2023: Quo vadimus?

Quo vadimus? In Latin, Where are we going? How many times has this question been asked in the last two thousand years, and what is the answer?

Before putting everything together, let us first separate the wheat from the chaff, the news from the stories so that we can discern the wood from the trees. So let us first forget the reasons why Cristiano Ronaldo opted to earn two hundred million Euro a year playing soccer in Saudi Arabia, kicking a football around for ninety minutes a week while most people would not earn a fraction of that working 24 hours a day for their entire lifetimes. It is not Cristiano Ronaldo’s fault, more fool he if he did not take advantage of an absurdly inflated salary. This kind of absurdity, we can assume, is here to stay but is this a meaningful and serious piece of news?

We may add Prince Harry and his gripes about how terrible his life has been as he uses the media which he claims to abhor to make a living out of slagging off his family. Is this news?

So now for the real stories

OK this is a Russian website and I have been writing for Russian sources for decades, very rarely, if ever, about Russia itself (except for sport) because there are those much better qualified to do so. So for those who wish me to embroil myself in the Ukraine story, sorry but I refuse. I am not going to involve myself in a media game confronting censorship of the real chain of events, ignoring the inconvenient pieces and presenting a one-sided version of part of a story. Let the readers do their own research as to the roots and causes of this sorry series of happenings, starting in the 1980s and following through.

It gives nobody any pleasure at all seeing families ripped apart by bombs and shells and in this I include Ukrainians, Russians, Russian-speaking Ukrainians, Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans, Syrians, Yemenis and anyone else anywhere else in whatever conflict.

Looking at the past, seeing the future

Let us read the following lines on the past and see where we are going in the future

As I have said numerous times, tears taste of salt, whoever sheds them. If I may use and translate the words of the Portuguese writer/poet Fernando Pessoa:

Ó mar salgado, quanto do teu sal  Oh salty sea, how much of your salt
São lágrimas de Portugal! Is the salt of Portugal’s tears!
Por te cruzarmos, quantas mães choraram, How many mothers cried for us to cross you,
Quantos filhos em vão rezaram! How many children prayed in vain!
Quantas noivas ficaram por casar How many brides to be waited to wed
Para que fosses nosso, ó mar! For you to be ours, Oh sea!

Oh salty sea, how much of your salt
Comes from Portugal’s tears!
How many mothers cried for us to cross you,
How many children prayed in vain!
How many brides to be waited to wed
For you to be ours, Oh sea!

Six lines, six messages. Tears, crying, children praying, death, sadness, families torn apart.

Yesterday, Portugal and the seven seas, Western European powers transporting slaves across the ocean in deplorable conditions, Western European powers machine-gunning unarmed natives, the horror-prison and concentration camp of Abu Ghraib in Iraq run by Americans, the flagrant act of barbarity and breach of international law in Libya; yesterday, Nazi collaborators slaughtering innocent civilians in what is today, Ukraine; horrendous crimes against children by Stepan Bandera, Ukraine’s national hero.

Six lines, six messages. Tears, crying, children praying, death, sadness, families torn apart.

Why did scores of Germans attack emergency services vehicles this New Year, providing a shocking insight into Germany today, where the notion of impunity fuels barbaric scenes of vandalism? Why did a Western European power deport the entire population of the Chagos Islands and gas their pets half a century ago? Why did a NATO aircraft strafe children in Libya and call the venue a legitimate target? Why did thousands of Brazilians perpetrate an outrage against democracy yesterday in Brasilia?

Six lines, six messages. Tears, crying, children praying, death, sadness, families torn apart.

Now back to 2023, quo vadimus?

The answer to all these questions is that governments have historically failed to implement global, common values of decency. The cycle repeats itself over and over, time and time again.

The basic truth is that unlike the animals which we share our planet with, the human being is only capable of acting with decency under a carrot-and-stick regime, whether this be rules set by religion, or else the fear of punishment when rules are broken. That is, under legal systems which are unbroken which is not the case in many countries.

