The end of history? It's only getting started (again)

Francis Fukuyama asserted in The End of History and the Last Man (1992) that liberalism in its classical iteration came out on top of the battles with the two other "isms" of the 20th century, fascism and communism.  The liberal Western democracies were victorious over fascism in the bloody Second World War against Germany and then again in their fight against communism in the Cold War against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from the end of World War II until 1991, when the USSR officially dissolved itself.  The victory against the Soviet Union relegated its efforts to spread its top-down socialist-style command economy and political structure to the rest of the world to the dustbin of history. 

The primary thesis of The End of History essentially states that the end of these major ideological conflicts with the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the Cold War (that actually became hot at times with the Korean and Vietnam Wars and nearly ignited a nuclear conflagration during the Cuban Missile Crisis), which meant the end of significant history shaping events.   

Unfortunately, the book's premise was premature.  Within the first two decades of the 21st century, the liberal Western world has experienced three major shocks to its system.  If this is any kind of indication of what will be happening for the next 80 years, there will be as many or more than the watershed events and historical markers of the 20th century that included two world wars, a great depression, and a cultural revolution in the sixties, all of which changed the trajectory of history.

On a Tuesday morning in September of 2001, the United States was attacked by Islamic radicals who were targeting the economic, political, and military centers of the country.  This event woke the world from its safe and secure slumber that in many ways forever changed perceptions of what defines safety and security and brought to the forefront a new ideological conflict, this one between the Western societies and Islamicism, also known as Islamic fundamentalism, that no one saw coming.

As it turned out, the country and the world was only a short six years away from another catastrophic shock to its system. This time it was the economic system that nearly collapsed in 2007 and 2008 as a result of an overleveraged investment industry profiting from mortgage-backed securities that turned out to be a house of cards, constructed with a large dose of greed.  Unemployment skyrocketed, and the stock market fell through the floor. 

As it turns out, it appears that this was just kind of a dress rehearsal for what was coming in twelve relatively short years.  That is the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, where we are today.  It is certainly much too early to say, but the coronavirus pandemic will no doubt be a historical watershed moment that will permanently shape the course of history for a very long time. 

Since this world crisis is in its infancy, its long-term political, economic, and social impact won't be known for a while, but it's safe to say it will all be extremely significant.  Since culture is a reflection of those three, the cultural impact will be significant as well.  So it's way too early to make any predictions of what the world will look like 10, 20, or 50 years from now, but we can only pray it plays out favorably toward freedom and light, not toward tyranny and darkness.  Ready or not, history, here we come.

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