A Year of Unsettling Trends


By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

Probably the single most widespread problem that has affected the common man across the globe in the past year is one that has in fact accentuated as the year comes to its end: the rising prices of all items of consumption. Every household has felt the pinch at the local grocery outlets and the supermarkets, at the petrol pump, when the utilities bills came in – and so on. Any pay rises were quickly neutralized by rising inflation, and savings eaten into to dwindling point.

‘Humanitarian crisis’ – UK health experts call on government to intervene over rising energy bills and falling living standards. Pic – Financial Times

We read that in Europe, which is facing one of its worst winters with dropping subzero temperatures, people are having to choose between heating or food. So much so that in the UK, one of the worse affected countries, government is fearing an excess of deaths among the elderly who will succumb to the cold. The situation there is compounded by the fact that after a failure of negotiations to obtain the pay rises they have pressed for, nurses and ambulance personnel have gone on strike, maintaining only a minimum of essential services.

As if that was not enough, the European Union has been hit by what has already been called Qatargate, a corruption scandal that has allegedly involved the Qatar government and four high-level officials of the EU including its lady vice-president. A salutary measure, unlike what we are used to here, is that all four have been made to step down as an investigation got under way. Qatar has naturally denied the allegation of paying EU officials to peddle influence at policy levels in that body. This incident has tarnished the grandstanding of Qatar as the host of the World Cup, despite the brilliant finish of the Argentinian team.

A similar rattling episode – two in fact – is the rioting by Moroccans in several cities in France after the Moroccan team lost to their French counterpart. Nearly 14,000 policemen had to be mobilized to control the looting and burning, the fights between native French citizens and the ‘imported’ variety, Moroccans and their acolytes most of whom are in fact French-born, as a few news channels pointed out. Why should they rise against their own country, some wondered. But there was more to come, when riots erupted again after Argentina beat France on a penalty kick. Again, it was Moroccans and migrants who had been granted space in France who were involved. Where did the instigation come from, by whom, and why?

But rioting and violence is almost a fact of life, and even increasing it seems in many European countries – notorious being the Scandinavian ones such as Sweden and Norway, but also in Germany and Belgium where lone-wolf attacks in the metro and in some public well frequented places can be expected anytime, anywhere.

The prevailing atmosphere of antagonism and belligerence since the beginning of the year certainly doesn’t help to calm the boiling tempers, with Zelensky of Ukraine and Russia’s Putin locked in war and relentlessly so, with no end in sight. The negative global impact of this ongoing conflict on energy supply and supply chains generally will approach catastrophic levels if it continues, but as if by contagion drums of war are also threatening in two Asian flash points with the potential to drag the whole world in.

On its north-eastern side, Indian soldiers pushed back an attempted excursion by Chinese soldiers across what is known as the LAC, Line of Actual Control, a situation which however quickly enough stabilized. Across its western border has come a threat of nuclear war from Pakistan, which lost all three wars it fought with India post-Independence.

Why are irresponsible voices raring for war in a world where there are hundreds of millions of refugees already and nearly two billion people in a situation of famine? And mind you, those sounding the war bugle are ensconced in their palatial domains, enjoying all the luxuries that can be imagined.

In their narrow focus on personal gain and popularity, politicians and their cronies, various vested interest groups and wheeler-dealers are least concerned with the bigger war that is looming: combating climate change that threatens to annihilate us.

In fact, according to the projections, doomsday may be awaiting us in less than 30 years if we do not do something drastic to stop or even reverse the course of global warming. For the climate deniers, the climate change experts are all wrong and the scare scenario is not justified: all we need to do is to just continue with the way we have been living and everything will be all right.Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 23 December 2022

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