Monday 24 October 2011

Princely Revenge – Monday 24th October

"If an injury has to be done to a man, it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared"
Niccolo Machiavelli – The Prince

A bloody face. A hand held in protective posture from a wailing-mob. Machine guns flicking, fizzing through the camera’s panorama. Energetic chaos with frenzied ecstatic shouts surrounding one totally frightened and end-of-the-line-recognising  “king of kings”. A desperate and foreboding scene. Cut to another scene, the once frightened expression on the captured tyrant’s face now no longer displaying any sign of life, let alone terror. A revenge killing, pure and simple. Revenga.

A scene from an ultra-violent (and cheesy) Van Damme/Schwarzenneger revenge movie? The aftermath of Man City’s destruction of Man U yesterday? Not quite…everyone will now recognise the sequence of controversial events surrounding Ghadaffi’s capture and subsequent death. Yes, it was shocking. Yes, it was wrong on a human level… honest with yourselves and admit that it was the cleanest, simplest and most predictable end to an already convoluted and tired saga. No one had any interest in seeing Ghadaffi go on trial in a protracted mud-slinging match. No one will admit they are happier his end came about as it did, but in secret everyone is. And part of you knows that.

It would be a surprise indeed to find anyone that would argue the killing of Ghadaffi and his sons was not the simplest end to a messy few months. Sighs of relief (especially across the UK and parts of western Europe) were audibly heard behind the feigned looks of disgust and disapproval on the news of their demise. Reverberations were felt across the still bubbling rebellions in others parts of the Middle East – leaders there still clinging on to power, provided a nightmare-glimpse of their futures. If the cameras had not been rolling and mobile phone uploads to YouTube not been such an effective conduit of harrowing information, I very much doubt there would have been such an international uproar. Harsh, but true.

Fear, revenge, crowd-mania, the will-of-the-masses. Pick your poison. Throughout history, revenge killings have proved the most brutal. Re-read the quote above. The Libyan rebels obviously had. No risk of vengeance there. Not unless resurrection is on the cards. Revenge is such a powerfully emotive response to a period of perceived wrongful leadership, blamed for poverty, excessive corruption, brutal treatment of dissidents and even the general sinking of a people’s culture and identity. When finally the people have an opportunity to exact revenge on the very lightning-rod of all this suffering and misery, it should come as no surprise that a desire to witness justice in a courtroom is ignored for a more rapid and (in their wild-eyes, cleaner) jury-to-executioner process. Judgement as served by the people sweeps all before it. Just note the half-hearted shouts of objection and all-too-familiar brushing-under-the-carpet international “response”.

Machiavelli, knew and understood the power of revenge. In his unrelenting piece on leadership (“The Prince”), that far too many across the Middle East (and throughout other brutal dictatorships) have read cover-to-cover, he states that once a decision has been made to eradicate potential competitors to a position of leadership, not only should that individual be eliminated, but his/her immediate family and potential “revenge seekers” also be eliminated. This will explain the equally horrific (on a human level) killing of Ghadaffi’s sons. We can argue about each of their roles in the despotic government ad nausea, but a Libyan people tired of the 42-yr old guard saw the writing on the wall and acted with brutal and conclusive force. In the environment of a new liberated Libya, the laws of “The Prince” hold more sway and gravitas than those the international community would consider as the correct path to peace.

Are other developed nations any less Machiavellian? Saddam was found by US forces. Lucky for him. At least until he was handed over to the Iraqi “officials” who subsequently and extremely swiftly placed him on (a very short) trial and had him hung. Few would doubt that, had he been discovered by those oppressed by his regime for all those years, would he have even seen the inside of a courtroom. The US and others were surely not that sad to see him dealt with so swiftly and with as little collateral damage as possible. Was anything significant done after his hurried hanging? Nope. Again, it is easy not to have to argue over a dead corpse. What is done is done.

From Hitler’s suicide to JFK’s assassin being assassinated - would the US be a different place if Lee Harvey Oswald had ever made it to trial? – the rapid demise of controversy-embroiled characters and potential sand-pits of revelation have served the purposes of someone, somewhere. Even Mubarak’s sudden disappearance and ill-health is better for all. Abrupt removals of provocative characters is littered throughout conflict. It is much easier for the victor to (re)write the history books when a dissenting voice is silenced – permanently. Politics is not a clean and friendly game. There are certain deals that oft must be made with unsavoury characters at suitably symbiotic times. When the landscape changes, so does the value tethered to those agreements. This fate has befallen once all-powerful despots from ancient civilisations to recent Baltic monsters.  Out of sight, out of mind.

The public do not enjoy drawn-out affairs. Patience is not a group’s strong-point. The human brain moves on quickly from one event to another, with initial interest and attention turning into apathy and ultimately becoming a distracting element to a species’ otherwise naturally selected instinct to evolve and continue. We move on. That is what pushes humanity towards greater things. The constant desire to look forwards and not be bogged down with mistakes of the past. Reflection on past atrocities is not our strong-point. It is perhaps one of the reasons we forget our mistakes and learn so little from previous events.

Ghadaffi did not have the luxury of NATO ground troops tracking him down. He had the very same people he had ruled with an iron first – one which came crushing down a few too many times for their liking.

Buying Success
Looking quickly around, Abu Dhabi, in arguably their best investment ever, have funnelled so much cash into what was a mid-tier football team (Man City) to become a new leading force in the UK Premiership. Money can indeed buy you success it seems. Can money calm the Eurozone though? Europe is still faltering on the brink, with Sarkozy flipping (that’s what a newborn will do to your nerves) on Dave and asking the UK to “stop interfering” – but how will the UK relish the “we told you so” high-horse position if unable to laugh at the crowd below? Fun while it lasted.

China has seen an unfortunate portrayal of what an over-expanding society (9.1% GDP growth estimated for this year, still!) obsessed with materialism can lead to, leaving a toddler run-over and fatally injured in the middle of a busy road for a full twenty-minutes until one brave soul decided to rush to her aid. Some inner soul-searching being carried out there, quite necessarily. The spiritual land is having a tough time reconciling their new-found material wealth. Argentina has bucked the trend of defying long-running dynasties and re-elected the charismatic and recently widowed (had a lot to do with it) Cristina Fernandez. European leaders look on with envy, wishing they had the power to do with their bondholders as the Argentinians had done earlier this century. Watch-out for an end to the good-times there though. Berlusconi has had to take time-off from his busy schedule of partying to muster enough support and win through a number of confidence-votes – or did he simply throw the bunga-bunga parties for all those voting?

