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Editorial 2016/12: Towards the future and another new year

Maarten van Leeuwen

Dear reader, first, I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this Editorial and for the ones you possibly read before.

This is my 41st Editorial, so they span well over three years.

The year is coming to a close, and soon we will be entering a new year. The only constant thing in life is change. Change means that new things start, and other things come to an end. One thing that is coming to an end right now is these monthly Editorials. We shall replace them with frequent more technical briefings written by product specialists and edited by me. These briefings will not be monthly per se, because it will depend on you. Indeed, please let us know topics you would like to hear more about, and if it is within the limits of our expertise, we shall be happy to oblige! For January we have prepared an interesting article about Slotting and Mapping, written by our IT Director Alban Plait-Doin.

The month of December is always a month of reflection for me, and I guess for many others. It is a month to reflect on the many people we loved and who are no longer with us, be it because they left this earth or because we went our separate ways.

It is also a month to reflect on what happened in the year and the status the world is in because of it. Is the world a better and safer place then it was a year ago? This, is hard to tell.

Certainly, a number of trends may be observed. There is this clear tendency to focus on semblance, rather than on contents. We can see this among politicians. What they say is largely irrelevant and reflects what they think we want to hear, rather than what they think in earnest should be done, assuming they have ideas about that. Anyone who has observed the US presidential elections may agree that the tone has descended to a low level indeed.

Another, and possibly related trend is that people are fed up with politicians with vague and misleading talks and still vaguer plans. They want leaders with clear and simple answers to complex and long-term issues. 

The result is that we now have, in a number of key countries, leaders who are outspoken and original. In the Philippines, you can be shot on the street if the police “thinks” you might be a drug dealer. In Indonesia you do not have to bother to apply for a Government job if you are Gay. There are countries both in Europe and very close to it where Democracy seems to be rapidly disappearing. A far right leader in France is no longer to be excluded. And in the USA… we will have to see. One thing seems certain: we will there have a President unlike any we have seen in a long time.

These issues are not new. They are cyclic events. We have observed the exact same thing at the end of the Weimar Republic. This does not mean that I wish to compare in any way, form of shape the leaders emerging today with the leader that manipulated himself into position after the Weimar Republic! We have also seen it in one of the earliest democracies in the world. Indeed, the Athenians were still arguing over who should be the General of the Army whilst the Spartans were already – literally – at the gates.

I assume humanity is still in a stage where it has to go through these cycles, and at the end of each cycle we get, for a time, politicians who want to serve their country first, and their own interests as a second, rather than the other way round as is so often the case today. 

Whether the world is getting a better place cannot be observed within years. However, in the long term we can easily see that the world is a thousand times better, more comfortable, safer, more fair and just, than it was 2,000 years ago, 500 years ago and even a 100 years ago. And I have no doubt that this trend will continue.

Maarten van Leeuwen
Group Managing Director

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