Foreign Affairs

An Age Of Permanent Crisis?

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And people called Brexit a crisis…

War has returned to Europe. Those are words I never thought I would have to write. In 2022, not 1942, Europeans are sleeping in subway stations to avoid being killed for the crime of being Ukrainian.  

War correspondents usually found in the depths of the Middle East have found their way to Kyiv, bringing their bullet proof vests with them. Putin has promised anyone who challenges his latest invasion “consequences greater than any you have faced in history”.

Some people are comparing Putin’s tactics to Hitler’s. As much as I try, I struggle to say some people are completely wrong. 

In the darkest of times, often all you can do is laugh, because the alternative is to cry until your tears run dry. In that spirit, there has to be a bit of dark irony in the fact that the tanks rolled in on the day COVID restrictions were lifted.

On the very day we turn a page on one crisis, another comes along, quite literally with a bang. 

Do we live in an age of permanent crisis?

I’m not sure, but there does seem to be a pattern. Divisions over Brexit were settled at the end of 2019, just as a mysterious virus began to spread through the Chinese city of Wuhan. Maybe we’ve all just been unlucky, born into an era of utter turmoil and being forced to carve a rocky path through it, or maybe this is just the reality now. Like I said, I’m not sure. 

If we are in an age of permanent crisis, there are reasons for it. Insurgent powers China and Russia are increasingly disrupting the easy-to-rattle US, which is being eaten up by a bitter feud between the red and blue of partisan politics. The internet, although around for a while now, is everywhere, catastrophising to the left, spreading fake news to the right, and doubling the size of every crisis in sight. 

Crises are somewhat manufactured, by the internet, by the media, by every single person who engages in them. This isn’t a criticism of any of these things, but it’s true.

Take Brexit, it is important, it impacts people’s lives and the future of our nation. But does months of rolling news coverage and reporters outside parliament do anything other than raise blood pressure and encourage people to entrench their existing positions? No. As in every crisis, we all needed a breath.

If I’m being honest, the world order probably is changing, with the rise of China the world will probably become a less free place than the one of our parents and grandparents. But watching it happen in real time on Twitter, CNN and the BBC isn’t going to stop it. It’s a gradual change and one we will have to adapt to.

It’s also worth asking yourself what you can do, there are small things, but unless Joe Biden is reading this there’s not a lot you can do. Nobody can stop a pandemic, and nobody can stop a war on their own.  

Whether this is a bad run or we do genuinely live in the age of rolling from one crisis to the next, I do not know. But what I am sure of is that the media, and our demand to know everything in real time fuels the sense of crisis we feel. 

I should say I’m as bad as anyone for feeding off clickbait and fuelling the fire of crisis, we all do it and that’s ok. But as the tanks roll in, let’s take a step back, take a breath, and think about what we can actually do to help. 

What we can do about war in Ukraine, whilst still looking after ourselves:

  • Get educated but know when to stop. Be kind to yourself and don’t look at twitter or watch rolling news, there are other ways to stay informed without being in crisis mode. The BBC has just launched Ukrainecast which wraps up the days events with experts.  
  • Don’t blame yourself. This crisis, and those before them, are not your fault. Empathise with people who are suffering but recognise your actions could not have prevented it. 
  • Make your voice heard. Be it through protests, social media, charity donations or otherwise, do what you can to help.

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