By Clem Sunter.
Abstract: What would Agatha Christie make of the twists and turns in current affairs?…
Back in the 1960s I occasionally played bridge with Agatha Christie as my partner at her home in Devon, England. I knew her grandson well. When there was a particularly difficult hand for me to play, she used to lean across the table and encourage me to think of the most unlikely distribution of cards which might bring success and go for it. “There are so many twists in life,” she said, “and I exploit them in my books.”
That formula certainly worked for her and it has worked for me. In her case, she has sold more books than any other author of fiction in the history of the world except possibly for Shakespeare. Sorry to disappoint the younger generation, J.K. Rowling does not come close. In my case, I have applied Agatha’s formula many times in business and in painting scenarios and, more often than not, have come out on top.
However, nothing has prepared me for the twists in the narrative of some of the flags that Chantell Ilbury and I have recently identified as changing the world. Top of the list is the religious flag that now appears to go up every week with terrorist attacks in Western cities. The cult of extremism is being fuelled by the internet and social media creating new recruits every day.
Worse still is the destruction of entire cities in the Middle East. Aleppo and Mosul have gone, Raqqa is destined to follow and Damascus must surely be in danger. The next twist is whether Israel, which has stayed aloof from the war in Syria, is dragged in as America and Russia go head to head just north of its border.
On a broader scale, the red flag is seeing more and more close encounters between Russian and Western aircraft in contested airspace. One severe incident in which a plane is shot down could ignite a major shift from a cold war to a hot war between the West and the East.
Furthermore, China is now emerging as a world power while America shrinks into a gilded cage. Nevertheless, the likelihood of a military strike by America on North Korea is increasing as Donald Trump’s patience is wearing thin. This may well cause major casualties in both North and South Korea as well as a severe deterioration in the relationship between America and China.
However, the flag that Agatha would have thought most gripping as a script, is the anti-establishment flag that produced Brexit; the election of Donald Trump as US President; the humiliation of Theresa May in the recent election in the UK; and the rage of the public following the Grenfell Tower inferno in London. What a mess one year can make to the best-prepared policies and plans!
An additional chapter to the anti-establishment flag, featuring the fury of ordinary folk against the super-rich, is the opening of tax evasion lawsuits by Spanish authorities against Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho. Then there is the laying of criminal charges against four former top executives of Barclays Bank in the UK for actions taken during the financial crash of 2008.
Indeed, future twists flowing out of this flag may include the impeachment of Trump later this year and the replacement of May as British Prime Minister. Meanwhile, Brexit may be watered down so much that it is effectively cancelled.
In South Africa, the flag of corruption has produced the pushback seen in the last municipal elections when the ruling party lost control of three major cities – a result few predicted beforehand. The second flag around quality of infrastructure is being undermined by chaos on the boards of state-owned enterprises. This, together with general uncertainties around the third flag of leadership, has led to our downgrading in the eyes of the world and the recession we are in.
Yet, the twist in the tale could be surprises in the ANC leadership contest in December and even greater surprises in the 2019 election. The EFF and the DA are both on the march for the vote of the youth which was a game-changer for Jeremy Corbyn in this year’s UK election. It could pan out that way here too.
The only difference between the real world and fiction is that there is no final chapter to the planet unless the impact of climate change is much faster than expected. I wish Agatha was still alive so I could run the possible narratives flowing out of the flags past her. Imagine that: a whodunit scenario where the villain is not who you thought it was and the hero comes out of the blue. Watch the flags because they are the clues to solving the mystery of the future!
Originally posted on News24, 23 June 2017