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The age of anxiety and turbulence


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The age of anxiety and turbulence

12th April 2024

By: Saliem Fakir


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A range of statements echoed through the chambers of the Munich Security Conference recently, and etched on everyone’s face was anxiousness about how the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) is proceeding into the future. Russia was accused, at around the same time, of launching a satellite with a nuclear device.

The purses for financing the war machinery against Russia are becoming deeper. Denmark has donated its entire armaments to Ukraine to fight Russia. The border war between Russia and Ukraine is seeing Russia’s ascendancy, and Nato is now considering who is next – perhaps Moldova?


Swedes are told to be ready for war. Is this unnecessary anxiety or manipulation of public fear to justify more spend for purposes of militarisation?

The doomsday clock is closer to midnight than at any time since 1991.


Not only are factories gearing up for greater production but the quest for security of supply of critical minerals is also increasingly witnessing a race to the bottom – and a race to net zero. Multiple guises and strategies are being used to secure stockpiles of these minerals.

The global scramble is also playing out in the deep oceans. For instance, the Japan Nippon Foundation, using the cover of science, is quietly mapping the seabed and coveting the multi-mineral nodules it hosts for strategic industries, including green technology. China also has several deep-sea mineral rights under the International Seabed Authority.

We are fast shifting from green Keynesianism to military Keynesianism and, remarkably, money can be found from somewhere when it comes to matters of national security.

China seems to be preparing for the inevitable, given the growing animus towards it. The Communist Party has ordered the creation of a People’s Armed Forces Department (PAFD) within State-owned enterprises and Yili, the biggest private dairy firm, is the first privately owned firm with its own PAFD.

In the meantime, Elon Musk and his billionaire friends are not waiting for aliens to reach us; they want to fast-track panspermia – they are dashing to seed Mars with humans, plants and animals.

He and his ilk are also looking to escape from Earth and leave us mere mortals here.

Musk’s Libertarian friends, such as Peter Thiel, are seeking doomsday hideouts in places such as New Zealand. Thiel and Musk go a long way – they co-developed PayPal, the global online payment system. Birds that flock together think alike. Thiel is also the funder of sea-steading, the concept of creating permanent dwellings at sea. His foundation is looking to finance a range of autonomous floating city States governed by the rich and free from the rest of us. Thiel is fighting a lawsuit against the Honduras government over an attempt to establish a private government with its own laws – called Honduras Prospera – on the island of Roatan.

Thiel is part of a global network of conservatives whose most prominent face is Steve Bannon. Despite seeming differences, they share the same ideological strain as Alexander Dugin, described by some as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s whisperer. These movements rely on notions of traditionalism, a form of nationalist identity politics that draws on strong Judeo-Christian values, and envisages a world ruled by the elite.

German philosopher Friedrich Wilhem Nietzsche would have called these tendencies aristocratic radicalism, a growing counter- movement against liberal and leftist values.

The Economist magazine noticed this broad sweep of unlikely characters shaping the new arc of traditionalism under the cover of democracy – they range from Hungary’s Viktor Orbán to Türkiye’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Jacop Zuma on our shores. Their populism is fostering anxious democracies.

Such traditionalism can also lead to the revival of things we thought were long dead, such as neocolonialism.

According to the controversial former Blackwater CEO, Erik Prince, the US should not shy away from restoring order. In a podcast series titled OffLeash, Prince nonchalantly remarked that, given that many countries in Africa are ungovernable, more powerful States would be justified in running these countries on behalf of the native subjects that live in these countries, presumably for the betterment of the world.

In the meantime, Africans are searching for answers for another type of resource colonialism – how to stop the depletion of one of their most valuable resource, the hardy and resilient donkey. Fingers are being pointed at legal and illegal Chinese trade in donkey pelts, also called ejiao, from which gelatine is extracted for use in food and by the country’s barefoot doctor industry.

There is a lot more that should concern us, including whether we will be able to get our next caffeine fix. Coffee grown in Brazil and Africa, the predominant form of coffee, Arabica, which accounts for 70% of the world’s production, is facing challenges: with global warming, more and more land is becoming unsuitable for cultivation. Two-billion cups of coffee are served each day, and the coffee industry is an important source of livelihood for 125-million people. With coffee going to be costly, the age of anxiousness will not be for rattled nerves.

This year is one of mass elections around the world. We should expect hyper-misinformation aimed at manipulating public opinion. Distinguishing truth from falsehood is becoming harder, owing to artificial intelligence (AI). Technophiles like Marc Lowell Andreessen, a tech entrepreneur, have written amanifesto encouraging the unfettered use of AI. This comes against the anxiousness and warnings of former Google scientist Geoffrey Hinton that it is not inconceivable that AI could wipe out humanity.

Hinton was not the first person to warn of this threat. In his work, RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robots), written in 1920 as a fictional drama, Czech playwright Karel Capek imagined a future in which AI wipes out all humanity.

Meanwhile, Italian-born physicist Enrico Fermi surmised that there should be a planet like our Earth, considering that the universe is made up of so many galaxies and suns. But he wondered aloud why the inhabitants of that planet have not been able to communicate with life on Earth or we with them.

This Fermi paradox persists as we continue to search for extra-terrestrial life while we try to make the best of it here in the age of anxiousness.


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