Disempowered people are dangerous people. All sentient creatures crave power – to dominate the pack, to enhance survival prospects, to confer power to offspring. We only have to consider Germany in the decade after the end of the First World War, to see what might grow out of the economic plight that affected the people of that country – Hitler. Germany was being pecked on all sides and Hitler came with the perfect solution – blame other ethnic and religious groups – make them the bottom of the pecking order. It worked, and will always work. No matter how mild-mannered and polite the general population might be, if it feels disempowered it will support someone who lays the blame on others, and concentration camps might be the outcome. Hitler was a master manipulator of the emotions – make the general population feel like it was invincible and subject selected minorities to total humiliation.
Fast-forward almost a century and we see the same dynamics at play. Nationalism is on the rise as prosperity and prestige diminish for millions of people. It really doesn’t need to be repeated that wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, with the obvious outcome that the mass of people feels diminished. This sense of diminished power is aggravated by celebrity culture, the open display of wealth, fame and power. Oddly enough the celebrity is merely displaying what most people desire, and the fact the masses cannot have these things creates resentment – not toward the celebrity, but toward those who have been picked out by the power possessors as the cause of depravation – immigrants, the unemployed, the sick, religious and ethnic minorities.
This is well illustrated in the United Kingdom, a nation in long term decline. In 1900 a pound sterling would exchange for five dollars. Today the exchange rate is approaching parity. The UK no longer has an Empire to prop up its relative affluence. While it is still the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world (depending on fluctuating exchange rates) it is eleventh in terms of industrial output and no longer has the means to create its own infrastructure. Nuclear power stations and communications infrastructure require expertise and technologies from outside the country. In summary, the people of the UK needed to assert their power, and after 30 years of propaganda from the right wing press, it has finally opted to leave the European Union. And it is worth remembering that a divided Europe tends to go to war with itself, a fact that prompted Winston Churchill and others to seek to unite Europe.
Of course, it isn’t only the UK the is experiencing diminished power. The general population of the United States is experiencing something similar to the UK, although it is earlier days for the US. China, India, Indonesia, and other nations are rising to power based on advanced technology – and please remember that it is technology innovation alone that can support the creation of wealth. If a nation no longer supports and amply rewards its engineers and scientists then decline is inevitable.
The net result of this is that the world is becoming more unstable as Nationalism once again rears its ugly head. The real causes of disempowerment (manipulation and exploitation of the masses by the few) are never uncovered, but various minorities will bear the brunt. This is a cycle that repeats over and over again, and the phrase “never again” is soon forgotten in Nationalistic rhetoric and passion.