Yuval Noah Harari in his more recent book ’21 Lessons for 21st century’ famously said that never underestimate human stupidity. The reference of the above quote is in respect to any major future catastrophe we yet cannot predict, therefore cannot predict the future as well. But, already one month into the year, we can certainly talk about certain themes that will dominate the talk this year.
Messy & Ticking West
The ongoing Ukraine crisis is evidence that the West hasn’t recovered from the Cold War hangover yet. The crisis can be best described in Johnny Harris’s words that Russia is behaving like that abusive boyfriend who is unable to digest the fact that they have broken up. Mr. Putin with his time and again mention of cultural links with Ukraine cannot just let go of what was once the birth point of the glorious USSR.
But his fears are not baseless, I mean yes every country should have strategic autonomy, but this principle of autonomy in today’s world and with a large baggage of complex history, doesn’t really offer much breathing space. With growing proximity to the Western bloc, Ukraine not only moves on from its past, which Putin cherishes but also creates a hard to ignore security dilemma. It brings the clout of western dominance in the face of Russia, which is not only risky security-wise but also kind of humiliating for Russia.
But, one thing we have learned about the new era of politics is that an all-out war is never on the table. It’s mostly about demanding preposterously and in the end settling for a more respectable and acceptable version of that, which I suppose will happen in this case as well.
East Flexes Muscles
After a self-imposed ban or a tea break in more real terms, North Korea is back with its fireworks. This time again they are putting up a great show nevertheless. With each launch they burn a little part of the western security blanket, putting DC in a complex situation. Every day we see pictures of Mr. Kim surveying a new launch and on the same page USA condemning whatever is happening on the peninsula. It seems this problem is not gonna be solved soon or until Mr. Kim has secured a fair amount of security for his despotic rule.
Not far from the fireworks site, the rise of a new superpower is at its peak. The new world leader rises and asserts its dominance by flexing muscles regionally as well as on a global scale. With its undoubtedly hard-earned wealth, China is on the rise like no other country in world history. This ancient civilization, with already so much in its name from the past, is trying very hard to be the leader of the modern world order. With the level of innovation China is having and with complete control of data, China may invent a new type of governance, a type of technocracy, for which there are many takers, especially in a world where authoritarian tendencies are on the rise.
West Asia and Uneasy Calm
Except for the situation in Yemen, which undoubtedly is a big humanitarian crisis, the west seems to be in a momentary calm. Business is growing, thanks to the rise in crude oil prices, which are predicted to keep rising for some time. New untraditional ties were made last year and there seems to have no reason to believe that it will stop. There seems to be a rising Sunni plus Jews axis backed by the States against the Shia world whose leader being Iran, the arch-enemy of the USA.
In the neighborhood of Iran, a bigger humanitarian crisis is happening in Afghanistan. Recently abandoned by the world’s biggest military power, Afghanistan is failing to cope with its problems. A near-complete economic collapse, rise in starvation due to lack of food, half of the population becoming secondary citizens, and losing all their rights due to their gender and wait and watch policy of the rest of the world has put Afghanistan in a crisis. It seems for this year as well, this dire situation will continue with the developed world turning a blind eye to the place where they all failed throughout history.
Democracy and Liberal World
The meteoric rise of right-wing, authoritarian governments throughout the world, whether it’s Brazil or India under Modi, or complete uprooting of elected governments like in Myanmar. The long unchallenged march of democracy and liberal values seems to be stuck in the mud for right now, while its nemesis, authoritarianism has found a new ally in the form of technology.
The new era of advancement started with the spread of liberal and democratic values in which the internet first as an ally helped. It connected the world and its citizens, creating a truly united global nation virtually, which believed in liberal values. Perhaps it was too liberal, therefore the friend of democracy soon became its enemy and allied itself with the opposite camp.
Today, controlling the narrative at home and dividing the rival country, can be done by the use of technology. The fruits of such strategy came rushing in plenty. It made possible what was unthinkable, at least after the American civil war, but it did happen and citizens of the oldest democracy marched up to Capitol Hill and rioted like savages, even more ironically they were dressed like savages in some cases.
Governments unable to put a leash on big tech firms and sometimes themselves trying to use the same tools for their own political gains give little hope that this slide of the free world towards authoritarianism will stop any time soon.
What can we wish for?
So, in an ever-divided world, there must be something to look forward to? Well, that depends on what interests you. We may see some sincere efforts on climate change as the talks move ahead, but would it be enough? Well, that’s a kind of glass half full situation.
We may if lucky, see the end of this not so dreadful now but hundred percent irritating pandemic as the vaccination increases, given that any new more serious variant doesn’t come out to spoil the mood.
We may, like every other year, see a world war hashtag trending on Twitter every now and then, but like always far from actually happening, fortunately.
But as we started this essay, remembering that again, never underestimate human stupidity. So, let’s hope for a nice year ahead, the definition of which may vary according to your personal preference.
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