ADELAIDE - Unfortunately the tides of history do not always move in a linear or predictable fashion. Take the Russian Revolution for example.
The first major convulsion within Tsarist Russia occurred in 1905. A combination of suppression and political concessions enable the old regime to remain in place but it was an ominous warning for the Tsarists that the status quo would not and could not last much longer.
Vladimir Lenin accurately described the events of 1905 as ‘The Great Dress Rehearsal’ for the cataclysmic revolution of 1917 which saw the utter destruction of the Tsarist regime, the murder of the Tsar and his family, the rise of the Bolsheviks and the creation of the USSR.
In a similar way, I think that the events of 2020 may be understood as the first obvious signs that the great neo-liberal experiment of the last 40 years is unsustainable and bound to collapse under the weight of its increasingly obvious flaws and contradictions.
In many respects, Donald Trump is the harbinger of doom for the ruling elite in the USA, not a sign of the triumph of neo-liberalism.
He is incapable of understanding let alone finding solutions for the tectonic socio-economic forces that are now heaving their way to the surface of US politics.
In a similar way, the conservatives in Australian politics are incapable of comprehending that the ground in shifting under their feet.
This helps explain their fixation with things like coal and gas as energy sources, their emphasis on f diminishing if not destroying the power of organised labour, the refusal to acknowledge that reducing the unemployed to abject poverty is socially and economically stupid and, until recently at least, the importance of running budget surpluses in the face of obvious evidence that this has no inherent virtue.
For Papua New Guinea, the emergence of forces for change presents both opportunities and threats.
It may give the country a chance to rebalance the resource development process which has frequently been organised against the country’s national interests.
PNG’s biggest recognisable threat at present is the demanding problem of how to effectively manage secessionist sentiment in various parts of the country without destroying the national unity that is desperately required to avoid fracturing the country into a collection of poverty stricken mini states.
So, while it is probably right to see 2020 as a pivotal year in many respects, I think, like Phil Fitzpatrick in PNG Attitude yesterday, that it is an error to assume that the necessary changes to the status quo will occur either rapidly or painlessly.
That said, trying to predict the future is fraught with peril for anyone, including historians, so my prognostications could be wildly wrong.
But the sheer number and scale of the problematic socio-economic and political issues now arising suggests that major systemic change is now both necessary and inevitable.