The World Gone Mad


Many baby boomers like me probably feel the same way: the world wasn’t quite the way it is now back in the 1980s when we launched our soaring careers.Sure, there was war, injustice and the perpetual folly of man. We battled apartheid, inequality and hunger, and then cheered the end of the Cold War and therefore the end of history. Violent extremism when it first intruded on our comfortable global existence seemed manageable, containable. That’s why we went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We elected Obama and got Osama: Bham!

What were we thinking? Not far enough ahead, apparently. Comes ISIS with its cost-effective brand of terror – anyone with a grudge, a smartphone and a weapon wreaking havoc in random places on random people. Come the reckless demagogues supported by legions of the neglected and resentful, building walls and stockpiling hate and weapons to keep out others, shaking all our assumptions about the seamless world of free trade and open borders.

Emerging from this vortex of evil and hatred ghastly ghouls, once only the imagined characters of DC and Marvel comics populate the headlines with unimaginable deeds supported by blatant lies and tyranny. What they consider inconvenient details, we once called norms and values.

And so, nearing the end of our careers, the world we thought we were making a better place, the values we struggled to strengthen, the future we assumed we were building for our children – all that seems the biggest lie of all. ‘You see madness, as you know, is like gravity,’ quips the Joker, one of the comic world’s finest villains: ‘All it takes is a little push!’

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Dr Michael Vatikiotis, Asia Regional Director of the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, is a private diplomat/peace negotiator who has worked in Southeast Asia for the past thirty-five years. Formerly a journalist with the BBC, he then became chief editor of the "Far Eastern Economic Review". His non-fiction books include Indonesian Politics under Suharto: The Rise and Fall of the New Order (Routledge) and Political Change in Southeast Asia: Trimming the Banyan Tree (Routledge). His latest, Blood and Silk: Power and Conflict in Modern Southeast Asia, is published by W&N/Hachette and translated most recently into Chinese. He published "The Spice Garden" a novel set in Eastern Indonesia in 2004; "The Painter of Lost Souls" is a novel set in Central Java published in 2012. Fluent in Thai and the Indonesian languages, Vatikiotis lives in Singapore.

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