New Decade, New Leaders?

Progress Namibia - New Decade, New Leaders?
08 January 2020

It is no secret that we have begun the near year with our world in turmoil.

A colleague much more senior, intelligent and experienced than myself recently shared this sentiment: "I (too) personally feel deeply the despondence about the growing chaos and violence humans are imposing on each other and on nature. As you know, this is not going to get better during our lifetimes, so we all need to design a policy that preserves our own good humor and energy, despite global trends. It is the only way to sustain a long-term constructive involvement in the fray." He was responding to an email I had sent about my deep fears and helplessness with the realities we have been warning against for decades, that we are now facing.

However, what keeps me going is not only dealing with my own resilience in this time, but also hope that with strong and inspiring leadership we can still turn some of these things around. We can minimize suffering and still create a better world. But we need the right leadership. That leadership does not exist right now. The kind of leadership we need now is the kind that is willing to take radical decisions that preserves and regenerates what little we have left of nature (the foundation of human survival and wellbeing), and protect first and foremost the "bottom" 99% of humanity. Our current leadership is not doing this; in fact it is doing the opposite.

David Attenborough recently said in his message to world leaders that the kind of decisions we take today are going to set us on a path for the next thousands of years, a path that we will not be able to come back from. Already we have hit tipping points and regime shifts that directly affect human lives and have caused suffering for much other life on Earth.

I think about the recent events I have been exposed to. The corruption caused by leaders in my own country, Namibia, corporate giants in Iceland, and the banks in Norway that went viral. Deciminating what little is left of our fish populations to make a few conveniently-placed people very rich while my fellow Namibians are dying in the futile attempt to access water in dried up wells.

More than half a billion living beings tortured to death and entire ecosystems destroyed in the worst wildfires Australia has ever seen while the Prime Minister mocks climate policy, pushes for more coal, and refuses to appropriately budget for fire and rescue in the country he supposedly leads. During recent climate negotiations, him and fellow leaders from Brazil and USA continue to push for the fossil fuel industry claiming sovereignty as if their pollution does not affect the entire global population.

The looming hyper-violence caused by leadership in the USA and its dubious foreign policy, recently committing not only an extrajudicial killing, but carrying out an unlawful attack within Iraq, and basically begging for war.

The UN Secretary-General urged leaders to show restraint, to stop escalation, to re-engage in dialogue, saying that, in war, the ordinary people will be the ones who suffer most. The same is the case with all of the above examples. It is the majority of the population, the ones who did not have a voice in how much we pollute our home Planet, how much money is made for a few while ecosystems and life is destroyed, how much violence and war erupts because (mostly) of the battle over power over Planetary resources.

The question is - why do we have such a gap in the "right" leadership? Do these leaders not exist - are some of us not stepping up and taking on these roles, making the sacrifices we need to for the sake of our home Planet? Or do these actually exist and are instead choosing the current leaders in the system? Are we allowing for the manipulation caused by the combination of clever algorithms and our own fear and ignorance - and voting for the wrong leaders? Either way, this will need to change, and soon. Otherwise we face a burning world and a rapid rise in Authoritarianism.

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