A Major Leap
2019 is slowly but surely winding down and I wonder what 2020 will bring. Looking back at some of the major developments of 2019 – what can I say, it’s been intense. Taking a deep dive in the world’s status quo (from a western European perspective), my impression is: we need to wake up, smell the coffee – and get moving.
Ring the alarm
Scientists have been crystal clear that our earth and its climate are in a dire state. Our modus operandi of living, manufacturing, transporting goods, disposing of waste, the way we use our natural resources etc. is polluting, poisoning and destroying the earth and messing up our climate in a way that is in no way sustainable long-term for human beings, flora and fauna. It took a teenage girl from Sweden and school kids all over the world protesting weekly this year to refocus global attention and awareness to the red-hot urgency of the situation.
The reaction? The recent U.N. Climate Summit in Madrid ended unsuccessfully without a new deal. And in mid-December “Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen, the new head of the bloc’s executive European Commission, proposed a 100-billion-euro investment plan for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, declaring it Europe’s “man on the moon moment”. The plan came at a price: “Nuclear energy would be recognized as a way for EU states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
So Much Trouble in The World
“2019 marked the 400th anniversary of the first African Americans who arrived as captives on a ship in 1619, ushering in the era of American slavery”. In 2019, major armed conflicts continued to rage i.e. in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen; between the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel; in the Congo. Ongoing also: the Mexican Drug War. So many people suffering, so much destruction.
People united and came out in major anti-government protests this year i.e. in the Indian-administered territory of Kashmir; in Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq. Also, protest erupted in Latin American countries like Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela.
The people of Hong Kong have been protesting for six months straight since June; a massive and sustained grass roots and decentralized protest movement that has rocked this South East Asian powerhouse of a city. They want to retain their guaranteed rights, freedoms and the rule of law and feel like the last man standing vis á vis an overwhelmingly powerful and hostile state machine, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The HK government’s only real response so far: vehemently ignore the demands and use the police forces to literally beat back protesters or anyone in the vicinity. Over 6000 HK citizens have been arrested so far.
Those of us who love Hong Kong (I lived there for around 10 years growing up) are afraid the CCP will eventually react like it did to the student protests for democracy in Beijing, which ended in the Tiananmen Square massacre in June, 1989. The current situation is incredibly dangerous and volatile.
As Britain’s former Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, wrote in the New Statesman: “If Beijing wants protesters to stop, it has to allow them a voice in politics. (…) It is no wonder people have taken to the streets, because they had nowhere else to go. (…) It is clear: Hong Kong is the new frontline in the struggle for freedom. A vibrant, open, global financial center now stands on the precipice of collapse, but it can be helped back from the brink if the world unites with one voice to defend the international rules-based system that itself is endangered by China’s aggression.”
What aggression? Why and how does it relate to us?
Big business vs democratic values
The “China Dream”, the country’s vision to retain World power status, was proclaimed in 2013 by Xi Jinping, China’s state president. One strategic measure for the expansion of China’s economic and geopolitical reach, influence and power, is investing trillions of dollars in the Belt and Road Initiative. A Chinese development strategy to establish trade lanes (overland and sea) that reach from China all the way to Europe, with infrastructure developments and investments in 152 countries and international organizations.
To be clear: I have reverence and respect for the people of China as such; it is a rich and beautiful culture of over 5000 years. What I criticize is the methods the CCP is utilizing. It has been breaking the international treaty with the British government that governs Hong Kong’s handover back to China. The CCP uses its economic clout to bully corporations and governments to shut down their critique about China and its political methods. Plus, to me, as a German, some of the CCP’s methods bear striking similarities to the methods used by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. What Hong Kongers are facing:
- Loss of political agency, loss of the right to assemble and to protest, loss of human rights.
- No rule of law. Random kidnapping and jailing of supposed “bad elements”.
- Brutal suppression of political critique, political dissidents and the call for democracy (see Tiananmen Square Massacre, 1989)
- Omnipresent Communist and nationalistic propaganda.
- Censorship of media, academia; nationalistic stance in curricula.
- Oppression of ethnic and religious minorities (see Tibet; see 1 million Muslim Uyghurs currently in “re-education camps” in Xinjian province; see Falun Gong.)
- Total surveillance and control of the population via Big Data, face recognition and surveillance technology, see the “Social Credit System”.
