Walls Coming Down, Walls Going Up

27 years ago liberal democracy defeated communism, the Cold War ended, and the Berlin Wall crumbled. For 27 years we have lived within a paradigm set by the US, a paradigm that has brought great prosperity and disparity, and that has brought peace to most parts of the world, with the woeful exception of the Middle East. All the while China has opened up and unlocked its manufacturing capacities, adding to global wealth and remaining geopolitically unassuming until the recent past.

It is unprecedented in human history that global power would reside in one country to the extent it has done this last quarter century. And it was clear to any even casual observer that such dominance by a country with a population of only a quarter of the Asian giants (and five per cent of the global total) could not last. Yet, the unravelling that we have seen recently in the US has interestingly not been brought about by foreign pressures – it has been brought about by domestic tension caused by inequality. The rallying cry might have been a fight against globalisation, but the reality was the hollowing out of middle class status and living conditions compared to the one-percenters. The culprit is not globalisation, but the deficiencies of the social model. Germany and the Nordic countries have a lesson to teach in this respect.

The prospect for 2017 is that walls will be going up everywhere. A wall to Mexico, trade walls in all directions, walls towards women and minorities, walls to other cultures, and, in twist of ultimate irony, a virtual wall towards China.

The most frightening aspect of all this is that while all these walls are being erected the walls in our minds will grow as well. It is not necessarily natural for human beings to be truly open-minded. We are conditioned to follow the tribe. Yet, the greatest good of civilisation is open-mindedness and tolerance. How sad that angry and truth resistant rhetoric and action are taking the place of humanity and reason! ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’!

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