Over the weekend I availed myself of the opportunity late one evening to settle into my overstuffed chair in the living room, place my feet up on the ottoman, and to begin reading one of the usually well-thought-out and well-written English periodicals being published today. I favor publications from abroad in that they tend to have a more global perspective and are based more on lucid inquiry than are comparable American publications, which are directed more at selling some inconsient (but politically correct) point of view and written by some nit whose only authority is in having collected a college degree.
As I began to read this particular article however, I was disappointed in its apparent lack of insight. The subject itself was of interest, having to do with the world’s fin de siècle, the end of a (progressive) era, one of free trade, globalization, and liberal values with a return to …. But let’s stop here, for it is unlikely that the world will be “returning” to anything — as long ago we’ve burned that bridge behind us. And as the title of the book by Thomas Wolfe suggests, “You Can’t Go Home Again.”
I would argue that what we are observing today is the necessary demise and death of derelict institutions of the past: e.g., media “news” (that clearly isn’t), oppressive corporation practices, and irresponsive governments — to name but a few. However, before the new can be born, the old must pass. So perhaps the present period can best be characterized as necessary “spring cleaning.”
For consider the overall state of the world today. Today 21 percent (1.6 billion people) of the world’s population lives in poverty. These folks have no disposable income, for they live in rural areas and spend on average 60 percent to 80 percent of their income on food. Lack of food (and potable water), lack of shelter, no access to medical services, illiteracy, children dying from lack of a parent’s ability to nurture them, deforestation, overfishing, gross income disparity … I mean, really? If indeed we are our brother’s keeper, collectively we need to up our game.
But how has this come about? Likely there are a number of factors, one of which notably is the diversion of wealth to a powerful few. For example, today 62 people own the same as half the world (2016 Oxfam Davos report) and, as noted above, 21 percent of the world lives in poverty. So maybe this past epoch of free trade, globalization and liberal values that has brought about this disparity should be relegated to the past in favor of a system wherein each who is willing to work can secure for himself and his family a decent living, which will require some sort of new financial structure that can and will bypass the unscrupulousness of today’s financial overlords.
Also, as a practical matter, today’s world, even if it wanted, could not return to some made-glorious past society, imagined or otherwise. If in going forward to again “make America great,” it will be in some sort of new world that for stability relies on a free internet and a social media networking whereby ordinary people can and will influence the institutions that impact their lives and that of those around them. Even today such a foundation is being laid, with social media sites such as Facebook having over 1.5 billion subscribers (approximately 20 percent of the world’s population) and where 44 percent of Americans obtain their weekly news.
So, like it or not, apparently we along with the world are on the next leg of a voyage into unchartered waters; and where it may take us, who knows? About the only thing that can be said with some degree of certainty is that the present shifting of power from wealthy interests to people-centric interests will be turbulent — for in general power is never given but always taken.
So, as the actress Bette Davis once famously quipped, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”
All of which, of course, is just my opinion.
Jeff Stewart is a retired project manager and former member of the KIBSD Board of Education.