White men have had a great run. From the rise of the Greeks to the birth of Western-based global empires, they have controlled much of the world or sought to: So much of history is a consequence of decisions made by—and at the behest of—the white guys in charge.
Several factors are contributing to making this historic moment a watershed in global history. First, there is the rise of the emerging world, notably the economies and societies of Asia. While the planet has always been home to great nonwhite civilizations, such societies have ebbed and flowed in relative importance. Today, it is clear that these emerging societies, namely China and India, are on the rise. So too—thanks to economic and political reforms, technological and scientific progress, and the advent of the connected world—are other great and rich cultures from the Middle East to Africa.
In addition, millennia of repression of women’s rights are coming to an end. Not fast enough. And not everywhere. But in much of the Western world, once male-dominated domains are now populated by more women than ever before, and this trend shows no signs of reversing—thankfully. Not only that, but around the world women are empowering other females, including girls, to lead in technological fields in the Digital Age. Quite simply: It now seems to be common sense that no society can thrive if it fails to tap the intellectual, economic, creative, and spiritual resources of its entire population.
Finally, thanks to the mobility revolution of the past century, flows of refugees and migrants of all kinds have shifted the demographics of societies and—protests and unease aside—they have proved essential to fighting the demographic trends, such as aging, that have put many advanced societies at risk.
Inequality, injustice, and, frankly, fatigue have led populations to seek other choices. Further, the societies that have given the white man his greatest influence in the world—those of Europe and the United States—are struggling in key respects to maintain their global influence. Economic pressures weigh on them. Political divisions are a drag on their growth and ability to act. As history has illustrated, it’s hard to stay on top for an indefinite period.