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Fight, Fright or Flee

Like the change of seasons, fortune can come in cycles. Not just in a material way, but with the flow of political winds, the throbbing of cultural transformation and moving socio-demographic patterns.

Individuals in power find themselves adrift. People who were labelled the underdogs can break free of their perceived serfdom. What was the custom for ages can be radically changed. Change need not descend suddenly upon the night like a silky wisp of dread, as in the stuff of legends, but gradually and surely, as a growing plant. On the other hand, change may have to be forced suddenly, under an apparent breaking point, like what we have seen this past year in the countries experiencing the so-called political Arab Spring.

The seeds of change can be sown long ago, and gestated quietly, away from public or media eyes. Most of us come to know of it only when the situation bursts upon the world stage in an eye-catching manner. Change had been underway when economic arrangements, access channels and macro policies have been implemented.

Initial protests of discontent can often be swept away, by the aggressors cleverly tampering with what seems to be the tools of governance. However, John F. Kennedy once remarked that "you can fool all the people some of the time, or some of the people all of the time, but not all the people all the time". There is always a breaking point, a reference to the proverbial bridge of no return, when one does not look back, but only forward.

For many caught in between such changes, there are inevitable questions of making a stand. Does one significantly adjust and embrace the new? Alternatively, does one challenge the status quo and dream of a better future? Or does one give up and move on to another place, another system, where it is perceived to be , or actually turn out to be, a better place? The history of nations, city states, ethnic groups and empires can be viewed in tribulations and opportunities arising from such key questions. Even the course of a selected personal life, financial pathway and career can be traced to decisions made based from such important choices.

Even when some things apparently never change - the conditions in Africa, for example, with the periodic drought-induced or politics-affected starvation, or with an ever ready stream of people willing to risk life and limb to cross seas to reach another country - very hard and emotional decisions have to be made by individuals, because of family, cultural survival, beliefs and sheer need to remain alive. Having numbers do affect decisions.

Having the means and ability to adapt also count. At times, it may be good to have won a battle, but not so good to then lose the war. At other times, it is critical to get out when the last boat or helicopter is here, before the doors close forever. Often, things that are thought to can never be, surprisingly eventuate when oppressive conditions evaporate with the removal of a key figure.

The human mind and behaviour can never be under estimated. With sufficient motivation, patience and belief, many persist but most barely survive under less than ideal conditions. Maybe we all need a challenge, to keep alive the varying demands of the soul and spirit and to maintain a purpose in the heart. It is observed that humans do tend to get into a comfort zone or become unmotivated - and then miss opportunities to springboard to further growth. The critical factor is our mindset, in deciding whether we stay to fight the challenge, to tolerate what can be increasingly untolerable, or remove ourselves to better conditions.


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