/ 24 February 2022

Putin’s Ukrainian actions show the ‘end of history’ is a myth

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In Francis Fukuyama’s 1992 classic The End of History and the Last Man, the US political scientist marked the end point of humanity’s ideological evolution and adoption across the world of Western liberal democracy as the form of governance. The West had won the battle of ideas after the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. 

If there’s anything that we’ve learned over the past 30 years, it has been anything but the “end of history”. 

While the wall in Berlin certainly fell along with an evil apartheid state that owed much of its survival to that Cold War, we are still an ever-evolving people, often repeating old mistakes too. The book came to mind as we live through television images of a return to war on the old continent of Europe. 

It happened quite literally on the doorstep of where the supposed evolution of man started. Ukraine’s existence was a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

We are living through interesting times, to borrow from that Chinese adage; and what we see unfold in East Europe should come as no real surprise. In the final years of the 20th century and the first few of the current one, we may have had some awe-inspiring changes, but we’ve borne witness to genocidal wars in Rwanda, persistent Middle Eastern conflict, global recessions, a growing climate crisis, a rise of nationalism in the form of people such as Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at the expense of multilateralism. 

The last straw was a health pandemic that despite our advancements in medical care brought the world to a standstill. What is happening in Ukraine and what may happen in Taiwan on some future date and conflicts in Ethiopia speaks to the point that there’s some evolution to come. 

South Africa, with all our many challenges that come with a transforming nation, will be affected by all this uncertainty. We aren’t immune. In the immediate term, the ripple effects of the Ukraine crisis will be felt at our petrol tanks and in turn the price of food. In the longer term, we are yet to feel the full effects of this particular evolution of Russia’s tsar. 

PS All at Mail & Guardian pass our condolences to the family of South African artist Riky Rick, real name Rikhado Makhado. Depression and other forms of mental illness are growing problems, on which we will seek to increase coverage. If you need help, please contact the South African Depression & Anxiety Group on 080 012 1314.