IHP news #474 (June 15, 2018)

The G7 and the world in shaky times

By on June 15, 2018



Dear Colleagues,

One of the core debates of our times relates to whether you agree with (1) the overall gist of Hans Rosling’s “Factfulness” (really nice book, by the way) which claims that the world has been improving in many ways, that many of the hard facts point in that direction, and that we should thus try to look in a more ‘factful’ way to the real world, or (2) Richard Horton’s nagging feeling of worry about the future, which he expressed among others in last week’s Offline – Planetary health—worth everything: “…There is our task: to see the thunderstorm ahead of us. Many have preferred to turn their heads away. It falls to planetary health to insist that we face the thunderstorm. “  However, when you look at the five core risks that Rosling distinguishes for the current world, towards the end of his bestseller, Hans would probably have been the first one to argue for ‘a factful way’ to look at this thunderstorm that indeed, for many observers and global citizens, seems to be brewing. And do everything in our might to avoid it. As the editor-in-chief of a high profile scientific journal, Horton would probably agree with that stance.

A key ingredient of the current brewing thunderstorm is the fact that many ordinary citizens in countries formerly known as “developed & liberal democratic countries” have the feeling they’ve been living in “fake democracies” for too long now. In recent decades, in the era of neoliberal globalization, too many important decisions on things that matter in their lives were taken in shady global fora, the global financial sector, central banks, board rooms of MNCs, trade & investment agreements, …  That sentiment is to a large extent justified. Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution. Moreover, the authoritarian strongmen “recipes” we’re currently witnessing around the globe tend to bring out the worst in people, and spark vicious instead of virtuous circles.  Many citizens in countries from the (former) ‘North’ recognize their own countries less and less, including when it comes to the core values they thought these were subscribing to. That cannot be a good sign. Including for countries formerly situated in the “Global South” (where they have more than their share of strongmen, by the way). So these strongmen (it’s mostly men) need to be defeated, at the ballot box, in global and national discourse, on social media, on the streets and elsewhere. Before they destroy the world.

On a more positive note, the World Cup has just started in Russia. As for Belgium, let me say this loud and clear, and only once:  “The Time is Now” to become World Champion!  : )

Enjoy your reading.

Kristof Decoster



(you find the pdf of the full newsletter here: IHPn474 )

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