This is the time for predictions. But, frankly, when you see the way the world is evolving and the trends that are emerging, you don’t need a soothsayer to tell you that things really are not going to get that much better!
Firstly, — and this is something everyone knows is a fact! — the weather will continue to wreak havoc on us. Secondly, the political situation is not going to get any more stable. With Republicans in control of the US Senate, it is hard to imagine how President Barack Obama will proceed with liberal policies and how that would influence world relations. Thirdly, economically, except for a few countries and pockets of areas, the world will remain where it is today. Improvements will be slight. Oil prices will remain depressed — I suspect, until the Islamic State threat is eliminated. As long as oil prices are down, demand for low-priced IS oil on the black market is expected to be curtailed, thereby restricting the flow of funds into IS hands.
Lastly, — and, this is where I envision the most stresses, individual and societal — social, cultural and religious conventions will continue to break down leading to polarising of communities. The most tensed polarization will happen not between the rich and the poor or the capitalists and the communists or the West and the East or the developed nations against the less developed nations, but between the conservatives and the modernists, across the world.
As more people seek to modernise, there will be accompanying inner stresses and these need to be recognised and addressed proactively to avoid a backlash to conservatism which may have greater negative repercussions on the larger societies. A good example is the IS, born out of chaos when an older more development-prone order broke down, which gave rise to hitherto downtrodden conservatives to assert themselves. A result? IS on the loose.
Locally, that is the greatest fear. Politicians wanting to stay in power are wooing the conservatives. The result may be a shift in power bases which may see a resurgence of conservative Islamic policies, political parties and non-government organisations. The northern state of Kelantan is an example. PAS, the Islamic party that rules the state, is determined to introduce Hudud laws there, yet, the state lags behind other states in terms of development.
Kelantan suffered the worst floods ever over the Christmas season. More than 90,000 people were evacuated. But, flooding is not an unusual phenomenon in Kelantan; it happens every year around this time which is when the North East monsoon lashes down on the East Coast state. Despite past experiences, the state was not prepared for floods.
Common sense dictates that development is essential to uplift the standard of living of the people and there is a need to set in place an effective drainage system to channel flood waters out into the sea. But such foresight is lacking and for Islamic PAS, Hudud is the priority because it will keep them in power — even if development and a better standard of life are sacrificed.
The party had initially planned to introduce Hudud in the state last Monday. But, because of the floods, PAS has decided to postpone its introduction.
The outlook appears bleak. But, I want to say here that it need not be. It all depends on the decisions we make. Floods may not stop in December in Kelantan, but if the people make the right decisions, they can install a leadership that would make life easier for them.
It all depends on us. What is going to happen will happen. But, if we learn to deal with them well — if we are proactive — these unfortunate incidents will have limited impact on our lives.
The Air Asia Flight QZ8501 is yet another example. Malaysia is developing rapidly. In our quest to develop we sometimes ignore important considerations like safety and regular maintenance. When we expanded air travel, did we think if our planes could take on the weather conditions they would be flying through? And invest in appropriate planes? Did we invest in adequate staff? There is a need to think through policies and make provisions to cover all grounds before introducing such policies. Failure to do so would just mean unnecessary grief and losses to the people on the ground.
I must add here that it is becoming increasingly apparent that Flight QZ8501 went down because of weather turbulence and not human error. The incident, however, raises issues of public safety and accountability. People need to speak up and ask for what is good for us.
Personally, it is the same. If we want to change our circumstances, we need to find the inner motivation and the will to make decisions to institute change. Even if the circumstances do not change, the way we handle it will, and that would make the future less bleak!
NEXT WEEK: We can change our fate!