The world upside down

A pandemic followed by a war is completely (RE)shaping our reality. The world we knew until the beginning of 2020 or even the beginning of 2022 is not and will not be the same. Everything is changing and everything will change at a speed that is hard for us to imagine and assimilate until we change our own mentality and open our hearts.

We know that we live in a world where everything is connected, but between the pandemic and the war we are experiencing a dimension of our interdependence that is unprecedented and total. The impact of the war in Ukraine and the economic isolation of Russia will reach us all, much faster than we imagine. Just as we never thought that the world could stop completely and it happened caused by a virus, we are yet to experience transformations that completely go beyond our logic and that will test our capacity for assimilation and (RE)invention.

There are those who affirm that the period of peace after the Cold War perhaps lasted too long given human nature itself, which tends to generate conflicts for various reasons and innumerable interests. This calls for deeper reflection. If we measure ourselves based on results, with great pain we must (RE)know that we have reached a turning point as a consequence of our selfishness. War, in addition to dehumanizing us, is also the greatest expression of human failure.

It is difficult to imagine what will happen in the coming months and years, first, because much will depend on the degree of destruction and escalation that the war in Ukraine may have. Today it is clear that as long as Vladimir Putin rules Russia, the world cannot be at peace because his ambition has no limits.

There is an indicator that these days has made the main headlines in the media and it is the decision of many countries to considerably increase their budgets for security and defense. This could already be seen coming but it has intensified since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Despite the economic impact of the pandemic in the world, in 2020 military spending had already increased by 2.6% globally.

To put into perspective, the world’s largest defense budgets lead them: US $778bn, China $252bn, India $72.9bn, Russia $61.7bn, UK $59.2bn, Saudi Arabia $57.5 billion, Germany $52.8 billion, France $52.7 billion, Japan $49.1 billion and South Korea $45.7 billion. How much more could be done with the sum of these budgets for the good of humanity? In the upside down world it seems that this question does not fit.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine lit up red flags around the world which has led a large number of countries to (RE)consider increasing their security and defense spending. China announced that it will increase to 7.1%, Poland to 3%, Germany to 2%, Denmark to 2%, and so on, a list that gets longer every day as the world feels more vulnerable to Putin’s threats (and those that come in the future). Even several countries that did not have it as a priority are already considering it.

By the way, in the case of Mexico and with objectives very different from those of the great military powers, the armed forces are the winners in the allocation of the Expenditure Budget (PEF) for 2022, since they will receive the second largest amount of spending after pensions for the elderly (whatever this means), a total of 199 billion pesos. He who has eyes can see.

If we consider that resources are limited, that there is a huge opportunity cost in all these (RE)allocations, that citizens in many countries will have to make huge sacrifices, that significant tax increases or cuts may come to other areas that are priority for a more inclusive and more sustainable development, then we can expect that all these changes in the economic order will alter and push other changes in the social, environmental and political order. Our responsibility will be to find new mechanisms to turn what seems inevitable into opportunities of a different nature. We will have to be more creative.

What signals do these decisions give us to increase security and defense budgets? First, far from imagining a new form of coexistence and integration where peace prevails, the trend will continue to be the emergence of new conflicts with the potential to become increasingly sophisticated wars.

The world upside down? Yes, because far from preparing for peace, the world will continue to prepare for more wars. The world upside down because governments seem to be more willing to increase taxes or cut spending in priority areas to (RE) allocate it to defense, instead of investing in initiatives, technologies or processes that allow going to the root of the problems to prevent more to correct and to solve more than to patch. Without attacking the real causes of the problems, politicians will continue to offer quick and easy “solutions” even if they are incomplete, insufficient and even counterproductive.

The world upside down because we do not see leaders (RE) imagining this reality or building new narratives capable of uniting instead of dividing, capable of serving instead of being served; leaders are lacking and there are plenty of opportunists in positions of power. We see many rulers hungry for power but unable to prevent millions from starving, characters who want to be “stronger” and “richer” just to dominate and intimidate. We do not see that the family is spoken of as a sacred and fundamental cell to (RE)heal the social fabric and promote the (RE)birth of our societies from love and solidarity.

We do not see creative solutions to complex problems, but the tightening of measures that further attack freedoms without fully guaranteeing security and peace precisely because they forget the human dimension of the problems. We do not see that there is talk of integrating those who feel invisible, those who are marginalized or excluded from a system that, although it has generated enormous prosperity, still continues to be exclusive in many cases. We do not see the emergence of new leaderships that are allowed to build better alternatives, since the traditional power structures still refuse to lose their privileges, refuse to adopt and embrace new ideas and prevent opening space for new options that truly represent different paths.

The world will continue upside down as long as we do not understand that only love is capable of overthrowing fears, prejudices, hatred, indifference, selfishness, apathy, excessive ambition; as long as we continue to wait for someone else to do it before I take the first step to (RE)invent myself and contribute to co-creating a much better reality. The world will continue upside down as long as we want to keep winning even though many others keep losing.

I wonder, after a pandemic and a war, what more do we need to live or suffer to stop being what we are (from the ego) and become better again (from love)? If human beings have been able to reach space and advance exponentially in the development of science and technology, will we be able to have more empathy to understand that we are actually one?

Although there are more signs of a world turned upside down, I am not in favor of losing hope. In the midst of so many contradictions, God is more present than ever and he speaks to us in multiple ways if we really want to listen to him. Now is also when, in the midst of darkness, the light of love shines, the generosity and solidarity of extraordinary people who receive and welcome Ukrainian refugees in various European countries, who organize themselves to send all kinds of humanitarian aid. They must be seen as an example.

Many thanks to the Poles, Czechs, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Slovaks, Romanians, Hungarians and other Europeans for giving us reasons to continue believing in humanity. It is also fair to (RE)know the Russians who, defying the tyrant in their own home, express their solidarity with Ukraine and express their sorrow for the war and their desire for peace. All of them give us reasons to believe that, together and with the hand of God, we can right this world. Let’s not lose hope.

*The author is the Founding President of the Ágora AC Strategic Thought Institute (IPEA). First Think Tank of young Mexicans and One million young people for Mexico.

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Twitter: @armando_regil


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