Faced with an avalanche of surprises, good and bad, that has swept humanity over the last year, there might be a temptation to give up predicting anything for the coming year. 2017 would be, even more so than 2016, beyond the scope of all predictions. Yet, a great many events were foretold with accuracy in early 2016, and I tried, in particular, to do that, exactly a year ago in my weekly Op-Ed here in L’Express.
And many events that took place, that were not foreseen, could have been foreseen if we had been willing to admit that what is rationally certain is not necessarily humanly probable. And even that, more and more, in these troubled times, peoples can make decisions that subsequently proved to be contrary to their own interests. For 2017, we can engage in the same exercise and predict fairly easily what is rationally certain, in terms of politics, demography, and technology, distinguishing it from what is humanly probable though irrational.
By the end of 2017, there will be a new leader in place in the United States, France, Germany, and Italy. And if most likely that they will be called Trump, Fillon, Merkel and Di Maio, that is far from certain, even in the United States. And even more so in Germany. In both cases, there are very convincing scenarios showing that the likely leaders of these two countries might no longer be in power in December. The same applies to Great Britain.
Similarly, if it is also likely that we will enter a phase of protectionism, first in China, Brazil, the United States and then Europe, and this will have a negative impact on world’s growth, which should, in a rational way, dampen the optimism that is currently submerging Western financial markets that consider that the worst is behind us.
Likewise, if no one can say with any certainty when and where the next terrorist attacks will take place, it is certain that they will take place. In the same way, if it is unclear at present what will remain in twelve months’ time of the bloodthirsty regime of Assad and Daesh, when and where the next skirmishes between the United States and China or between Russia and Ukraine will take place, it is certain that in 2017, international tension will not be reduced. It is also hard to image what will get into the future president of the United States and his theocratic vice-president, except that it is certain that they will participate in the world disorder.
A stormy and non-conclusive negotiation of the Brexit, mass migrations of people from Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, victims of wars and the impact of climate change are to be expected.
It can be expected that everywhere the criticism of the elites, even those whose scholarly legitimacy is the least objectionable, will grow and become very violent, while there will be a growing affection for stars and presenters of TV reality shows, because they will please the usual laziness and meanness of fractions of public opinion in search of scapegoats and distraction.
We can also expect growth for the middle classes in Asia and Africa, and the further impoverishment of the latter in Europe and the United States, where enormous and increasing amounts of wealth, will even shock us, and bring about-if not supporting humanitarian causes-feelings of rebellion.
Lessons must be learned from all this for the upcoming year:
- We must get ready to experience major surprises. For this, it is important to keep in mind that the results are by no means a foregone conclusion for the cause of liberty and reason. In particular, not to think that violence is only for others and that Europeans will only see it on television. This means that it will be necessary to become increasingly mobile, and to be prepared to change, move, and be on the move as much as possible.
- We must prepare for great battles, so that we are not, even infinitesimally, held responsible for the worst-case scenario. And therefore, continually, we must explain that our future is best guaranteed when we act, when we do not resign ourselves to the current situation, when we never lose courage in the face of adversity.
- We must be prepared to let altruism be our guide, so that we can create a world around us that is caring and compassionate, for it is solidarity and empathy that will determine the effectiveness of resilience and resistance.
There were times when I compared our world to a ballroom, where we all came to dance. And where we all came to realize that there was a great risk that the curtains might ignite and panic could lead to the death of the dancers, all those who could not reach in time the narrow and single exit. In this context, the best approach is twofold: On one hand to dance near the exit and thus take full advantage of what the world has to offer, while being ready to leave if needed. And on the other hand not to waste a minute, and alert the other dancers and those in charge of the ballroom so they can take the necessary precautions.
This would be the correct and best course of action for 2017: Selfishly preparing for the worst and helping altruistically for the best.