The US is still stuck in a political swamp of indecision. The next election is gathering pace. Usual group of unimpressive near-looney characters. Obama’s star may just continue to shine for another term. Few doubt that the country of innovation and opportunity will remain so for too long – but please start the process in earnest already. Life goes on and on..if your family name is not Ghadaffi that is.

Let’s hope the future leaders of these revolutionary countries don’t find thrown-away copies of “The Prince” in Sirte (or maybe download onto their e-readers), and especially ignore the advice that…
"Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it"

Easy tiger…not the best start to an open and understanding society.

Let’s discuss,

Monday 17 October 2011

Spicy Souls

Let’s keep it light today. They say variety is the spice of life. I love spice. They also say laughter heals the soul. I also love laughter. How about some varied laughter then? Sounds like a good combination to me. Varied laughter turns people into “spicy souls”.  

Where’s the problem? Trying to keep things light is not easy these days. Just ask anyone writing/commenting through the media, one eye on the global-vibe, the other witnessing it seemingly-spiralling towards disaster. As Obama said yesterday  - if nothing else, the world will remember this man and thank his poetically mesmerising speeches made at a time where so little inspiration surrounded us - standing in front of another admiring crowd, unveiling an impressive memorial to Martin Luther King, he declared that our current global issues are nothing compared to what the world faced during the days MLK Jr. preached for a realisation of his “dream”. Sobering stuff.

Generation after generation always looks back and considers itself lucky. Considers itself progressed compared to past relations, enriched relative to their parents and providing “happier” lives for their offspring than their own childhoods remembered. Are you listening out there? With one speech, Obama belittled those moaners comfortably sat-behind mahogany desks, driving to secure, mod-con equipped homes in luxury cars, even chastising those that don’t get ring-side seats, forgetting how lucky they are just to be living in a time of relative peace and basic prosperity across most of the developed world.

Wooah, what happened to keeping it light.. Ok, comedy can help us through the hardest times. Every joke is embedded with 90% truth they say. Maybe we are better suited at dealing with reality through laughter. Satirical, dark, all-out…it’s all laughter. “Laughter therapy benefits the body by increasing circulation, improving the flow of nutrients and oxygen to cells, and strengthening the heart muscle. Laughing also boosts immunity and is good for the lungs.” There you have it. You may gave guessed that previous sentence was lifted out of a medical journal. Laughter has been medically proven! We all trust what we find on WebMD, don’t’ we?  Not sure who said it, but as soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul. Does that mean those without a sense of humour are filthy people? Hmmmm…

Let’s ignore the usual weekly-review then, take a break from the attempts to advise leaders on how to actually leeeeaad and get straight into the smile-inducing stuff. Comedy shows, books and movies are in high-demand. We noticed a trend of escapism when Hollywood turned to comics and superheroes, providing 90 minutes of respite to thankful cinema-goers back in late 2008. A number of larger-than-life characters, capable of great feats, flew in to rescue us from dark days. These heroes ensured the world  felt safe while Osama Bin Laden still had a head, banks tried their best to burn cash, Facebook postings took over as a fun-night-out and three-for-one-deals on toilet paper dominated dinner party conversations – held over Skype, naturally. Those were fun times weren’t they?

Now we have a welcome trend towards comedy TV series. Any quick flick through the channel line-up (Virgin suck compared to Sky TV by the way, and Du and Etisalat in Dubai...sort out your remote controls) provides a veritable feast of comic genius. Fans of shows such as Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm (you smart ones you), 30 Rock (sharp), Modern Family (good fun), Outsourced, The Office, Big Bang Theory, Family Guy etc. are probably healthier for all the laughing they do. There’s a reason Fox is thinking of launching an entire channel dedicated to The Simpsons, and why episodes of Friends hit chart-topping numbers week after week, 10 years after the gang stopped being so.

We want to laugh. We should laugh. Comedy really is a modern release valve for creativity, providing a great conduit for silly-political-correctness destruction that surrounds us. The Brits do this political-comedy exceptionally well. “Have I Got News For You” exemplifies the best that laughter can offer. “The Daily Show” in the US is good for that part of the world. Dealing with life is often too serious to see through the ridiculousness. Exposing it with wit can bring clarity and revive a sense of logic. Hence the enduring and powerful effect of comic sarcasm and satire. A noticeable sharpness and realistic touch now threads through the more successful recent shows. The crowd-pleasers (eliciting sharp, easy laughs – hey..still good to laugh) complete an offering acceptable across a wide-palette. True genius (Blackadder) is worth re-watching over and over, if only to steal classic lines from.  

Or how about a couple of recent cinema releases. Seems laughter and the meaning of life are in demand. Outside of Hollywood, French comedies and a great Lebanese one (Nadine Labaki’s “Where Do We Go Now”) have been thoroughly entrenched in comic use of addressing otherwise depressing and humanly-dark issues, such as war. There’s a reason these movies are winning awards. Another epic offering by the controversial director Lars Von Trier (Melancholia – watch it) attempts to address the question of existence. Not quite a comedy but certainly laced with enough satire to alleviate the seriousness of the subject. How about books? A top-seller has been the new financial-thriller from Robert Harris, where a hedge-fund manager gets involved in an algorithm that essentially trades on Fear. Maybe those taking time to read books prefer to be rooted in fictional yarns and markets where people actually make money..thanks for ruining our theme here bookworms.

So we agree it’s good to laugh. Good. Depends where you live of course. In Dubai at the moment - a strange bubble-wrapped place of serious (surrounding) cash combined with those chasing it (not really a pretty sight…in either case) - you’d be mistaken for thinking we were living amongst a thousand Carlos Slim Helus, laughing their backsides-off, remembering how much interest their bank deposits are generating per minute. Other cities express a more balanced nuance towards the “haves” and “have-nots”. Inhabitants of more “normal” cities are probably laughing more at home than generating large smiles in public. Either way, protests across major capital cities remind us how profound a time we are passing through. Any excuse to lighten the mood must be welcomed.

How about music? Simple actually. If laugher is as good as we’ve agreed it is, music must be the food that feeds the soul. Shakespeare once said, "If music be the food of love; play on” Enough said. Could you imagine life without music? Not even worth thinking about it.

History records music’s origin as a story-telling tool. Well, how’s this for a story….two people sit across a table and talk. It’s quiet, far too quiet. Not because BBM has overloaded and blown-Blackberry-up (Obi Jobs Kenobi – the force is strong with that one), but because the cacophony of global issues has reached such a point that, what may have once sounded like an orchestral-strong-set of deafening dangers, has morphed into a constant, irritating din of despair and negativity. The conclusion to the conversation will have repercussions felt for years to come, affecting possibly billions. Happiness hangs in the balance. Lifestyles will revolve around the agreement about to be made. Stories will be written about this very story. The dinner couple? The lawyer holding Steve Job’s final will and testament containing his “future vision” and Sony Entertainment’s CEO ready to negotiate film-rights to the biography. Let’s hope it will be a comedy.  

