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These are deeply terrifying times!

In a book released last month, Indian thinker and public intellectual Pankaj Mishra has attempted to sketch out the origins of today’s globally charged environment, replete with anger, frustration, and distraught. It is worth reading.

Over recent years, social discontent has amounted in the face of economic strains and stresses. Across south and central Asia, parts of Africa and most of the Middle East, and increasingly in many Western countries, armies of especially young people have been consumed by runway unemployment and severe economic hardships.

From the hundreds of socially dislocated and economically excluded masses, terrorist groups and authors of extremist ideology have effortlessly indoctrinated and recruited individuals willing to die for a conveniently defined agenda.

Mishra cogently shows that the global apocalyptic currently looming on the horizon has striking parallels with the vagaries of the industrial revolution that peaked at the end of the 19th century.

The capitalist economic system that emerged conterminously with the industrial revolution wrought large-scale social dislocations, material deprivation, and overall economic stress. The commodification of every aspect of human life prepared a powder keg that exploded in 1914: the outbreak of the First World War.

There was a lull, otherwise referred to as the interwar period, between 1919 and 1939, the 20 years during which Western nations did very well in preparing for the second round of a global catastrophe: the Second World War.

The economic edifice built from the early 18th century through the end of the 19th century had to be rethought as the Second World War drew to a close and the Japanese surrender in summer 1945. An economic system of rapacious pursuit of individual profit and material accumulation had built up the blocks for two world wars and the worst ever economic crisis, the Great Depression.

At the Bretton Woods conference in July 1944 in the United States, convened to chart a new direction for the global economy, there were two leading architects of a post-war economic orientation: the American Harry Dexter White and the Briton John Maynard Keynes.

Keynes made a persuasive case for tempered market economics with social safety nets for the economically disadvantaged and government intervention to rectify market failures especially in ensuring full employment.

This post-war consensus against free economic orthodoxy led to roaring economic recovery and unprecedented prosperity in the intervening decades. It delivered enormous prosperity in the West but also strong economic performance in the poor countries of the global periphery, in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

But American military adventures in Vietnam precipitated a move back to the blind faith in the magic of markets.

Political and economic instability in the 1970s starting with the Arab-Israel war and the global oil crisis in 1973, the plunge of commodity prices on the global market, the Iranian revolution, the hostage incident in Teheran, and the American invasion of Afghanistan all in 1979, and the global recession of 1979-81 all combined to strike a blow against post-World War Keynesian economics.

These developments ultimately culminated in the ascendance to power of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and Ronald Reagan in 1981 in the UK and US respectively. The rest, as they say, is now history. The world was taken back to crass capitalism.

The European welfare state was rigorously dismantled, especially in the UK. Between 1979 and 2013, the American middle-class, as a share of the total population, shrunk from 33 per cent to 26 per cent. The growth in wealth and income concentration today parallels that at the turn of the 19th century.

The world’s top one per cent earners, about 70 million out of the seven billion people in the world, have between them 46 per cent of global income/wealth. Since around the end of the 1980s, there has been an acceleration in income inequality in the West with less-skilled workers taking a heavy beating as multinational corporations sought cheap labor in Asia.

The economic stress and strain in many European countries has driven young men to find appeal in jihadist agendas. Quite a few have either handed themselves to martyrdom at home or made the trip to join ISIS in the Middle East and al-Shabab in Somalia.

In Asia and Africa, economic desperation has benefited political entrepreneurs who instrumentalize religion to easily lure young people into adventure with heavenly promises. No less crucial, economic desperation has driven thousands into perilous pursuit of fortunes through suicidal treks across the Mediterranean.

There have been two major economic revolutions in the modern era: the industrial revolution in the 18th century and the technological revolution that started in the last quarter of the 20th century. The first revolution pulverized man and commodified human beings. The upshot was two tragic word wars.

The second relaunched a new round of egregious pursuit of enrichment in a world of enormous material wealth side-by-side with biting poverty and gross deprivation. The upshot is runaway populism, demagoguery, xenophobia, and blunt racism.

The masses facing grave economic want are only happy to lend their support to the theatrics of demagogues and ultra-nationalists. Yet even for many of us who are supposedly privileged, the fear and anxiety keeps sprawling. These are terrifying times.

The author teaches  political science at Northwestern University, Evanston/Chicago, USA

Comments   

0 #1 Akot 2017-03-17 19:33
Yet, even those who want to make us believe they have final say in world events, are the last to know what to do!

Organisations that lobby for the poor-needy... are also the ones ensuring there are more & more poor-needy fleeying their countries to impose their miseries yonder!

This leaves bad rulers in peace & just go on looting-emptying their lands of the poor!

This has caused upheavals in USA-Europe that see themselves as victims rather than those from whom we could learn & build our coutries too!

