Worldwide, we are witnessing many shifts in society and in the way political and social leaders are being regarded. The systems (organisations, governments, political parties, religions, …) and the people within these systems are losing control and there is a sense of chaos and the impression that things are only getting worse. This is leading to even greater distress and visible signs of frustration and pain in our society.
I consider this to be evidence that our world order is undergoing a transformation, with the old one slowly being replaced by the new. And like any transformation in which the profound essence of the changing system is replaced by a new essence, with no possibility of going back to the old way, this societal transformation, too, is a painful process. It is accompanied by a great deal of unrest, upheaval, opposition, frustration and violence. Slowly but surely, the caterpillar is irrevocably becoming a butterfly.
The tension, pain and uncertainty generated by this intense societal metamorphosis could be symbolically compared to the extinction of a species of monstrous prehistoric beast. That monster has been able to grow for decades, becoming mighty and ubiquitous. It is a symbol of an age in which roaring and raging was the standard way of displaying power, in which anyone with differing opinions was demonised and in which the sole focus – out of ravenous appetite and the self-serving will to survive – was on getting ahead individually.
However… Mankind is becoming more self-aware and more assertive, and people seem to be growing more socially engaged for causes and principles that they believe in. They can be more rapidly informed thanks to the virtual connection that we have with each other and have had enough of leaders who want to keep that kind of “monster” alive. The result? Mankind is increasingly calling the old world order into question. Mankind is confronted with an old system – the monstrous beast! – that harboured many ambiguities, imbalances and injustices, and people are realising that there is a clear need for a new system in which transparency, sustainability, respect and well-being are the primary foundations. The awareness of the discrepancy between the old and new and the accompanying fear is gripping Mankind. That is why people are beginning to resist and ultimately to fight – whatever form this may take – against the old system, in the fervent hope that a new, better system can be created.
That monster – the old system – is now being fought increasingly intensely and visibly by those who band together to vanquish that creature from the past. That concerted human effort has thrown the monster off-balance, and it is fighting – probably in vain – against this growing new social order. In a final bid for survival, summoning all the energy still available, the fiercely pumping heart will soon give out thanks to the unfailing symbolic fighting spirit of Mankind who wants to be free of this terrible beast of the past.
That is why we are seeing growing criticism of the inefficiency of the European Union, the United Nations and NATO, the election or preservation of narcissistic, macho power-mongers such as Trump, Erdogan, Putin, Bashar Hafiz al-Assad and Orban is being met which such strong criticism, and the rise and rapid growth of right-wing political parties and extremist ideas that claim to offer citizens certainties or attempt to convince them of the evil of the other, is increasingly being called into question.
That inefficiency, those old-style “leaders” and that extremist thought – although at times very frightening – are in themselves nothing more than the evidence of a rapidly changing society in search of a new and better world order and a more humane society with more respect, less chaos and better leaders, and in which that inefficiency, those old-style “leaders” and those extremist ideas are the symbolic final outburst of the dying beast, as it bleeds to death.
That is why it is high time for new leaders to step forward and show themselves and, through a genuine commitment to society and with a long-term vision, to become the architects of this emerging new world order.
Brussels, 10 February 2017
Olivier Onghena-’t Hooft is also the vice-chairman of LEAD-IN.