With apologies for the cliche title but with the events that have been taking place in the last 2 months I have the suspicion that we are entering into a new world system. It all started with the fall of Tunisia dictatorship, moved on to the Nuclear reactor explosion in Japan and made a no return point with the abandoning yesterday of Libya's rebels to the murdering hordes of Qaddafi by the G8.
The consequences of all of these events, related or not as you may wish them to be, will be a protracted reevaluation of the West values and way of life, a political event that will be at the very least in the league of the fall of the Berlin Wall in the way it will affect our future lives. In fact, my parallel might be 1848. You may recall that the bright revolutions of that year were crushed one by one, either through a military coup like in France in 1851, or a brutal invasion in Hungary. We roughly had to wait for 1918 to accept that democracy was to become the norm in Europe, and thus the final victory of 1848 even as the totalitarian era had already started in 1917.
The Tunisian revolution in a way is the true end of colonialism. The governments or regimes that succeeded the colonial powers were not necessarily democratic and were often little more of a psychologically tribal nature. Thus, once the independence process was completed many of those regimes found ways to renew relations with the old colonial powers, or squared their fate with the new ones. The cold war and the beginning of globalization made the independence of Africa and Asia a much different movement than it had been a century ago when the Americas made a clean break with Europe, even starting imperialisms of their own, in the US notoriously but also in Brazil and Argentina to a certain extent.
The overthrow of Zine Ben Ali was the first time truly that Tunisia expressed itself in a Tunisian context, the true will of its people. Even if Qaddafi returns, even if the Egyptian military betray the Egyptian revolution, even if Bahrain is retaken, what has started in the Middle East can be delayed but not stopped because it has little to do with reaction to external events, and all to do with internal situations and the exhaustion of a ruling system.
And then what is arguably the most organized country in the world, the one where the cable guy tells you he will show up at 3 PM and he does, started collapsing. I am of those who have faith that the Japanese people will recover even if their reactor ends up blowing up. But the world economy will never be the same.
No, the nuclear will not go away, we cannot afford it, but from now on the West is going to have to reevaluate its life of comfort, from cozy winter homes where you can remain in T-shirt and shorts while a blizzard blows outside, to the refrigerator feel of too many buildings in the US South in the most scorching summer days where you need a light sweater to sit at your computer.
We need to understand all of this, that the economy recession that started in 2008 is here to stay with us for at least a few more years to try to comprehend what happened yesterday at the G8, its abdication of world management, abandoning Libya to its fate, or to Egypt if it wants it. The two countries that caused that were Germany and Russia, as the US stood idle.
Russia because it hates not to be in the driver seat, because it cannot find ways to get back on it, because it is bombing Chechnya.
Germany is tired of bailing out Greece, tired of bailing out all sorts of European people, does not want now to bail out Italy if its Libyan business go up in flames. Germany is today a cold old lady that has no idea how to pay for her electric nuclear and oil bill while its nephews are trying to cash in early their alleged inheritance.
And the US because it has already too many commitments and simply has no idea what do, sorely in need of a new FDR.
And thus the British and the French were left alone in supporting the Libyan rebels, everybody else preferring a murderous dictator as long as oil flows again.
It would be too harsh to judge yesterday as an act of ultimate cowardice: after all, nobody is stopping France and Britain from taking Qaddafi on their own, with the more than likely blessing of the Arab league who are more aware than anyone else that a revived Qaddafi could end up being worse for them than Al Qaeda.
What is happening is that the West is suddenly made aware of its vulnerability, that the time of decisions has come and that means for many to regroup first before we decide what to do next. We all depend from Japan, from Middle East oil, from Nuclear energy and now we all know that we will need to make major sacrifices if we want to retain some of the perks that we have benefited from since the 60ies. We cannot have it all, and if this has not sunk into the populace yet it is fast making headways into those that know better at the top, finally real headways. The days of demagoguery are reaching an end, hopefully.
This end of March all is confused and we do not know whether we are in 1938 Munich or awaiting FDR coming back with a New Deal. The political class of the West, from Left to Right, even including ecologists as the leftist fringe is and will remain a fringe unable to understand the pulsations of the moment, has in front of it the mammoth task to explain to its people that choices need to be made, that there is more to life than coming back in a hurry home to vote for American Idol.
Hard times ahead as we might be entering an era of dramatic political changes, where "eat or be eaten" will acquire new meanings, where a chilled West will have to face its responsibilities, where China, Brazil and India will need to grow up. I offer that since 1933 this might be democracy biggest challenge, and perhaps, as in the years following 1933, some democracies might fall before a renew democratic world order intolerant of autocracies and aware that the planet has finite resources can emerge.