This article was originally published on Ed-Watch.
The world still exists and you are still breathing
The past few months have not been easy. All of us have been affected by the pandemic one way or another. To add to individual anxiety, there have been other events throughout the world that have affected certain groups, such as people losing their homes due to wildfires in Australia and the US or the blast at the seaport in Lebanon or, closer to our home, the recent flooding in Karachi and Sindh. Many have lost their livelihoods and loved ones. Some may even have lost themselves during a prolonged period of self-isolation and resulting depression. Many may be feeling like they have hit the lowest point of their lives. Here’s a newsflash: the world still exists and you are still breathing.
As in the sport of baseball, real life can also throw curveballs that can take us completely by surprise. We did not collectively foresee or plan for a worldwide pandemic. We have been discussing climate change since many years, yet we have not been able to plan for extreme weather-related events such as record levels of rain in southern Pakistan or the wildfires elsewhere in the world. We definitely did not expect that our homes would be flooded or destroyed this year. It could also be that the shock came at a more personal level. Perhaps we lost our job, or the primary breadwinner of the family, or we didn’t get to take the international university course this year that we had been planning and saving for since a long time. We can choose to give up on life after these events and have a defeatist attitude or consider them an opportunity to take back control.
Whenever a chapter in our life ends, we have the possibility to start anew. This is what we should be doing now. Take Karachi, for example. It is the biggest city of Pakistan brimming with all kinds of economic and social possibilities. Yet, over the years, its infrastructure has rotted to the core. So much so that even rain water couldn’t find its way to the sea, as natural water ways have been encroached and are full of rubbish. So it ended up stagnant on streets and in homes instead. It was a rude awakening but one that was much needed. In retrospect, our homes were damaged at a time when many of us are unemployed and don’t have much else to do in life except reconstruct them.
According to a National Human Development Report (NHDR) report in 2018, a staggering 64% of the population of Pakistan was below the age of 30 and it was one of the youngest countries in the world. We now have the opportunity to use all this human capital effectively and productively in rebuilding Karachi and the rest of the country. Traditional wisdom and prudence would probably remind us that we are probably not skilled enough and we neither have the finances nor the infrastructure. Yet, all of this is what needs to be rebuilt and created from scratch. Many successful giant companies of today had humble beginnings as start-ups created after the Great Recession of 2008. So what is the point of mulling over what 2020 could have been like if you can actually use all that time productively? Go find some like-minded individuals in the neighbourhood, take stock of what intellectual, human and financial resources are available and then find innovative ways to help family and friends. Yes, we all are already champions at helping each other, yet, how much modernism are we bringing to our lives? We do not need to re-establish what existed before. We need to develop new ideas and systems so that we can do better collectively. No elected official or government functionary will ever be able to do what we can do for ourselves with our sincerity, time and team effort directed towards improving lives of our own communities.
Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) reported in 2017/18 that more than half of all entrepreneurs in developing economies operated in wholesale and retail. In contrast, 61% of entrepreneurs in North America operated in the technology, finance, and professional services sectors. Do you still wonder why every time disaster and subsequent opportunity strike in our region, we are never really catapulted to new heights? Most people in the bigger cities of Pakistan have at least some years of university education. It is time to apply it to real life and find new ways of doing things so that we can produce results that are different from those that we have traditionally obtained. It is time to restructure communities and neighbourhoods. If you are a science student, volunteer for projects that, for example, focus on renewable energy, water purification or recycling of trash at the local level. If you are a major in social sciences, journalism or psychology, you can assist people to mentally cope with their losses or help other community volunteers in their organisation. Discover the needs of local markets and be the enabler that fulfils them creatively. Eventually, when we start seeing results, we will also start generating wealth and seeing profits and the economy will prosper. We need small-scale entrepreneurship today more than ever!
We cannot deny that we have been thrown at least a few curveballs this year but now it is up to us to decide how we want to tackle them. Either, we can stay down, lament our losses and waste away our lives in self-pity and doubt; or we can stand up again, take the bull by its horns and make the best use of whatever resources we have – collectively and individually – for a better future, where we all are able to give meaning to our existence.
About the author
The author, Aamina Khan, who is also the editor of Ed-watch, is an international polyglot citizen who likes to explore the world differently. A Chartered Accountant by profession, she likes to read and write in various languages as an amateur.