It is Groundhog Day 2017. I asked some friends today who I know engage with social and political issues and whose opinions I respect whether we (meaning, I) are overreacting, if it’s only because of the so-called liberal ‘bubble’ we live in, of how much we read and think on such issues (and what we read and think), or if the situation really is that serious?
B. (36, Australia) thinks we’re probably overreacting;
N. (27, Canada, Ukraine) is also leaning towards overreaction;
J. (23, Australia) has faith the Constitution and the checks and balances will ‘hold strong’;
S. (37, Australia, USA) thinks it’s serious, ‘mostly because the worst is yet to come and typically people wait too long to react to bad news’;
N. (30, Lebanon) thinks it’s ‘really bad and people should be taking it very very seriously’ and that ‘it has been seriously bad for a while’;
P. (39, USA) does not think we are overreacting. ‘The system was starting to show a lot of cracks, and I don’t know if it can hold against this;
J. (26, USA, Germany) is ‘actively looking for ways to get [his] family out, and it could easily escalate to something very bad’.
Personally, I think it’s very serious. I said I was at DEFCON 2 though I admit that might be overstating it (but only a little). I think there are deliberate efforts to undermine civil rights, to sow discord, to obfuscate and, ultimately, to distill power into the hands of a cabal of billionaires. Those in power have only a short time to consolidate that power and you can be sure they will use it, through propaganda, through undermining the electoral process, through manipulating international politics. I fear persecution of minorities, foreigners, activists, journalists and academics will become policy hidden behind the mask of national security with widespread popular support. It will happen quickly but not rashly. Most people will not notice. We will be like the audience on the magician’s platform, turning too slowly and smoothly for those on it to notice, until suddenly we are living in a system we no longer recognise.
Then I started thinking about an isolationist USA willing (if not secretly gleeful) to turn a blind eye to an expansionist Russia in Eastern Europe, specifically in the Ukraine and the Baltics, about UK distancing itself from the European Union, and about a potential far-right and anti-EU France under Le Pen. I thought about the madmen with nuclear weapons and the evaporation of the guarantee of mutual annihilation, because they are on the same side or on no side. And I decided it was time to plan to start planning an exit strategy should further conflicts erupt in Europe. The problem is always recognising the moment after which it is too late to leave. Okay, I’m not really at DEFCON 2, but think about this: If this timeline of history that we are currently on did lead to a large scale war in the near future, we at this point in time would be saying exactly the things we are saying now.