THERE is a comforting sense of familiarity that accompanies each passage into the New Year.
Allowing for certain local variations, people everywhere tend to celebrate it in almost the same way, invariably to the rousing revelry and merrymaking that accompany the last moments of the year past, and the first of the year just come.
2008 was welcomed with no less enthusiasm-–what with most people having been hit by crisis after crisis in 2007 desperately trying their best to get the old year out of the way as quickly as possible.
And who could blame them? No place in the world, it seems, was spared from some of last year’s most difficult moments.
The lingering uncertainty over peace in the Middle East continued to hold sway over oil prices, which during the first few days of this new year traded at historical highs of over $100 a barrel.
The ever volatile Middle East remained fractious and divided, with even the Palestinians themselves not agreeing on how to deal with its perceived common adversary-–Israel. And the Israelis themselves were no more united in their approach to solving the peace problem than the Palestinians were.
The rest of the world remains as polarized as ever regarding the issue of global security, with countries either taking the hawkish stand of the United States, or the equally belligerent attitude of those opposed to the American solution.
This lingering geopolitical uncertainty consequently spilled over into the economic arena, with record oil prices taking their toll on business costs, as well as dampening the already fragile confidence of consumers everywhere.
To say that 2007 was a very difficult year for most of us would be understating the enormity of the problem.
But will 2008 have us faring any better than the year before?
Most signs say that things are going to get worse, before they get any better.
No one knows for sure how high oil prices will still rise in the new year. Nor is anyone certain just how deep the current credit crisis—precipitated by the collapse of the US sub-prime mortgage market—is still likely to drag the world’s financial markets down too.
And yet as daunting as all of these sound, the sense of optimism that always accompanies the coming of each new year cannot but let us see that it is not all dark clouds ahead.
For the first time ever in our lifetime, our world is coming ever closer to a global consensus on what is perhaps the greatest problem of our age-–climate change.
People’s attitudes everywhere are changing, in ways that we would never have thought possible before.
With the impending regime change in Washington this year, we may yet be closer to solving our common concerns over global peace and security, than at any time in almost a decade.
And while economic prosperity has continued to elude our nation while everywhere else progress seems to be the fate of most of those around us, there are hopeful signs at last that we may finally benefit from the fruits of globalization that seem to have blessed everyone else but ourselves.
And so, as we always have in new years past, let us go forth with prayer on our lips, and hope in our hearts, and make this 2008 the best year yet.
Our warmest New Year greetings to all our readers!
Published in The Sun Star Daily, Saturday, January 05, 2008