Perhaps there has never been a time when the world has shared as much as it does today, from resources to trade, from security to health, from information to sentiment. The globe has become one big communicating vessel where nothing that happens at one end of it leaves any other part unaffected. It makes me wonder if the phrase ‘global village’, first introduced back in 1968 by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore in their book War and Peace in the Global Village, hasn’t given way to ‘local well’; after all, it is at the local well that the village has traditionally gathered and shared news and information, and what touches the well affects all in a community.
There is a growing feeling of suspense and anxiety that is building all over the globe, and the ease with which it crosses boundaries and affects those in its wake is unprecedented. Gone are the days when we can think that whatever is happening elsewhere is happening to someone else. Here in their place are the days of what is befalling others is happening to me – if not immediately and materially, then certainly very quickly after, psychologically and emotionally, giving us barely any time to brace ourselves. We live in a time of multiple cliff-hangers, and we seem to lurch from the peril of one to the threat of another, keeping us in a protracted state of high pressure. Where does this all lead to?
While quite a few of the financial markets have rebounded since the meltdown of 2008, one gets the impression that the world is still mopping up. Somehow, though, there seems no end to the mopping and the level – which was supposed to recede – keeps on rising. More than four years later, I am sure many would like to think that we have broken the back of that challenge, or that we are at least making progress in resolving it. But, as more organizations make money, the average individual is becoming less affluent, thereby leaving us all in a sustained state of anxiety as we fear that the world may regress to what it missed by the skin of its teeth.
Suppressing the sigh of economic relief are Europe’s fiscal challenges. They continue to bloat and expand, sending blood pressures skywards not only in Europe but everywhere else, because we live in a hyper-connected world where we are all subject to pretty much the same kind of pressures everywhere. With this in mind, should the EEC disintegrate – perish the thought – I am sure we will feel it even more. So, for those amongst us who have forgotten about the beginning of the economic meltdown, the interconnected, cascading European fiscal challenges keep churning one cliff-hanger after another.
Meanwhile, as someone connected to, or part of, the corporate world, you are probably experiencing what grilled halloumi goes through; sandwiched between receding revenues and rising costs at a time when everyone who touches your life is asking for more. Naturally, this is a good time for the new favourite cliché of ‘more for less’ to take centre stage. If the global and European economic challenges were previously topics you either read or heard about in the news, the halloumi syndrome is something that you will experience every waking and working hour of the day.
For the people of the Middle East, there is extra topspin. What initially promised to be a glorious Arab Spring that inspired people with hope and optimism seems to be giving way to a long winter of discontent, as more and more countries approach the brink while some continue spiralling downward. The trend is not reassuring, unless there is a sudden about-turn which redresses the course of events and brings in a ray of hope.
The list goes on and on. Every day we are treated to a new development that defies logic and everything that humanity stands for. The widening circle of potentially life-changing developments makes me wonder how much longer, and how much more our region – and the world – can take. No event seems innocent anymore. The addition of every new one creates multiple scenarios and is getting more and more of us to think one question: Where is this going? It certainly feels like something has to give.
So far, the approach has been to apply Band-Aid solutions in a proportion that could have easily sent the Johnson & Johnson stock through the roof. We need a major reset and rebooting to chart a new course that will pull us away from the cliffs. Tomorrow needs to be better, and we have to continue believing that it will be, so that we can mould it to our beliefs and desires. Failing that, there will be many a grilled halloumi to go round.