breathe, or even to sigh: it has been a year of such dramatic incidents. If asked, how would you sum up 2008? I have attempted to summarise it in a few words – but have successfully failed the attempt.

Newspapers and television channels around the world have attempted to keep their audiences amused around the clock for the last 12 months. On a quick reflection of this year, the historic opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic games in Beijing, with their superb displays of Chinese talent and the lavish fireworks spectacle will always remain memorable.

The last many weeks, however have kept everyone on their toes and destroyed the usual consumer mood to shop for the year end celebrations. First there was the massacre in Mumbai, and then the horrifying Israeli bombardment of Gaza, with hundreds killed and thousands injured. And all this while, around the globe, hundreds of thousands of people have been made redundant.

Yes, 2008 has brought tears in abundance, but we must not forget there was also laughter as well as anger, and there was also hope.

Speaking of hope, the US elections could not have been more interesting; especially the Democratic choice between a white woman and a black American, and the world awaited the final result with patience and curiosity for America’s choice. Barack Obama’s victory over John McCain stirred a lot of emotions of hope and regenerated faith in humanity again.

The world witnessed something that many people would not have even dared to dream. It is only four decades ago that black Americans struggled to obtain their basic rights, such as a decent education. It is encouraging to realise that 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, his dream has been fulfilled. I don’t think anyone would dare to envy Obama in 2009 as he has more than a challenging year ahead of him. Not only will he have to fulfil the bold promises he made to his people, but he will also have to clean and clear the pollution created by the former administration while leading his nation through the worst economic downturn since the great depression. Most importantly, he will also have to restore the world’s faith in America. Obama is under test, and the world will be watching him very closely; many will be waiting for a single mistake so as to discredit him.

In 2008, we also had to say goodbye with regret to many people who had made a real difference to the world: Hua Guofeng, who as Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party developed the economy and the education system, restoring calm in the most challenging times after Mao’s death; Paul Newman who lived a charmed life; Suharto, who did good and bad to the Indonesian economy; Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian guru; and Yves Saint Laurent, the French fashion designer who introduced trousers for women and redefined fashion forever.

In mid 2008, the world was hit by a financial tsunami. As I write it is affecting both multibillion dollar industries and individuals. What is scary about this crisis is that its parameter is undefined, its depth is unknown and its course unpredictable. It is only a few months since Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11. I still can’t digest the fact that such an institution could collapse so spectacularly. Hundreds of questions have been raised, but as yet there are very few answers.

More recently, I was alarmed by the revelations that the entire $50 billion business of the Wall Street “wizard”, Bernard Madoff, was a criminal scam. There is obviously a huge flaw in the system if he could get away with it for so long. What concerns me more is that so far only Madoff has been discovered. How many more are there as yet undiscovered?

As 2008 comes to an end, with Gaza again in ruins, it is also very sad to experience the tensions between India and Pakistan. I often wish that Muhammad Ali Jinnah had listened to Mahatma Gandhi and not insisted on the partition of the subcontinent. I view India and Pakistan as one soul in two different bodies.

None of us may have a quick solution for many of the problems ahead of us, but today is a time to reflect on our actions and question why the world is where it is. It is time for us all to stand in unity and work collectively to resolve the problems ahead. We should appreciate that we live in a global village and are part of each other, therefore any kind of negative or positive impact in a country at one end of the globe will have an impact on other countries. The large scale of the planet’s problems, whether from global warming or financial crisis, can’t be resolved by individual persons or nations. It is time for us to share knowledge and expertise globally, and aim to live in harmony and peace. The world – and humankind – are under test. I wonder how we will act and react in 2009?

As published in The National on 1 Jan 2009.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *