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Ideas

Strange And Cruel As It Sounds, 2022 Was A Year Of Hope

Many lives have been lost, rights trampled and dreams crushed. But through the haze, the world took the right turn on many fronts this past year, from Ukraine to Iran to China. Trying to take stock amid the suffering.

Strange And Cruel As It Sounds, 2022 Was A Year Of Hope

Activists marching through Barcelona, Spain, in solidarity with protests in Iran

Édouard Tétreau

The starting premise is a bit daring: to associate 2022 with good news seems naïve at best.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused the death, rape and torture of thousands of people.

In China, the iron-fisted 69-year-old Communist leader Xi Jinping strengthened his control over the Chinese population and looks set to stay in power for life. Meanwhile, in Iran, clerics continue to brutally suppress women’s protests for equal rights; in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to invade Greece.

Of course, it’s hard to speak of a “triumph” of Western democracies, many of which are stuck in sluggish, inconclusive elections: a French executive that lacks a clear majority, Liz Truss in the UK and the probably transient Giorgia Meloni in Italy. And yet...


Despite the violent, threatening and deadly waves facing democracy, one could argue that there’s a much stronger tide coming, bringing victories for democracy, and against authoritarianism.

Russia pushed back in Ukraine


First, let’s talk about Russia. Who would have imagined, in February 2022, that the Russian army would be torn apart by the bravery of Ukrainian people with the support of Western weapons? And that as a result, that same army would move back?

Who would have thought that 300,000 conscripted Russian men would have rushed not to their Kalashnikovs, to die in the name of mother Russia, but instead to travel websites, to get their hands on a ticket to hide out in Turkey or Georgia? Who would have thought that the strategic partnership between China and Russia would have, in the end, led to nothing?

A mural depicting a Ukrainian soldier central Kyiv

Oleksii Chumachenko/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Facing down regimes in China and Iran

In China, the methods used to fight against COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic are being completely overhauled. Isn’t this a large-scale demonstration of the challenges that authoritarianism has in confronting the complexity of the 21st century?

And what about Iranian women taking on the country’s clerics and protesting for their rights before, perhaps, bringing down the regime?

We should be able to believe more in ourselves

In Turkey, even if the regime maintains its expansionist diplomacy and networks in Africa, Europe and Eurasia, it still faces an election in June 2023 and triple-digit inflation.

In Myanmar, the military junta is hanging by a thread, which will soon be cut by rebels keen on democracy. In India, democracy, apparently confiscated in the past by Gandhi’s family and party, has never been so vibrant and solid. Finally, in Brazil — a young democracy of just 30 years — the Bolsonaro parenthesis ended without a bloodshed.

At a protest against Myanmar military's government in Bangkok, Thailand

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Clarion call of democracy

“Deep down, do we actually believe in democracy’s strength? In freedom’s strength?” This is what the former President of Sciences Po asked me back in 2015. This is the paradox of our time: everywhere in the world, freedom’s ideas are expanding.

The U.S. survived Trumpism — which is on the retreat — and the attack on the Capitol. The UK survived a year of Brexit and of Boris Johnson’s and Liz Truss’ misdirection. And Italy survived the departure of Mario Draghi.

The only trap that exists is to lose hope and to let a “totalitarianism” of fear and resignation expand in our minds. Instead, we should be able to believe more in ourselves, and to listen better and address these expectations — in terms of the physical, economic and social security and societal stability of a people who are deeply attached to freedom and democracy.


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