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What is happening in Afghanistan, and the tragedy that awaits those who remain trapped there after the departure of the Americans, should remind us of an obvious fact that is too often forgotten: any event, whether positive or negative, whose materialisation dynamic is almost certain, generally occurs much sooner than expected, surprising those who live in the comfortable unconscious of the present.
Thus, it was obvious that the very announcement, in February 2020, of the departure of American troops (after the hallucinating agreement of the American government with the enemies of the Afghan government) was going to lead to the capture of provincial cities, and then of Kabul, by the Taliban. The most pessimistic only discussed the time it would take, generally expecting more than a year; and few understood that, since this was a certain event, it would happen very quickly. Much quicker. In a few days. Even before the Americans left.
I experienced a similar event a long time ago: in the autumn of 1988, because of Gorbachev’s choices to stop shooting at demonstrators in the Eastern countries, first in Poland and then in East Germany, it became clear that the Eastern bloc would break up, that the regimes would collapse, and that, in particular, German reunification would take place “one day”. For many, ‘one day’ was a long way off, and as late as December 1989, I heard in a private conversation the then US President George Bush Sr, one of the most sophisticated and capable US Presidents of recent decades, reaffirm his certainty that this reunification would not take place for at least ten years. It was in fact concluded in less than six months. And a few days later, I heard Gorbachev say in Kiev, also privately, that he was convinced that the Soviet Union was an irreversible achievement of history, while it was obvious to all those who had understood the inescapable call of freedom that it was going to disappear; which was the case two years later.
These examples show that, when an event, positive or negative, is almost certain, it takes place more quickly than logic would have us believe.
Of course, this was not always the case: the predictable decline of the Roman Empire lasted five centuries; the French Revolution, also entirely predictable, came long after the forecasts of the most lucid Enlightenment thinkers. Today, however, history is accelerating, for a thousand reasons: it is more difficult for the powerful to hold back ever-growing human masses; material, economic, social and ecological contradictions are more and more quickly felt to be unsustainable. And communication technologies are shortening the response times of the various actors.
Today we are faced with a situation of this kind on many fronts:
Firstly, climate disruption: we know it will happen; it has been announced, demonstrated, documented and dated; we see every day that it is already materialising, much sooner than expected. And it is clear that they are going to accelerate even further: what has been announced for 2050 will take place in 2025. Unless we act now.
Then there is Covid 19: if we keep predicting that a new variant could one day in the future bypass the protection of the vaccine, it will arrive much sooner than expected if we do nothing to protect the rest of the world’s vulnerable people, where, precisely because of the lack of vaccines, the majority of variants are born.
Similarly, we know that the Chinese regime is facing very serious social, demographic, ecological and political problems and that it could choose to delay them by embarking on a military adventure over Taiwan. We know this and yet we pretend we don’t really know. And that it would not happen. And yet it will happen; and sooner than we think.
In the same way, we can foresee that one day, the Palestinians, demographically dominant, will give up their claim to a state and demand that they be granted full rights as citizens in a State of Israel extended to the occupied territories. This event, which is very likely, will take place if nothing is done to create their state, and will turn the Middle East upside down.
Similarly, it has become clear that the United States will no longer be willing or able to defend its present allies and will withdraw its troops from the rest of the world, especially from Europe. This situation, which everyone knows is inevitable, will happen much sooner than expected, yet no one is doing anything to prepare for it. Yet this should lead everyone, especially the European Union, to ask existential questions and to take its defence in hand. And again: everyone knows that, if we do not act seriously to help their development, tens of millions of Africans will one day move to Europe.
And again, everyone is well aware that in fifty years’ time, two billion Africans will be living in poverty 20 kilometres from a prosperous Europe without something massive and disruptive happening. And it is in Europe’s vital interest to participate in the development of this promising continent.
What’s more, if we want to think about it, everyone knows situations of the same kind in their company, in their work, in their entourage, in their friendly, family or love life: we guess that such and such an event (a bankruptcy, a death, an argument, a break-up, a meeting, an escape) is very likely to happen, that it is going to happen, but not right away, and maybe not at all, so we don’t worry about it. And then, very often, those events that we didn’t want to see happen sooner than we expected.
Please take a look at these events. And ask yourself if you want them to happen; and if you do, then don’t wait any longer; speed them up. And if you fear them, ask yourself what you can do to avoid them or at least prepare for them. And there is a lot to do, on a geopolitical, collective, ecological, economic, financial, social, political, associative and personal level: climate disruption is not yet inevitable; war in the China Sea is not yet certain; Europe’s military vulnerability is not unanswerable; the arrival of variants that bypass vaccines is not fatal; mass migrations from Africa are resistible; and so many other situations for which procrastination is fatal and anticipation the key to survival.