BREXIT and Trump Triumph in Historical Perspective

The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.

Mahatma Gandhi.

Few would have sensed the overtones hidden in BREXIT. Simmering British discontent against migrants exploded on the fateful, 24th day of June, 2016 and in just two days wiped off $3 trillion from unnerved international markets. This was only the beginning.

collapse of modern civilization
The BREXIT Shock

It never rains, it pours. Storm clouds drifted westward picking up loads of moisture over the Atlantic. The deluge came on 8 November, 2016 when Americans thrust a brazenly anti-global Donald Trump to the White House. The die was cast. You could no longer dismiss BREXIT as an aberration!

Both verdicts were a thumping rejection of globalization by voters in rich countries. Or the present version of globalization. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had famously remarked that arguing against globalization is like arguing against gravity. Why then, were the laws of ‘gravity’ failing and failing so miserably?

The answer: globalization has deepened economic inequality in the developed world. And because politics is mostly based on national issues, inequality inside countries has far reaching ramifications. The ones most hit by globalisation, hit back via BREXIT and Trump victory, sending shivers across the world in the process. But hey, our entrenched mindsets were no less responsible for the shock waves. Open your mind and you can deal with them. For a start at least.

Thomas Homer-Dixon, author of the 2006 book The Upside of Down, names BREXIT, Trump victory, 2008 global economic meltdown, and the ISIS’ meteoric surge as symptoms of an impending social collapse. University of Maryland systems scientist Safa Motesharrei’s research reveals how ecological imbalance and economic disparities trigger such declines.

Scared and frustrated people cling to identities – racial, religious, national etc. Ganging up creates a sense of security and boosts bargaining power. And bargaining power is pivotal in the mad tussle over scarce resources – the root cause of such fracas. Petrified ‘gangsters’ try to exclude all outsiders. Rising inequality is enough to terrorize people into such groups.

Bipin Chandra et al. in India’s Struggle for Independence state that economic stagnation and the consequent cutthroat competition for jobs and business created anti-Semitism, Fascism, Catholic-Protestant clashes in Northern Ireland, racism, Christian-Muslim conflict in Lebanon, and communal strife in India. Again, the answer lies in getting out of the ‘us versus they’ psyche.

There is nothing new in humans scuffling over resources. It is the uncertainty stirred by inequality and dwindling resources that adds to the uneasiness. The elite control more than the lion’s share of resources, immorally of course. The rest are terrified there isn’t enough left, a feeling worsened by the impact of climate change – rapid resource depletion. What also heightens the resource paucity is common people imitating the extravagance of the super rich. Lifestyles of the elite are, after all, seen as habits of successful people.

Make America Great Again
The “Make America Great Again” Slogan Captured the Imagination of the American Voter. Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Make_America_Great_Again_hat_(27149010964).jpg

The more you consume the more greenhouse gases (GHG) you emit and the greater you contribute to Global Warming and Climate Change. The richest 10% emit as much GHGs as the remaining 90%. Emissions also rise with exploding populations. The panic over being denuded of resources can spark off hostilities. In extreme cases, the working population collapses. And with no labor available, so does the elite. Result: fall of civilization!

Immorality breeds inequality, which, in turn, arouses unrest, even cultural collapse. This has roughly been the case for the Romans, Greeks, Persians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Hittites, Mayans, and Incas. Recent examples of inequity-provoked turmoil include conflicts in Sudan, Burundi, and Bahrain. Economic gaps and resource crunch fomented civil war in Syria. And, ecological imbalance at least partially diminished the Easter Island, Classic Lowland Maya, Angkor Wat, Soviet Union, Zaire, and Yugoslavia cultures.

Civilizations have always risen and fallen across the pages of history. Why the fuss then? After all, isn’t that the natural order of things? Well, globalization has increasingly and reciprocally connected different regions of the world. The fall of one major player and the others will come tumbling down like a house of cards.

Only a decade ago, the subprime mortgage crisis effortlessly sailed from United States’ shores and conflagrated into a global economic meltdown. History offers a more relevant example. The Late Bronze Age cultures were woven into a complex, interconnected web. In 1177 B.C., the savage “Sea Peoples” invaded Egypt. Although, the Egyptians valiantly repulsed the assault, they were so irreversibly enfeebled that they collapsed. The interdependence ensured that neighboring civilizations met the same fate. Food for thought!

Lest this sound like a plot straight out of a doomsday novel, the entire issue of immorality-inspired inequality and its possible impact is tricky and unpredictable. The whole truth, as they say in journalism, is somewhere in between! For one, many civilizations have recouped from the brink of disaster and started afresh. The cornered human spirit is no less brave than a tiger! Guilty of prejudice under a shining sun, we are well capable of benevolence under dark clouds.

Second, not all inequality is bad. Why will anyone walk the extra professional mile if he earns the same as the average and below-average guys? Such lack of motivation on account of near-perfect equality was the bane of many former communist republics.

Man will always be man; there will always be rich and poor. If greed and prejudice are human nature, so are compassion and generosity. Often, a calamity is all that is needed to bring out the best. Sweet truly are the uses of adversity!

Indrajeetsinh Yadav @ Falcon Words is the author of this article. Follow our blog for the remaining articles of this series where we dive deeper into the cancerous effects of immorality-inequality and how we can ward them off. Falcon Words offers insightful content on academics, finance, economics, environment, history and a whole range of other topics. Write to us at info@falconwords.com or call us at +91-9822052945 for content tailored to your specific needs.

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