What is true in a striking fashion for the West is the triumph of Materialism, and an accompanying fatigue that is much less evident in the developing world. There, the world is more dynamic, energetic, and overflowing with near limitless resources and advantageous work. They are young, the West is old. In face of the Chinese dictators, the local tyrants of the Middle East and Latin America, democracy holds on brilliantly in India and Brazil. Confronted with the gangrene of Materialism, their traditions hold fast, preaching values other than the religion of money, their traditions encourage their citizens to be human. I love to walk through the streets of India or in the countryside of Mexico. Compared to the robots of the West that run on money, you meet normal people, humans who smile easily, who come to help, who simply talk to each other and contribute to the good life of the country.
Yet Western influence extends each day. It is McDonalds versus Buddha. And the interdependence of these economies is perilous for the people, for even if they try to stay outside the influence of the West, they become dependent upon it, dependent upon the United States, and risk sharing the same fate as the West.
There is also increased instability in an entire part of the world. I always regret not having visited Afghanistan when I was invited, thinking at the time I could always go later, at a more convenient time. I still feel regret of failing to see Yemen, having three trips canceled for security reasons. Since, I have watched an entire region that extends from the borders of India to practically the Atlantic, country after country, close its borders to tourism. Countries I knew as peaceful, open, prosperous even, are today too dangerous to visit. And I fear that list will only continue to grow, as the rich countries of this region crash and fall to the same fate in time. The staggering oil reserves that these countries possess is under threat. Perhaps alternative energies will suffice. But will they develop them? Will they be adopted and implemented in time?
Elsewhere, the developing world brings other challenged, such as mass immigration. Hundreds of thousands are chased from their country because of misery or tyranny, coming to promising Western shores, believing. Yet they find that they are neither wanted nor welcomed, and they are thrown from country to country like dead cats from garden to garden.
In light of these unforeseen events, these anomaly of History, we find ourselves unsure of how to act. Governments seem to fight over who can be the most incapable, cowardly, and selfish, and all the while the flux of immigrants only increases. Fortunately, there are private initiatives, almost everywhere, that arise spontaneously and come to the aid of those most in need. Take, for example, the young English woman who feeds over 800 refugees on Leros. Or the Austrian who bought a boat to help transport refugees and save them from drowning. Drops in the ocean, of course, but it is many drops, after all, that make an ocean itself.
And yet it is in the developing world where the reaction is healthy and promising, such as the Arab Spring. Unfortunately, the old system remains, in part because Big Money needs the support of these tyrants, which prevents the sea from rising. This movement extended to the West too, manifested by the Indignados and the Occupy Wall Street activists. They obeyed nobody, and stood against this small powerful world, against those so accustomed to manipulating others. They were not organized, they were without a leader, they were organic, and it was their virtue that both carried them and proved to be their weakness. The Arab Spring is over, the Indignados and activists are gone, but it is clear there will be successors. They made our current leaders, the politicians and unions, look outdated, even more old-fashioned than us, the kings and aristocrats.
And me, I am at once terrified and profoundly interested. Terrified by what may come to pass, but passionate about History in motion, finding and taking new routes and avenues. For an ardent student of History such as myself, to see it all unfolding before me, to try to identify the currents and intentions, to see and experience History alive and at work, transforming before my own eyes, is a privilege.