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