Where are our strong leaders when we need them? Time for the educated to stand up and be heard!
Reflections after a visit to Warsaw in November 2016
I recently spent a long weekend in Warsaw with my wife
We were meant to be relaxing and recuperating from relatively stressful times at work in recent months
Warsaw was fabulous and we would love to go back, but what we saw could hardly be called relaxing, and served to once again put our relatively easy lives into perspective and make us reflect on what others have had to endure in life and death
We deliberately decided not to visit Auschwitz or any other concentration camp – we felt such a visit should not be “fitted into a holiday” but rather it should be a visit “on purpose” ideally accompanied by younger members of our family to help them understand the horrors of what happened in the Second World War and to understand how lucky we all are, as well as to help them to think about the rampant antisemitism and racism that unfortunately still exists in too much of the world
Let me make things clear at this stage – I am not a Jew, nor do I have any relatives who are Jews, as far as I know – so my reflections are not about religion but about the propensity of man’s inhumanity to man.
So what happened was we decided to visit some museums while visiting Warsaw, and the two museums we managed to fit in were terribly disturbing, to say the least, causing me to wake around 3 in the morning and to doze fitfully for the rest of the night while my conscious and sub conscious brain continued to process what we witnessed and listened to.
The first was the museum of the “Warsaw uprising”and the second was the museum explaining “The history of Jews in Poland” for the last 1000 years
I have visited many museums in my life and, other than these two, the other “disturbing” museum I have visited is the museum in Kigali in Rwanda explaining explicitly the Rwandan genocide between the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda
I have not yet visited the museum of “The Killing Fields” in Cambodia, or the museums about the genocide in Serbia, or any of the concentration camps.
However, this visit made me reflect and think about what is going on in the world at the moment.
What we are witnessing in Europe and America at the moment is a group of leaders who arrogantly think they know best, who are not listening to their voters , and who are ignoring the reasons for this growing trend of ignorant “protective nationalism” where populist and seemingly racist politicians like Trump, Farage, LePen , Wilders, and the Austrian guy are appealing to too many uneducated unintelligent and unaware voters, who do not like what they see happening to their world around them, and who as a result are only too happy to follow these leaders who appeal to the voters gut instincts by blaming people of other race and creed for their problems.
I have no problem as such with so called “populism” but when it leads to ignorant protective “nationalism” – I do have a real problem.
Let me make it clear at this stage – I am one of the British who voted heavy heartedly for Brexit – but not because I am anti-European; far from it, I am very much a European at heart, but not at any cost, and I think the EU cannot last much longer the way it is currently operating. I also like to think that I am neither uneducated, unintelligent or unaware.
What I hope for ideally, and I do acknowledge that I will almost certainly be disappointed, is that Theresa May and her fellow negotiators will use the time they have available to persuade the new German and the new French Leadership (I believe that both Frau Merkel is probably going to be voted out) that Europe cannot survive in its present guise – we all need to find a new way based around a “reformed economic community” rather than the “present attempt at political union” that is doomed to failure, in my opinion.
I tell you this now because I know someone will probably accuse me of being a hypocrite, but Brexit is a totally different debate, though it shares many similarities.
Earlier this summer, when I visited USA, I was shocked to find supposedly “intelligent” friends in USA who were telling me that they intended to vote Trump: I unfortunately called the election result right.
I am concerned that the intelligentsia amongst my friends, as well as in world politics and the media, dont appear to be able to see or don’t want to see what is happening now is exactly what happened in the thirties before the great crash and depression followed by the world war that arose from Hitler feeding on the fears of the ignorant uneducated and unemployed.
Populism and protective nationalism effectively allows “dictators” to establish a base, appealing to and feeding the gut instinct of the increasingly disenfranchised male uneducated population, especially where there is no or weak political or military opposition to confront this potential evil, that was ultimately the cause of the Second World War.
We see it in Russia where, despite appalling mismanagement of Russia’s economy, Vladimir Putin is more popular and stronger than ever.
President Obama has been relatively weak in dealing with other World leaders in uniting against Putin’s openly aggressive interventions in Ukraine and in Syria.
Yes “the west” have imposed some sanctions which are hurting but are not crippling the Russian supporters of Putin the way they should be.
Some of the appallingly weak leaders in EU are openly calling to relax the sanctions against Russia because of concern about hurting their own self interests.
The weak leadership demonstrated by the lack of planning and preparation by Bush and Blair and their henchmen when starting the war against Saddam Hussein created the vacuum in which ISIS has flourished, and this was compounded by the British and the French in Libya when getting rid of Gadaffi.
Now the well intentioned but relatively weak behaviour of the Obama administration has done little to help the poor oppressed and helpless citizens of Mosul in Iraq and Aleppo in Syria.
“We – the educated world” are turning our heads again and pretending not to see what is going on around us in Iraq, Syria and Yemen; We are showing “cowardice and appeasement” in the face of dictatorship just like the world did in the thirties and forties.
Similarly, “we” all knew what was happening in Zimbabwe but our leaders ignored it, presumably because there was no oil to justify intervention – rather than educating, financing and motivating the larger African nations to unite and oust the corrupt despot Mugabe.
Similarly, We knew what was happening in the Balkans but the so called “United Nations” were so weak and hopelessly ineffective. The British colonel Bob Stewart tried to use the media to show and witness the genocide that was going on under United Nations noses but was ignored and the UN Dutch troops in particular were criminally complicit in allowing the genocide in Srebenica to continue – the world was weak and looked the other way.
