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Hope is a double-edged sword

By Keith J Fernandez

Maybe it's the chilly winters or the start of a new year. But there's something about January that raises hopes to fever pitch? Even as many New Year resolutions lie broken all around us, even as the credit crisis threatens to pull us deeper under, there are a lot of eager expectations warming the cold air this week.

And this year, more than ever, a lot of those hopes, particularly on the world stage, are being raised by a Democrat president.

Barack Obama's being sworn in as the 44th president of the United States is a ray of sunshine in these depressed times, and all sorts of people desperately believe his actions will better their lives in ways too numerous to list here. Even though a predicted Obama bounce in stocks failed to materialise on Tuesday, leaving markets around the world under more pressure than ever, all eyes are now on his $825 billion (Dh3.03 trillion) economic stimulus package and the renewed optimism did see some brief rallies later in the week.

But far too many of the world's troubles are being placed on his shoulders and he is unlikely to be able to deliver on every front, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, from global warming to nuclear disarmament. Already, his now demonstrated commitment to a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and announcement that the Guantanamo detention centre will be closed within the year have raised those hopes even higher.

On the entertainment front, as we go to press, Slumdog Millionaire has been nominated for 10 Oscar awards. Danny Boyle's canny repackaging of the Bollywood potboiler has been making waves across the world, with the cast and crew feted everywhere from Mumbai's streets to the Golden Globes.

Bollywood has finally broken through, my countrymen trill excitedly – but really, it is a well-regarded British director's reputation and network that has brought this particular film to the attention of the world. If top Indian movie director Karan Johar, for instance, had cut together this romantic drivel, the film's international exposure would still be relegated to the Indian diaspora (although, I grant, in Johar's case it'd probably have been quite a different film all together, all about loving your destiny).

In Greek mythology, hope was the last insect in Pandora's box of disease and evil. Depending on how you interpret this mythical woman and her actions, hope is as deadly as plague and theft, or it is a great healing force that offers succour in times of gloom.

I'm the sort of person who tends to weigh with the former; hope, I believe, is an empty emotion akin to a belief in the supernatural – especially if hard graft does not follow it.

It's all very well to believe the Obama era heralds a new dawn for humankind, but unless we very fallible humans are willing to put our noses to the grindstone and our shoulders to the wheel, to work harder than we ever have, to accept a measure of regulation whilst not compromising on our beliefs, unless we're willing to do all of that and more, hope is as empty as a plastic bag blowing in the wind. That, in a nutshell, is my problem with hope: we are our own worst enemies.

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