Laughter heals the soul. Music feeds it. Love can apparently make the world go round. Someone spice it up and make it spin faster please.


Monday 10 October 2011

Operator! Give me the number for 911!

Hooray! Did you hear the good news? They’ve reached an agreement! Finally, a mature and successful conclusion to a series of hard-fought and inner-reaching negotiations that would have had disastrous consequences had they collapsed…yes..”The Simpsons” will return for at least another two further seasons..brilliant!

Now, if only those equally important and essential “actors” across European and US corridors-of-power would be able to take care of that other important little thing to continue its run for another few seasons…the Global Economy. Homer would be so proud of the farce created in Europe through a lack of political will. Good to know where priorities lie when it comes to what is important to society. Homer vs Jobs. Doh!

Another week of highs and lows. A quick necessary word of course for the sad passing of a titan in the tech-industry, Steve Jobs – rest in peace (more below). David Cameron seems to have forgotten the UK never entered the single-currency and his manners, by loudly shouting from the side-lines that the Euro has “but weeks” to survive and urging France and Germany to bury their differences and hammer out an agreement. Another “thank you for 1992” cheque in the post to George Soros should probably be the correct move by the UK. A small period of (relative and misleading) calm across the Levant, yet tensions still abound (clashes in Egypt overnight a worrying development) and felt at every corner across the wider Middle East: from Yemen to Libya where still the “evil one” is eluding the might of the international intelligence community, throwing insults at a wet-behind-the-ears transitional government and forcing an uncomfortable and unsatisfactory ending to the rebellion.

Who you calling a creator?

We still sit and watch the financial industry slowly implode. A massive and messy explosion would be more spectacular but human nature cannot handle such emotionally damaging and traumatic experiences. We need time to deal with loss. We elude reality at every corner for as long as possible in a cloud of hopefulness (see below) all the while secretly knowing what must really be done. Procrastination is dangerous. Yet it is part of our emotional-dealing-process.  The cannier and more realistic out there have recognised the writing on the wall for some time and moved on to pastures new. The financial industry had for too many years taken hostage an unfair proportion of incredibly skilled and talented individuals, putting to work their potentially society-changing minds and ideas in an environment where the only overriding desire was to “create” wealth – sorry, but no wealth is “created” in the financial world, unless you are literally printing money, like the Fed

Thank God for scientists that bother not with ego-massaging recognition, but carry with them some inherent desire to “better” things. The demise of the financial industry will only help accelerate this admirable human trait. Clever minds will gravitate to more meaningful professions. Will those same bankers also comprehend that there is more to life than grabbing the best table in a club and living out a fantasy “bling bling” life?…Ask a CERN scientist who “Professor Green” is and what he thinks of his latest musical release – sit back and take note of his facial expression.  Different worlds exist on this same planet.

Age and understanding

Throughout history, the old and powerful have married the young and beautiful. Not the perfect recipe for a smooth and happy relationship. Well, not for one side of it at least. After listening to an irate German official on one of the media channels and his outlook on the gloomy prospects for the Eurozone, a pattern began to emerge between couples and economic success. Can two totally different characters with so little common ground between them truly come together in a harmonious and arranged co-habitation? Look at Germany and France getting together with the rest of emerging Europe. Older still, Greece getting it on with the rest of Europe. We won’t even mention equally ancient “Turkey” which has been incredibly quiet about the entire Eurozone crisis after several years of yearning.

Several old and quite wrinkled nations with their set ways, strong cultures and, let’s be honest here, strong nationalistic tendencies. Bring in the new, young, good-looking and still learning but quite naïve nubile-nations of emerging Europe..and what do you get? A joyous and fruitful union? Endless nights of partying and days of comfortable companionship?…as we all know..that “honeymoon” period only ever lasts a few months.

As with any relationship that stands a chance of survival, some common ground must exist between the protagonists. A strong, mutual and often illogical physical attraction can be a wonderfully powerful and combining tonic. In the Eurozone’s case, emerging Europe was almost hypnotically drawn to the strength and allure of a wealthy and capitalist western Europe. The Euro was the equivalent of a lothario’s charm and guile, the Eurozone where he’d take his prey back after the successful hunt. For “old Europe” the intoxicating vibe and youthful exuberance of hope and unfettered ambition exhibited by those post-communist nations was blindingly glamorous and appealing. Emerging Europe was the devastatingly tantalising young-lady that old Europe wanted at their Eurozone party.

Sad reality is that these fleeting moments of illogical natural attraction (passion can be a great excuse for carnal desire) dissipate with time. As a satiating of the appetite wanes, stark differences in character, life-outlooks and comprehension make strikingly-wide appearances. France and Germany hoped that peripheral Europe, with its vastly different history and approach to the work-ethic in particular, would simply fall-in line with its pace of life. All hoped that a common factor in the form of the Euro would miraculously sweep away centuries of animosity and gulf-wide differences. Any quick glance at an inter-racial and age-defying relationship would have expressed the difficulties involved in keeping things together.

Relationships are about understanding and wanting the same things. The Eurozone is not a working relationship. One part of the relationship is too powerful. Certain commonalities are not going to outweigh a plethora of striking differences. The United States of America works on a single currency because the culture across the entire land hums in unison – the human desire to want more. Accepting that the “debt-of-one-is-the-debt-of-all “ is far simpler when you all have shared principles and ambitions.

Rotting Apple?

It is without question that Steve Jobs was a great man. Achieving as much as he did in only 56 years, the last of which were marred by ill-health and personal triumph ending in unfortunate but inevitable defeat, combined with global-dominating visions of the tech-future, was all nothing short of legendary. The trouble for his inherited empire begins now though. Legends are not easily followed. In fact, empires often crumble on the passing of their revered and once-in-a-lifetime leader. It is as if the weight of self-expectation and the proverbial shoes-to-fill are simply too heavy and large to bare. In earnest, there simply may not be another Steve Jobs around Apple.

Couple this with an industry that is as cut-throat and fast moving as an ancient battlefield, littered with the bodies of the weak where only the strong survive to conquer the lands they seek, and a picture of a shifting dominance in the “smart-phone” battle emerges. Samsung, HTC, Google/Android and Microsoft even, will more likely survive the next four years of innovation and shifting markets at the top of their game, higher than Apple. Imagine your bewilderment If someone had said to you back in 2004, as you were rushing-to-the-phone-store to pick up the latest new covers for your Nokia 8210 or showing off your “unbeatable” high-score on Snake, that Nokia would be almost dead and buried today – hmm..never say never.

