Early summer in Belgium, splendid weather in other words, so I will duly self-censor the objectivating (supposedly ape) part of my brain lest I get the gender & intersectionality armada on my neck over the weekend. Let’s just put it like this: with all these divine creatures roaming in the streets, you understand why Hinduism came up with the notion “God is in all of us”, and hundreds (or is it thousands?) of deities. In spite of this, and even also taking into account the yearly Eurovision song contest (which is always good for some silly fun), ànd an official holiday yesterday, it was again a fairly dystopian week for ‘glass half empty’ people like me, and – I’m afraid – also for most neutral observers. The Donald was a prime culprit, as usual, but troubles for the world go far deeper. I have to admit that the relentless feed of disheartening news on Twitter (or any other media platform) wears one down, and so I understand why many people have taken a conscious decision not to follow the news anymore, although that can never really be an (other than temporary) option, at least if you don’t want to give up on this world.
What are some of these ‘deeper troubles’ lurking just around the corner, then? Well, you hear a lot of ‘fake news’ at IMF/WB Spring Meetings, from what I can tell, but in certainly one way Jim Kim had it right last month. ‘Rising expectations’ (socio-economic, governance related ones, …), in combination with the technological/digital means to be connected to the whole world now through a mouse click (or via smartphone), lead to a situation whereby time is fast running out to do something about the outrageous (and still increasing) global inequality and blatant gaps between different places in the world. Add to this the fact that in many former Northern strongholds many among the new generations notice they can’t expect anymore the living standard and security of their parents’ generation (which is for many, the benchmark, according to sociologists), and you get a potentially toxic cocktail for leaders & regimes (both democracies and more authoritarian ones) around the world. Many expectations for more justice and a fairer world are (more than) justified, however, as neoliberalism is imploding, the ‘antineoliberalist’ backlash could very well spark protofascist regimes (or worse) instead of a fairer world (as you can notice on a daily basis on your Twitter feed). Meanwhile, expectations of women (i.e. half the world) around the world are rising too, now that #MeToo is going global, and that’s damned overdue. At the same time, some of the more disgruntled men around the world (for example, the many in India & China who know they’ll never marry) live increasingly, due to urbanization among others, in a now anything but traditional/conservative society; instead the global capitalist system we all live in now (with a few exceptions) is one whereby our expectations ( and in many instances, cheap commercial desires) are egged on all the time via billboards, ads in (social) media, etc. “You can have it all, right now”, that’s the message you get in our world all the time, even if for most people this clearly is “very fake news”, if they actually think it through. In addition, we all notice now – again via global media, 24 hours a day – how most of the 0.01 % don’t seem to care a damn about the responsibility they have for our planet and global inequality, and live a ‘bling bling’ life while lecturing the rest of us on our many responsibilities and need to work ever harder and longer. A life of moderation, as in previous times, has become very unfancy. It’s more something for losers, this global economic system seems to imply. And this all in a world that faces the challenge of accommodating the most people ever on this planet (more than 7.5 billion now, with no end in sight in the medium term), and thus huge ecological pressure. So yes, sometimes, it’s hard not to feel dystopian about where our world is heading for. Looks like Marx and Hobbes will have the final word in the 21st century, certainly if we don’ t manage to get to a “sufficiency economy” (and thus post-capitalist system), soon, and move away rapidly from the current “hyperconsumption” ideology of the “corporate consumption complex”. The latter is the main ‘planetary health’ & SDG challenge for the coming decade(s). Hope the Liverpool symposium will also zoom in on this. (PS: Not sure beer will be allowed to get to a more “glass half full’ picture : ) )
Anyway, many in the global health community (including the NCD community) are already slowly gearing up for the 71st World Health Assembly, but in this week’s IHP newsletter we will pay more attention to the Global Fund Board meeting in Skopje, Macedonia; a report of the Guttmacher–Lancet Commission on sexual and reproductive health and rights for all: the return of Ebola in the DRC; a new IDS bulletin on accountability for health equity and much more…
Enjoy your reading.
(you find the pdf of the newsletter here: IHPn469 )