When you look back at the global leaders over time, you can get a fairly strong idea about the state of the world in each particular era.
In the 40's you had opportunistic dictators like Hitler and Mussolini waging war on the world. Strength and bravery were required from Churchill and Roosevelt to stand up to them. War and the struggle for power were the significant themes of this decade, and the major leaders at the time were instrumental in creating this climate.
The 50's were a time of recovery and reestablishment. Konrad Adenauer was focused on picking up the pieces for Germany, David Ben Gurion fought hard to build a Jewish State (two years after Israel gained independence), Charles de Gaulle did his best to patch up France's relationship with its neighbours and Queen Elizabeth II tried to hold her country together after her father King George suddenly died. Stability was the major theme during this decade, and all of these leaders played a vital role in creating solidarity.
The 60's symbolised peace, rebellion, equality and social justice. JFK led the way before he was assassinated, and it was a similar story for civil rights leader Martin Luther King. Golda Meir fought for peace in the Middle East, while Harold Macmillan campaigned for free trade in Europe. As Bob Dylan told us, "the times were changing" and many leaders in that era were trying to introduce initiatives that the world had never seen.
Things unravelled in the 70's and war was once again on the horizon. Despite a strong anti-war movement by some sections of the public - mostly due to the enormous casualty count in Vietnam - President Richard Nixon ignored the protests, fearing a retreat would make the USA look weak. In the UK, Prime Minister Edward Heath was also in favour of war, publicly supporting the US bombings of Hanoi. Closer to home he faced his own issues with Northern Ireland, and survived a bomb explosion that was planted by the IRA. While all of this turmoil was taking place, people across the world were divided. For many, rebellion came in the form of experimentation - Sex, drugs and rock & roll.
The 80's were a strange decade. Differences between the Western World and everywhere else were the biggest they had ever been. The USA, Canada, UK, Australia and Germany all moved away from planned economies towards a model of capitalism. The advancements in technology led by companies like Apple, IBM, Microsoft and Sony ensured that the private sector, rather than the government were leading the way when it came to industry and trade. Ronald Reagan, Brian Mulroney, Margaret Thatcher, Bob Hawke and Helmut Kohl all promoted this climate, and they had incredibly high popularity ratings in their respective countries. The third world was not quite there yet and this was reflected by unrest in the former Soviet Union, Tiananmen Square protests in China and several attempts to overthrow governments in Hungary, Romania and Czechoslovakia.
The 90's were a time of hope and optimism. 'Multiculturalism' and 'inclusivity' were the buzz words in many countries. The leaders of the day had a lot to do with this. Nelson Mandela became the first Black President in South Africa, Bill Clinton endorsed the end of 'White America' and Yitzchak Rabin (before his assassination) preached co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians. The world became a lot smaller in this decade with the mainstream adoption of the World Wide Web. The emergence of emails and websites helped us communicate more efficiently.
The 2000's or 'Noughties' were chaotic. Large terrorist attacks occurred in New York, London, Madrid, Bali, Mumbai and several other parts of the world. As a result, there were 'wars on terror' in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Nuclear threats emerged out of Iran and North Korea and a global financial crisis hit most of the world at the end of the decade. George W Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard and several other world leaders rallied together to tighten security and increase surveillance in their respective countries. Before 'the noughties' CC TV and heavy airport security were uncommon. The rise in terrorism changed the world climate and our leaders took measures to give governments as much control and access to our personal data as possible. You could argue that the world became over regulated as a result of the horrific terror attacks.
So that brings us to today and the current era we find ourselves living in.
The multiculturalism that was promoted in the 90's has been seen by many as the cause of all the turmoil at the turn of the century. For the record I don't hold this view.
In the last 12 months, the UK has opted to leave the European Union (Brexit) and newly elected Prime Minister, Theresa May has promised to ensure stronger border control.
The USA have just elected President Donald Trump who has vowed to 'make America great again' with drastic immigration reform. He also intends on reducing America's involvement in foreign affairs, in order to focus on its own issues.
In Australia, the popularity for the major political parties has decreased and smaller right wing parties like One Nation are enjoying the most support that they've ever had.
The world is moving right and for the most part, we have elected leaders that promise to continue steering the ship in that direction.
I can't help but wonder why we haven't learnt from the past. The breakdown of the last few decades that I detailed above, shows us that history has a strange tendency to repeat itself. The world seems to go through alternating periods of war and peace, inclusion and division, as well as damage and repair.
Right now many of the world leaders seem to prefer keeping us apart, rather than bringing us together. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that racism, antisemitism and homophobia are starting to rear their ugly heads once again.
The cultural climate that we live in is largely dependent upon the quality of our leaders.
If things go wrong, some of the blame has to fall on us for electing them in the first place.Suggest a correction