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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The world must wake up from its 2008 depression... in time.

Although the current period since 2008 is still called “The Great Recession” and last century’s period during the interbellum is the only one considered to be “The Great Depression”, there seem to be no really big differences at all between both periods in time.

That is except for the emergence of the Twentieth Century’s  utterly ruthless leaders, like German Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler, Japanese emperor Hirohito and the Soviet Union’s supreme leader Josif Stalin. These undisputed “strong men” – in case of Hirohito the invisible leaders behind him – threw their own countries and others into extremely bloody (domestic) wars, with unimaginable bloodshed in numerous countries and the ultimate deployment of the world’s most feared weapon to this day, the atomic bomb.

It has not come this far yet and we all hope that it never will, but the global signs should be enough to raise the stormball. So let’s call the current period for what it is: a depression and a nasty one indeed.

Again there seems to be an extremely poisonous cocktail of brutal nationalism, ubiquitous distrust and lack of international cooperation between countries, protectionist tendencies and (sometimes) sheer hatred against (religious) minorities inside and outside our own borders. A mixture that is flavoured with a mounting desire among populations for strong leaders who impose their will upon the domestic minorities, as well as the rest of the world, instead of negotiating with them for their fair share of political and economic privileges, trade and wealth.

While the normal streetlife in The Netherlands – and probably other countries too – is still pretty “normal” and people are mostly friendly, empathic and polite against one another, spending a few hours on Twitter and other social media is enough to see how the situation is deteriorating rapidly in the social interactions. Many people are angry..., furious..., even outraged... and almost everyone of those angry people has become it, coming from his own personal stance and worldview.

There is no understanding for each other’s position and background anymore and people are simply disqualified, in case they don’t belong to the winning group at their home turf. Diplomacy is at best performed with the megaphone of shouting and usage of CAPITALS in every written statement. “Nuances and shades of grey are soft and we are not soft on softness anymore. We are soft on nothing and no-one. Black & white, aka good & bad, are the colours of choice!”.

And please don’t think that the newly elected American president Donald Trump is the only one, who administers his narrow world vision by megaphone and CAPITALS.

Since the Brexit has become the chosen option in former PM David Cameron’s dreaded referendum, there is a strong increase in the number of official / unofficial hostilities against immigrants and EU citizens from f.i. Poland, but also The Netherlands.

On top of that, the leaders of the most prominent populist parties in The Netherlands, Germany and France even felt confident enough to pose with each other on a large picture that was published all over Europe.

No more cautious restraint for these parties anymore: the election victory of President Donald Trump felt like their own victory, as if the victory in their national elections cannot escape from them anymore. And the national polls of today seem to work in their favour, in The Netherlands and France.

And the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte seems to agree with them too: in order to beat the populist Dutch Party for Freedom, Mark Rutte deemed it necessary to put a one-page advertisement in all large daily newpapers in The Netherlands, in which he asked everybody “who could not act normal” to “take a hike” away from The Netherlands.

Even though his cheap attempt towards hijacking the populist vote was met with scornful laughter and sheer amazement from the opposition, it is a tell-tale signal how low the political situation has sunk in The Netherlands, that the Prime Minister must turn to such draconic measures.

Suffice it to mention the situation in Russia and the Ukraine, but also in Hungary and Poland, or China and the Philippines and the view emerges of a world that tries to fight its depression with a display of sheer aggression against other countries and domestic / foreign population groups (i.e. refugees), with the United States agitator-in-chief Donald Trump as the latest (and perhaps most dangerous) populist star in the galaxy.

Suddenly trade wars loom between the United States and about every other industrialized country and political block in the world: about rejected treaties and trade agreements, newly imposed trade barriers, import levies and mandatory production lines in the United States for foreign brands, who want to maintain their business in the US.

But there is also acrimony between the new US government and environmentalists about strongly polluting oil pipelines or between the United States and China about a few small islands in the South Chinese sea and the natural wealth that these islands possess.

Not even to mention the current situation between the US, Europe and Ukraine and Russia, coming from a decade of mounting tensions in Europe. Or the Arab Spring, which is rather akin to an Arab Winter.

It is as the famous sage Frances Coppola states on Twitter: “Trade wars have a tendency to become real wars”. And that is a scary, yet not very implausible concept.

Tweet by economist and twitter sage
Frances Coppola (@Frances_Coppola)
Click to enlarge
Where the world seems more firmly in the grasp of populists every day, it is paramount to realize that their siren’s song is counterproductive and dangerous; no matter how seductive it sounds.

It is time for the world to finally wake up from this 9-year depression and learn the valuable lessons from the situation in the interbellum, that led to the Second World War. 

Please wake up, everybody, and smell the coffee! Before it’s too late!

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