Self-belief is fueled by national ambition

(File photos: Twitter)

Nasser bin Nasser, Global Comment

The writer is founder and CEO of Ambit Advisory.

Ambitious development plans such as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 have been the subject of regular media attention, especially regarding the massive financial resources earmarked to realize them or the transformative economic impact they could have on their countries.اضافة اعلان

What is regularly overlooked though, is their impact on public sentiment and what is broadly referred to as the national psyche: the collective mindset, attitudes, beliefs, and emotions shared by citizens of a given country, and the collective consciousness and identity of its citizens.

This is unfortunate because it is perhaps what is most interesting about such development plans.
An absence of optimism plays a large role in keeping people trapped in poverty
Countries embarking on ambitious development plans or those on the brink of significant achievements witness major transformations in their national psyches and this can have a profound and lasting impact on how they view themselves, the world around them and their place in it.

Much has been written, for example, on the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and the impact the US moon landing had on the national psyche of Americans, uniting the country with a sense of pride in their technological and scientific prowess, which lasted well into this century.

There is a common belief that this had fueled a surge in scientific and technological advancement, had a profound impact on other industries, contributing to economic growth and innovation, and demonstrating the superiority of democratic, capitalist values over communism.

In a similar fashion but in a wholly different context, little has been written about the impact that Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup last year had, not only on Qataris, but on Arabs and Muslims who took pride in the positive image that the tournament portrayed about their region and religion and validated the belief that the region could play center stage in such an international event. This may have been all the more special because it came against the backdrop of significant international criticism in the lead up to the tournament.

Countries facing major collective crises, even those with meagre financial resources, can also experience transformative changes to their national psyche when they successfully triumph against unsurmountable odds. As a Jordanian, the battle of Karameh of 1968, in which Jordan’s Armed Forces repelled an Israeli attack into Jordanian territory, is very present in Jordanian consciousness as the first major military success against Israel’s military might.

King Hussein bin Talal pictured alongside Jordan's Armed Forces during Al-Karamah Battle.

Perhaps the most profound aspect of these types of transformations is the sense of collective hope and possibility it creates within a country. Talk to citizens of countries embarking on such transformations and their can-do attitude is almost palpable. Listen to their governments and one can sense momentum.

Many of these countries didn’t lack financial resources in the past; what changed was their self-belief. This can have a profound impact on stability.

By contrast, a lack of hope can be devastating for nations as it is for individuals. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) argue that an absence of optimism plays a large role in keeping people trapped in poverty, while counterterrorism practitioners speculate that an absence of hope can be a driver of extremism and radicalization.

The loss of hope being witnessed elsewhere across the globe, including (arguably) the United States and the United Kingdom, can lead to a sense of defeatism, division, and apathy. Worse still is the sense of cynicism, doubt and disparagement shown by citizens of these countries towards their governments whenever they embark on a new initiative.
Countries facing major collective crises can experience transformative changes to their national psyche
Perhaps citizens of these countries are not hopeful about what the future holds or perhaps their governments are unable to formulate a future vision altogether. This may be why they have to live on nostalgia and excessively employ it; they are effectively living in the past.

There is an emotional and psychological aspect to the rise and fall of nations that tends to get overlooked when people focus exclusively on facts and figures. The reason is obvious: how does one begin to measure and quantify such an intangible and elusive thing as hope?

This article was originally published on Global Comment.

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