Hard Times

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The reason why I have decided to inaugurate ‘The Postmodernist’ is to express my sincere preoccupation regarding the future of our world. I believe the rise of protectionist and Eurosceptic movements is merely the tip of an iceberg, whose development has only accelerated since the end of the Second World War.

It is not my intention to simply cast a gloom of pessimism over the future, but rather to express the need for active participation in raising awareness of society’s issues. I do not question the immense technological progress achieved by the Industrial Revolution, following in the footsteps of Enlightenment ideals, in fields ranging from medicine to telecommunications and education. What I do question, however, is technology’s failure to assist the creation of far-sighted policies, especially with regards to global inequality, climate change and the physical limitations of our planet.

Despite the improved living standards of the emerging ‘middle-class’, we still live in a world where more than 80% of wealth is held by less than 1% of the population, whose rate of return on it continues to exceed the wealth generated by labour. Will the 1% be mature enough to realise that their own (not to say the world’s) well-being can only be threatened, in the long-term, by growing inequality?

On top of that, the political agenda of the most powerful man on Earth (seriously, do I have to name him?) aims to address climate concerns as a form of conspiracy, despite increasing scientific evidence linking anthropogenic causes (of which industrial pollution, fossil fuel consumption and deforestation are the main culprits) to the observed global rise in temperatures. By failing to seriously account for environmental impacts in the broader economic picture, the world may be approaching the ‘overshoot’ scenario presented in ‘The Limits to Growth’ (1972.) Will humanity be able to use its (supposed) intelligence to avoid resource depletion and poisoning by means of its own waste, unlike bacterial colonies in a petri dish?

Globalisation has succeeded in uniting people across the world, favouring international diplomatic relations and improving the living standards of many (think of China.) Yet it would be naïve to think that a fairer, sustainable world is at the top of the agenda: the UN’s annual Human Development Report has, since its establishment in 1990, consistently witnessed the asynchronous progress of social indicator figures between Africa and the rest of the world. Any major historical development results in winners and losers, yet it is sad to realise that the latter always seem to be the same.

To save the world from the underlying threats of nationalism and environmental disaster, solidarity and sustainability, not growth and profit ‘at all costs’, must be placed at the heart of new global policies.

Quoting Thomas Piketty’s masterpiece, ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’:

“Economists are all too often preoccupied with petty mathematical problems of interest only to themselves. This obsession with mathematics is an easy way of acquiring the appearance of scientificity without having to answer the far more complex questions posed by the world we live in.”

A pluralist approach to economics is necessary as never before.

I do realise the complexity of the issues I raise, especially considering the growing economic power of many of the leading transnational corporations, now comparable (if not superior, in some cases) to that of most countries in the world. But me and you can make all the difference in changing the world within our individual realities. We are lucky enough to live in an era of relative peace (at least in Europe), yet the paradox lies in the fact that we are consequently less inclined to push for social progress. From my experience there is a tendency for resignation, a feeling that just because something “has always been done that way” then it is necessarily “the only way.” The common belief is that technology will be able to solve humanity’s problems when the time comes, but is progress truly inevitable? And are we mature enough to adequately adjust our socioeconomic systems before it’s too late?

We may never know the answers to such questions in our lifetime. It nonetheless remains our duty, as global citizens, to make our individual contributions for a fairer, sustainable world: future generations have no less a right to enjoy the beauties and resources of planet Earth.



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