Optimistically Healthy…

Scientists have quantified how optimism is actually good for your health. Apparently we optimists – I do consider myself one..why do you look so surprised? – actively acknowledge good news at the same time as partially ignoring risks and downsides. Hmm, sounds a little more like “ignorance is bliss”, but hey, with all that is happening out there, whatever works. Looking through the latest fog to emerge from the beginning of the end of the global economy, many would be quite tempted to adopt a Homer approach and simply admit..”If you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They're about to announce the lottery numbers.” Oh Homer (yes, that was him calling the Operator), ever the optimist indeed.

Enjoy the week...let’s keep talking.

Monday 3 October 2011

Frankenstein's Facebook

Frankenstein’s Facebook

Frankenstein’s monster…..never scared me. The classic irony of creation, exemplified in the quest for an anti-ethereal scientific form of perfection and everlasting, somehow more discomforting than frightening. Fashioned In man’s image, naturally.

Today’s modern-monster-creation equivalent? Facebook.

Now that scares me. Formed from millions of (posed) images of man, woman, pet and any possible element of one human being showing off to another. Facebook users, let’s be honest, the main point for an overwhelming majority of your devotion to the site, is but to rub your schadenfreude-sprinkled glee in other’s faces. An opportunity to delve into the lives of others whilst inviting others to delve into your “life” - or whatever it is you have created as an online portrayal of your existence (everyone suspiciously seems to live like they’re on an MTV video).

So why a monster tag for Facebook? Too much control, too much intrusion and way too high a level of influence on growing minds and perceptions as to what constitutes friendship and/or networking. Seemingly innocent, but really playing on natural human social/behavioural desires, unrelentingly focused on relationships… this person single? Even the Hollywood portrayal of Facebook’s inception saw founder Zuckerberg pivoting towards success only after the Eureka moment of adding the “relationship status” option . So, are we all really manifesting base human instincts (social gathering, mate suitability, reproduction) via today’s appropriately pertinent delivery mechanism? From cave to profile page. A human-leap of progress only in superficial terms furnished with modern expressions of strength and virility.

Has the original intention of the creation floundered beyond both control and reason? As with Shelley’s fictional tale, an experiment in social interaction has mutated and affected a significant swathe of humanity (800 million users at last count). Some, like myself (disclosure: I am not on Facebook) perceive a more worrying undercurrent of manipulation and basic profiteering of psychological insecurity. Worrying tales of Facebook-fuelled disorders abound, brought upon by awkward and inadequately equipped adolescents, struggling to deal with traditional but amplified in-the-world-wide-web of agony and instant humiliation/gratification world they reside in. A pronounced dilution of what a “friend” really means today. An exposure to adult-themes and issues witnessed by unformed and unsuitable young minds. For all the good that a social-networking tool like Facebook can do (keeping families in touch, spreading word of good causes etc.), the crowd-effect and danger of manipulation by powerfully-information-filled branding and marketing groups looms large.

Everyone knowing what everyone else is up to all-the-time, cannot be a good thing. Much of the latest financial crisis was created by the “me too” effect of marketing- causing a dangerous stretch beyond one’s reasonable means. A relentless barrage of pleasure-filled images of peers and “friends” serves to deepen modern society’s insecurities and unquenchable lust for “in-your-face” purchases. Worse still,  ideas of what constitutes the “correct” way to think and act, now increasingly influenced by staring at a screen and mimicking what the majority applaud and “follow”. Yes, there’s always been an element of the above threading through history’s cultivation of modern society, but it’s all happening so much faster and bigger now. Losing individuality and creativity is dangerous. The web has so far allowed a blossoming of creativity and admirable expressions of freedom – its greatest achievement – but amassing 1/6th of the global population into a huge branding exercise (as Facebook’s latest “media-hub” strategy has done) must rank as a worrying twist to this platform for open improvement.

E-mail?? What, you don’t have Facebook?

Putting yourself out there on display and sharing moments with a growing collection of “friends” is not seen as a major issue by many. What is growingly alarming is the level of comfort younger generations have with divulging what used to be known as private-information to near-strangers. A telling proponent of generational shifts is to witness attitudes by various age-groups to Facebook. The eldest view it is a useful tool for staying in touch. The youngsters, that have literally been brought up with a natural “status updating” lifestyle, seem to exist more in their profile than off it. That is wrong.

Have you had a conversation with a tech-savvy teen lately? It is easier to predict weather patterns in Guatemala than understand their mannerisms and hold their attention for-longer-than-a-neutrino-flash through a normal conversation. Only a couple of weeks back I was confronted by a look of confusion and a tinge-of-disgust by an 18yr old that I suggested an exchange of e-mail to. “Facebook me man” was the response - as if I had requested they hand-write a letter using cursive, with perfect grammar, swim across the Atlantic and personally hand-deliver it to my door. Wow. Are we really that far into it? Is e-mail considered old technology, akin to people laughing at those still sending faxes back in the 90s?

Get with the times grumpy-oldish-man!..some of you will be shouting. Adapting and moving with new technology is what creates barriers between every generation. Those very same barriers serve mankind well. They allow us to constantly push otherwise  taken-as-gospel previous achievements to one side and reach higher goals (point in case: the possible recent debunking of Einstein’s - and an entire previous generation’s - law of physics). Absolutely true. There is no room for grumpy older technophiles to stand in the way of younger, savvy, society-changing Tweeters and Facebookers. That is not the concern. All that is good. But, there should be alarm for the rapid loss of innocence, privacy and old-school style of communication that has served us so well for the last few centuries. A backlash has already sprouted amongst some of the more discerning, with increasing numbers actually deleting Facebook accounts in the realisation that simply too much exposure is actually detrimental.

Inventing new and wonderful ways to facilitate mankind’s constant drive for improvement and growth is admirable, natural even. An invention that starts off as a good-idea but morphs into an all-powerful daily component of everyday interaction, capable of shaping and moulding attitudes and perceptions, should be viewed with some scepticism.

Frankenstein’s monster’s Facebook page status? “Desperately seeking meaning for my existence”. Aren’t we all.

Let's please discuss....

