Contributed by Joe Montero
The world is changing. The rush of meetings of global economic organisations showing a rising inability to reach meaningful agreement is the result.
A changing political landscape is witnessing the waning of the era of western dominance and the rise of the east. This is not because of a nasty bogeyman trying to pull us down. It is born out of our own history and its consequences.
Western dominance rose out of political revolutions that begun in the seventeenth century, put an end to the old order, ushered in the rise of science, and ended in the colonial exploitation of the rest of the world.
Now that the advantages enjoyed by the west are much weaker than they were and most other nations have been breaking away from the heritage of colonial exploitation and asserting their independence, the global landscape is changing. This is not about an imagined bogeyman out to conquer the world. It is the result of what is going on in the west itself.
Failing to accept this and insisting that continued western supremacy is a must, leads to tensions and drives the world towards catastrophe. It will not reverse the emerging change. And change is not necessarily bad. If change leads to a more equal world, everyone can benefit from.
But insistence on continuing western supremacy brings us to the verge of catastrophe. It might even tip us over the edge.
Key issues facing the world are throwing a spanner into international gatherings. Days ago, a meeting of the G-20, that’s the world’s 20 richest nations couldn’t agree on anything, from how to deal with worsening economic prospects, how to handle the proxy war in Ukraine, to an agreement on genuinely taking on the existential threat of climate warming. No communique was released after the G-20 meeting.
Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank only managed to produce a vague statement that said almost nothing. The United Nations is not doing much better. Almost every debate shows far more disunity than unity.
The biggest dividing line is between the traditionally dominant economic powers the United States, Germany, and Great Britain, and the handful of their ‘agree no matter what’ subsidiaries, against most of the world. Along with it come notions of exceptionalism, racial superiority and the politics of hate, and a drift towards authoritarianism.
Along with this comes increasing resort to moving away from talking towards economic warfare through sanctions and manipulation of the financial system, backed by military threat.
Headlines concentrate on China and Russia. But there are many other nations on the wrong side of the western powers. In our part of the world are India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and a host of much smaller nations This is even more true for the African continent and Eurasia. The Gulf oil states are asserting greater independence. Latin America is moving out of the orbit of the United States. There is even division between the United States and Europe over trade and energy needs. It is the combination of all this, plus increasing military faceoffs and conflict that makes up the current geopolitical context.
The causes are adverse economic headwinds, failing political legitimacy, and the impact of climate crisis. In western countries, the norm is living standards starting to fall, dwindling trust in traditional politics and institutions, the effects of a rising climate, leading to greater political instability.
These are the reasons why reaching global agreement between nations is becoming more difficult and being replaced by more aggressive postures and the threat of war, including nuclear war.
It doesn’t have to be this way. An alternative is possible. This means a lot more live and let live. It means acceptance that the era of western dominance is closing and valuing the emergence of a world of much greater equality between nations. It means creating an environment where agreement on overcoming the most important problems we all face can be achieved – action on economic justice, cutting down carbon emissions, and preventing war.
It is the job of we in the west to be voices for this sort of change.