World History Blog

I hope a Greek phrase isn't applicable to today's world

November 9, 2016 Posted by Peter Britton I hope a Greek phrase isn't applicable to today's world

Hmmm. After the Brexit vote I recalled the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times". Today I have been thinking of the Greek phrase, "Whom the gods wish to destroy they first send mad".

I so hope to be proved wrong. As a Brit I of course want the country which I love so much to prosper as much as it can. But nothing since the Brexit vote in June has allayed my fears that we are condemning ourselves to a less expansive future - which of course means, not only smaller salaries for the global elite in London (which lots of people would applaud) but less well-funded schools, universities and hospitals for the rest of us. 

Now Donald Trump is heading for the White House. Again I am hoping, for the sake of the world at large, for democracy, for the rule of law - and indeed for the United States of America, one of the most remarkable nations that world history has yet thrown up - to be proved wrong.

But maybe, just maybe, I, and millions of others (including everyone at my Church who were appalled by the man even before of his remarks on THAT bus) have got him all wrong. Maybe, just maybe, he will indeed prove to be a great president. Maybe the simplistic solutions he has been proposing for deeply complex problems will work - or maybe he will prove able to listen to experienced advisors. I so, so hope so.

As a historian I am (I'm rather ashamed to say) fascinated to see how these developments play out. We undoubtedly live in a period which will come to be regarded as a transformative one in world history. But I am all too aware that the sentiments expressed by many citizens, and the promises made by some politicians, are uncannily similar to those expressed after the great financial crash of 1929, and the follow-on economic downturn of the 1930s. The outcome left fifty million dead in war zones around the world.

By Peter Britton

 

 

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