Hope is contagious too

Published: June 9, 2010
The writer is a freelance broadcast and  print journalist (george.fulton@tribune.com.pk)

The writer is a freelance broadcast and print journalist ([email protected])

Bull semen inspired me this week. Now there’s a sentence I thought I’d never write. However, I digress. In addition to the aforementioned BS, the wonders of micro-financing, a stroke survivor’s tale, and the development of sustainable housing provided me with a renewed belief in both the power of the human spirit and the future of Pakistan. All these issues were discussed at the TEDx conference held in Karachi.

TED is a US-based non-profit organisation that holds conferences across the world showcasing practitioners and experts from a variety of fields. I recommend you check out their website at TED.com for some stimulating lectures. What started out in 1984 as a conference centred around Technology, Entertainment and Design – hence the acronym – has evolved to include other themes and topics. The driving philosophy behind TED is quite simple – to disseminate ‘Ideas Worth Spreading”. And the TEDx event – an independent, local, self-organised event operated under licence from TED – did just that. As participants emerged from an afternoon of motivating talks there was a palpable sense of optimism and hope in the air — a sense that anything was possible if we collectively put our minds to it.

Now the cynic in you may be thinking “yeah, like a bunch of English speaking elites engaging in some artsy-fartsy form of intellectual masturbation is really going to change Pakistan! Try living in the real world”. To which I would say you are right, and wrong. TEDx won’t change the world, or Pakistan, or even Karachi for that matter. But it did provide a refreshing reminder of how hope and optimism can transform people, and yes, countries. There is a reason that Obama used the word to galvanise his presidential campaign. Hope is integral to mankind, providing us with inspiration to create a better future for us and our children — a promised land for which to strive.

Now I am no Pollyanna. I am only too aware of the deep structural problems facing Pakistan from overpopulation to terrorism, to ethnic, sectarian and wealth disparity. An informed populace is the cornerstone for any functioning democracy. Nor am I advocating some artificial ‘Brand Pakistan’ project that presents some artificial reality to the outside world. ‘Enlightened Moderation’ and ‘India Shining’ failed because they projected something that bore little reality to what was happening on the ground.

But we do need to provide ourselves with a sense of hope. I went to the conference a cynic and came away with a renewed sense of vigour and purpose towards creating a better Pakistan. If a small conference can do that for 300 people, imagine what espousing these emotional triggers on a national level could do?

Optimism and hope are emotional triggers that are sadly all too absent from our media and our national dialogue. Instead we revel in fear, pessimism and despondency. A contagious negative state that further perpetuates fear, pessimism and despondency. Why can’t we recalibrate this vicious cycle?

Take the recent coverage of Cyclone Phet for instance. The media did sterling work in responsibly covering the emerging cyclone and warning us of potential dangers. My beef, however, was in their inability to sufficiently celebrate the heroic work done by so many to ensure the public’s safety. The Pakistan Navy and helicopter crews that rescued stranded fishermen, the city government that ordered the dismantling of billboards prior to the storm — these people should be praised for a job well done. But it didn’t happen. As a nation we are so quick to condemn when things go wrong, but rarely do we congratulate our officials when they do a good job. We all know how it feels when we are praised at work. We work twice as hard afterwards. It’s time our media started celebrating our nation’s successes. It’s time to switch off the de facto cynicism switch.

As for the bull semen, well Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of Acumen Fund, told us how they had artificially inseminated foreign bull semen with embryos from Pakistani cattle. Previously, Pakistanis farmers were only able to produce four litres of milk daily. The resulting hybrid cattle were now producing closer to 15 litres a day for the farmer. Inspiring stuff indeed.

Published in the Express Tribune, June 9th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • abid
    Jun 9, 2010 - 12:25AM

    Reading this article made me smile. Hope is contagious, yes.

    If a small conference can do that for 300 people, imagine what espousing these emotional triggers on a national level could do?

    We all know how it feels when we are praised at work. We work twice as hard afterwards. It’s time our media started celebrating our nation’s successes. It’s time to switch off the de facto cynicism switch.

    My favourite two parts. Does anyone have any suggestions about these?Recommend

  • Pakistani in US
    Jun 9, 2010 - 4:38AM

    Thanks George.Recommend

  • Jun 9, 2010 - 4:48AM

    So many policeman and rangers personal were repeatedly shown on television, standing in the pouring ran, managing the crows, who came out to “welcome Phet on the sea shore” (Why would you do that?). I guess, we are so used to stigmatizing and criticizing the police that it is really hard to show any appreciation unless its made very obvious. Recommend

  • Jun 9, 2010 - 8:59AM

    Yes, hope is contagious and it brings hope to all. Pakistan needs hope and it is being brought to them, no matter by a handful people. All the big revolutions in the history started with a small sign of hope… and history repaets itself !Recommend

  • Jun 9, 2010 - 9:09AM


    I was one of the 300 who left that event inspired and recharged with hope. Pakistani public has conditioned itself to accepting failure as the Pakistani way. Yahan tau aisa hee hota hai. Roshaneh Zafar, Jacqueline Novogratz, and the other speakers highlighted that we can rise above this defeatist mindset and bring a change. Today work done by individuals like Edhi, Roshaneh, Tasneem Siddiqui etc may be small projects here and there. But Insha’Allah we will reach the tipping point as the momentum of such individual projects push us ahead.

