Distant Problems Are Driving Local Challenges

Global Perspectives Powering Local Issues

Ray Fankhauser

If we ourselves do not understand the purpose of Black History (not just as a Month) from a global perspective, how can we ever rise to equality?

While it may have been desirable and even possible for many of us in Canada to “shelter” ourselves from international issues during the first two decades of the 21st century, the global pandemic and the war in Ukraine have destroyed the notion of ignorant bliss in the Western world.
In order to successfully wage the war against discrimination in all its forms, we need to understand the origin of the ideas driving the oppressive behaviour that continues to wound our communities.
In my column, I aim to unravel some of the issues that will help us to speak from a position of power when engaging with those who would seek to profit from our ignorance.
In order to cope with the feelings of helplessness we often experience in these times, we need to understand the chains of events that lead to current instability. It may be tempting to think, for example, that we don’t need to have an informed view on the war in Ukraine beyond the typical platitudes (“peace is better than war”, “why do people bother to kill each other in this day and age”, and so on).
However, the jarring reality is that the war in Ukraine has caused a major shift in energy markets, resulting in price increases that have us regularly complaining about the rip-off prices at the gas station.
Of course, most of us know (and lament) that traditional energy companies have been reporting record profits thanks to high oil and gas prices. Let us look at the question of power and money more closely.
It is less widely known here in the local community that the biggest winners in the long strategy game are not Exxon (Esso) and Shell and the like. That award goes to the autocratic leaders of the Middle East, and not just because those nations have lots of cheaply produced oil and gas to sell. It is true that Europe has turned to the Middle East to replace the oil and gas it used to get from Russia (Russia was by far Europe’s biggest supplier of gas, most importantly to Germany).
In contrast to the strong sanctions imposed by most North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nations (Turkey is the biggest exception), Middle Eastern states have been careful not to antagonize Russia in any tangible way. Places like Dubai have seen an explosion of Russian tourism, and, much more importantly, demand for financial services which would used to be provided in London or New York (think of oligarchs looking for places to keep and spend their billions).
In just one year, nations like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have gained over $1 trillion in economic leverage, to add to the trillions they already hold in assets around the world.
Meanwhile, those who have been paying attention to Africa have seen famine driven by a lack of grain which is exported by- you guessed it- Ukraine.
Imagine for a minute that our country lost half of its grain supply in less than three months, adding to inflationary pressures which already existed due to worldwide government spending during the pandemic.
When we see bread prices increase by 20 or 30 percent at our local supermarket, let us pause to consider that our brothers and sisters in some parts of Africa (Egypt, for example) are currently paying 300 percent more (or even higher) for bread than at this time last year (if there is any bread to be found, that is.)
In 2021, Ukraine was the source of over 60% of Egypt’s grain imports, and Russia another 20%. Almost 85% of Egypt’s grain came from these two countries. Nations in situations like this don’t have the luxury of scolding the countries that feed their populations.
I couldn’t miss the occasion of Black History Month to highlight how important it is for us to support each other in this global struggle. A few weeks ago, I gave a Black History Month themed presentation about Haiti and the suffering brought upon it first by the slave trade and colonialism more generally, then in retribution for the independence it gained by defeating the French Empire (that’s an article in its own right).
I was stunned to read a comment on social media from a US-based melanated individual that went like this: “Why are you presenting on Haiti in Black History Month? Black History Month is the history of my ancestors and family here in America. Why are Haitians attaching themselves to us?” Friends, if we ourselves do not understand the purpose of Black History (not just as a Month) from a global perspective, how can we ever rise to equality?

Ray Fankhauser is Chairman of Fankhaus Valley Consultants, a global strategy firm based in Montreal. Reach out to him at ray.fankhauser@fankhausconsult.com.