Hani Kobrossi

Monday 26 September 2011

Riding the Wormhole

Riding the Wormhole…

“Blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” is often used to denote a speedy event unfolding. Spare a thought for the scientists sitting miles underground somewhere between Switzerland and Italy (no..they’re not smuggling gold-bullion) attempting to keep their eyelids open to catch pesky-tiny-atoms, known as neutrinos, literally turning time and Einstein’s coffin upside down in one faster-than-the-speed-of-light (to be precise: 60 billionths of a second faster – that’s a quick blink) swoop of mind-boggling (maybe) discovery.

Two things are clear from the last seven days:
1. There will be a war in the Levant. Israel will either strike Iran directly, or indirectly via Hamas and Hezbollah. Netanyahu was quite clear on this. The region will conflagrate in a short and painful confrontation. Result? A regional superpower in Turkey and a return to another untenable 15yr “solution” carved out between the Israelis and its Palestinian neighbours. State or not, these two peoples sharing a long history of animosity, will unfortunately discover living side by side is not a route to peace itself. We will surely be re-visiting this situation in the weeks to come.
2. Europe will witness a crack in the Euro with two or three periphery nations having to pull-out, Greece’s impending default this week the starting-gun and consequently two or three mid-tier nations following suit. Benvenuto Lira, Hola Peseta?

The above are our own neutrino-fast (at least until the CERN findings are either confirmed or opposed) amalgamation of a week’s worth of multiple sources of commentary, analysis, discussion - often descending into heated shouting matches - and fortune-telling. Let’s be honest, much of today’s media discussion is one-well-presented-step away from predicting the future, coupled with those involved in finance foreseeing the eventual winners (read: enriched benefactors) from global socio-economic situations.

The world may have infinite more conduits to distribute and analyse information but the oft-obscure-corridors of power where global-shaping-decisions are made maintain a grip on domestic and international policy. Democracy does its best to illuminate the process. It also does its best to confuse in the absence of a strong-willed and certain path. WikiLeaks aside (even Julian Assange had to swallow some of his own medicine with his unauthorised biography making its way to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list), quasi-official-think-tanks, coupled with supercomputers modelling global permutations, make the decisions – we shout and argue at the results, only to re-elect the same or similar groups. Someone please stand-up and show us the way.

Truth is, there is really very little more we can do here now but sit back and watch the events unfold. The politicians and our esteemed elected (mostly) leadership, must face up to the glaring truth and make the necessary changes they are loath to admit – living standards in this new economic order are not sustainable without further risk to the system, re-balance can only be achieved through some painful alterations (read: de-leveraging) to our spoiled way of life. The biggest problem? Politicians are elected by people. People elect politicians to not have to deal with such issues themselves and live life in blissful oblivion. Nice in theory. Reality? The people and the politicians alike, must grow-up and face this generation-shaping challenge like adults. Adults should have acknowledged by now that pain is intermittently an unavoidable element of life. Some pain must be endured for the relief to present itself along the road. There is no other way.

Spring in the desert?
An opportunity arose over the last weekend to focus on a long-standing favourite friend to controversy. A land attached to the Middle Eastern region and yet often felt to be a world-away from its problems and attitudes. In fact, despite a geography placing it slap-bang in the middle of some feisty neighbourhoods, more often than not it is unfeasibly difficult to locate a shred of the region’s culture, let alone spot a Middle Easterner herself. Yep, you guessed it…we are talking about our favourite construction site, a land of playground-like wonder attached to a gleaming airport-hub and holding onto two-man-made islands that keep attempting suicide by drowning themselves – Dubai.

I like you…ya3ni
Are you sitting down? Let’s begin with an admission. I now like Dubai. Yep, you read correctly…L-I-K-E….Not a great deal mind, but certainly enough to admit it.

Those that have spent time reading through articles (some, like those in the UK press, have been too full of vitriol, bordering on the racist), endlessly dissecting Dubai’s “grotesquely unauthentic” image, often with a barrage of insults towards its pricing structure in particular - with soft-shell crabs and vodka shots costing WAY too much, uhhhm… - will wonder how this admission of “liking” the city has arisen.

Well, gone are the “I-can’t-believe-how-hot-it-is” property bandits from certain parts of the UK - hopefully comfortably re-ensconced in picturesque settings like..ermmm..Sheffield. In, are those seeking an excellent infrastructure, safe and secure living environment and a growing sense of community and opportunity in an otherwise all-too-often gloomy and uninspiring global environment. In, are corporates and entrepreneurs attracted to the smart and canny combination of global-access through an efficient and well-run airline and comfortable residential options with a growing level of service (still some way to go here but definitely getting better). In, are restaurateurs providing innovative and refreshing dining environments (like La Petite Maison – shameful plug maybe, yes…but I look forward to my future free meals - worth eliciting shame for) with a rapidly improving benchmark of quality and ambience.

Overall, in a slow-blink-through-the-sandy-sunshine, Dubai has become a more than reasonable and worthy living environment. least for eight-ish bearably-warm months of the year. Better not to mention the other four-ish. Oh come weren’t expecting a sudden total admission of love for the city were you?

The big question that still remains is what is going to happen to the Dubai with the on-going regional issues (read: Iran), neighbourly demonstrations of influence/recognition envy (read: Qatar) and even-closer-to-home-efforts of Abu Dhabi’s own aspirations? I would direct you to a simple comparison. Go and sit in any random café and/or public place in the GCC (if you are a woman reader, you may have to choose both your location and attire carefully in some of those countries) and simply watch the world transpire around you. Pay careful attention to the sense of freedom, the vibe of expectation, lightness of emotional concern and sentiment, then admit where you would rather position yourself if you had to.

When the crisis really hit in 2009, some ugly skeletons jumped out of some deeply dark Dubai closets. As with any moment of fright, the initial reaction was shock and seeming indecisiveness. It was noted back then that time would tell. In the absence of time-travel (for now – come on CERN!), an optimistic peak into Dubai’s future holds nothing but rising success, as its mix of almost-efficient efficacy and lofty-aspiration resonates pleasingly against its successful hospitality offerings. Cash generation and project execution are its strengths. Imagine a future Dubai laden not only with an enticing and stimulating vision, but with access to Abu Dhabi’s wealth. Wow.

As we know, a lot can happen in a week. We may have another global financial meltdown by the time this weekend arrives. Clashes may erupt into more serious conflicts. NetFlix may become just another app in the unstoppable rise of Facebook – we really need to talk about that whole Facebook thing by the time. Who knows..maybe even Saudi women might be allowed to vote before we reach Wednesday?..oh wait..that’s already happened! Who’s going to drive them to the polling stations though?

At this moment, with all awaiting us this coming week, that deep underground-tunnel, humming beneath the majestic Alps leading to God-knows-where-through-Quantum-worm-holes, sure is looking like a fun ride out of this dimension.

