Imagine this…

Image this

US President Donald Trump quickly enacts his (anti) NATO policy that no longer offers the guarantee of a US response if another NATO member is attacked.

Putin still smarting from Russia’s expulsion from the Olympics is anxious to assert its power and influence and invades eastern Ukraine, this time without the pretence that no Russian military are involved and quickly moves west to encircle Kiev claiming it is necessary in order to protect all Russian speaking Ukrainians.

Already at the point of ejecting Turkey because it is no longer a democracy NATO is crippled by indecision and cannot agree any response.

President Trump unilaterally imposes tariffs on many imported products and raw materials effectively ending the post war era of free trade. He also threatens China that the USA may default on its huge debt. This causes another worldwide economic shock with the collapse of major financial institutions that cannot be baled out this time.

Quantitative Easing is no longer and option and the only other weapon available to central banks, negative interest rates, in the US, EU, UK and elsewhere has no effect on the contraction of the economies but causes corporations and individual to halt all but essential spending adding to the cycle of decline.

Having been drastically reduced in Southern Europe already State pensions are slashed in northern Europe and in the UK the Pension Protection Fund cannot cope with the number of companies that can’t meet their pension liabilities leaving many who have paid into company funds with the complete loss of their pensions.

Europe is plunged into even deeper economic turmoil as the fundamental flaws in the Euro are fully exposed. Right wing parties make huge electoral advances and in Germany the spectre of Nazism looms once again as democratic forces seem unable to hold the line. Migrants welcomed by former Chancellor Angela Merkel are attacked and many killed.

Greece bedevilled with bail out debt and the migrant crisis faces the collapse of civil society and is no longer a functioning state as marauding gangs steal and pillage at will as no public sector workers including the police, military and healthcare have received payment for months.

The EU parliament and Commission are temporarily dissolved and all national borders are reinstated. What little trade there is is hampered by long delays at custom controls. Global air travel is hugely diminished, tourism all but non-existent.

Seizing an opportunity amid the global economic turmoil Putin sends a large military presence to its enclave on the Baltic of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland, thus posing a direct threat to the two NATO/EU member states. Mass demonstrations in both countries offer Russia the pretext that they are protecting their citizens from attack by NATO.

President Trump continues his refusal to back the NATO threat of a military response if Lithuania or Poland is threatened. Islamist terror attacks increase in the USA and Trump orders all Muslims to attend loyalty screening centres. Building of the much heralded wall between the USA and Mexico has made little headway and streams of illegal immigrants swarm over the border.

Despite Article 50 having been enacted UK Brexit negotiations are halted and we are left in a limbo, half in-half out. Ironically immigration has dropped to much less than the tens of thousands the Brexiteers wanted as hundreds of thousands of UK citizens who have been living abroad return home.

In China several large banks that have lent money for speculative development collapse and unemployment increases at an unprecedented pace. Street demonstrations in Hong Kong spread to mainland China causing a state of emergency to be issued.

North Korea for so long dependent on China for economic support faces mass food riots as finance is withdrawn. In order to distract from his country’s ills Kim Jong Un instigates further ballistic missile tests one of which goes astray landing on the north coast of Honshu in Japan. President Trump suddenly becomes aware of “U.S.-Japan Joint Declaration on Security” that appears to offer military support in the event of an attack on Japan. He hurriedly issues a statement confirming his administrations “America First” policy that precludes regional military intervention in East Asia.

This emboldens China to intensify its development of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea resulting in the termination of diplomatic relations with China by Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

In Syria ISIL has been defeated and the Free Syrian Army, no longer receiving US support throws in the towel. Bashar Al-Assad who has remained in power begins to consolidate his grip on the country again helped by Russia who now has several permanent air bases in the Latakia region causing alarm to many countries in the Eastern Mediterranean including Israel.

The Olympic Games in Rio that was beset with transport strikes, ticketing problems, sponsor withdrawals, cancellations of events and the impeachment and imprisonment of President Dilma Rousseff has left an economic as well as political crisis that results in a coup by the military in order to restore order.