We seem not to be aware that those leaving home for USA-Europe are so so many & will only increase as Africa... remain poorly governed & rulers getting more rich!

Ugandans should know this with Rwandese-S.Sudanese flocking in!

Yet with so many needing jobs & countries in need of tax money, developed countries are talking of robots taking over jobs from humans!
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+4 #2 Akot 2017-03-17 19:50
MOSES KHISA,

What valid reason do Ugandans have to keep Museveni in power through tribalism?

Will Museveni destroy any tribe if ALL TRIBES UNITE for a common purpose against him?

Would Museveni still be there if Ugandans came out to support Dr Besigye instead of just working in peace for Museveni while the Dr fights a lonely battle he will never win?

Would Museveni have openly rigged election if there was just 1 opposition leader face to the demon?

These trying times will only get worse as Ugandans continue staying tribally divided face to their common enemy yet providing him tax money to just go on!

Why can't we learn from Tunisia-Egypt..?

S.Sudanese used the entire world to get Free but they are going back to Sudan-Uganda... because like Ugandans, they are tribalists & cannot live-work to build their country together!
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+1 #3 Didaz 2017-03-20 00:05
MKhisa,Terrifying times indeed following the recent gruesome murder of one of Uganda's to Cops AIGP Kaweesi mafios style!

The Global economic upheavals appear to be complicated by strange political and social waves sweeping every part of the World.

Nevertheless for every recession there has been a rebound and for every new political order there are opposing forces some of which have functioned better and some simply disastrous!

History has a way of of repeating its self if you like.
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0 #4 Akot 2017-03-20 20:38
Didaz, thanks, yet,

Rebound can only take place if "the people" concerned rise up to bring the needed change, otherwise, the stauts quo continues to be upheld by the very people who need the change, but don't dare Unite & rise up to achieve it!

Dictators feed on people's fear-subjection-surrender...!

Brexit-D.Trump is not racism-intolerance but way of safegarding what they built-have, while telling migrants to rise up in their own countries so that their rulers become leaders who take care of their people & not drive them abroad looking for better life!

These useless rulers sending their own abroad looking for better life came to power promising them the very life they leave to get abroad!

Why are these useless rulers being legitimised instead of ALL telling them to "Stand Down" from respobsibilities they cannot live up to, yet they live luxuriously on backs of their people?
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+1 #5 Ocaya Mike 2017-03-20 22:57
Ndugu Khisa,
Truly, it is what one may term as ‘survival of the fittest’ since the coming of particularly of the syndrome of Single World’s Super Power by the US and her Western World allies.

When they talked about globalisation or democracy and freedom it means one must be in the whims of their interpretations. Under this syndrome dictators in African countries,

Latin American countries and Asian countries those operate according to the wishes of Washington, London and, or Brussel continued to be concealed.

Those dictators continued to be given very strong political, economic and diplomatic norms despite their deplorable human right abuses and, even not following democratic values.

Ndugu Khisa, the basic thing here again, I think, corruptions had always been a two way traffics.

Ocaya pOcure
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+1 #6 Ocaya Mike 2017-03-20 23:00
Because, if we see how most dictators from the Third World have had their bank accounts in the Western World whereby they stacked billions of US Dollars there despite the deplorable political and human rights situations are in the Third World countries.

The question is; where is the moral values the Western World always preaches?

Brutally, in the Middle East, the Western World have continued to bombed countries such as Iraq, Syria and Libya in North Africa back to stone ages in the name of fighting terrorism.

These kinds of brutalities do manufactured massive refugees. Sadly, the same Western powers led by the US, UK and France have created, but they do not want to welcome those refugees coming from the Middle East because they happened to Muslims.

This is pathetic because one cannot throw the stones on the beehives but expect no response from the bees.

Ocaya pOcure
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+1 #7 Akot 2017-03-21 16:03
Ocaya Mike, thanks, yet,

With Brexit-D.Trump, it's time all wake up because thier power in reality, does not exist anymore except when they join wars & sell their big guns while shouting out loud they are powerful!

USA-UK have seen how people are tired of the nonsense going on & want real change too!

See what G.W Bush did to Iraq: he got rid of Sadam Hussein without alternative administration to replace him & Iraqis were caught in disaray not knowing what to do!

They went in Syria only because Russia went in - they are fighting Russia yet pretend they are helping Syria!

If they had real good governance-powerfull, why has there been Brexit-D.Trump to say NO to all this nonsense?

Ugandans MUST, as Americans-British did, say NO to Museveni!...
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+1 #8 Didaz 2017-03-22 01:53
Akot,Greetings.Wouldn't you like to be among "people concerned" to rise up?

Presumably Acoli ancestors would be very pleased with you for removing "evil" from the land wouldn't they?
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