Oh what a mess – where to go first !
Usually it is easy to pull out from the world news one appropriate area for comment, but 2019 begins with so many areas of broad serous concern, often triggered or exacerbated by the American president. We are very concerned for Brazil, for Venezuela, and for everywhere corruption has reduced resource-rich nations to poverty and desolation – and where human rights abuse seems everyday currency. Populism, shift to the extreme right, protectionism, isolationism – all reminders (or at least they should be) of failures in our only-too-recent history. And with many countries being split 50/50 on key survival issues, the very foundation of our democracies is at stake.
We see a world once again in disorder, in which conflict can so easily rise up again as institutions put into place to contain it are weakened or ignored or their value misunderstood. Just like Mister Button in the movie, we might age backwards – back to a cold war scenario as sanctions and tariffs within a global economy begin to apply torture to countries and to “blocs”. Sixty years of European peace has been somewhat of a miracle but it was possible because of the influence of those who suffered so much and remembered it all so clearly, to make relationships, and to set up institutions and mechanisms. We must pray, and act accordingly, that the next part of the backward aging does not return us to those very dark times.
Mechanisms of globalisation have proven effective for global trade since the first meetings of the Mont Pélerin Society in 1947 created the conceptual base and then the Thatcher-Regan transatlantic partnership pushed it into motion. But effectiveness of overall trade is making fewer people very rich and a lot of people very poor – that is the danger for stability and there is no valid response in place. Just as in the 1930’s it leaves the way open to populist and dictatorial rhetoric – which is taking place right now.
One of the most shameful happenings in Europe is Brexit. Rather than helping to fix some of the EU short-comings from the inside, enough populist propaganda and exaggerated or simply false statements persuaded just enough voters to tip the balance. Also, some of the younger generation who voted were also swayed, but the turn-out was low. It is more of a shame for them, because they now have to operate in a less-connected future, outside of a trading block with clout on the world stage. Also a shame because they will be part of a Britain having left a European peace and trade alliance which has taken blood sweat and tears to construct over decades.
Only one hope remaining for them — a second referendum to give them back their rightful place in a peaceful and competitive Europe – and helping serve as a model of that cooperation to the rest of the world.
A reminder back to the beginning of the United Europe concept.
Formally it was kicked off by the Treaty of Rome (1957), yet it was actually at the end of the second world war when Winston Churchill presented his ideas and encouragement for a united Europe – in several speeches, like this famous one in Zurich 19.September.1946.