With the further collapse of the oils price Venezuela has also been paralysed by a military coup and Cuba, a beneficiary of previous Venezuelan administrations, is in total disintegration causing many Cubans to attempt the perilous sea voyage to Florida. True to his word President Trump sends them straight back and many perish.

Instability in Europe continues but ironically (after Brexit) the UK finds itself in a less perilous position than many of its neighbours. After the prosecution of the main protagonists in the EU Referendum debate for dishonesty the Tory Party are in such disarray that they are forced into a General Election. The Labour Party having split cannot capitalise on the situation as Real Labour and Labour fight in the courts over assets and rights. The LibDems are still a tiny party and the only well organised and competent force in British politics is the SNP. Legislation is hastily drawn up that allows the Scottish and UK parliaments to work together in a government of national unity and Nicola Sturgeon becomes the Prime Minister of the UK.

The severe reduction in pharmaceutical research leads to the much feared scenario of Antibiotic resistant bacteria resulting in a tuberculosis epidemic across much of the world along with hugely increased death rates in hospitals due to untreatable MRSA infections.

Australia and New Zealand whose geographical isolation has protected them from Antibiotic resistant contagion impose a “temporary” ban on all travel in and out of their countries (except between the two). Realising that their economies will be severely impacted both enact economic policies in order to make them self sufficient at least in food production. In an attempt to maintain stability they implement a policy of nationalisation of most key industries and the introduction of a maximum wage.

All climate change targets have been abandoned as States scrabble to use any indigenous fuel they posses. The UN despite trying to unify the competing demands from member states has become totally ineffectual and the Security Council hasn’t met in months so President Trump withdraws all US funding from it and gives notice for it to quit its headquarters in New York. Some wags have speculated that it won’t be long before the TRUMP logo is seen emblazoned on the building.

Although an independent state Belarus has very close military and economic ties with Russia and readily accedes to Putin’s request to allow it to use southern Belarus in order to support its military incursion into Ukraine. This greatly alarms NATO as it puts even greater pressure not only on Poland and Lithuania but Latvia that also has a land border with Belarus. The close proximity of Belarus with Kaliningrad creates the fear that Russia’s plan maybe to isolate the three Baltic states from the rest of the EU. Once again President Trump resists any NATO counter measures but to everyone’s astonishment he invites the Russian president to the USA saying that Putin is “my kinda guy”.

As all coalition personnel including advisers have now left Afghanistan the Taliban quickly overrun the government and resume control while in Pakistan they have forced the government into implementing full Sharia Law. Bangladesh quickly follows suit leaving India sandwiched between two hard-line Islamist states. Inter-communal violence intensifies as India tries to calm its Muslim population that has been infiltrated by extremists.

Trump and Putin meet in Camp David both seeing this as an opportunity to bolster their prestige at home and this works well for Putin who is lauded on his return home having received guarantees from Trump that Russia’s plan to increase its sphere of influence in Europe would not be resisted by the USA.

However for President Trump this was not the situation; as many had predicted he is now floundering, his woeful ignorance of geo-politics is exposed and his simplistic policies at home are unravelling as the economy nosedives, leaving those who formed the majority of his supporters much worse off with repossessions and unemployment rising. As he didn’t manage to persuade other world leaders to revoke the Iranian nuclear deal, a resurgent Syria signs a joint defence deal with Iran which poses an increased threat to Israel. The US religious right, always great supporters of Israel are pressing Trump to offer guarantees for Israel’s security which is in contradiction to Trump’s isolationist “America First” policy, leaving the Republican party wondering how on earth they came to support the Trump presidential nomination.

The future continues…

How healthy is our democracy?

Is democracy working?

With much of the EU debate about it’s democratic deficit how healthy is UK democracy? Turnout even in UK general elections has decreased, from 84% in 1950 to 66% in 2015 and in elections to the European Parliament has plateaued at around a paltry 35%. Voting is of greater importance to those aged 55 plus, who in the 2015 general election averaged about 77%, than the 18-34 age group that averaged less than 50%.

