“THERE is,” as Shakespeare put it, “ a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”
That may have been an optimistic forecast by the Bard, as it may also lead on to misfortune. Tides ebb as well as flow and what may look like an unassailable advancement in human achievement can be not just eroded but reversed.
Since the end of the Second World War, societies in the West have enjoyed ever greater personal and social freedom, prosperity and the prospect of a brighter future. The engine behind that growth has been democracy but, as recent events in Europe and elsewhere show, it is under threat from dogmatic nationalism and economic retrenchment.
According to the 2018 Rule of Law Index, fundamental human rights have diminished in almost two thirds of the 113 countries surveyed, in light of a surge in authoritarian nationalism and a retreat from international obligations.
The index, compiled by The World Justice Project, an independent organisation which monitors the rule of law globally, reveals a growing deterioration in human rights even in countries perceived as liberal.
Authoritarian nationalism, characterised by dictatorial power and suppression of opposition that came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe, has re-emerged.
In other words, fascism is once again a force to be reckoned with. We ignore this danger at our peril.