8 min read

A Few Predictions for the Next Decade, Our Responsibility Now, Plus a Little Conversation With... My Mom

A Few Predictions for the Next Decade, Our Responsibility Now, Plus a Little Conversation With... My Mom

I’m Umair Haque, and this is The Issue: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported publication. Our job is to give you the freshest, deepest, no-holds-barred insight about the issues that matter most.

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  1. Britain seems stuck in a doom loop of poverty.  (The Guardian)
  2. We rejected ‘America First’ in the 1930s. Will we now? (WaPo)
  3. One More Day (Slate)
  4. Climate change is changing how we keep time (Science News)
  5. For young people, the job search has never been so miserable (FT)

A Conversation With (and an Epiphany From)…My Mom

It was my wise and wonderful mom who snapped me back to reality, finally. I’ve been a little lost lately. Haven’t we all? And as we were chatting, about the horror in Gaza, the twilight of democracy, the plight of the world, she said something that hit me like Thor’s hammer.

“There’s a darkness in people’s souls these days.” 

And I thought to myself: she’s exactly right.

And then she said: “You’re holding back. You used to be so prophetic, and all the things you talked about came true, from Trumpism, to the economy, to the world turning away from democracy, to planetary meltdown. And now?”

She didn’t have to say the next line. She’s my mom. We know each other in that familiar way. It was an accusation. Not of dishonesty, but of…a kind of reticence.

“I’m afraid,” I said. “To tell people what I really think will happen next. My next set of predictions is…really bad. I mean much worse. And I don’t want to scare people any more than I already do.”

“My son,” she said, in that tone only moms can use, which is a kind of an exasperated rebuke within the dappled shell of unconditional love, “that is who you are.” 

I thought about that, too. A long silence stretched between us, across the oceans keeping us apart. Me in Europe, she in Asia. She didn’t mean something as banal as I’m scary. I guess I am, but that’s another story. She meant: it’s a kind of responsibility. A moral one.

“You have this strange gift,” she said. “And nobody ever knew where it came from. Even when you were little. You were always strange. You sense what’s going to happen next. And gifts are to be shared.” Moms know. You know? She was precisely right. Don’t take that as egoism. We all have gifts, and in life, if we don’t share them, the world is a poorer place, and we grow spiritually impoverished, too.

Ok, that’s enough of the soppy stuff.

This Hurts, and That’s Why it Matters

The truth is that I am scared. To really share with you what I think—sense, know, understand—what happens next. Think back, if you’re a long time reader, about my predictions for the last decade (I don’t like calling them that, by the way, because this is all just factual and statistical). They were…

Apocalyptic enough. Way back when, I said Trumpism would arise before there was a Trump, that the economy would turn stagnant and inflationary—some of you might remember my example of the $20 cheeseburger, which sounded absurd in the 2010s, but not so much now— that democracy would begin to shatter, and that something would go…wrong…with people, as they fell into despair, their lives diminished, and turned on each other.

Pretty accurate. And that’s emphatically not some sort of source of smug satisfaction for me. It pains me. It really hurts and wounds me to see that we have let the world become this threadbare thing. I feel an ache of grief every moment of every day for it, and all I have is music, really, to salve it. This doesn’t feel good for me. But…moms know.

So another reason I’m reluctant to share my next set of predictions is…it hurts. I know how that sounds. It’ll make a certain kind of person roll their eyes—the emotionally immature kind, who thinks feelings are to be denied and hidden away. But if that watching that set of predictions come true feels this bad, then imagine how much more it hurts to have to issue another set.

I don’t say that so you cry for me. Don’t. I have a good life. I just say it so we understand one another. So we talk like adults. We are talking about things here that wound the human soul. They hurt you to hear them, and I applaud you for having the courage to read and listen, deeply so. And they also hurt me to say them. Because as we have these conversations, we feel so many things, don’t we? We feel the grief and pain of the ideas we’re talking through, which aren’t really abstractions, but incredibly real. The “end of democracy” isn’t some kind of Beltway buzzword—to me, as a survivor and witness of authoritarianism and fascism, I remember vividly what it feels to have your life right on the edge. It’s terrifying, baffling, bewildering, disorienting.

This stuff hurts. I celebrate you and I hold you. We can only do this together, and I’ll come to precisely what “this” is. There is that much wounding, that much, pain in this difficult work of…

So What Happens Next?

Like I said, my next set of predictions is…bad. If you really want them, I’ll “give” them to you, but I need to caution you. They’re not meant to be compressed into bullet points, and so don’t sort of react in immediate outrage or what have you. Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll shade in the details, because there are plenty of nuances and subtleties in the picture, of which this is just a threadbare stick figure.

