We have built so much of the world around the greatness of unrestrained capitalism. With the fall of the Soviet Union — that so-called “end of history” — came an era of profit above all else. The victorious world powers, and their companies, stripped away regulation and created an era of obscene wealth — footballers earn more than the sum total of the communities that support them, while we laud the yachts of trillionaires as they float from one tax haven to the next.
This system is built on the labour of those who struggle to make ends meet. It has destroyed the environment, driven climate change and left us with gross inequality. Now it is falling apart.
But, instead of talking about the cause of our misery — mostly old, white men from elite institutions — we panic and look for solutions in the same system. Those solutions have increasingly come in the form of small men offering simple answers — all iterations of “Make [insert country name] great again” — Trump, Erdoğan, Modi, Bolsonaro …
This week, 0.2% of the British population chose a new leader of similar ilk. Boris Johnson quickly ripped his predecessor’s Cabinet apart and brought in a right-wing team to lead that island state out of Europe and off a cliff.
Johnson is a man whose sole goal in life was to become prime minister. A product of the old, racist, paternalist and white ruling class of a country made better through immigration, he has thrived off simple narratives. As a journalist, he published lies and talked up the idea of the European Union as an evil empire — the ends justify the means and truth was a casualty.
He has since talked about “piccaninnies” and the “watermelon smiles” of people on this continent. Muslim women look like “bank robbers”. Women in the opposition Labour party are “hot totties”.
Such a divisive figure will further ruin Britain. This is, of course, that country’s choice. But the world we have created means that damage will affect us and cost people here their livelihoods.
A complex world cannot be fixed with simple solutions.