If someone had solemnly said to me at some point in my life: “in ten years time we will look back and realize that humanity is at a turning point at this very moment, and that its survival depends on the great decisions that must be taken now in a hurry”, I would have asked my interlocutor a question in return, I would have said to him: “Why this moment rather than any other: the human race has gone through many trials”. I might even have added, a bit sarcastically: “Perhaps you know something that the rest of the world doesn’t? Is an asteroid heading straight for us? “».
But today, in August 2020, in the face of this same warning that the present moment is a key moment for the very future of our species, I would not try to be humorous, I would rather answer: “Unfortunately, you may be right”.
A few things first, which are obvious to us every morning. Then, some of the main principles of human societies and, finally, a specific fact.
Calculations of the economic losses caused by the pandemic were initially made on the assumption of a single wave. The figures were already dismal in themselves: looking like a depression in some places rather than a recession (2nd quarter: US -32.9%, UK -20.4%, FR -13.8%, B -12.2%). However, the possibility of a second wave has ceased to be a mere hypothesis. What will be the level of accumulated losses next spring? Periods of depression are times when the legitimacy of economic and political regimes is questioned. The tolerance of the middle classes towards big fortunes has eroded because of the difficulties of everyday life for everyone. Meanwhile, governments suspend environmental protection to save the economy, sowing the seeds of new disasters to come.
Human societies in difficulty have always tended to blame neighboring nations first, and to imagine that the solution to internal problems lies in military adventures. Remember Lebensraum, the living space that Nazi Germany contended it was deprived of, and the bitter consequences of which the world still remembers. Think of the fact that 9 nations have thermonuclear weapons, and that the explosion of 0.7% of the existing arsenal would be enough to create a “nuclear winter” leading to a “nuclear famine”.
Among the inhabitants of any area, there is also a strong tendency to blame the neighbor as soon as things are not going so well (and even when they are not so bad), a neighbor on the same street, or even the house next door, if his skin is a different color or his God different from mine, etc. Following the logic of the nation’s leaders themselves, neighbors are suspected of constituting a “fifth column” of “foreign agents”.
As for the specific facts, here is one: the niece of the head of state of the world’s most powerful nation says of her uncle, whose political future depends on an election to be held on November 3, a little more than two months from now: « The only thing that matters to him is saving his own skin. He is the kind of man who, if he feels he is going down, he’s going to take all of us down with him. » *. We are now warned.
No, it is not surprising that we are already in the very heart of the zone of all dangers.
* Edward Luce, « Mary Trump: ‘At least the Borgias supported the arts’ », The Financial Times, August 7, 2020.