umair haque

Your Hydra analogy puts me in mind of Lawrence Lessig & his ‘Rootstrikers’ movement, based on the Henry David Thoreau quote “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root”.

I don’t, however, share such a gloomy outlook of the modern world as some who are commenting here. I agree in principle with your main line of reasoning, but you make several assumptions about the state of the world that are incorrect.

While many in the first world feel disillusioned by democracy, and in some places such as the US we might claim the social contract is broken, in the world as a whole democracy is on the rise. In the last 70 years, since the end of WW2, there has been a huge increase in real wealth for most global citizens, particularly in the third world, where poverty has been massively reduced and the lives of billions of people improved, with average life expectancies gaining rapidly due to better health outcomes. The number and proportion of people involved in armed conflict has plummeted (despite what we see in news feeds) and stability, reduced fertility rates, and improving education (particularly for girls & women) are the norm. There’s data to back this up: http://www.gapminder.org/data/

Why is this important to a discussion about the Hydra of a broken global economy? In my opinion, many of our fears are based on a broken perception of reality on the one hand, and the hubris of the civilised world on the other. Our own problems seem larger than those of the ‘other’, and our sense of perspective is shifted by our connection to a constant stream of global news that (mostly) focusses on tragedy and an irresistable salaciousness. It smacks of wallowing in our own filth.

But our problems are solvable. The Hydra can be deafeated. Climate change can be mitigated (if not exactly wiped from the ecological memory). Wars can be ended, and avoided. Economies can be transformed. To most of the world, this is not an age of stagnation and upheaval (at least in the sense you propose); far from it. This is an age of hope and growth.

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