I read a LinkedIn post by a someone saying that he is part of a growing group of professionals living and working across several countries in the Middle East. No doubt this is a healthy development for the region. It denotes the creation of regional enterprises and regional investment vehicles and clusters. It also indicates that Arab societies are opening up and are becoming more accepting of the “other”. Many of the Arab World’s challenges can only be addressed via regional initiatives, with water and food security dominating.
Crossing boundaries to transact trade, learn, and discover has been part of the human experience for as long as we were able to document our histories. That was the positive side of crossing borders. The other side was more atrocious. Wars to conquer and pillage and subjugate, with ramifications of such acts of aggression still with us today.
Crossing borders in the 1980s was called globalization – a trend that accelerated with the end of the Cold War, the ease of travel, the primacy of the Chicago School of untrammeled free trade and free markets (aka minimum regulation), and the politics of borrow and spend – by everyone: governments, companies, and individuals.
Globalization, as an economic concept, was sold to the middle and working classes in the West as improving their consumer choices in terms of quality and price. Also, improving the earnings of companies they work for and that their pension plans own shares in. The other promise made was investments in upgrading the skills of the middle and working classes so they can graduate to producing higher value-added products, with jobs to replace those lost to middle and working classes in Developing Countries.
The latter did not materialize in meaningful ways and the massive economic letdown suffered by the middle and working classes in many countries spawned extremist politics, fueled by identity issues and nationalism. Brexit was one result. Trump’s presidential win and the ensuing political divide within the United States is another.
When one is thrust upon new horizons, the move up the learning curve can be steep. Learning to speak the language of a new place may not prove to be an easy exercise. It is not so much the language of the letters that we need to learn but that of the soul, the mind and the spirit. These are the levers that we use to negotiate the structures of our relationships and the parameters within which our relationships function.
Human relationships are tender constructs. They can be forged with blood, sweat and tears or with something as simple and powerful as a smile or a handshake. And they are malleable. The same bonds that can break with the first drops of rain can sustain Mount Ararat.
Human relationships are the veins and arteries of our universe. They are the conduits through which we live and breathe. And through them, we connect to the quarries of our souls and mine the seams of whatever is good in our lives. They are too precious to be subjected to the withering winds of whims, prejudices and greed.