History tells us what may happen next with Brexit & Trump
Tobias Stone

What would it have been like sitting in a cafe in Paris, writing a letter or reading a book, in 1937? I suspect it seemed uncannily normal. No violence outside. People being courteous; social norms being upheld. The future is not here yet, though a unnameable dread has found its home in the hearts of many.

Since the election of Donald Trump we have entered a similar world, but also a different one. What justifies your optimism about human survival — or is it just bravado? World War II was supposed to end all wars, and not just because the humans of the day were fed up with war and death. For the first time in history, another war would risk the annihilation of human life on the planet. We had the technology to do it. Since then, that technology has received seven decades of upgrades. After WWII our ancestors put numerous firewalls in place to ensure that it became a ‘never again’ moment : deep globalization of trade relationships, NATO, the Bretton Woods institutions, the UN, a global open investment regime, etc.

Brexit and especially President Trump represent a casual, almost indifferent dismissal of these firewalls, which were already eroding. I don’t see why hundreds of millions of people would die this time. We are capable of wreaking far greater havoc than that, and it isn’t clear what checks are in place to stop the process once it starts.

Of course another difference between cafes in those days and these is social media. It is a privilege to participate in this emerging global mind. Could it be our salvation?

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