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2017: A rejection of the mosaic, and a return to primary colours?

Greek American Alexander Billinis reflects on the state of world politics as we prepare to bid farewell to 2016

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28/12/16

As we count down to the new year I cannot help but feel that an era is passing into history, a passing that I, for one, already mourn. Of course nostalgia, they say, is "never what it used to be," and the delights and freedoms of the fading "globalisation era" could not obscure the inequalities it wrought. It is clear that the electorates, in America as elsewhere, sought a fix for the problems which emerged from a globalised world. We may find that the "cure" for the excesses of globalisation is not only worse than the illness, but in fact accelerates the malady it purports to cure.

The solution currently on offer, it seems, is a rejection of the diversity of globalisation and a return to a nostalgic past. The national flag, an official religion, a tribal mythology that is the refuge of both frightened people left behind by globalisation, as well as of scoundrels.

This rejection of diversity is not a localised phenomenon, it is itself global. We have seen the Brexit cure - return to the national or regional flag, literal and figurative exclusion of the "other"—is now effectively the new regime in the US. Real economic grievances are baited and switched to blaming those different from us. Different countries, different races, religions, and ultimately, different ideas, are cast out in pursuit of a simple fix to a complex problem.
What we are doing, effectively, is amputating our own limbs.

Britain risks separation from Europe, and even dissolution of the United Kingdom. In America they are not perhaps at the threshold of secessions, but the divisiveness wrought in search of a "cure" may bring a social division unknown in that country for decades. We don't talk to each other; the grays are excluded, giving primacy to black and white. We live within our own echo chambers.

Europe's existential troubles, accelerated by globalisation and Brexitesque reactions, will no doubt serve as justification for a return to primary colours.

"You see, supranational solutions don't work. Only we can protect our interests." This belief, spoken in French, Hungarian, Greek, etc, from a presidential podium, carries a promise to "Make [insert your country] Great Again." In choosing this cure, we will have gone against the collective wisdom of so much history.

As a Greek American I worry deeply about the retreat of pluralism in my country, and it seems that Australia is also regressing, in lockstep with trends in the West. Those of us who are of Greek descent, now comfortable as the fungible racial term 'White' includes us, might take care to remember that not long ago, Greeks were 'othered' in both the US and Australia. It is our duty to fight for the mosaic in our societies, rather than follow an orderly regression back to primary colours. Despite all of the obstacles, it is in our hands, we must fight the excesses in globalisation without destroying the diversity that is the one key benefit. Diversity, moreover, is at the bedrock of our free societies.

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