Only Australians would recognize this tongue-in-cheek quotation from a gifted Aussie priest and humorist whose pen-name was John O’Brien and whose collection of verse is entitled “Around the Boree Log”.
It comes to mind after the BREXIT referendum vote for Britain to exit the E.U. On the BBC and CNN the world’s prospects look like Apocalypse Now. People have always been afflicted with geopolitical myopia : the current crisis will ruin us all ! But we survived the Fall of Rome. The Catholic Church survived the Protestant Reformation. We survived the Black Plague, the Spanish Flu and Mad-Cow Disease. We have survived droughts, fires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. The world survived two World Wars. We survived the Great Depression. It remains to be seen whether or not we will survive Islamist Terrorism, but we will survive BREXIT. How well we survive will depend on our capacity to measure the damage done, to learn from the disaster and to decide on, and to implement, the tactics and strategy necessary to contain the catastrophe ahead of us, and then to … muddle through. We have done it before and we can do it again. Yes, we can !
Such optimism is cheap. But we have no other option. How well we succeed will depend on our ability and readiness to listen to those best qualified to suggest the way forward. One way to begin might be a global reflection on the meaning of “real politik”.
Up till now “real politik” has meant nations giving priority to their own interests. The dream of the League of Nations and its successor the United Nations was to attempt to go beyond that, with the limited success we all know and admit. The dream is more necessary than ever. Globalization has taught us at least that we are an ecosystem, dependent on one another, interdependent. Who will be the next Gandhi, the next JFK, the next Martin Luther King, the charismatic leader who can get us to agree on the initiatives we must take to ensure our survival ? More likely than not, there will be multiple leaders rather than a single Messiah. It will be our task to discern the ones who deserve a hearing and then to implement the most viable solutions to this latest, but not the last, of our global challenges.