These baby boomers (55 plus) have generally faired very well, building up considerable personal wealth with equity in their homes and often retiring on generous, final salary, pensions. Contrast this with the 18-34 year olds most of whom find it impossible to buy a home, many saddled with student loan debts that their parent’s generation avoided. This inter-generational unfairness has as yet failed to motivate the young into taking action and that includes voting. But who can blame their indifference as there is no party that is actively supporting their cause? Political parties formulate policy according to where the votes are so it is no surprise that many are skewed in the favour of older voters, like the triple lock on pensions. It is also a curious irony that this cohort, that has benefited most economically from EU membership, is also the group most likely to support #Brexit.

A healthy democracy is dependent on the majority of citizens being engaged in the political process but an increasing distrust of the political class and their unwillingness to address issues that are of concern to ordinary people has led to cynicism and alienation, that is particularly evident in the EU referendum debate; supporters on both sides but particularly those who want to leave the EU have insulted the electorate with ludicrously exaggerated claims and erroneous statistics leaving the electorate to fall back on preconceived opinions and prejudice rather than evaluating unbiased evidence.

The passions aroused by our membership of the EU have always been based more on sentiment than reality. The #Brexit camp make great play of the democratic deficit in the EU while happily ignoring the fact that we have an unelected House of Lords stuffed full of political appointees, not to mention Bishops and the remaining hereditary peers and of course a hereditary monarchy. They rely, as did the Scottish Nationalists in their referendum, on a mix of romantic nostalgia and archaic nationalism.

Although the emergence of UKIP clearly indicates that there has been a concern about immigration particularly in blue collar areas, the referendum was called not so much to satisfy a national demand but to resolve the long running conflict within the Conservative party and was therefore a grossly irresponsible decision by David Cameron since it might quite likely result in our #Brexit. Either way it is unlikely to heal the Tory strife, rather it is likely to amplify it.

The Labour party under Corbyn has been a disaster; the ability for anyone (from Trotskyites to Tories) to vote in the Labour leadership election after a donation of just £3.00 was not so much an exercise in democracy as either an incompetent decision by the then Labour leadership or a cynical attempt at drag the Labour party to the unelectable socialist fringe.

So we are left with a referendum that hangs in the balance but with around 6 million people still not registered to vote. Perhaps #Brexit will win, by gaining the majority of votes, that’s democracy but to have done so without most voters really understanding the issues, perhaps not a healthy democracy.

The Cambridge Secular Society Blog

Although the Cambridge Secular Society was founded to champion secular issues this blog has a wider remit than simply confronting religious privilege and bias. It will encourage all who challenge the status quo, will not accept received wisdom, are skeptical of authority and are very likely to be atheists. It is important that the secular mindset be brought to bear on all issues that affect human well-being: politics, economics, education, health, equality etc in order to frame the debate using rational, evidence based argument as opposed to ideologically driven or partisan opinion. You only have to listen to the US Republican Presidential candidates debate to see how necessary this is.

A dangerous world

The world in 2015 is a very dangerous place, not simply the turmoil in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the rise of Islamism and the alarming evidence of accelerating climate change but global political insecurity with Russia and Israel violating UN resolutions and trampling upon internationally agreed boundaries. The global economic system is still at the mercy of mammoth and largely unreformed financial institutions that caused the crash of 2007/8, the EU is struggling with a massive immigration crisis and even in the wealthy developed world, anxiety or at the very least deep dissatisfaction is eroding belief in a democratic system in which all stakeholders can benefit.

Reason not Religion

So what is to be done? Religious fundamentalism as been allowed to flourish in developed nations by the misguided policy of multiculturalism that regards the values and culture of every minority group as equally valid rather than measuring each by the value it brings to individuals and to society as a whole must be challenged. We must re-assert our democratic, secular values and expose all those who oppose or undermine them. Politics cannot continue as usual and it is too important to be left to politicians, they have proved incapable of pursuing long term goals and see every issue though the outdated prism of Left and Right. This is examined in The Future: for Better or Worse?

We are floundering in a fast changing world of immense complexity, the old certainties like a job for life or communities of like-minded people have vanished to be replaced with anxiety and insecurity. There is as yet no road-map, ethical, political or economic that will get us out of this mess. It will take imagination and courage but let’s at the very least give it a go.