As announced in the foreword to this issue of the journal, I intend to step down as editor-in-chief before the next issue. Allow me to reiterate that I have been honored to serve as editor over the past few years. I wish to thank all those who have served the Journal of Global South Studies so faithfully and ably during my tenure. The editor's message below, therefore, shall be my last. I want to make clear that the opinions offered here are my own and do not reflect official views of either the journal or the Association of Global South Studies. I emphasize this point because I will proffer some strong and unvarnished opinions below.
In previous messages I have noted that globalization appears to me to be evolving in a rather dramatic fashion in the contemporary period. Recently I have referred to this phenomenon as a kind of "shapeshifting" because (as in the myths involving shapeshifters) we appear to be moving toward a novel and eerily unpredictable state of global being. In some ways--for example, thanks to improvements in the control and treatment of diseases--the world is clearly a better place than it was 100 years ago. This optimistic observation, however, could have been made in 1912 as well, before World War I (approximately 16 million deaths), before the global influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 (somewhere between 50 and 100 million deaths), before the Great Depression, and before World War II (about 57 million deaths)--all of which inflicted horrors beyond imagination. I maintain that we, the peoples of the world, have the requisite potential free agency to shape a fundamentally better world if we seize the day and act collaboratively, responsibly, and rationally to bring about a better, happier, and more just world. Alternatively, we could find ourselves in a world of widespread misery and barbarism. Our future is open, but the challenges are daunting.
What is driving this global shapeshifting to which I allude? There is no simple answer to this question, of course. Undoubtedly, population growth, demographic changes, a revolution in technologies, a restructuring of production and labor relations, social turmoil, violent conflicts, and many other forces are at play. However, I will narrow my focus to the factors I consider most pressing and central. I begin with a discussion of the role that Donald J. Trump is playing as the most active agent of (and the "poster child" for) the deleterious forces at work in the world today. Though he is not a root cause of the global troubles we currently face, in my estimation Mr. Trump has openly manifested most of the worst elements, leading us on a dangerous path toward a world of greater suffering, injustice, and conflict. He has consistently sown fear of "the others" and divisiveness rather than understanding and acceptance or tolerance.
By instinct, Mr. Trump acts impulsively. Far from listening to others, carefully weighing the facts, and being guided by reason, he has opined that "my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else's brain can ever tell me." And while we can be grateful that his center of impulse control has moved slightly north of where it was for most of his life, it clearly still has not reached either his heart or his head. For he has displayed neither a humanitarian concern for the welfare of others nor empathy toward those who are suffering. Moreover, Mr. Trump has evinced little willingness to listen to others who might know more about a subject because of their years of study and experience. Ignorance can be a dangerous thing, but blithe ignorance--a willful ignorance of one's own ignorance--is a kind of madness. In the leader of the world's most powerful country, it rightly inspires consternation and fear in thinking people everywhere.
Mr. Trump ascended to the world's most powerful position in 2017 and subsequently he has shattered almost every norm and principle of traditional US politics, not to mention propriety and civility. Rather explicitly, he seems intent on undoing the architecture of global order aimed at preventing another global conflict that the United States and its allies constructed so meticulously after World War II. Inevitably, his radical departure from established rules and expectations has fostered uncertainties, disarray, confusion, and breaches of world order globally. I would argue that his behavior and actions have abetted and encouraged already inchoate movements toward authoritarianism, xenophobia, racism, and sociopolitical polarization at home and abroad. His well-documented penchant for conspiracy theories has been corrosively purveyed to erode public confidence in almost every institution of American society and politics: the media/press, which has traditionally acted as a check on errant politicians; the US intelligence community; the justice system and the courts; the opposition political party; the election system; and more.
Early on, Mr. Trump displayed a disdain for the traditional allies of the United States--Australia, Mexico, Germany, France, Canada, and the EU and NATO-and an admiration for martinets such Putin, Duterte, Erdogan, el-Sissi, and even Kim Jong-un, for whom he has declared his love. Trump proceeded to withdraw from...