ASEAN and Indonesia in a Retreating World
    Category: Column By : Scott Younger Read : 97 Date : Tuesday, May 01, 2018 - 15:39:29

    Every so often the world seems to go into retreat. Today the turmoils and isolationist thinking tabled by the main global player, the U.S., and others, are a reminder of the world’s inability to always smoothly move forward in harmony. Some countries lapse into accepting dictatorial powers. Democracy, as Winston Churchill famously stated, is “the least bad form of government” and is assaulted by vested interests at the extremes of the left and right. We have been there before, in living memory.

    A recently published book, “The shortest history of Germany” by James Hawes, argues that Germany remains divided, roughly by the river Elbe. To the east is the outdated class philosophy of 19th century Prussia in resurgent form. To the west, what Caesar called Germania, is the outward looking population, the hard-working engine of Germany. But, as Hawes argues, the ingredients for Europe’s democratic future now lies in how Germany aligns its internal divisions and leads European liberal democratic thought and action, embracing more fully the political acumen of the late Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.

    This mantle for Germany is necessitated since the founder of democratic traditions, Britain, has entered a period of soul-searching undermining its world leadership. The false dream of Brexit, which gives light to some squalid fringe views proposing outdated thinking, will lead to economic fallout, as widely predicted. Today’s millenials are caught up in the modern era of instant news and views, all information without analysis. Coupled with a decline in reading habits, they lack the perspective and experience to properly evaluate the Europe’s dreadful past before the advent of the EU. The UK should be playing its full part in using its vast global experience to help Europe become a main player in what will be, hopefully, a free trade world.

    Against this background and a fast emerging Asia, led by a reawakening China, will we see an acceptable form of democratic mores evolve that can lead the advancing Asian countries grow for the benefit of their expanding populations? Can ASEAN and its neighbors become a model of peaceful political harmony with minimal trade barriers and regulatory strictures? The opportunity is there to avoid the inward, harmful undemocratic thinking that discomforts Western powers and underlines the turmoil and terrible distress in the Middle East. ASEAN is an important union of countries with a wide range of culture and history, with many countries emerging from colonial pasts which left behind some Western influences, both good and bad. The useful elements of these, including the democratic ideal, can help ensure a strong trading block in a region rich in resources, not least its human ones, and thus to become a model for the future. Within this block Indonesia, a wonderful country with a huge cultural heritage, is the largest single element, and must show confident leadership to take this role for not only its own people but those within the region.