Comments and discussion most welcome.

Hani Kobrossi

Wednesday 21 September 2011

And the deal making begins...

Monday 19 September 2011

I write, therefore I am

I write, therefore I am

Should one laugh with exasperation, or cry out of despair, on being faced with a return to the world situation from a writing perspective and finding all too clearly that “plus ca change…” Laughter would be the recommended choice. Tears should not be wasted on such a pathetic bunch of current global “leaders”.

So where are we right now? Well, Europe is still a total mess - am I reaaallly still writing about the diabolical Greek default almost two years after first muttering jokes of tragedies and over-cooked kebabs? -Obama has been all but declared a failure, not least by the Republican tactic of unfortunately treating him as an “invisible President” – with full racial undertones prevailing, China is rolling economically and socially forwards with unrelenting confidence (GDP growth +8.9% this yr, 7.8% 2012!) , overcoming hiccups here and there either through sheer determination or violent oblivion depending on your viewpoint, the Middle East is grappling with variously consistent rumblings of discontent as well as the sobering reality of re-creating entire political frameworks pursuant to revolution-euphoria-high-comedowns, unsuspecting traders are still destroying once stable and revered banking reputations in what will cost UBS $2.3bn for lack of adequate control (expensive mistake) and last but not least, Berlusconi is still partying whilst watching his nation’s debt reach near-junk-status. Too much pink-champagne for his friends, but real-pain for the sham-economy. Old Silvio albeit upstaged by the new lothario-champion, “not-guilty-your-honour-DSK” admitting overnight that he may have made “a-mistake” – hmmm, what a shame he won’t be the next French President. Pathetic bunch.

To Exist or Not To Exist
The most pressing matter for many Middle-Eastern political observers this week will be the Palestinian statehood saga. The Palestinians are due to table a motion for full UN membership for their, desired, independent state. Surprisingly the US (hold your breath) has said she will veto the move (why must the power of the veto always be declared long-before the draw? – ruins the dramatic impact).

Predictability aside, this move poses a serious conundrum for several of the UN Security Council. Polls and research are pointing to a majority support for the Palestinian motion. The US’s veto, no doubt influenced by powerful groups (AIPAC anyone?) chiding Congress back home, will expose fundamental flaws in hot-air-talk of peace plans and road-maps-to-nowhere reconciliation. Israel herself is being backed into an increasingly awkward corner. Faced with the prospect of refusing the Palestinians exactly what she herself existentially seeks, Israel inevitably moves further into the international black-spotlight. Zero aspiration for flexible negotiation, coupled with a history of less-than-accepting perceptions of frailty, make for another increasingly likely scenario in which Israel fights her way out of that corner…and boy can she punch hard.

Much has already been written about the potential consequences and arguments made for and against the matter (the FT had an excellent article over the weekend in the commentary section), but I see it as more black-and-white than most maybe.

Descartes famously uttered...”I think, therefore I am” . Deep-stuff no doubt my philosophical maestro, but merely thinking right now about an issue is not a solution. The Israelis seem to adopt a “we survive by doing what we must, therefore we are” approach to negotiation, the Palestinians “we-do-what-we-can in a futile situation, therefore we should be” and the rest of the region muddle through half-hearted attempts at forging a new existence through louder voices and more boisterous involvement in their own fates – about time.

The position we find the Levant in at present is thus a question of existence. Does Israel “exist”? Do Palestinians have any chance of creating a firm “existence”? Do Syrians, starving in their home-towns and demanding leadership change, “exist” in the eyes of their desperately clinging-on President? Will Iran’s influence across the Middle-East crescent “exist” if its theological followers are no longer aggressing towards a common target? Add into this mix of pondering, a flexing, growing and maybe overly-confident, then again maybe not given its economic strength and de-facto agreement of regional dominance/stability by the US, Turkey and you get history’s favourite recipe…a volatile time-bomb. What’s the solution? Well, all-out war is one. With all its unpredictability, destruction and suffering. The other, as pointed out by some smarter and cannier individuals/commentators than we could ever hope to be here, is…all-out and total agreement.

Hold on! ..I hear you all scream. Either war or total agreement?? How can that be? Well…when so many parties have so much at stake, there is usually an opportunity for smart and effective negotiation whereby disaster can be replaced by pacification and placation. In other words, money and promises of power. Iran, Israel, Turkey: all three have their own agendas dictating their approach to regional politics. Each agenda can be bought. Simple. Give a little to each and allow them to preside over their own sphere of influence, comfortable in the knowledge their people will feel stronger, richer and hence more powerful and able to “think and exist”. The US will surely be selling this…question is..will the punters be buying?

The Economist has an ”R-Word Tracker” – whereby a record is made of the number of times the world “Recession” is mentioned in a certain number of intellectually influential publications (sadly no, mine is not included) and used to generate a chart of impending doom. So what’s in store this week? Bernanke will most likely unveil QE3 (great, another trilogy) at the Fed’s expanded 2-day meeting, Greece will likely default ahead of an upcoming EUR750m coupon payment, catalysing EU Ministers to actually make decisions and take decisive action, the Middle East will continue to boil in its own ineptitude and no doubt emerging economies will continue to expand and focus on bettering themselves. Get ready for a whole lot of chart-topping R-words.

With all the economic tension and seemingly irreconcilable animosity swirling around us, you would think that the world was once more frightened into sitting at home and twiddling it’s thumbs around a budget DVD night-in, right – WRONG! We are not witnessing the tortoise-like relapse into income-saving shells as seen in late 2008 (oh yeah, happy belated 3rd birthday Lehman!). Rather, anyone lucky enough to have travelled around Europe in either July or August, would surely have witnessed a huge increase in the number of super-yachts moored off hot-spot beaches and restaurants. And where were the lucky sailors mostly from? Mainly Chinese.

Confucius vs. Descartes. Let the thinking begin.

Comments and discussion welcome. Hani Kobrossi

Friday 1 April 2011

Not much to smile about

Not much to smile about

“Smile and the world smiles with you”….if only it were that simple.

Last Friday, 11th March: Despite entertaining a huge grin on my just-woke-up-automatically-thinking-it-was-time-for-work but realised it was the weekend face, it took but a matter of minutes to realise not many others in the world were smiling at that moment, nor would they be for some time to follow. It is currently difficult to attempt normally stress-relieving tongue-in-cheek analysis of global events. Sobering as it is though, the present situation could not go uncommented.

