2020 hindsight.


Byline: Mahir Ali

EIGHTY years ago, at the beginning of World War II, W.H. Auden famously condemned the 1930s as a 'low dishonest decade'. In some ways that description fits the 2010s, yet it feels inadequate. While the past 10 years have provided numerous occasions for despair, they were peppered throughout with signs of hope. Inevitably, much of the good, the bad and the ugly will carry over into the 2020s.

Large parts of the world erupted in protests in the early years of the last decade, following the shock of the global financial crisis and the subsequent use of public funds by all too many Western governments to rescue private enterprises. The Occupy Wall Street movement inspired copycat protests in several countries.

The US was also the breeding ground for various other manifestations of rage against the established order, from Black Lives Matter to the pussyhat protests, Me Too and the articulate anger of the Parkland students, who challenged the right to bear arms after a devastating mass shooting at their school. But the US also threw up the Tea Party. And Donald Trump.

Halfway across the world, mass youth unemployment and WikiLeaks revelations about corruption combined with a self-immolation of a desperate Tunisian street vendor sparked an Arab Spring that was largely nipped in the bud. A few tyrants fell, only to be replaced in short order by others - or by anarchy. The occupation of Iraq earlier in the century and then the unrestrained brutality of the Syrian regime led to the terrorist Islamic State's 'caliphate'.

More recently, a half-hearted reshuffle on the top deck has failed to placate Lebanese protesters. A desperate, brutal response to protests in Iraq and Iran has sowed the seeds of future rebellions. The war in Yemen drags on, with the Saudi-led coalition facilitated by the US and Britain. Israel, meanwhile, goes into its third election within a year with absolutely no hope of relief from the pattern of occupational hazards reinforced by Benjamin Netanyahu, again bolstered by the West.

The previous decade began with broadly left-wing revolts against the established order in various parts of the world, and a few instances of popularly propelled regime change, but ended with the widest panoply in living memory of far right or authoritarian (and often both) regimes, from Egypt and Turkey to India, Sri Lanka, China, Russia, the Philippines, Britain, Poland, Hungary, the US, Brazil and Bolivia. If, borrowing last century's...

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