When I talk to other Germans about the protests in HK, I ask them: “Imagine it was re-unification again, but this time with former East Germany, the DDR. Would you want that, Stasi and all…? Hell no.
Business vs values
The US congress recently passed the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019” against the CCP’s meddling in HK; if it will have a sustained positive effect remains to be seen. Will other liberal democracies stand up, speak out and take real action on behalf of the fundamental political and social values they claim and that our governments’ leaders have sworn to uphold? Values like human rights, universal suffrage, freedom of speech, free press, the rule of law, the right to assemble, etc.? Or will those countries and corporations, who profited massively from Hong Kong as the gateway to China, stay silent and meek because China is such a powerful economic player, such a huge market and a growing super power extremely sensitive to critique?
Will Germany retain its “comprehensive strategic partnership” with the CCP despite what we are witnessing? At what point does that partnership need a critical evaluation, where are our red lines? What measures, treaties and deals will be on the table with all top leadership at the EU-China summit in Leipzig, Germany, in September 2020? It remains to be seen. The same goes for the “European ‘Magnitsky Act’ that EU foreign ministers decided to start working on in beginning of December. It is modelled along the lines of a similar-named US sanctions framework targeting individuals involved in human rights abuses worldwide who could face EU asset freezes and travel bans.” Having it on paper is great, but how our governments will actually act remains to be seen.
Unsustainable economic system, invasive digital tech
The problem I see is that instead of being mainly driven and shaped by our democratic values, human rights and people power, the world has been dominated and shaped by the neoliberal economic paradigm of maximum growth and profits for the past 40 years.
The way this economic philosophy has played out has, in my opinion, resulted in increasing disregard for the actual wellbeing, dignity and prosperity of our people and societies. Our industries, corporations and their neoliberal economic practices have had especially destructive consequences for Mother Earth, flora and fauna, oceans and rivers, the air we breathe, the soil we use to grow our food. This paradigm is killing us, literally.
Adieu democracy, adieu freedom?
Plus, right wing conservative forces have been re-emerging globally. The U.S., the world’s economic and geopolitical powerhouse since World War II, used to pride itself on being a “beacon for freedom and democracy”. Now we are witnessing its democratic institutions and civility eroded by an incompetent, racist, narcissistic egomaniac of a president, and the political and media culture that created and sustains him.
Anti-immigrant sentiment has risen in this country of migrants. According to government reports in November, nearly 70’000 migrant children were in “government custody”, separated by their parents. The American populace has been confused as to what is truth and fact by this president’s dangerous practice of outright lying and twisting the truth into the absurd. His schmoozing up to Putin and undermining of the NATO alliance is seriously shifting global geopolitical power dynamics. Russia and China must be laughing their butts off.
The right-wing conservative push for Brexit was boosted by Boris Johnson’s clear win in the recent British parliamentary elections. Brexit has already caused a painful division amongst the British people and seriously rattled the UK’s parliamentary democracy. How great the impact will be on the economic stability, prosperity and unity of both the United Kingdom and the European Union remains to be seen.
For me, it’s been deeply disturbing to see rightwing conservative forces (re-)emerge in European countries like the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Hungary, Poland etc. in the last years. The same goes for Brazil and the US. Being German, I am painfully aware of the horrific impact and consequences the methods used by right wing forces and authoritarian states can have on people, nations and the world. I hate to say it, but my alarm bells are ringing.
On the horizon: Industry 4.0
Add to that the internet, digital technology, Big Data, mobile phones and social media. They have enriched us with many awesome innovations, cool services and tools. But they have also been turned into weapons: see the ever-increasing harvesting of personal data, surveillance and manipulation of truth, facts and democratic voting processes.
At the same time, all leading economic nations are in the process of planning and setting up the 5G technology required for their vision of the future, the so called Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0. Basically, a total digitalization is the vision, to “transform profoundly the rest of the economy (and eventually society)”, see Smart Manufacturing, Smart Cities, Smart Transportation, etc. By the way, the Chinese mobile phone and 5G tech company Huawei is pushing to become Germany’s 5G network provider. Merkel and her government have refused to reject the company outright, despite Germany’s secret service and IT cybercrime experts, along those from NATO, are strongly advising against it.