In Rwanda the French troops were criminally complicit in not stopping, and in some ways aiding and abetting some of the genocide – the media was there and showed us – our politicians knew what was going on but our leaders were weak and turned our heads and looked the other way again.
Back to Warsaw – we all know about the brutality of the German troops, but it is so easy to forget another major travesty that also happened in this war – the treachery of the Russian Leadership – not only in the original deal they did with Hitler over the invasion and division of Warsaw and Poland, but also subsequently with the treachery shown to the polish fighters after the war, when the Russian occupiers were arguably as bad as the murderous nazis.
The world knew about this and did not shout out loud enough – at least they stood strong against Stalin – hence the long drawn out Cold War – but they could have done more.
My concern is how quickly the “intelligent” in the world forget about these history lessons and , perhaps even more worrying, I wonder how many of today’s leaders even know much about the detail of this history – it would be complacent of us to assume they do.
I suspect and fear that many of the uneducated unintelligent and totally unaware voters in Europe and America know little of these events in relatively recent world history, and when I hear President-elect Trump talking about Putin “seeming to be a nice guy”, I have to wear my heart on my sleeve and share how much I fear for the next generations and what might be in store for them, unless those of us who have the intellect and ability to hold rational discussions and arguments, engage more with our colleagues, taking our responsibility seriously and challenging the complacency and apathy of the public and our politicians about what is going on in the world, and what could quite easily be about to happen in the world.
There is an appalling lack of knowledge and awareness about world affairs in America, and we are kidding ourselves if we think we are much better in UK and Europe.
There is a desire for protectionism and you can understand why, when you look at the problems from the perspective of your own “local issues”.
However, we need to be educated and educate others about the implications of protectionism on the world economy. This is nothing new – we have been there before and we need to learn the lessons.
Equally the other major trading blocks have also to play their part, and if they are run by dictators , then it is hard to reach agreement with them.
If you are one of the unemployed youth in 20%+ of the population in Spain Italy or Greece, why would you be interested in listening to other people’s problems – you would naturally only want to protect your own position as best you can and if that means voting for massive change by supporting a right wing fanatic that blames all the problems on immigrants, why wouldn’t you?
Think about the fascists in the thirties and what that led to – why are things any different now? Why won’t it happen again? Look at the unexpected support for crazy unintelligent rhetoric from the president elect in USA.
Look at the weakness of the world facing up to Putin, in shooting down the Malaysian passenger plane, invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea, and now helping the Syrian regime to murder so many in Aleppo in Syria.
Look at the weakness of the world when faced with confronting the Chinese who have been deliberately manipulating their currency.
Look at the weakness of the European leaders in allowing countries like Ireland, Greece Spain and Portugal to join the Euro when their economies were not fit for purpose, and now look at the unemployment in these countries. They would have been far better off and more able to compete if they had kept their own currencies – but of course they provided a massive market for Germany in particular and it was in the Germans interest to have these countries in the Euro zone.
Weakness amongst the politicians is steadily bringing the worlds economies close to the brink of collapse, and soon we will start to witness the unnerving impact of artificial intelligence and robotics that could potentially create massive unemployment, not only amongst unskilled employees, but also amongst degree educated employees in the professional compliance world like banking, accountancy and also parts of the legal world.
They won’t be able to blame that on immigrants, though some will try. The cry for protectionism will multiply and this will potentially accelerate the rise of inflation on all economies that are not fundamentally self sufficient.
Remember what happened in the 1930s with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, when the then USA president Herbert Hoover mistakenly imposed massively restrictive import duties on more than 20,000 types of imported goods, which caused world wide retaliation and effectively ended world wide trade – this created the world economic depression, only ended by the Second World War.
Does Trump have enough intelligent people around him to educate him and Congress to avoid the critical impact of world trade wars, that could lead to an armed conflict.
Unless we have strong “joined up thinking” from world leaders to work together, instead of against each other, to anticipate the natural reaction from the “masses” who will be unemployed, old fashioned revolution and uprising to my mind is inevitable, because our current generations have come to believe that they are “entitled” to a “quality of life”, and in my opinion and I really do hope I am very wrong, this massive vacuum that will inevitably be created will be just what the next lot of right wing dictators need to establish their power base.
Back to Warsaw – anyone intelligent was removed and exterminated as quickly as possible by the nazis (as also happened with the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia) and the world pretended not to know what was going on for far too long, just like has been happening in Aleppo – who will be next?
Will Trump be allowed to get away with implementing much of the nonsense vomiting from his mouth, or will the educated intelligent world stand up to be counted, and be heard before it is too late and we have another world catastrophe on our hands ?
Sorry to be so morose at a time of goodwill to all men and, as I say, I sincerely hope I am very wrong.
However I am astonished by the lack of intelligent critical vociferous opposition to Trump, and also our weak European leaders, and I fear the worst might be round the corner in the next few years.
I will continue to watch and voice my concerns to anyone with a brain and a conscience – in the meantime, let me wish you and your family a peaceful and relaxing Festive season and I hope 2017 will be a lot more positive for you than I expect
18th December 2016
2 thoughts on “Reflections On Weak World Leaders After A Visit to Warsaw”
Wow Mike, well said! I clicked on your blog by mistake, but I’m glad I did – I found it interesting. I wonder how you feel now as we approach 2020. It’s been a while, and I no longer attend the speakers group, but I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
lovely to hear from you Zara