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Chapter 1: Disillusionment (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)

Chapter 1: Disillusionment

Trump
Trump

The end of history has been postponed

Humans are better at inventing tools than knowing how to use them wisely. Globalization, blockchain, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, machine learning are all buzzwords that are being repeatedly parroted around the world excitedly. You may have caught a recent TED talk peddling one or a combination of these concepts. But what are the implications of living in such a world? What will happen to ordinary people in the world of cyborgs and algorithms?

During the Che Guevara moment, between the 1950s and the 1970s, it again seemed that liberalism was on its last legs, and that the future belonged to communism. In the end it was communism that collapsed. The supermarket proved to be far stronger than the Gulag.

Let’s trace how we got here. After the Second World War, the universal values of the liberal West were not being easily accepted by non-Western people – and for good reason.

When the Dutch emerged in 1945 from five years of brutal Nazi occupation, almost the first thing they did was raise an army and send it halfway across the world to reoccupy their former colony of Indonesia. Whereas in 1940 the Dutch gave up their own independence after little more than four days of fighting, they fought for more than four long and bitter years to suppress Indonesian independence. No wonder that many national liberation movements throughout the world placed their hopes on communist Moscow and Beijing rather than on the self-proclaimed champions of liberty in the West.

Today, the political sentiment looks different. The major political movements in the past century revolved around a vision (revolution, liberation, domination), but today a different kind of movement is emerging that promotes no such vision – Donald Trump, for example. Trump doesn’t call for American interventionism, but for the exact opposite. The same can be said for the proponents of Brexit who abandoned the European vision that was championed in the past.

People have lost faith in globalization, and while they still believe in free markets, democracy, and human rights, they do not believe that these values should extend their nation’s border. They want to preserve these values, but they do so by acting against the very values they believe in against people outside their nation. The Chinese are the opposite. They illiberal at home, and very liberal to the rest of the world. Russia, another world superpower, has not made peace with the liberal world order, and while Putin enjoys popularity at home and globally among right-wing movements, he does not offer a coherent ideology to the rest of the world.

What can generally be sensed today is apathy and disillusionment towards the liberal story.

Read 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.

"A gilded No is more satisfactory than a dry yes" - Gracian

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