Over the past few weeks, US President Trump — and by extension the US — has shown a truly ugly side of itself. So, what does the future bring? Let’s do some crystal ball gazing.
To oppress, share, and bully
First off, I need to specify which of a gamut of things I’m talking about, because it’s a new one every week now. We’ve seen personal harassment, Russian meddling in elections, lies, border walls, zero-tolerance immigration laws, a budding trade war with the EU, one with China, a coddling up to a North-Korean dictator, NATO budget complaints, the destruction of the ten-year negotiated Iran deal, escalations in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, support for Saudi Arabia as it commits war crimes in Jemen, and withdrawing from the Paris Accords. Maybe I forgot some things there, and I left out most of the domestic and personal circuses (a.k.a. buying off porn stars and destroying net neutrality).
But that’s not it. This past week, it’s come out that Trump and his ilk have crossed a new line, separating young children from their parents and holding them in cages. To be depressingly fair, many children around the world are suffering as terrible a fate. I myself live in the EU, where incoming immigrants regularly drown in the Mediterranean Sea – something as unimaginably horrible.
Of course, the underlying argument is: the US and EU don’t want to have their way of life destroyed by hordes of immigrants seeking a better life. Basically, we don’t want to share our wealth, even though we’ve earned it by oppressing other countries and exploiting them. The new US policy is to use its power to bully other countries to increase its own wealth, which is supposedly owed it.
Immigration is the hot potato in the political debate these days, and its likely to stay that way for the next few decades, if not the rest of the century.
Trump, paradoxically, withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords. He doesn’t believe in the climate change, while that is in fact a big driver of migration. Over the past thirty years, millions have been displaced by climate change. Estimates vary, but by 2050 ten to fifty times as many people could be displaced as well. So really, things are just getting started.
Anger about migration is growing, with right wing groups — including alt-right and neo-nazis — crowing about racial differences and harsher immigration laws. This alone points to a very bleak future, with more dead children, as Charles Stross recently described.
I don’t know if Stross came up with the term ‘soft genocide’, but the term sends chills up my spine. It’s the road the EU and the US are walking, and the road that leads to harsh clashes between left and right. Close the borders and let people die on the other side, or open the borders and get overrun.
But it won’t come to that, will it?
The right side of history
We all like to view the world through the lens of story books. The good guys win and the bad guys lose. Unfortunately, we also project that onto the current crises.
For example, look at the trade war Trump started. Many people have rushed forward to say it’s very destructive for everybody involved. Stepping out of the Iran deal will destabilize the Middle East. Bullying Mexico and Canada will hurt the US as much as it hurts them. What I wonder, though: is all that really true? It might be, but it might also be wishful thinking.
You see, the US is the most powerful country in the world, and using that power to gain wealth might very well work.
As much as we all know that all those things I named at the beginning of this article are wrong, and that it puts Trump on the wrong side of history, that might not really matter.
Trump bullying Canada, Mexico, China, and the EU could wreak havoc on the world, but the US could come out on top. The US possibly needs those countries less than they need the US. Combined with the biggest fist on Earth (a.k.a. a lot of nukes and a gazillion troops), and the US can beat each of them. The wrong side of history sounds ominous, but if you can stomach dead children out of sight, you can come out on top. If you don’t believe me, look at what the early US colonists did to Native Americans.
Back to the Future
Back to crystal ball gazing. Charles Stross’s bleak vision of the 21th century might truly come to pass, and the US and Europe might actually come out ahead if we let climate change play out its soft genocide. It morally reprehensible, but it might work.
However, it doesn’t have to go that way. The way Trump is aggravating the social and economical gap between rich and poor in the US, the entire country might collapse in the next decade. It could also drive the EU into the arms of China — or even Russia.
China is making ready to step and take the US’s place, should it fall. Unfortunately, China is also shaping up to be a really frightening and repressive place to live. Will that lead to less children suffering? Questionable.
All in all, things are in flux. Things could play out in many ways, and a lot of outcomes are very bleak. We live in interesting times.
But what I really want to stress: nothing is inevitable.There are no story book endings, not for good, or for evil.
We can still save the environment. Children don’t have to die. We don’t have to vote for Trump, or others like him. Our wealth can be divided equally around the world and we can all have good lives.
Most of us can only do what is within our power, and maybe that alone is enough to stave of all those bleak futures.