Alright, enough with the weebling, let’s get to it.

I expect that we really will see the twilight of democracy, with it falling it well beneath it’s current 20%. Probably it’ll hit around 10% or so—especially when Trump’s re-elected. And “10%” is really just a way of saying “the democratic world as we once knew it is coming to an end.”

Climate catastrophe will hit us incredibly hard, with ruthless, merciless intensity, that’ll leave us staggered and bewildered. The economic shocks will be astronomical. Here’s a hint of the world we’re entering: today, as in right now, the price of cocoa’s skyrocketing, because of failing harvests. So your favorite chocolate is going to cost a whole lot more in a few months’ time. Now multiply that by everything in the economy, and times ten the impact—that’s sort of the world we’re heading into.

Our economies don’t have a future. I don’t want to mince words with you anymore, so let me just put it bluntly. All the business buzz about “AI” just masks the fact that there are no real sources of easy growth left. That well has finally run dry, as we run out of basic resources and we’ve hit the bottom of the race to “cheap” labour, aka exploitation. Instead, we face a future of stagflation, in which prices rise—think of the cocoa example—and the gains continue to go the richest, turning them from…

More and more vicious forms of inequality will continue to destroy our societies. Think of how the rich have gone from super to ultra to mega rich—and now contend with the fact that the world’s first trillionaires will emerge this decade. Meanwhile, we can’t raise a few hundred billion as a world to fight climate change. This is extractive inequality—not the kind where all boats sink, but where some rise by sinking everyone else’s. 

Social contracts will get wrecked, and reimagination will be nearly impossible. As that vicious spiral of inequality accelerates, what happens? Trillionaires leave the world short of what it needs to fight climate change—macro level. At the social level, sharp inequality leaves less and less over for modern social contracts, with universal basics. Debt loads rise, and public goods are eviscerated. The simplest example of this today is modern-day Britain, which once had something close to a European level social contract—and ripped it apart in roughly a decade. Much of the world will face the same dilemma, and rising tides of nationalism and extremism will delude people into choosing the undoing of their own social contracts, just as in Britain, or, of course, sadly, America.

As all that happens, living standards will continue to fall. Probably the most startling fact about the world today is that the majority of people in the world are now getting poorer. Sharply so. Even as the world economy “grows” at a small rate—but when most people are getting poorer, that means that such growth is of course extractive, as in, coming from them, not accruing to them. All of the problems and trends above will exact a savage toll on living standards, from climate-driven heatflation, to fragmenting global trade and growing conflict, to economic stagnation, to, in the end, the raiding of social contracts for what little is left.

And I haven’t even got to discussing how growing conflict is leading us right back to world war again, yet—as in, this decade feels like a repeat of the 1930s because it is, almost eerily so, so far, in many ways.

Whew. That’s a lot. Where does all that leave us? If you read this, far, here’s a hug. I mean it. I’m not kidding when I say: this hurts. Why do I discuss this stuff with you guys? To scare you? For an ego boost, “look how smart I am?” Of course not. That’s pathetic, and that’s not why. I do it because this is my responsibility. This is our responsibility.

The Fundamental Human Responsibility in an Age of Collapse

My responsibility is to share with you what I know. Our responsibility is…what is it? In times like these? Sometimes, we expect too much of ourselves. Are we to nobly ride out there and save this troubled world, which doesn’t particularly want to be saved? Shall we shout from the rooftops and hope the poor masses ravenously, insatiably consuming the Big Lies suddenly prick up their ears—and don’t kill us for disturbing them?

Our responsibility in times like these is many things. Change, transformation, leadership, “resistance,” acts of conscience. But the primary one, the fundamental one, the one on which all the other powers rest is this. To bear witness.

That’s the part that hurts. And greater minds and souls always knew it, which is why they called bearing witness a moral responsibility. When we encounter situations like this? In which we’re powerless, in which there seems no hope, in which all seems lost? Then we must have the courage to do the one last thing which remains to us. Bearing witness.

The is the dark night of humanity’s soul, my friends. Here we are, walking through the valley of the shadow of death, lost, alone, afraid. Our kind has lost not just its way, but it has lost its way because it has lost its eyesight, compass, words, and ears. There it is, mute, turning on itself, in this last, bitter, stupid act of primal rage. 

And in this moment, here we are, you and I, watching the tragedy unfold. Holding it all in these human arms. And in that, we remember there is still something noble and beautiful and good in us, which is the spark that must be preserved, above all. That is why we bear witness.

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