The dramatic and heart-breaking live images of a terrible, frightening and simply inevitably destructive tsunami flowing relentlessly, anonymously and uncaringly through Japan’s north-eastern lands was enough to banish even the most optimistic smiling individual into a depressing, dark and emotionally straining outlook on the world we “live” in today.

Amidst the might of nature’s destructive power, political and social strife across swathes of the globe and incessant images of human suffering and struggle, one would be forgiven for thinking we’ve never had it so bad. Of course, the truth is a combination of concurrently despairing situations and also the increased awareness of a wired-in global population consistently fed with 24-hr news coverage. There is no doubt that we are facing a number of dangerous and truly pivotal geopolitical events, exacerbated by an increased collective conscious, knowledgeable of all the latest (unfortunately worsening) facts and figures.

From minute-by-minute updates on the possibility of further devastating earthquakes, to intricate explanations (with diagrams) of Water Boiler Reactors and chances of “nuclear-meltdown”, the theological and “religiously foreseen” battle of Sunni versus Shia and uprooting of half-a-century-worth of ineffectual rule and leadership, the general population is faced with the ugly consequences of complete on-demand global information. Too much can almost feel, well – too much.

Anyone that has visited Japan – I have luckily had the pleasure of both spending time in Japan and the honour of working with the Japanese – will know that the unique and inspiring model of civility that pervades every facet of the population, will see the Japanese people through this darkest of times. Almost a week gone by and after hundreds of hours of analysis and prognosis, sickening images of evil waves literally washing away man-made constructions and man alike, the social situation in one of the world’s most populous lands (per sq. ft.) remains a glowing and warming example to the rest of what passes for humanity these days. Just imagine what we would be witnessing if it were the US West Coast. Social calm and caring community in Los Angeles? Your shudder is audible.

Rumours and panic battle with logic and sense – that is to be expected after such a traumatic experience and the on-going danger in the form of Fukushima. However, who could not take heart from watching the collective and orderly manner with which the general Japanese public have continued to stoically announce they are prepared to rebuild, re-engineer and re-start – the very fabric of what has provided a lot of the world technology, manufacturing quality and prowess all-too-often taken for granted.

End Game – one that must be played
As for the Middle East, not a consequence of Mother Nature’s ire (she can be seriously scary when angry), but very much so a destructive and start-anew series of political tsunamis.

Events are moving so fast around the region that by the time I finish writing this, Gaddafi may well have invaded Italy, Algeria been re-colonised by France, Egypt declared a Sharia-ruled state and Saudi Arabia declared the 51st US State (or would that be 52nd after Israel?). Tunisia and Egypt seem but a distant memory as Libya and Bahrain dominate oil and gas concerns.

Most well-informed observers agree the big picture is far more frightening and potentially disruptive than the desire to effect democratic change or even simply feed your starving family. We are talking about US versus Iran here - a long-standing struggle for influence across the region. China also has a part to play in this volatile scenario - but that’s an entirely other topic to investigate in controversial detail.

The continued harassment of domestic (and international) efforts across the Middle East by a vitriolic and apparently unstable Iran simply cannot continue. Whatever reason they have for wanting to sacrifice the wealth and happiness of their own population, for the destructive influence of a disruptive “Shia militia” sweeping across southern Lebanon, through the heart of Gaza, Eastern Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the Iraqi blood-stained streets, the conclusion can only end in the pain of eradication for either one of the US or Iran. I know where my money is.

Why? ask. Iran’s stance for the last decade has been one of representing the “fight against Western meddling” in Middle Eastern affairs. It is no secret that Iran and Saudi despise one another. Bahrain’s decision to “invite” Saudi forces into Bahrain (yeah right…if you believe there was a choice in that “invite”, you probably believe Berlusconi didn’t really sleep with any of the 33 teenage models invited to his Bunga Bunga parties), is a dangerous escalation in this long-standing battle. The game of chess that Iran has been content to play, with the aforementioned pawns scattered across the Middle Eastern mess-of-a-chess-board, has just experienced a check-mate moment.

US and Saudi intentions are clear. Iran will not be permitted to meddle any longer in the perceived stability of western-backed Arab states. It is now Iran’s move. They have two choices: 1. Sit back and do nothing and live on to await another opportunity to meddle (US and Israel have truly run out of patience with that play though) or 2. Live up to their rattling rhetoric and unleash their belligerent influence through Hezbollah, Hamas and those Shias in Bahrain and Iraq loyal to the Tehran superior-council.

Either way, Iran’s current leadership is targeted for extinction. Israel has been uncharacteristically quiet since Egypt’s opening of Pandora’s box. Expect that to change the second Iran’s desperate and impulsive move to create another battle-front on its (Israel’s) northern border and Gaza enclosure backfire spectacularly. Leaders in desperate positions will resort to desperate measures, even if suicidal.

Far fewer muscles required…
As the worrying images continue to emanate from the Fukushima plant, Bahraini protestors are savagely beaten and Libyan rebels are “cleansed” whilst the world contemplates a no-fly-zone four weeks after first mentioning it (even the most bureaucratic corporations are more effective at execution than the global community – despicable), it seems a momentous straining of the facial muscles to switch a concerned global frown into anything resembling a smile.

It is not surprising that one currently concludes there is very little to smile about. Frowning too much and forgetting how to smile when the world so needs compassion though, will only serve the miserable descent that make us less human. And it will give you serious wrinkles.

Hani Kobrossi

Monday 31 January 2011

Location = Egypt, Egypt, Egypt

Location = Egypt, Egypt, Egypt

You leave the world for a few months and what happens? Apart from approaching the brink of total-meltdown across the Middle East, stranger things abound - like Berlusconi “no-I’m-not-having-a-power-trip-crisis” throwing notoriously rowdy and surprisingly well photographed soirees - without inviting us - or the sudden emergence of China at Obama’s doorstep with full global-super-power-welcome-parade ( one in the US had realised they were sort-of powerful before?), royal weddings shaping future travel plans for thousands of tourists via Heathrow (if it’s not snowed over) and of course, the most important significant event of the last 6-mths or so, Dubai’s opening of the incredibly originally named “At.Mosphere” (honestly – how do these PR guys sleep at night?…maybe only a little more soundly than bankers) in the majestic Burj Khalifa. Nope, not been there yet, but then again there have been some more important issues to deal with apart from sipping on what is surely the highest-priced (yep, big pun) vodka-martini in the world.

I wish there were a happier note on which to return to commentary on what appears to be a world in continual turmoil, but if this is what path we have ahead of us then we must travel accordingly – no? If we do not seize the opportunity now and here to do what is only right, the very benefit of having raised our heads above the African Savannah (bear with me here) thousands of years ago to separate ourselves from beast, what good is the development and sacrifice that so many have made before us?

