Trump, Johnson, Xi, Modi — Cataclysmic Failure of Leaderships

But there is still hope.

The last few decades have witnessed a large-scale change in the world we live in. The great nations that once led the world are all reduced to the mindset of small-time rulers. Short term political goals have taken priority and the difference between truth and false are increasingly blurred.

This image of the Berlin Wall was taken in 1986 by Thierry Noir at Bethaniendamm in Berlin-Kreuzberg. By Noir, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The Berlin Wall has been torn down, Soviet Union has collapsed taking along the ‘Warsaw Bloc’ with it, leaving the USA as the only superpower in the post-cold war era. That didn’t last long either, as new regional power centers quickly grew to fill up the void; such as China, Russia, India, Israel, Iran, Brazil and numerous non-state actors. Wars and conflicts have been outsourced to the terrorist organizations and private security firms. It has become difficult to ascertain as to who is working for whom and which outfit is real and which is perceived. The recent assassination of General Qassem Soleimani by US drones in Baghdad has raised several questions, including who benefits from, and whether it was legal to carry out, such an action.

The United States of America has abandoned its role as the leader of the ‘international community’, which Samuel Huntington describes as the euphemistic collective noun to give global legitimacy to actions reflecting the interests of the USA and other Western powers. Instead it has made ‘America first’ its official policy in every sector; trade, foreign policy, science & technology, military, and environment. Donald Trump has re-asserted this policy at the recent World Economic Forum Conference at Davos. It is hard to tell what American founding fathers would have thought, but going by their vision and leadership philosophy, it seems more likely that they would not have taken such a path. Rather, they would most probably have picked up an M16, spray bullets on a group of shoppers or school children before killing themselves, in a signature American style to vent out frustration.

United Kingdom that, despite being a small island nation, led the world in the Industrial Revolution, produced a long line of great thinkers, leaders, philosophers, writers, scientists and economists, have decided to abandon the rest of Europe and tow along the isolationist line of USA. The bitter-sweet relationship between USA and UK go a long way; colonization of the Americas by the UK, American independence, two early wars, and competition for world markets. Since 1940s both countries have been close military allies enjoying the Special Relationship and partnership under NATO. At the same time, UK is still a part of the continent and share its thousands of years of history, whether they like it or not. Nevertheless, it seems it has decided to value their relationship with USA more than anything else as an official policy. William Shakespeare (1564–1616) would have written an excellent piece of comedy, or Adam Smith (1723–1790) a new edition of his ‘Wealth of Nations’, if they were around today.

Mural depicting Gulliver surrounded by citizens of Lilliput. By (Picture’s author:User:Javier Carro), (Mural’s author: unknown) — self-made picture, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The nations that took pride in leading human civilization from time immemorial have all shrunk to become Lilliputs, as in the dystopian fiction Gulliver’s Travels. Their bodies remain large — demonstrated by their large landmasses, awe inspiring military might, strong economies and growing middle classes — but their political leaderships have given in to narrow and abrasive nationalism, so much so that they can’t even tolerate any little differences of opinion or another faith, culture or ethnicity, let alone dissidence. Their long histories, rich cultures and tolerant traditions all appear to be lost.

