In the 20th century, we failed to understand it until 1945. By which time we had had two different world wars within twenty years. After 1919, we looked backwards; after 1945 we began an NHS, a national transport system and much else.
Elsewhere, a United Nations was born (in London in 1942). Other institutions followed; the World Bank, the IMF, UNESCO, the WTO, the WHO and more. Today, they seem tired and ought to be put out to grass. But no country has the will, the leadership, the interest or the solutions. We are asleep at the wheel: the crash is inevitable.
Sixteen years into the 21st century and we look pretty shaky. Europe is a mess. The mass immigration from wars we started has no end. America is confused and appears to have lost its confidence. It is simply not possible to contemplate a Trump presidency. Into this void has stepped Russia and new hostilities have begun. It is the Boer War all over again.
In the Far East, Japan worries about its near neighbour China. In less than twenty-five years China has become the major world player. Indeed, as we anticipate this century, she is the only certainty. She is the only country with a stake in the ground. This is a concern but we do not yet feel it in our high streets.
Ponder then the state of British politics. In Scotland the SNP has been holed by the drastic fall in the price of oil. And Brexit. Had they won their referendum two years ago they would already be asking London for a bail out.
Brexit has stopped them in their tracts. As we contemplate withdrawal not a single Government department can tell you their strategy. It feels like the blind leading the blind. Poor Scotland: they voted Remain and will now they will see an exit from the EU before they themselves exit from the UK. This is neither good politics nor sensible economics.
As for the Government’s own Brexit strategy it is a nightmare. You do not need to create three separate ministries. This was frankly bonkers. Aside from the inevitable turf wars and fallen ministerial egos we already know no-one is in charge.
The Prime Minister should have proposed a Grand Committee of six EU ministers and six U.K. They should have been charged with resolving our Brexit with an agreed timetable for key decisions.
Now, as it becomes obvious it will take more than two years to resolve we will nonetheless come out in that timescale with the worst results for our people. The reason? The PM has an election in 2020 and she does not want to go into that with Europe still an issue. Nor would she want voters to use it as a “second” referendum.
Mrs May can count her lucky stars that notwithstanding her problems she has no opposition in Parliament. The Labour Party has become a late night comedy act. Its own MPs have also been blown off course. A clear majority voted for a motion of no confidence against its leader. A re-election was ordered yet Corbyn won by a slightly larger majority. You could not make it up.
Yet where were their leaders in their party? Hiding. They nominated Owen Smith not someone we knew much about. So not an Umana or a Reeves or a Benn or a Watson. The party needs a 21st century set of solutions not a series of policies which failed in the last one.