Are we OK with right wing conservative and/or authoritarian forces rising up? What kind of “strategic partnerships” do we want? And Industry 4.0: Will it in fact cater to the health and wellbeing of our societies and democratic systems, our people, the planet? Do we want our lives and societies to continue to be state, tech and profit-driven – or value and people driven?
Women also stood up in the hundreds of thousands again this year. Shocking revelations as to the extreme levels of sexual abuse and violence that women and girls are subject to globally came to light across the world in 2017, see #MeToo. Because women still aren’t safe, in November 2019 a ”Chilean protest song about rape culture and victim shaming became a viral anthem for feminists around the world”. The song, A Rapist in Your Path, was performed by women at mass protests across Latin America and Europe. In early December, thousands across India also took to the streets after another brutal rape and murder of a young woman.
The Women’s March Global organizers state in the march’s January 18, 2020 protest info:“ In the last year alone, women’s reproductive, sexual and human rights have experienced a massive rollback around the world. At a recent United Nations General Assembly meeting, the United States joined 19 nations, including Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iraq and Libya in declaring that women have no international right to abortion. (…) The consequences of inaction are profound and can jeopardize the significant progress women have made in their push for civil rights and social equality.”
Let’s take that in: some men, and specifically men in government, still think they own our bodies and have a right to control them – and thus us. Plus, regardless of continent, country or culture, our women and girls aren’t safe. They continue to have bad to traumatic experiences with strangers, partners, relatives, co-workers or bosses. What.the.hell?! It’s not just outrageous: it reflects the lack of respect, agency and clout women have all over the world, to this day.
No seats at the table
It blows my mind to know that although we are a good 50% of the world’s population and the ones who bring human life to this world through our bodies, basically have no seats at the tables of power where the actual decisions are made that shape and impact our societies’ most. In terms of the economy, business, tech, finance, military, medicine, academia, international relations, justice, local and international politics etc. – the people making the most profound decisions are men and it’s been like that for thousands of years. So much war, destruction and pain our planet’s nature and people have had to endure, to the point of putting us on the brink as a species.
Although women in countless countries today are emancipated and empowered in terms of using their intelligence and skills professionally and living their lives on their individual terms, all in all we remain powerless in terms of collective agency and thus still have very little say in shaping our world on any profound scale.
This lack of unity and responsibility has helped facilitate the destructive patriarchal power systems that remain in place. You may ask: what about politicians like Angela Merkel, she’s been a woman in Germany’s top political position as German chancellor for years?! I’d say: she learned to play the big boys’ game exceptionally well.
I reckon it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee for real. The world is in a dangerous imbalance environmentally, socially, economically, in terms of international relations – and in terms of masculine and feminine energies in the world and the patriarchy. I believe:
- The world desperately needs feminine wisdom and our inherent ability to cooperate and create functioning communities.
- The world needs our feminine ability to nourish and heal.
- The world needs our experience and ability to go through vulnerable, intense processes of transformation, knowing we can come through just fine, triumphant even (see menstruation and birthing).
- The world needs women’s distinct energy and our connection to Mother Earth (as the givers of life) to re-establish a healthy balance all-round.
- The women need to rise up, to step in and step up to create a new vision and stand united for a better world, a peaceful world where we can all thrive.
We, the adults in the room, need to pay very close attention to what the leadership of our countries are doing, what kind of societies, nations, what kind of world we want and need – and be loud, visible and unified in pushing for it until we achieve it.
Globally, as people, don’t we basically want and need similar things?
- Clean and healthy air, water and soil that sustain us and all other living beings on the planet for the next millennia. A diverse and thriving flora and fauna.
- A happy and healthy family life and good friends.
- A full belly and a good standard of living.
- Local and international governmental systems, life styles, industries, trade practices, international relations that actually work for us people, for our wellbeing and according to our will; that allow us to work and live with dignity, where we can thrive personally and collectively in our cultures.
- Freedom from fear.
- International politics that are committed to peace, cooperation and environmental sustainability, the good of the planet and the people.
Yes, we can!
Can we love, understand and respect each other more? Can we share more (resources, tech, power, skills, love)? Can we be more cooperative, compassionate, understanding and kind? Can we apologize humbly where we’ve faltered and were wrong? Can we forgive each other? Can we create new structures, norms, practices and behaviors? Can we regard each other as siblings and act with respect, integrity, dignity and generosity to create thriving communities that are at peace? Can we heal and transform this madness?