Ravana, the Ten Headed Demon South India, 18th century AD. Two speakers at the 106th edition of Indian Science Congress in 2019 made several pseudo-scientific claims including one saying that the demon-king Ravana had 24 types of aircraft and a network of airports in modern-day Sri Lanka. Photo by Claire H. — originally posted to Flickr as Ravana, the Ten Headed Demon, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Since the ancient times, the Hindu tradition has proven to be open to new ideas and scientific thoughts. Numerous elements of Hinduism overlap with and share the values of humanism. RigVeda, an ancient Indian sacred canonical text of Hinduism, written somewhere between 1500 and 1200 BC, states, “Let there be oneness in your resolutions, hearts and minds; let the determination to live with mutual cooperation be firm in you all” (RigVeda, Mandala-10, Sukta-191, Mantra-4). Ancient Hinduism had room for everyone, including atheism, a notion epitomized in Charvaka, a heterodox school of Indian philosophy. During the partition of British India, millions, regardless of religion, lost their links to ancestral lands, often through extreme violence. While they are still trying to come to terms with it, the supposed safe-keepers of Hinduism have decided to abandon the core of its ancient values and constitutional obligations, and re-opened the wounds of 1947 by introducing National Register of Citizenship (NRC) and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). They have quite conveniently forgotten that hundreds of millions of Muslims did not agree with the idea of Pakistan, refused to migrate and continued to call India home. The lines between science, myth and pseudoscience are increasingly being blurred, as is observed in the recent sessions of Indian Science Congress, despite India being the repository of a rich scientific tradition. It has become difficult to imagine India as the birthplace of the modern number system — first formalized by Aryabhata (476–550 CE) and Brahmagupta (598–668 CE) from ancient India — which is the foundation of many later inventions including the computers.

China is almost as old as the history of civilization itself. Qin Shi Huang (221–210 BC) unified all of China and founded a modern state with legal systems, scientific standards and a centralized bureaucracy. The 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony comprised two parts. One titled ‘Brilliant Civilization’ highlighted ancient Chinese civilization, another called ‘Glorious Era’ showcased modern China and its dream of harmony between people of the world. The Chinese dream of harmony is now mired in controversy, with many observers pointing out the heavy handedness of its dealings with the smaller nations and its own minorities. A 2018 report by the Council of Foreign Relations reveals several such incidents in Africa.

Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. Photo by Unknown — Yuan, Zhongyi. China’s terracotta army and the First Emperor’s mausoleum: the art and culture of Qin Shihuang’s underground palace. Paramus, New Jersey: Homa & Sekey Books, 2010. ISBN 978–1–931907–68–2 (p.140), Public Domain,

We never learn from history, and that is also a lesson from history. From ancient times, successful nations usually followed some sort of openness and inclusiveness in their policy, and their downfall almost always coincided with abandonment of such policies. A notable example of this is the fall of the Arabs in the Iberian Peninsula, when they were wiped out by the Conquistadors of Spain during the 15th century.

The world seems to have forgotten that violent nationalism and religious intolerance in one country are likely to stoke up similar environments of hatred and intolerance in other countries as well, with no apparent connection with the source country. This is nature of the world now; in the internet age everyone is a global citizen and can participate in every event anywhere. Neil Thompson has written about how extremists in Asia are feeding off each other’s unrelated conflicts (“Terrorism in Asia: The Global Village Effect”, The Diplomat, 1 August 2018). While nations are splintering internally trying to pursue their narrow agendas, terrorist outfits are taking advantage, united in their efforts in undermining individual freedoms and right to live.

Heraclitus, depicted in engraving from 1825, Born c. 535 BC in Ephesus, Ionia, Persian Empire, Died c. 475 BC (age c. 60), Ephesus, Ionia, Delian League. Image taken from Wikipedia.

But there is hope.

Heraclitus of Ephesus (c.535–475 BCE), a famous Greek philosopher said ‘Panta rhei’, or ‘everything flows’, meaning everything or all things change. This is further explained in everyday English, for the benefit of the common people like us, as “The Only Constant in Life is Change”. In a wider interpretation, ‘Panta rhei’ means “The way up and the way down are one and the same. Living and dead, waking and sleeping, young and old, are the same.” These things are the ‘same’ in that they are all subject to change, arise from one change to vanish into another and all things, constantly, are in flux and are, in that regard, the same. So, is everything, including the nature of our leaderships, going to change again, and this time for the better? Let’s hope so.

#Trump #Boris #Narendra #Modi #Xi #Jinping #India #China #USA #UK #Russia #Change #Heraclitus #WorldLeadership




Travels and writes as a hobby on history, culture, politics, and contemporary issues.

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Sayeed Ahmed

Sayeed Ahmed

Travels and writes as a hobby on history, culture, politics, and contemporary issues.

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