The year sneaked in when the world was confronted with many difficult questions about citizenship and national orthodoxy in the face of rapid globalization, and path and impact of current disruptive technologies. These questions were perhaps the only common aspects of all of us – the response to these questions and our opinions about the way to adopt will show an utterly divided population.
But the time rolls on. Twitter continues to be the de facto pressroom for governments around the globe. Policies, pep talks, paparazzi news – all find their way through this 140-character machine. Heads of the state and their oppositions exploit this medium to promote fake news; and the respective devotees make news viral. The ecosystem of TV and print newspaper fails to match the power of the digital media, and rather goes on to become simply an extension that does analyses or postmortems at the end of the day and everyday. In spite of this sorry state of affair for the traditional media, these are flourishing with fund due to the growing insecurity of ever-expanding corporate houses and their puppet governments.
The evolution of a piece of fake news does not always culminate in the state of a post-truth. In many cases, it just moves around, incites social media users to harden their belief, and increases gaps in their opinion further. The situation may have grown to a point that people seem to be free now to choose facts – no longer their opinions only. Incredible state of democracy indeed!
While the last three decades passed in fanning the waves of democracy across continents, the Middle East bears a good testimony of confusing democratic pursuit with an invitation to chaos. On the other side, the story of established democracies is pessimistic. The same democratic infrastructure that proclaimed equality and welfare to the last person, is now being exploited to nurture extreme racial and orthodox interests in a very skilful manner. In fact, many democracies are being led by assertive leaders with lesser intellectual ability. The scope of populism has shifted from financial subsidies and minority appeasement into a more dangerous realm of inciting religious and racial sentiments of majority population and reviving the orthodoxy of the Old World. Populism stays while the welfare state recedes into oblivion.
All political and social happenings have roots in economics; and the economic outlook worldwide is rather pessimistic. Concentration of wealth and the lack of jobs have brought frustration in the youth, and this is a dangerous symptom. While the impact of globalization has a clear impact in all aspects of life, economic control is still conservative and is being channelized through small select groups in different countries. On ground instead, the whole thing has been played out as a tussle between globalization and nationalism; and the real issue is overlooked.
The subtle distinction between religion and politics has blurred. The world view is increasingly being ascertained from faith rather than from scientific enquiry – a reversal of the Renaissance, a regression. The myopic view on history, culture and tradition has created a new stream of knowledge, misinformation, which has received a boost through the online media. Violence breeders have turned into historians.
While many past experiments of intervening into the political affairs of a sovereign state have resulted in instability in the region, we are still playing the same game in the Korean peninsula. The North Korean leader has now turned into a comic villain in the whole of the so called Free World while no less theatrics from the other side. The last part of the year saw verbal accusations and threats, and petty tweets too.
In fact, the whole of East and South Asia is being transformed into a front of new power balance in the world. While China is expanding and consolidating its economic prowess through its muscular international relations and dominant economic narrative of One Belt One Road (OBOR). This may result in a strong alignment of India with the Western bloc led by the USA; and the events during the year proved exactly that.
The debasement of the old power balance may be clearly visible when no world power or group could halt genocide or even intervene into the systematic slaughter of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Pope Francis could not choose to utter a single word on the issue during his visit to the country. A shift in power balance could be seen in the Syrian unrest. The incidents like the migrant crisis becoming the dominant domestic political discourse in the Western world and the rise of multi-lateral players in the war zone have encouraged a perspective that the USA may be reaching the state of British Empire of 1940.
With normal winter in different regions this year, a phenomenon unseen for years in the past, ‘climate change’ opponents sing their transient victory. They seem to be very capable of straying from science to nonsense seamlessly. On the other hand, technological advancements prove more disruptive than what we can accommodate in our normal socio-economic framework. Rapid rises and falls of bitcoins cast doubts in its mechanisms and attract negative interventions from insecure governments aided by their crony-capitalist friends.
Technology landscape continues to be disruptive. The application of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to bring unforeseen changes to industry and society. The coming years will unfold the story. But then physical and digital security and energy management are two most guiding forces that will determine our future path and outlook.