I’ve never been asked this before.
RHODES, Greece- I was invited to Oman to attend the launch of the Dumq free economic zone. This is a new SEZ / port / new city project that’s going up in Oman — one of a handful of such endeavors that are positioning the country for a major economic transition in the near future.
This is one of the things that I write about: big global changes, new cities, cultural and economic movements, and Oman checks all of these boxes. There is just something that I find fascinating about this. I suppose it’s a general desire to want to know where the world is heading … and it’s usually a good story on top of that.
I was talking with one of the organizers of the launch event getting things confirmed, etc, and she asked me a question that shook me up for a moment:
“You’re not going to come here and write bad things about Oman, are you?”
I wasn’t knocked off kilter because she asked this, but because nobody has ever asked me this before. In all the years that I’ve been covering this topic — which have included visits to hundreds of projects and seemingly an endless amount of interviews — I’ve never been asked this.
It was actually a very good question. There is a negatively bias that’s often built into the Western model of media — negative stories get attention, negative stories sell, and negative perspectives tend to mirror the sentiment of the audience which in turn helps to retain that audience.
However, this lens often distorts the view of what’s actually happening.
I make my living off of contextualizing complicated cultural and economic interplays — off of really trying to figure out what’s going on and what places will become. Mocking is an impediment to understanding, and I’ve found it much more compelling to ask “What if?” and then going from there — especially in this period of time that has already brought forth so many upheavals and surprises.
“Allow yourself to be surprised.”
A long time ago I overheard one of my teachers in India say these words as she chastised a fellow student who was acting overtly ignorant about a lesson. He thought he understood what was in front of him and he turned it off, declaring that he wasn’t interested in it.
Allow yourself to be surprise.
Stay humble enough to be open to what’s in front of you because it may not be what you assume.
I’ve always kept these words with me, and in no small part they’ve helped guide my work.
If nothing else, this perspective makes the world a vastly more interesting place to be.