History may not repeat itself very often, but when parallels are witnessed, the effects can be major and gruesome. These are tough times for many. There is the ubiquitous occurrence of major terrorism, bringing insecurity to aeroplanes and airports, train stations, entertainment clubs, and schools. There is a growing wealth concentration for a few, and low income for many others. We are now witnessing the breakups of coalitions thought to be stable, for which the British exit (Brexit) from the European Union (EU) is only one major signal.
A little more than a century ago, the world climate was benign and secure for many, globalisation was high. National conflict seemed unlikely to emerge between the cousins who ruled England, Russia, and Germany. Yet, within only a few years, World War I had led to millions of casualties and major devastations of factories and cities. What are we to do now to demonstrate our strong dedication and willingness to sacrifice in order to avoid a dramatic overall deterioration in global civility, security, and economy?
There are many tinderboxes that cause ongoing flames. In order to guarantee spheres of influence, the British/French Sykes-Picot agreement signed on 16 May 1916 drew hasty and poorly conceived borders for the Middle East. The accord achieved the termination of the Ottoman Empire but has provided the world with a century of acerbic and painful conflict in the Middle East. Even today, the ongoing conflicts and assassinations in Turkey are just one reflection of disharmony, augmented by religious disagreements, blood feuds, political shortfalls, and economic blight.
Groups who suffer from deprivations attack others to share their pain. As governments learn to protect possible targets better, terrorists seek and find softer, less protected, and less expected targets. In consequence, poor governments, poor companies, and poor citizens are the ones least able to protect themselves against attacks. An uncertain environment then leads to less local investment and even more poverty. There must be new steps to mitigate the causes of terrorism.
It is ironic and sad to now see a self-inflicted British exit from the EU, which does not better the world, but rather carries the virus for conflict. Large flows of immigrants still need destinies and require support. Britain’s move triggers and encourages other nations to also demand a special lightening of their obligations. But who will be the beast of burden and at what price? Already forward-looking countries find their own solution, often ahead of the more slowly reacting larger powers. Hungary’s early efforts to measure and control immigration was such a step. But in light of disagreements with major players, the nation found itself derided and penalised.
Progress in terms of global tranquillity and cohesion needs to be renewed. Confrontations between friends and adversaries do not require winners and losers. All need to be willing to learn from each other, acknowledge and respect special needs, and make allowances for the human dimension in conflict. With all the resources now available, there must be an ongoing search for and support of the soul of relationships and individuals. Forgiveness can well become a new objective. We all must contribute conscientiously to finding ways to help others by sharing their burden, as well as encouraging them to share ours. Those who now sit at the table must let others approach. Dropping crumbs may be biblical, but is perhaps an insufficient reward for a better world.
Michael Czinkota teaches international marketing at Georgetown University in Washington DC.