How comfortable can you get with a changing world order?

If you had told me 10 years ago that I’d be reading a book on “Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order”, you would have heard a long and hardy laugh. And yet here I am today, listening to author Ray Dalio on Audible, hoping to gain a perspective that will make the contents of The Economist remotely digestible this week.

I rarely read magazines cover to cover, whether digital or hard copy. I find an article or two of interest, then move on. Not so today, as I wondered, would be wise to go full monty for a change? Well, it might be wise, but one look at the table of contents sent me running.

From The Economist’s Americas section, I could choose between articles on COVID, electoral administration, insurrection, “Mexico’s bad, mad energy plan”, or video games in Brazil. Oh, but the video games article was actually about video games expressing the political divide. Or I could turn to Asia, with offerings like, “Myanmar’s defectors”, “Omicron in India”, or “Unrest in Kazakhstan”.

Before you tell me to turn my attentions to Glamour if I want to read horoscopes and happy handbag stories, let me say that The Economist bills itself as including politics, science, business, culture, and the arts. It’s just that the rampant rise of bad news crowds all else from its pages.

When the pandemic first hit, I wished that I’d understood more about how previous generations had handled their own pandemics, and how their cultures, countries, and economies had evolved as a result. I reasoned this holy grail of knowledge could inspire some optimism in darker days. But I was distracted by the strain of living in our maddening world, and by my gratitude in being able to still experience beautiful moments in the face of our hardships.

Well, good news. Turns out Ray was doing a study of the rise and decline of empires at around the same time, and if I understand the press correctly, he incorporated the info I was wondering about into his new book. Unfortunately, the audible version is nearly 14 hours long. Fortunately, Ray’s intro says I can feel free to skip whatever sections I want. Woohoo!! Freedom!!

So I have embarked on this reading in the hope that insights into evolving world orders from a historical context will neutralize some of the anxieties that one can’t help but feel when faced with the barrage of bad news. I am cautiously optimistic. I mean, as optimistic as anyone can be about world order changing.