“If humanity proves unequal to the moment, it will inaugurate an era of irreversible and potentially uncontrollable global crises.” — Joschka Fischer, The End of Contemporary History, writing in Project Syndicate
Geopolitics on planet Earth are at a crossroads — and some recognize that fact for what it is, some don’t recognize that’s where we’re at, while others who should know better won’t admit that we’re at the crossroads and that the time is past where we should’ve chosen a new path.
Realistically, there’s only one path!
(There is another path, the path of status quo leading to nuclear Armageddon, which path is too stupid to contemplate. So let’s not waste time discussing that path)
And the realistic way forward is to learn from history, where we went from feudal city-states, to nation-building, to empire-building, and onward to multilateralism on the governance side and globalization on the economic side.
The Next Logical Step is to keep multilateralism (that part is working) and replace globalization with interdependence — a process already occurring in diverse places and at an uneven rate of change.
Globalization is the (mostly) unrestricted pursuit of a country’s economic goals, expressed through their domestic corporate environment, and it’s been a (mostly) fine thing.
The leaders of countries that saw this period for what it was in the early 1970’s took advantage of the moment to dramatically improve their economic standing: Japan (following the Arab Oil Embargo of 1974) Germany (since everyone began loving Mercedes Benz and BMW cars in earnest) and to Taiwan (since PC computers arrived because that’s where the majority of computer chips were made and continue to be made) and China (since every consumer loves the lower price of goods made in China) and all of it has been massively good for the global economy, ushering in an era of unparalleled economic growth across the world.
Other countries played their cards smartly — like Sweden which added a thriving defense export component to its economy, Norway which moved to simultaneously exploit its undersea resources / legislate high taxes on resource extraction / improve every social progress marker in the country / and thereby became the Happiest Country on Earth according to the UN Happiness Index (and also ranks very highly on the Social Progress Index, socialprogress.org) the OPEC countries, and the fascinatingly successful South Korean economy.
A hearty “WELL DONE!” to the leaders of all those countries — who took stock of the global situation as it then existed, researched the potential opportunities for their countries based on their available resources, and then worked very hard to maximize opportunities for their country’s industries.
An historic leap forward for those countries whose leaders were smart enough to seize the (then-present) moment.
Alas, the moment is gone, or at least, receding.
But something will replace it. Something always has, and always will. Because if it doesn’t, it’s human nature that our default mode is regression — and waiting at the end of that process will be nuclear annihilation and the ‘grey goo’ aftermath.
The Next Logical Step, “Interdependence” is on the horizon — and the best example also happens to be the least likely example — that of Russia and Ukraine combining forces to ship corn (this week) and wheat (next week) and probably sunflower seeds (the following week) and on and on, until the end of time. Let’s hope!
Interdependence means that instead of reckless competition that works to destroy each other, allowing their mutual competitors to utilize a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy to injure or destroy both — arrangements are made that when Russia ‘wins’, Ukraine ‘wins’ also. And vice-versa.
When a Turkish bulk carrier ship arrives in Odesa, Ukraine at the request of Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, to load corn that is sourced from Russia AND Ukraine — and both Russian and (hopefully, one day) Ukrainian naval ships ‘shadow’ that Turkish ship to ensure its safe passage across the Black Sea onto Turkey and then Lebanon — then we know it’s in each party’s best interest for that shipment to arrive safely in Beirut’s port.
Arranging things carefully means it becomes important to Russia that the shipment arrives in Beirut, it becomes important to Ukraine that the shipment arrives in Beirut, and because Turkey facilitated and supported this agreement it’s important to Turkey that the shipment arrives safely — then we have true Globalization v.2.0 — which I call “Interdependence”.
I can’t stress it enough: The countries that move quickly to Interdependence will outperform countries that don’t.
Remember the lesson of countries that enthusiastically embraced globalization in the early days — which advanced their economies by orders of magnitude — Japan, Germany, Taiwan, China, Sweden, Norway, the OPEC countries and South Korea have never regretted making globalization a priority.
So too, will be the countries that embrace Interdependence, carefully arranging every single thing they do, to the point that every operation becomes a ‘Win-Win’ operation for as many sides as are foresighted enough to participate.
The way to prove ourselves ‘equal to this moment in history’ is to embrace Interdependence and to utilize ‘Win-Win’ thinking as the vehicle to get us to our respective economic and social progress index goals.
Written by: John Brian Shannon