IHP news #396

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Four more years. At least.

By on December 2, 2016   Dear Colleagues,

While walking back to the hotel in Vancouver with one of my friends in the EV governance team, a few weeks ago, he said he leads a happy simple life, in his own words. As an ‘only on good weather days’ Buddhist, I couldn’t help but admire(/envy) that. It’s the sort of life that most religions advocate, and for good reason. True, human beings have always felt some tension between living a simple life and the neverending dreams & unfulfilled hopes, ambitions and aspirations that also make us  – profoundly – human. But nowadays, many people seem to have lost some of the ability to manage this (inevitable) tension of human life. Restlessness has become a key trait of many among us now, certainly in the North (but presumably this is increasingly a global trend in our (interconnected) individualist and consumerist times where opportunities to change tack completely in one’s life and career are relentlessly being advertised via (social) media & other ads).  I’ve been told it’s even worse for the (permanently connected) younger generations who want it all, and ideally, right now.  

Yes, the rise of populism in the North has many origins and many economic & political ones, including downright betrayal by elites, are justified.  But a skillful charismatic populist who can surf on these waves and at the same time also exploit the deep-felt need of many (post-)modern people for ‘Change’, one way or another, has electoral gold in his/her hands and will be nearly unstoppable. Actually, this seems true for all top politicians (see “Yes we can”) in our times, not just the populist specimen.  Unfortunately (and to link back with the first paragraph of this intro), as my  ‘Twitter feed for calm weather days’   emphasizes, ““If you cannot be the calm, you cannot be the change. There is no change without the calm.”

To make matters worse, at the same time, deep change in the world is really urgent, as the sense of a pervasive  global crisis and upcoming ‘Perfect storm’ is probably accurate. The world stands at a crossroads (some would say “cliff”), so how exactly do you do that, living a simple life in our very complicated times, where most of the old certainties seem to implode in front of our eyes ? And will it suffice to fend off global catastrophe, if enough people live simple and good lives? People were probably also pondering that question in the 30ies, I imagine.  

Just a few examples of imploding “certainties”: meritocracy, a principle upon which many of our (post-)modern societies were built, at least in theory, has been brutally exposed now for the neoliberal lie that it is, after the election as US president of a “groper-in-chief annex narcissist bully” who seems really keen on becoming the tweeting US version of Idi Amin & Robert Mugabe sooner rather than later.  US parents now probably tell their kids the following Sandman story before they tuck them in: “Little Billie/Jodie, don’t be a good boy/girl in school, make instead sure you bully your class mates whenever you can; by all means, never ever pay your taxes, when you’ll be a grown-up, and who knows, one day you might just become the president of our great country!” So much for meritocracy.

The US as a role model for the rest of the world, which the country was, sometimes (but unfortunately, only in its best moments), we can also forget for the foreseeable future. We’ll be lucky if Trump’s US doesn’t turn into a rogue country. As for the EU, it’s almost the same story.  2016 has been an ‘annus horribilis’ so far: in an unsustainable and brutally unfair world, the elites now have the ‘disruptive revolution’ they’ve been begging for. It’s just not the one we would have liked. As the consequences of the Trump election sink in  (and we see him betraying some of his working class voters on a near daily basis), our massive hangover is only getting worse. “Four more years” sounds rather different now.

Against that rather dire backdrop (and we didn’t even go into the horror in Aleppo, Yemen, South-Sudan, North Nigeria, Myanmar, …), this week, at the WISH conference in Doha, Tim Evans asked the following question: “Which health professionals do we need for the SDG era?”. Hope somebody in the audience suggested some other questions first: how exactly are we going to avoid the implosion of the SDG agenda in the first place, certainly in the North?   And how “resilient” will our democracies turn out to be?  Meanwhile, to experience a ‘cosmopolitan moment’, I put my hope on the stars around Christmas time.

In this week’s Featured article, Kati Wilkins (EV 2016) responds to Asmat Malik’s rather controversial stance on Brexit & the US elections from a few weeks ago.

Enjoy your reading.

The editorial team




(you find the pdf-version of the newsletter here: ihpn396 )

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