OPINION: The transition from the U.S.-led global order will be rocky – by Robert Muggah and Misha Glenny (Globe and Mail – May 18, 2024)


Robert Muggah is a co-founder of the Igarapé Institute and the SecDev Group and a senior adviser to the United Nations. Misha Glenny is a British journalist and currently serves as rector of the Institute for Human Sciences.

The rise in doomscrolling is a morbid sign of the times. The obsessive consumption of negative news isn’t just bad for physical and mental health, but our very survival. Recent studies confirm that overexposure to social media short-circuits the brain’s natural self-defences, leaving us disoriented and depressed. It turns out that optimism is good for us. People fortified by an optimist mindset are less prone to conspiracy theories and are generally happier, healthier and live longer.

Yet there are reasons why optimism is in short supply. Widespread screen addiction is partly to blame for headline anxiety, especially among young people. Another reason the algorithms are winning is because the world is objectively more volatile today than at any time since the Second World War.

While Armageddon briefly loomed into view during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, today’s memes about nuclear, pandemic and climate apocalypse are unnerving because the risks are real.

The age of polycrisis offers no sanctuary to optimists. Polycrises occur when disparate shocks interact such that their overall impact exceeds the sum of each part. From the corridors of the United Nations to elite gatherings in Davos, the descriptions of our current predicament are increasingly less subtle. Otherwise sober diplomats and scholars now routinely end conversations with the sentence

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