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Tuesday , October 27 2020

Positivity is the key to ending ‘corona’ crisis

Khalaf Al Habtoor, Founding Chairman of Al Habtoor Group (AHG)

I am so fed up being bombarded with messages of doom and gloom from scientific experts and media pundits. Yes, we are in the midst of a pandemic that has severely impacted the lives of billions, but amplifying worst case scenarios as though they are written in stone, serves no one. However truly unwelcome this havoc-causing, sneaky coronavirus truly is, it has given us an opportunity for reflecting on life’s bounteous gifts as well as a renewed appreciation for those dearest to us.

Whether the road ahead to some semblance of normality is short or long, we will win. The finest minds among us will produce a cure and a vaccine to halt COVID-19 in its tracks and once they are successful, our stricken economies will speedily rebound.

We can never forget the fallen or those endangering themselves on the front lines to keep us safe but hopefully we can honour their memory by making our planet a kinder and more compassionate place. We are in this together and those of us who have escaped the virus’ ravages should thank the Creator for His mercy and count our blessings.

Meanwhile, we must remain hopeful and not succumb to negative, often politically-driven, propaganda and conspiracy theories being spewed into our minds by the media, in particular by newspapers and networks obsessed with dissecting US President Donald Trump’s every word and action.

He does not run to the usual presidential form which is precisely why he was voted into office. He is far from perfect, he sometimes misspeaks and I do not always concur with his decision-making. For instance, despite agreeing that Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), is a pessimist and must be replaced, I do think President Trump’s suspension of America’s contribution to the organization was badly timed. I also cannot help but wish he would leave science to the scientific community rather than his own gut feeling which leaves him open to ridicule gleefully hyped-up by his enemies. That said, he believes in his own capacity for making decisions over expert opinion and he will fearlessly speak his mind unafraid of negative reactions.

In spite of Trump’s unorthodox behaviour I admire the man for his nerves of steel faced with such vitriolic-laced hatred from television’s legions of talking heads and politicians from all sides, including Republicans fearful of upsetting the President’s loyal base during an election year. Just watch the knives come out if he loses to the Democratic nominee!

With the exception of the obsequious Fox News, the media variously portrays him as a figure of fun at best, the devil incarnate at worst. There is little respect for the office he holds as President of the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth at a moment in time when the country, and the whole world are facing the greatest challenge in recent history.

He receives little appreciation for the good things he has done such as influencing the markets to hitherto unseen heights while reducing unemployment and putting more cash in the pockets of working folks. Due to factors beyond his or anyone’s control all his successes on the economic front have been wiped-out.

Most of all, I admire the US President for his unfailingly positive attitude. While state governors sound as though they are reading obituaries during their daily briefings and go out of their way to psychologically prepare their populations for more cases, more deaths and the necessity of lock downs spanning months or even years, Mr Trump’s messages are invariably hopeful and upbeat. Admittedly, there is a fine line between unvarnished honesty and wishful thinking but we are in a war.

Just imagine Prime Minister Winston Churchill advising Britons to start learning German at a time when winning against Adolf Hitler’s land, sea and air power looked slim. Instead, he told his people to defend their island whatever the cost. “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender,” he said.

Trump has the gift of making millions of Americans feel empowered and optimistic about the future. That in itself is a great asset nowadays when so many are grieving or consumed with worry about their future prospects or simply how they can eat or avoid slipping into homelessness. I am known for being an advocate of transparency, however people suffering from anxiety look to their leaders to throw them a lifeline with which to glimpse a brighter tomorrow. What they don’t need is a damaging and constant drip-drip of bad news along with guesstimates of poor outlooks.

Do we really need to be told by Harvard scientists that social distancing may be extended until 2022? On what basis is that premised when, as yet, there is nobody on earth capable of fully understanding this new, ever mutating virus until it completes its lifecycle. Will it recede during the warm summer months only to rear its head again in the autumn? Will recovered patients enjoy immunity and, if so, for how long? Why does it affect men more than women, the elderly more than children and people of certain ethnicities and blood types? Nobody knows. The experts are learning as they go.

In my mind, confused human beings need the positive vibe of Donald Trump as a balm for their flagging spirits. We need his voice and that of others sharing his ‘no fear’, ‘no surrender’ attitude so as to jolt the global economy out of paralysis. Constant media criticism may have deterred him from engaging in daily task force briefings. He has tweeted “they are not worth the effort”. That would be a great shame akin to chalking up a victory for his enemies.

Like you, I am missing my daily routine and regret that my social life has been cut short along with well-planned travel. In this holiest of months, I feel saddened that I cannot participate in Taraweeh prayers in the mosque together with family members and for the first time in years I am unable to welcome family and friends to my Ramadan majlis. At the same time I am deeply thankful to be in good health surrounded by my children and grandchildren, safe in one of the greatest countries on earth, the United Arab Emirates.

My heart hopes that we will be discarding our masks and gloves sooner rather than later. Until then my friends, stay strong, stay smiling, and stay safe.

By Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

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