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A New Year salute to tomorrow's leaders as 21st century gathers speed

  • Author: John Havelock
  • Updated: June 26, 2016
  • Published January 4, 2016

A New Year's celebration offers occasion to appraise our fortunes for 2016 and beyond. If the past is a dependable guide, as it usually is, those born in the 21st century are in for one heck of a ride. A new apple orchard has sprouted in our Garden of Eden and Eve and Adam have both bitten into the fruit of escalating knowledge.

Many of the things we take for granted presage the making of a new era. Think what we did for transportation just 50 years ago. The food industry, frustrating Malthusians with production driven by new technologies, has surpassed population growth. Unprecedented systems to frustrate starvation in disaster zones are standard fare. We live longer and healthier and we care more about others in a world of instant global news.

Oldsters are left gasping for air at the explosion of information technology. The shift from the possible to the actual is quickening, and, blended with other technologies, will expand their pattern of growth. Communications, transportation, health, education, human and natural resources, you pick it; they are all moving into an era of accelerating growth with the rapid spread, like it or not, of global management.

A trillion voices and blankets of verifiable information enmesh the globe. Multinational corporations and organizations are the core institutions interlinking economies everywhere. National governments are a nuisance, but required for legal predictability. New diseases and growth in medical knowledge of appropriate treatment of the old and new, know no national boundaries. We are more the "One World" than Wendell Willkie, the Republican presidential nominee who used this phrase to challenge FDR's last term reelection, ever dreamed of.

Contemporary terrorism is the fringe backlash of those confused, left behind or frozen in ancient beliefs about the meaning of human existence. Their comfort from fantasized myths, rotting a spiritual core, are irrelevant to the new paradigm that describes the world, the universe and the human role in it.

This is not to say that human kindness and other basic virtues are gone. Far from it. They are as necessary as ever. But the simple, mythological explanations and political-religious hierarchies they sustain are not supportable. We are moving into a common spiritual era, as indicated in so many ways through the voice of Pope Francis.

The new One World is urbanized, dominated by rapidly growing cities of millions or tens of millions. Men in suits and ties, once called Western style, stride or ride between skyscrapers on their daily purposeful business missions in Shanghai, Singapore, London, Buenos Aires, Sydney, New York, Moscow, Berlin and dozens of other mega-cities.

The supplies of daily living -- food, provision of shelter, medical treatment, education, acknowledge national boundaries only as nuisance. Opposition to international trade agreements emphasizes the global interrelatedness of the conditions of human labor and by that recognition, the necessity of global wage support and environmental protection. The European Union saved billions through its efficiencies even while the trampling of essentially tribal differences has produced its own backlash. A new giant financial-trade-currency union of Southeast Asian countries has brought in most of our allies, fearing being left out. China's membership has stalled U.S. participation but watch for eventual union.

War, in this environment, is a disease, not an "extension of foreign policy by other means" as a 19th century German leader had it. Diplomacy has moved from a formulated exchange of ambassadors to a complex set of international exchanges, employing hundreds of thousands of trained people covering a full spectrum of concerns.

Systems to control rogue governments under leadership out of control, say North Korea, look similar to new-style policing techniques where violence is available but used only when loss of innocent life is otherwise unavoidable. Historic adversaries such as Russia and the United States, who split the world into two camps during the Cold War are now allied in taking down terrorism, wherever it arises.

All of these One World aspects of the 21st century are in early stages of evolution from a present we only halfway understand and a history suggesting a future subject to reasoned speculation. So, while we can join you only for a few years, on the birth of this New Year, we salute you born this century, destined to take over its leadership and experience its consequences.

John Havelock, a longtime columnist, former Alaska attorney general and former UAA professor of justice has visited all the cities he mentions in this column.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser.

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