To start off this New Year, I would like to ask you to do an exercise: imagine you were born in 1910.
Just as you turn four years old, the Panama Canal opens up, and World War I begins, a war with a death toll of around 22 million souls which does not end until you are eight. The second industrial revolution prevails. You are seven years old when the Russian Revolution is just beginning. Shortly afterward, a flu pandemic called the “Spanish flu” kills about 50 million people. When you are twelve years old, the fascists march over Rome, the USSR is born, and the Deutsche Mark loses all its value. You survive, and when you turn 19 in 1929, the New York Stock Exchange collapses and takes the entire world economy down with it; you turn 22 and see the pound sterling leaving the gold standard and undergoing severe devaluation. In 1933, you see watch as the Nazis attain power in Germany, and things are not going well. After a short period of time, at the age of 26, you witness the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. At the age of 28, you are sent to the front, and the war does not end until 1939 with the triumph of fascism. Your city, Barcelona, has been destroyed by bombs and other wounds that will never heal again. Just when it’s over, you get married and World War II begins, lasting until you turn 35. Six million Jews die in the Jewish Holocaust, and the war claims a total of 60 million lives. Switzerland has remained neutral, and Geneva hosts the League of Nations. In the meantime, you do your best to keep the family going. When you reach the age of 36, UNESCO and UNICEF are born. You are now 38, and you live with the excitement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The following year, in 1949, the Soviet Union detonates its first atomic bomb, and NATO is created. During the Cold War, you see news of the Korean War and the Cuban Revolution far away from your home, and when you turn 54 on the beach under the euphoric Spanish sun, the Vietnam War begins. 1968 is again a year of revolutions, Prague, May 68 in France... and then, when you are 59, ARPANET, the forerunner of the internet, comes into being, while man walks on the moon. As Saigon falls, you turn 65 and start a well-deserved retirement. Shortly thereafter, you see the decline of the fascist dictatorship of General Franco, the birth of the current Spanish monarchic regime, the oil crisis, the third industrial revolution, and the founding of Microsoft. The European Union is already growing when you are 66, and 1976 is running. Democracy returns to Argentina in 1983. You turn 76, and a new threat appears with the Chernobyl disaster. When you turn 79, the Berlin Wall falls. The USSR disintegrates in 1991. Just before that, war breaks out in Yugoslavia, we incorporate the euro, and in the year 2000, surpassing the life expectancy of your generation, with the conviction that all the sacrifice has not been in vain, you die of cancer.
The year is over, we are living in 2022, and we have not learned very much from a turbulent 20th Century. Right now, we are immersed in a pandemic similar to that of 1918, and it seems that some things are being repeated: disillusionment, rising populism, economic cycle over, inflation, politics with new blocs calling for their turn, the fourth industrial revolution, cryptocurrencies, and all kinds of disruptions. However, there is a big difference; today, most Europeans are facing this challenge from the comfort of enjoying more than necessary. Happy 2022!
This article is dedicated to the generations that preceded us, and especially to my maternal grandfather, Jaume Murici.
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