Those are admittedly lofty words, but meant as a projection of the tone encompassing the last few weeks. Events have brought much of such effusive and supposedly inspiring tales of progress and development from all corners. In fact, it has been nigh impossible to read through a well-respected journal or switch on a proper news network (no Fox News, alas not you) without being met with a deluge of lofty rhetoric and singing praise for the ever-changing winds of progress – from South East Asia’s continued economic progress, along China’s ascent to proper global-stage-protagonist, across the incredibly flammable Middle East (more below), transcending Europe’s lofty single-currency aspirations and the US’s “Sputnik” movement of urgency and hope – the world is as breathlessly filled with seemingly insurmountable obstacles as memory serves. Then again, every generation always believes it is facing the most fraught period of development for humanity. So far so good. No reason to believe this is about to change now. That would be incredibly arrogant of us wouldn’t it? Try telling that to the fear-loving journalists out there.

Egypt - A People’s Fear?
Two words. Suez and Canal. In fact three; Suez, Canal and Israel. Notice the blaring omission of normally automatically word-associated “oil” pinned to the Middle East.
The constant stream of journalists lavishing unbounded praise and seemingly heartfelt admiration on Tunisians and Egyptians (as well as the broader “restless Arab street”) may end in regretfully cringing backtracking.

There is no doubt that the uprising of those oppressed for so many years at the hands of corrupt and crony-loving Western-placed leadership dynasties is a good thing. There is also no denying that the poverty that exists across the greater populous, at the sake of the incredibly wealthy few across the Levant and North African countries, is a direct result of excessive years of preferential treatment to those willing to acquiesce to the perceived greater good (for “good” read: smooth transportation of affordable oil).

Without pretending to be a deeply-knowledgeable expert on all things Egyptian (as so many news reporters suddenly appear to be), it doesn’t take a genius to sit back and wonder where exactly all this popular uprising will go. The problem is that this may all end in tears again. A la Iran. Back in 1979, the world first greeted the Iranian revolution with a sense of content and admiration that a people were taking it upon themselves to move aside a force they considered detrimental to the country’s great future. The Shah was loved in the West more than he was at home. Many thought the Shah Royalty were moving Iran in the right direction, but the surprising backlash erupted and concluded in what is, ominously still today, a bewildering move towards Islamic fundamentalism.

What happened there you ask? A simply answer really – human nature. In extreme cases of uncertainty and subconscious fear, masses will be moved by the few that display poise and a clear-calming strategy. Fear leads to impulsive decisions and a large dose of “crowd theory”. Fear is the rational politician’s best friend. That excitement and adrenalin of revolution is not always pure joy but more a total sense of fear-shock-adrenaline of the unknown - like sitting at a Vegas roulette table with a 1 million Dollars on black and those ten (nine…eight…seven), unbearably frightening (exciting?) seconds of wheel-spinning-ball-bouncing-watching. If someone came to you half-way through the spin and suggested you run away with half your winnings, would you listen? That is the issue here. Will the people of Egypt really get what they want at the end of this saga. Or will an exceedingly tactful and well-timed extremist leadership take advantage of a power vacuum and appeal to the short-term sensibilities of the masses? Iran in 1978 didn’t think Khomeini would be their leader in 1979. Whom are the Egyptians hoping for as their leader in 2012?

Mass media and the internet have changed everything, I hear you scream in disapproval of the above scenario. The world we live in is vastly different in every conceivable way from 1979. The people of Egypt are more savvy and aware. Technology and social awareness has seen to that, they say. They will not give in to charismatic and affably attractive short-term promises of greater reform as a result. That may well be, but the power of the individual to rally an entire group of bewildered (and once again – frightened) poverty-stricken protesters is arguably more potent than any amount of Twittering. The average shop-keeper on the streets of Cairo doesn’t update his Tweet via his IPhone. No, he’s more interested in finding out where tomorrow’s trade is coming from to feed his family. As loud the voice of the crowd is today via mass communication, the power and effective eloquence of the individual’s rallying-cry, echoes as vividly as ever above a cacophony.

Don’t be fooled by the naïve and hysterical “we-sense-a-24-hour-coverage-bonanza” media coverage. Read the history books and analyse the Arab street for yourself. That is to say, speak to people who have lived through such revolutions. Even Lebanon’s revolt against Syrian intervention in 2006 has resulted in some then unforeseen ramifications. A move towards extremism is dangerous for all involved. Only open dialogue and calm, controlled discussions in a suitable state of discourse will bring about the lasting sense of justice that so many around the Middle East seek. Sudden change and revolt will only temporarily solve the solution. The cracks in the proverbial Arab wall cannot be plastered over forever.

Sure it is admirable to sit and watch the people take matters into their own hands. Do the people look towards the bigger picture though? Whoever ends up as the (hopefully) democratically elected leader of a disjointed people inherits control of one of the world’s most important shipping conduits. The world has gone to war before over the Suez Canal. No one can be sure it will not again. Decisions over foreign policy, not least the now-precariously-placed peace treaty with Israel, will surely be high on the agenda of the international community, but crucially, not that of the Egyptians who are revolting for themselves, not the international community. This is a misalignment in interests that may well prove disastrous to the longer-term picture for the global community.

There are several scenarios where this plays out to, none of which will solve the issue fully for at least another few years.
1. Probable: Mohammed El-Baradei is elected leader in a properly democratic election and attempts to maintain most of what the West perceive as a desirable status quo with Israel and its allies. Egyptians are temporarily placated by winning their right-to-vote and have it counted, but the issue of poverty does not disappear overnight.
2. Hopefully Not: An international peace-keeping force is sent in under the auspices of maintaining an open and free trading route via the Suez Canal. Low-level protests and a general discontent continues for several inconclusive years (possibly ending in the same conclusion as below).
3. Far-fetched but mistakes can be made: Mubarak clings on and brings bloodshed and chaos to a country otherwise interested in moving onwards commercially and economically. The Muslim Brotherhood sense their opportunity and call for a total revolution, which succeeds. Israel then must consider an invasion.

The troubles in Egypt might reflect a growing and dangerous dissatisfaction with the ineffectual “leadership” within the always volatile Middle East (history has a nasty way of repeating itself over thousands and thousands of years, just ask the Mesopotamians and Byzantines) but what we are seeing today is more a cause of what some inwardly critical geopolitical commentators have correctly cited as “immature Western policy”. One only hopes that this generation’s governing powers read their history books and tread along a path with longer-term vision than many of those in recent memory.

Let’s hope they grow up fast.

Hani Kobrossi