I believe it’s doable. There’s so much more that unites than divides us. It’ll take a lot of courage; major paradigm shifts and transformative processes. But I believe it can happen peacefully and in an ultimately healing and empowering way for us humans and the earth. We don’t have to blow ourselves and everything else up to spark and facilitate transformation. Transformation is part of our human and planetary DNA. Every cell, every person, each flower, each moon and menstrual cycle is subject to the rhythm of birth – blossoming – full bloom – maturity – withering – death.
It feels like we are at the end of an era – from which a new one will be borne. Looking at the state of the world, we can no longer solely depend on the men and existing systems and norms to facilitate a sustained peaceful transformation and to save our planet. Too many of them are part of the systems of power that have shaped our world for thousands and thousands of years.
So, I am calling on the women specifically to rise. We need to unify, organize, show up, be clear, stand strong and move forward. Step by step and shoulder to shoulder (with the men that get it).
I know we’re all busy just dealing with and getting through life, especially those who have young children, face financial instability, serious health issues, a hostile political system, etc. But somehow, we will need to find a way to do our part in pushing for the kind of societies, economies and the kind of world we want and need to save our planet, to save ourselves and provide a viable future for the children. In small, personal, every day ways and with bold political measures, locally and globally.
There’s so much we can do:
- Consciously work on your personal healing and empowerment. Join your local women’s and men’s groups that support you in that process.
- Consider eating and shopping consciously, sustainably. Consider how to avoid creating plastic waste in your household.
- Use your power as a consumer and avoid buying products by corporations and produced in countries not aligned to your values.
- Join and lend your voice to protest movements of your choice.
- Engage politically by voting and/or pushing your local and national leadership to pass legislation in line with values that promote a healthy earth and peaceful world. Go protest.
- Consciously go into, connect with and honor Mother Nature.
- I encourage you to check out the Codes for A Healthy Earth and to advocate for them.
They say: “In the face of escalating social and ecological breakdown, millions of people around the world are calling for a fundamental system change. Codes for a Healthy Earth offers a foundational whole-system framework to support citizens in working together across national, cultural and ideological boundaries for radical system transformation and rapid social and ecological regeneration.” Sounds like a good place to start.
I fundamentally agree with some of the things Marianne Williamson, an American leader in self-development and spiritual work, running as presidential candidate in the US election, says: “Where fear has been harnessed for political purposes, our task is to harness love.” (…) “This is a new time, and we must bring forth something new within ourselves in order to deal with it. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, ‘As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.’ (…) “It is time for us to stand for humanitarian values. You don’t just improve your economy to improve the state of humanity. You improve the state of humanity, and that’ll bolster your economy, and it’ll give you peace on earth.” And as Greta Thunberg said: “We can’t save the world by playing by the rules, so the rules have to be changed.” I reckon that time is now.
Sacred Female Rising founder Mira Michelle Jones reminded us a few months ago:” It is important to stay informed and keep a close eye on current developments, even if that may feel grim and overwhelming. Whilst being aware of what is, we need to stay 100% focused on our vision of the future, a world in balance and in peace, because what we focus on grows.”
That we do unify and find peaceful but comprehensive ways to change the status quo for the better globally – that is my prayer and my hope for 2020.
Photo Credits in order of appearance
All Mad Here (©Ulrike Krahnert)
Greta (found no photo credit)
Resist (©Anonymous Artist in Hong Kong)
Nasty Woman (©Ulrike Krahnert)
System change not climate change (no photo credit)
Woman at dawn (©Miguel Bruna on Unsplash)
Einstein Quote (no photo credit)
Sunset Gathering (©Marcos Paixao on Unsplash)
Modern Madness, Written Medicine is my blog where I write about life: the crazy great, the crazy awful that happens in our world; personal growth and transformation.
Born in Hamburg, Germany, I grew up in South Korea and Hong Kong, lived in London in the early to mid 90s; I identify as a world citizen. In the past 25 years, I’ve worked as a freelance journalist, night life editor and DJ, and in corporate and internal communication.
Deeply inspired by self-development books and healing work since my early 20s, I was first introduced to earth-based spirituality and circle work with women in the early 2000s. In 2015-2016 I did the Medicine Woman Training with MiraMichelle. I live and work in Hamburg, Germany.