The echoes of the past merit some close attention

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By Antony Mutunga

“That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended – civilisations are built up – excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and the cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin” – Clive Staples Lewis

Living in a world that has, from time to time, fallen into ruination and bounced back after experiencing the likes of the World Wars, the Shoah (Holocaust), the Great Depression, the Global Financial Crisis and many others, one would tend to think that the world would have learnt a lesson. However, these scenarios happen again and again, from the oldest generation to the current one.

The same threat is now imminent; terrorism and wars are escalating in different places across the globe, ideologies are making countries differ leading to the likes of Brexit and leaders are encouraging discrimination as well as hate of a certain religions or people. History has been recorded to ensure we do not repeat our mistakes, but it seems human beings are creatures of habit; we keep doing the same things just because they were or seemed successful in the past, regardless of the consequences.

Current events in the world are evident that human beings are ignorant, or possibly just take things for granted. In the past, one of the major reasons that led to these destructive periods was fear.  Fear has been described as a great motivator that would cause the masses to make the wrong decisions to avert it. For example, the Nazi party used fear to terrify Germans that their enemies were at their gates and nothing would save their country unless they agreed to go to war. This led to the Second World War, which caused more than sixty million deaths and left Germany in ruins.

However, despite this common knowledge around the globe, people are still duped in following decisions whose only result is to cause a negative change to the global economy. Out of fear of having more immigrants coming to their land, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, never mind the many generous benefits of staying in the bloc. As a result, this caused a change in the global market; the Sterling got shaken and lost some value.

This in turn caused changes all over the world, with most countries in Africa suffering major losses. For example, Kenya’s exports suffered especially in horticulture where the industry ended up losing about Sh8 million a day. While this might not be as catastrophic as losing sixty million lives, it is just as a result of the decision; the worst is yet to come. The world economy should prepare itself for the consequences of when the UK is done with negotiations and actually exits the EU, if it happens.

When it does happen, the world will suffer as it may lead to other member countries opting to leave the block thus causing it to start weakening. It being one of the major reasons there is a sense of peace in Europe, in a weakened state, it might not be able to stop a war if conflict broke out between nations. The inevitable result would be another major catastrophe.

This is, however, just one scenario. The other would be the fall of the global stock market as the Pound and Euro depreciate, therefore affecting other countries like China, which does a lot of trade with Europe. Africa as well as the US will also be affected as they are among the major traders with China. The prediction is another financial crisis that will leave the world economy in chaos, perhaps worse than in 2008.

Signs of history repeating itself could also be seen in the US, where Republican candidate Donald Trump won the election. He had some of the facts right on the American economy, for example in terms of exports and imports, but his solutions seem to be ones that would cause more harm than good. In addition, his remarks towards some religions, especially Muslims, as well as different races, were rather disturbing, and evoked memories of religious wars past.

Hitler used his growing power and profound dislike for the Jews to denounce them as the source of the failing economy and put them in camps, leading to the Holocaust. He had promised his people that the economy would go back to its glory days! Sound familiar? Well, that is because it is the agenda of every politician running for office. Trump’s campaign slogan, “make America great again” feels all too similar to Ronald Reagan’s. Time will tell how a Trump presidency pans out.

It is no different on Africa. For example, Kenyans always seem to vote in the same leaders even though they always end up with the same results. Since independence, the country has had a lot of leaders who have been corrupt, manipulated people and taken away the fundamental rights. But we keep electing the same people to lead us! Since the post election violence (2007-2008), the public has been vigilant to avoid conflict. However, with elections around the corner, once more the seeds of violence seem to be growing among the people. If this is not controlled, we might end up with the same situation we had in 2007, or even worse.

Nature

Even with all their problems, human beings are resilient creatures; they always find a way to rebuild, become stronger and more determined. As if it’s the nature of the world – to grow, one has to destroy first – the world keeps following this made up path. For example, after the Second World War, Germany was able to rebuild to become one of the world’s best economies. Recently after the global financial crisis of 2008, the stocks of Federal Reserve and Central Banks of the US and UK respectively grew five times larger than they were before the crisis.

Even though there is light at the end of tunnel, the world needs to be careful and learn from its past. It is time we stopped ignoring the past just because we didn’t experience it first-hand, and instead draw lessons to avoid catastrophes. Granted, nothing is ever certain, and history may or may not repeat itself. However, its echoes deserve close attention.

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