"This is historical" my cousin yelled when watching the results of the senatorial vote in Alabama last night. "Rosalie ! Do you realize? It is the first time in 25 years ! Alabama might elect a Democrat! You know Alabama is an extremely republican State, right?" He picked up the phone right after the victory of Doug Jones: "This is the best news in so long. I cannot imagine Trump's face at the White House. This actually gives me so much hope in the future of this country. I even got my French cousin excited."
I generally feel powerless and somewhat depressed when I hear about politics in the United States, so I try to stay away from them.
Yet this story made me travel back a year and two months ago, right after the election of Trump in November 2017. I remembered the commentators fearing the worse. "We had Brexit, now this, what's next?"
Well, I thought last night, things did not actually turn that bad: no nuclear war so far, slow yet steady economic growth, extremism overall containable - life goes on. Elsewhere, there's been reasons to hope : Farc rebels sealing historic disarmament deal in Columbia, Daesh losing its positions everyday, populism fading away in Europe. And there's been reason to fear : the refugee crises worsening, Boko Haram striking in the Sahel, China suffocating under its polluted sky.
Overall, the picture is quite contrasted. As an exercise for myself, I tried to summarize the unfolding of international affairs since the end of the Cold War - I epically failed.
I bought the news this morning: "The country is getting better" claimed the liberal columnists through New York City, where I am blessed to live.
"This is progress!" trumpeted the most enthusiastic.
Yes, some things are getting better - but we must beware of not confusing them with Progress. Progress is tempting, it remains a narrative - there is no teleological ending in History.
This is the reason why, I believe, for millennials like me, the real challenge is to embrace uncertainty. Because nuance is be liberating ; for there is no finished line in History, History will be just what we make it.
© RCS, December 13th 2017