The big how


A benefit of traveling is it puts you in your right place, gives you a good dose of humility and reminds you that you are not special

In Lebanon two weeks ago, I got a deep dive about a system that is jammed from within

Over the last two years, I had read about the collapse of services and the general challenges from my interactions with friends, but this was the first time I got to spend some time on the ground and spoke to people from various sectors

I learned that the political leadership in the country has remained the same for decades, religious establishment is unwilling to give an inch, the military has its own interests, polarisation has created sharp wedges among loved ones, and the economy does not seem to be improving anytime soon

There are hostile neighbours surrounding the country and a foreign policy seems to swing wildly from one direction to the other

The expats have their own favourites and they are just as entrenched in their views as those who live in the motherland

Inflation is high, power cuts are normal and no one cares about the poor

A lot sounded eerily familiar

I am sure friends visiting other countries can see their own reflections in the local mirrors as well

So I asked my friends — a group representing various regions of the country and various religious sects — over a late lunch about what to do about this jammed system

I asked if there were any ideas to come out of this stagnation that is sucking all the energy and hope away

After a brief discussion, the consensus was that there is no shortage of ideas

Actually, there was no need for any new ideas

It did not require foreign consultants, economists with long CVs, or military experts with rows of medals on their chest, to describe what was needed

It was clear

The real challenge was how to do what needed to be done? The conversation rang a bell about another meeting that I had some time ago with a community worker who works with Native American communities in South Dakota and has successfully built a number of highly effective healthcare and education programmes in difficult circumstances

He told me that he has little patience for yet another idea

He was simply not impressed by the idea of another cool project — what really mattered on the ground, he told me, was how to enact those ideas

Perhaps relying on policy analysts, consultants and think tanks, we have gone a bit too far on the “what” spectrum, while ignoring the “how” side

In our society, there is agreement on cutting our expenditure, but how will we convince the biggest recipients of our budget to give up part of their share? There is no question that we need to invest more in education and health, but how will it be enacted? Few would disagree with the need to reform the justice system that currently works — overnight — for the privileged few while countless nameless souls remain missing for years, but how will that happen? In the latest episode of our jammed system, where accusations are flying at light speed, and good (not so) old days are remembered with a romantic nostalgia as if none of us were awake, new ideas are aplenty

There is ample discussion of what needs to be done, and we even have our favourite saviors, but we remain light on the how part

In the last decade, as I had the opportunity to learn from colleagues and co-workers who got things done, from those who work in the refugee camps to those who can unlock real resources to bring change, I have learned the value of “how” more than “what”

The how to get things done part requires more than bombastic statements

It requires knowledge and respect of culture and laws

It requires self-sacrifice and challenging one’s own ideas

More than anything, it requires a sense of purpose that is driven by humility and decency and not by ego and self-interest

Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2022

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Date:25-May-2022 Reference:View Original Link