    What Pakistan needs is renewed confidence in our selves. And TEDxKarachi is one of the several sparks that will eventually revive the fire in our hearts.



  • Jun 9, 2010 - 10:35AM

    Amazing article George, I totally agree with what you have written. Our local media isn’t ready to appreciate the efforts of Army/local Govt or even Provicial/Federal Govt.
    The point is even us (bloggers) aren’t ready to appreciate anyone!!I feel sorry when they are at the front to criticize & yet close their eyes when something is done good by anyone!

    And you might find it interesting when somebody criticize them (bloggers) for doing something wrong, they kinda rush over the one who criticize and he is then left alone!

    We must create hope and optimism among us! And I totally agree with the point of yours that “If a small conference can do that for 300 people, imagine what espousing these emotional triggers on a national level could do?”

    Thumbs up!Recommend

  • Imran
    Jun 9, 2010 - 11:24AM

    He even rails against Allah, he has become so proud;
    Is he the same Adam before whom the angels bowed?
    He knows about things, their quantity and quality;
    Yes, these he knows, but nothing of the secret of humility.
    Their power of speech men always proudly flaunt,
    But of the way of speaking they are quite ignorant.

    If there were one deserving, We’d raise him to regal splendor,
    To those who seek, We would unveil a new world of wonder’

    You have no strength in your hands; in your hearts God has no place;
    On the name of my messenger, you people have brought disgrace.
    Destroyers of false gods are gone; only the idol maker thrives;

    There were days when every Muslim loved the only Allah he knew;
    Once upon a time He was your only Beloved; the same Beloved you now call untrue.

    Who blotted out the smears of falsehood from the pages of history?
    Who freed mankind from the chains of slavery?
    The floors of my Kaaba with whose foreheads swept?
    Who were they who clasped my Koran to their breasts?
    Your forefathers indeed they were; tell us who are you, we pray?
    With idle hands you sit awaiting the dawn of a better day.’

    ‘You are bent on self destruction; for honor and self respect they were known.
    Brotherly feelings are alien to you; for brothers lives they gave their own.
    All you do is talk and talk; they were men of action, deeds and power;

    With reason as your shield and the sword of love in your hand, Servant of God!
    The leadership of the world is at your command.
    The cry, “Allah-o-Akbar”, destroys all except God; it is a fire.
    If you are true Muslims, your destiny is to grasp what you aspire.
    If you break not faith with Mohammed, we shall always be there with you;
    What is this miserable world” To write the world’s history, pen and tablet we offer youRecommend

  • Imran
    Jun 9, 2010 - 11:33AM

    the above poetry is from Jawab-e-Shiqwa by Alama Iqbal,in our case George hope has become an epidemic,we have left every thing to ALLAH, while ALLAH says u have to earn what u aspire……..Recommend

  • US guy
    Jun 9, 2010 - 11:38AM

    Hope is contagious too… What else is contagious, u mean terrorism? Recommend

  • JK
    Jun 9, 2010 - 5:47PM

    That last paragraph is rather disturbing.
    1. Insemination means, fertilizing an egg. Requires semen/sperm cocktail.
    2. An embryo is the result of insemination.

    Ive been looking for TEDx Karachi videos but couldnt find any. I usually do find TED lectures quite interesting.Recommend

  • Sonia Aamir
    Jun 9, 2010 - 5:52PM

    Beautiful piece of writing and very very inspiring to see the commitment, the honesty and faith in ur words and the love u have George for this nation which many of us have ignored.
    Thank You.Recommend

  • Arsalaan Haleem
    Jun 9, 2010 - 7:00PM

    George, have you ever considered taking part in our country’s politics? If yes, then my future vote is reserved for you.Recommend

  • `umair
    Jun 10, 2010 - 12:25PM

    We all know how it feels when we are praised at work. We work twice as hard afterwards. It’s time our media started celebrating our nation’s successes. It’s time to switch off the de facto cynicism switch.

    Couldn’t agree more.Recommend

  • rehan
    Jun 10, 2010 - 9:42PM

    Well said.George,you could be our Federal Minister for Population Control.Leave the milk production to Jacqueline.Recommend

  • Tyrone Tellis
    Jun 18, 2010 - 10:45AM

    Heh George!

    Hope and delusion are separated by a thin line. Hope alone without action can’t help a team win the World Cup or even help a jobless person land a job. I agree hope is a must for healthy living but being realistic and taking action is a must too!

    Also I think you need lessons in animal husbandry the last para was all off!
    I disagree that the media didn’t appreciate the city govt or the armed forces, the media instead of creating panic was quite level headed in their response this time around. Can we hope for better content from them soon?


  • Jun 20, 2010 - 9:15AM

    *****Hello i like that you all comment which more meanful and Beautiful piece of writing and very inspiring to see the commitment, the honesty and faithful words and batter to do some more about peace in Pakistani nation which many of us have ignored, lates see hope is contagious too… What else is contagious ?***
    Global Peaceful Nation Of Pakistan
    Sheikh Rehan**Recommend

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