Information and accountability

What we see today is a biased media pulling the wool over our eyes, inventing half-stories on one hand and throwing distractions at us on the other. We need the truth. We need to understand that while weapons abound, war will happen and while there is no effective international body for crisis management, wars will happen. Weapons sales are a huge source of revenue for many countries, the contracting for weapons systems makes a lot of money for a lot of people and creates a lot of jobs. So until we address that, don’t expect anything to change. Remember Iraq? We do but where was all the hype about sanctions back then, as a sovereign nation was invaded without any context except barefaced lies in a conflict which generated up to one million deaths?

Until the media, all the media, writes the full story and the truth, we will continue to be sidetracked by football and footballers spitting at each other, trying to break each others’ legs to ruin their careers (nice, eh?) and sleeping with each others’ wives and girlfriends, who in turn make the news by their arm hanging off a player’s arm, both festooned with blue tattooes and Christ knows what else on the rest of the body. We will continue to finance Harry’s lifestyle by watching him and  his wife on Netflix and then gossiping about their claims on social networks. “Have you heard of the catastrophe looming in the Arctic, where frozen viruses are about to be released into the atmosphere?” “No, but they say Prince X went to bed with a toy giraffe! A male one!!”

Meanwhile, people are dying, families are being torn apart, in Eastern Ukraine, in Western Ukraine, in Yemen, in Syria, in Libya, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Meanwhile our seas, rivers, and lakes are becoming toxic, and a study of water courses shows that the sources of water are drying up. And where is this news? And where is the accountability? There isn’t because we do not have an effective system of international law.

We might, one day, get serious.

If what we read above spells out tears, crying, children praying, death, sadness, families torn apart, perhaps if we came together and did something about it, we might envisage a future without tears. How are we going to do this?

Enter Lula, the man of the moment

The new President of Brazil, Luis Inácio da Silva, or Lula, has something intelligent to say about all of these issues. Firstly about the environment, where he promises a policy of deforestation zero and this can be spread to rain forests in Africa and Asia, opening the debate at the same time about the devastating effects of palm oil production, and widening the scope, forcing strong measures to tackle pollution and foster safe agriculture (we are already consuming microplastics without knowing it).

President Lula also has a word to say about the United Nations Security Council, where France, the UK and USA gang up together against Russia and China and the result is a tragedy like Ukraine. Certainly there is a need for an international organism with clout, and how is that possible with the enormous imbalance that is a Security Council based on yesteryear? Where is Latin America, Africa, India, for example?

With a forward-thinking President of Brazil, which itself is a member of the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and also of the CPLP (the Portuguese-Speaking Community, namely Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Principe Isles, Timor Leste), good ideas might become contagious. Perhaps some of the great powers should listen to the BRICS and CPLP community.

Certainly, there will be more dialogue, debate, discussion, certainly the world will become more multilateral. Certainly human rights will be respected and anomalies such as the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan under the Taliban will be addressed, certainly there will be a climate of peace. Portugal and the CPLP, in the last fifty years, have learnt the lesson that conflict teaches us and have cemented societies which are increasingly politically mature and which set the climate for social progres, education, healthcare, full employment, increasing salaries, a rising standard of living and the rule of law.

So in 2023, let us listen to President Lula of Brazil, who in turn is very close to Portugal and the CPLP and also Russia, India and China in the BRICS. Just maybe, if everyone listens, we can pull together because there are serious challenges out there.

One is the climate, another is pollution and another is the possibility of Covid turning sinister, producing a variant which is far removed from Omicron (which it is doing) and for which people appear to be totally unprepared. Another is Nipah, a Covid-like virus already spreading in Asia and Africa and which makes Covid look like a walk in the park.

Sorry guys, but we have some serious issues to solve, together, from pollution to disease to social unrest to immigration to creating jobs for all in a digital world, to creating education systems which can create opportunities in the workplace, to facing the social challenge created by drug use.

This is not the Tower of Babel with everyone flying at each others’ throats.

Let’s do this, together.


Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey can be contacted at [email protected]

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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey