We are faced with the threat of a kind of “war of all against all”, a global, world civil war, a multidimensional matrix of conflicts of different origins. Moreover, there is a suspicion that the ability of the world’s elites to settle, and resolve even the most acute conflicts will not be enough to achieve a positive result, writes Valdai Club Chairman Andrey Bystritskiy.
Where, precisely, is the world heading? Perhaps, only heaven knows the exact answer. But from an Earth-bound point of view, nothing particularly good should be expected; in the coming years, in any case. Human beings, alas, are not quite good at creating a comfortable and happy world.
Of course, hopes that the world can become a better place have not disappeared. Moreover, without these hopes, we would be driven to revulsion. But, as was the case more than a hundred years ago, when Henryk Sienkiewicz wrote his novel about first century Rome, the future is still very worrisome.
Naturally, all the grounds for alarm are right before our eyes. One even gets the feeling that along with tangible progress, primarily technological, we are seeing a noticeable regression of the world around us. As it turns out, human nature has not gone anywhere. Selfishness, envy, anger and aggression do not recede: far from that, they intensify to some extent, reminding us that the darkest periods of human history could return.
The most dangerous thing here is that we are sinking more and more into conflicts, both new and rekindled old ones. There are conflicts between countries, and internal conflicts, between citizens, and often it is simply impossible to separate them.
Characteristically, the pandemic did absolutely nothing to ease the tensions; moreover, it seems to have led to the escalation of many of them. Even more significant is the fact that 2020 played a role (that has not yet been fully assessed) in the destruction of ideas about world solidarity and about the shared future of humanity.
Of course, the most striking example here is the fate of vaccination against Covid. This is simply an astonishing story of how extraordinary advances in biology have led to disunity and the growth of hatred. It would seem that the path is obvious — the creation of some kind of supranational bodies for the certification, production and distribution of vaccines, at least for the duration of the pandemic. But instead, we see an information storm that only serves to discredit, in the eyes of billions of people, the very idea of vaccination, amid endless attempts to undermine the credibility of certain manufacturers, and the undisguised selfishness of many governments thinking only about their electoral prospects. In general, we have almost succeeded in making vaccines a political weapon for both internal and external use. There are countless examples of this.
So, if the pandemic were more serious, then there would be little chance of human survival. No more than, for example, in the 11th century during the plague pandemic.
Moreover, the case is not limited to vaccines or drugs against Covid. Before our eyes, there is an obvious aggravation of old conflicts, and the emergence of new ones.
Only in the spring, Ethiopia and Eritrea celebrated the resolution of their long-standing conflict. But less than a few months later, hostilities resumed in the Ethiopian province of Tigray, which to a certain extent affects a significant part of East Africa. But in the west of the continent, too, the violence hasn’t stopped. The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh seems to be over, but the cost of this truce is very high, and its prospects for the future are uncertain. This is taking into account the multiple problems in the Middle East. Indian and Chinese soldiers didn’t kill each other with bullets at first, they preferred cold steel. Even Britain and France are exchanging explicit threats to use military force over Brexit and its implications for fisheries.
All of the above are just a few examples of a general and growing conflict. It’s no wonder that arms purchases will rise soon, as it turns out that countries need to rely on themselves in present and future conflicts. This is just one result of the pandemic-catalysed crash of the world order. In general, one gets the impression that something is growing in the world that could be called mutual irritation, anger and intolerance.
This is also noticeable in the internal affairs of many countries. We see a significant increase in what is often called civic engagement. This would be quite acceptable, and even useful, if it were not for such an intensity of hatred and unwillingness to even admit the existence of other points of view.
It seems to me that the balance between competition and cooperation either does not exist anymore, or it is melting right before our eyes.
This is, of course, partly the result of globalism, the great connectedness of mankind, the development of a new information and communication environment; it is also partly due to the erosion of what can be called a common narrative, common ideas about what the future should be like. There are probably many other reasons — the clash of values, colossal inequality and the obvious injustice of many things in the modern world.
But whatever the reasons are, we are faced with the threat of a kind of “war of all against all”, a global, world civil war, a multidimensional matrix of conflicts of different origins.
Moreover, there is a suspicion that the ability of the world’s elites to settle, and resolve even the most acute conflicts will not be enough to achieve a positive result. It turns out that the cyclopean, complex, unusually interconnected body of modern mankind is bypassed by the dwarf brain of the modern elite. The fact that some politicians are quite a cut above others, alas, does not change the matter. Elite work in the modern world is a mass profession, with all its costs — prejudices, professional limitations, clannishness, and fierce competition of its own kind.
As a result, those who have to think for many, and should do it quickly and accurately, instead produce an incredible amount of intellectual junk that only confuses others.
Incompetence is one of the biggest problems of our time. And it often leads to what one might call malignant oversimplifications. This happens when the mind is not able to comprehend a situation in its entirety and tries to simplify it. At the same time, essential elements are not reflected upon, and as a result, we fail to analyse accurately; accordingly, correct actions are rendered impossible. Covid is the clearest confirmation of this. The ability to be confused by minor quandaries, apparently, is an integral quality of humanity.
In general, the future is alarming. Of course, people once lived in more difficult conditions, there have always been bloody feuds. Somehow humanity was coping. Maybe this time it will be enough. But this is not a certainty.