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One hundred years after World War I, are we heading back to the abyss?

One hundred years after World War I, are we heading back to the abyss?

On the anniversary of the Great War’s end, we should reflect on its causes, consequences and lessons for the future.

Cloth Hall, Ypres, Belgium, during World War I. | Flickr/National Library of Scotland. No copyright restrictions.

Today we live in a world that is not dissimilar to the pre-WWI world, when a few emperors and their families controlled the fate of the vast majority of the world’s population. In 1914, all it took to trigger the Great War was the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a nationalist Serb. The assassination took place on June 28. Five years later to the day, on June 28, 1919 – almost exactly 100 years ago – the Great War formally came to an end, but at the cost of approximately 40 million lives.

There are no empires in the old sense now, but there are self-centered leaders who are just as powerful as any emperor in history. Some of these leaders are the kind of bullies who would not think twice before making potentially catastrophic decisions, merely to keep up the appearance of ‘strong men.’ Consider this list: Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Narendra Modi, Rodrigo Duterte and Jair Bolsonaro. What do they all have in common? They have too much power and display autocratic tendencies when exercising it.

Whether you are a genius scientist in the United States, a peace-loving poet in Brazil, or a great philosopher in Iran, the truth is that your fate is, to some degree, in the hands of a man who, in a more rational world, would not even be allowed to care for a pet. Whatever we tell ourselves about the elite who control politics nationally, regionally, and globally, there is one embarrassing fact we need to face: we have surrendered our destiny, and the well-being of the planet, to a bunch of bullies. This should be disturbing for everyone.

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