By Ramzy Baroud
When the newsstand of Giuseppe Trani was swept away by massive flooding that devastated the southern Italian town of Casamicciola, near Naples, the 70-year-old man lost everything.
Not for long, though, as the townsfolk, who were also affected by the flooding and landslides experienced throughout the whole region, raised the needed funds to help Trani rebuild his kiosk.
It is incorrect, let alone unfair and fatalistic, to associate the ‘human condition’ with nothing but greed, selfishness and propensity to violence. Though a case can be made for the latter, especially in 2022 – where our collective self-awareness was largely shaped by war, famine and deadly pandemics – that understanding only tells a part of the story.
When a five-year-old Moroccan boy, Rayan Oram, fell in a well in the impoverished northern Chefchaouen province, tens of millions followed the story with trepidation throughout Africa, the Middle East and, eventually, around the world. The fact that the story had a sorrowful ending may have distracted some of us from the realization that little Rayan had unwittingly united us in hope and prayer, despite our seemingly insurmountable differences.
Years of crushed political aspirations, resulting from revolts and political upheavals throughout the Middle East, were followed by years of a lethal pandemic that left already shattered economies on the brink of complete collapse. However, a few but precious moments of unity served as a reminder that, despite our individual or collective woes, we all belong to a greater whole and that, somehow, our fates are all connected.
Rayan, Gaza, football triumphs, spiritual occasions and numerous little and big defeats and victories keep reminding us that we are a community; we mourn and celebrate together, and no war or pandemic is great enough to crush the indefatigable human spirit.
The thousands of sanctions imposed on Russia following the start of the Russia-Ukraine war on February 24, had a minimal impact on Moscow itself. Instead, it was the poorest classes of Europeans and, expectedly, much of the Global South that paid the heavy price of the unprecedented disruption of energy supplies.
When the war began, the global economy was barely in motion as the Covid-19 pandemic had grounded many economies to a near halt, severely affecting supply chains of many urgent items, including food. The war made matters far worse, doubling inflation worldwide, although hitting vulnerable countries much worse than others.
“Absolute levels of global hunger in 2022 could be the highest ever,” the Economist reported. The repercussions of this painful truth are already felt in many parts of the world but are likely to be manifested in terms of violence and political instability in 2023.
Yet, there is always a silver lining. The same way Giuseppe Trani’s kind neighbors are helping rebuild his ruined shop, the global hardships are also inspiring global solidarity among small nations. A whole new world order is emerging, where alternative economic blocs, the likes of BRICS, are forming or expanding. Middle Eastern countries, which have revolved around US political priorities for decades, are finding margins of freedom. African nations, like Mali and the Central African Republic, are daring to stand up to their former colonizers.
Never since the collapse of the Soviet Union have political margins and opportunities opened up for many countries around the world – allowing for badly needed respite, a breathing space to think outside the imposed parameters of the West. This is as true for Africa and the Middle East as it is for South America.
Despite years of intense pressure and isolation, the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro miraculously survived, though hanging by a thread. The plight of Venezuelans seemed too extreme even for the new global geopolitics to affect it in a tangible way. However, even Venezuela, whose poverty rate hit 65.2% in 2021, found itself a beneficiary of changing political dynamics. On November 26, the United States authorized the oil firm Chevron to resume oil production through its joint ventures in Venezuela, allowing Caracas to start selling more oil in the global market.
“The changing political dynamics in the Western Hemisphere mean a reformulation of the Bolivarian project, not in terms of doctrine, but rather in the relationship with the multipolar world,” Carlos Delgado Flores, a Venezuelan analyst, wrote in The Dialogue.
Equally important, the quest for regional independence of South American countries is once more feasible, with Santiago, Brasilia, Bogotá and others having – or about to be controlled by – progressive governments.
Also back on the table is a free trade area that will unify the entirety of the African Continent, which is expected to go into effect in 2023. This single market will give African countries much greater leverage to negotiate fair trade agreements with the rest of the world, an event that can easily be described as a game changer.
Of course, these positive changes will be fought every step of the way by those who want to maintain the self-serving status quo and the unipolar world order. But that is to be expected.
We are not doomed to define ourselves by a ‘human condition’ in which change is not possible and where greed, selfishness and monopoly always prevail over the need for fairness, generosity and equality. And those who are able to rebuild the life of Giuseppe Trani are capable of reshaping the world into a better place for all of us, in 2023, and for many more years to come.