Home > This earth, World events > A world too broken to fix

A world too broken to fix

planet earthOur world is no longer working. Let me stop you before you say that conflicts, natural disasters, poverty and famine have always been part and parcel of the planet’s lot.

It’s different now. I see the brutal succession of recent events–Bashar Assad’s unchecked murderous spree, Ukraine, Gaza, Ferguson, the violence of the Islamist garbage that calls itself ISIS–as not only a reshuffling of the cards, common enough in the horrible games everyone is constantly playing, but as portends of major changes.

Historical events, the ones in books and the ones we personally live through, no matter how spectacular, atrocious, or unacceptable, still fall in the realm of things we know. But those parameters are obsolete and everything is bursting at the seams.

International organizations are broken– not only useless, obsolete ones like the United Nations but those that used to have some weight, like NATO. No economy is functioning correctly and no amount of throwing round the names of Keynes or Picketty will help. The very rare ones that still stand, say Germany, will soon be overcome by less lucky partners and immense society problems: immigration on a scale unknown till now, deficits gone wild, wars we’re being dragged into, hunger and poverty, poverty and hunger.

Three months ago, I started writing about Ukraine, two months ago, I started writing about Gaza, a month ago, I started writing about Ferguson, last week, I started writing about the decapitations, at the hands of ISIS, of James Foley, then of Steven Sotloff, my heart breaking for their families. And every day, I start writing about Putin’s latest act of thuggery. I also wanted to write about the trend du jour, growing inequality. In every case, I hesitated and decided not to. What stopped me was the realization that things are coming to a head, that it’s no longer a question of one awful piece of news following another and that what may soon engulf us is different in nature. It’s the end of the world we know. Stefan Zweig wrote with nostalgia about the world of yesterday. What we’re witnessing is the demise of the world today.

Don’t mistake me for a doomsayer. Not only do I never see the glass as half empty but I don’t even see it as half-full. To me, it’s always filled to the top. I forever envision endless possibilities, marvelous things happening in the future. Science, medicine and technology alone, the incredible leaps and bounds they make every second, should confirm that we are on the verge of extraordinary achievements.

Superb stories still occur—that of the Capraesque reinstatement of Arthur T. Demoulas should make every one rejoice—but they’re not enough to stop our terrible slide toward the chasm below. If nothing else, the speeding up of the destruction of our planet’s environment and the Ebola epidemic fast becoming a possibility will take care of our problems once and for all.

We’re reaching a point where we start thinking of alliances with old monsters to confront new monsters. So we hook up with the Islamic Republic of Iran for no longer funding Hamas and yes, we could still become good friends with Bashar Assad, murderer of 200,000 Syrians, to stop the progress of ISIS. It’s not only Obama who doesn’t have a strategy or even much of a response despite his hair turning grayer by the day. We’re all complacent, given that so many horrors have washed over us during our lifetime, we have heard so much, it’s gone so often from bad to worse and we’re still around, we think this too shall pass. But it won’t. We’re on the brink of something else.

Before an explosion turns our planet into one of those desolate dystopian worlds with hordes of hungry survivors scavenging for tree barks or grubs–representations for which Hollywood has been showing an inordinate fondness of late—we should start thinking differently. It would take an amazing act of coordination from all our leaders to sit down and revisit the completely lame structures of our societies. Elections no longer work–throw enough money at any idiot and he/she can become head of a government, of a country, and make decisions that affect the entire world. How to uphold the principles of democracy without allowing hubris and personal ambition to rule the day is a question for eggheads to resolve. Perhaps the same ones that maintain the internet, a global interconnected system that works no matter what because it’s in the interest of all that it should.

I don’t know. Some kind of solution must be found. Despite the heavy negatives, our planet has had an extraordinary ride, an extraordinary history, extraordinary people. It would be a shame to let it go dark.

  1. September 10, 2014 at 2:56 am

    You are a first class brilliant writer and nailed it all .


  2. Melinda Barnhardt
    September 11, 2014 at 2:06 am

    If only we could go back to the 17th century, when the Dutch — as Russell Shorto has put it — “codified the concept of tolerance of religious differences, built a vast commercial empire and spawned a golden age of science and art in part by turning the ‘problem’ of their mixed society into an advantage.”


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