JOHANNESBURG - The world descended into a new low last week when the UK appointed Boris Johnson, a man described by those who know him intimately as a gold medal egomaniac and a cavorting charlatan, to the summit of the fifth-largest economy.
For weeks the entire progressive world prayed that such a man would never come anywhere near to charting a post-1998 global financial crisis order and give new impetus to the Commonwealth.
How wrong could we have been.
The Conservative Party, in its wisdom, showed us just how misplaced our hopes were. It conferred upon us someone very few right-thinking people would associate with decency.
And when Queen Elizabeth II received Johnson to succeed the otherwise flat-faced Theresa May as British prime minister, our worst fears turned into an ugly reality.
Not one to miss out on a good opportunity, the man gave us what we should expect from a triumphant bully who, after being ejected from a group, was now gloating at his forced return.
In his first speech to Parliament, Johnson set out to show the EU who the new sheriff in town was, vowing to negotiate a new deal and threatening that if the bloc refused then he would leave without a deal come October 31.
He told his fellow lawmakers that his biggest mission would be to deliver Brexit for the purpose of uniting and re-energising the UK and making the country the greatest place on earth.
His message to the EU’s biggest powers of Germany and France was clear: agree to our terms or face our unparalleled wrath.
The bellicose threats sounded exactly like those of his role model US President Donald Trump to the Chinese that failure to co-operate could result in an international trade spat that would reverberate beyond the borders of the EU.
In days to come, Johnson will surely push to change the rules of the game. He will try to out-trump Trump in forcing the hand of those he thinks are not on his side.
Even international financiers are worried.
Goldman Sachs has raised its estimate of the likelihood of Britain leaving the EU without a deal to 20percent from 15percent - charging that a hard Brexit will be higher with Johnson at the helm. The firm has correctly observed that there would be less tolerance for another long Article 50 extension, with patience wearing thin in both Westminster and Brussels.
It now put the chances of no Brexit deal at 35percent versus 40percent, but kept the odds on a negotiated Brexit unchanged at 45percent.
But the EU is not the only trade block that should be worried.
The developing world should even be more scared. Protectionism is likely to be the new era of Johnson’s trade regime. If his era as the foreign minister is anything to go by, there will be very scant regard for existing relations with other countries.
The Commonwealth, a group of former British colonies, will hardly feature in his policies, never mind the fact that they constitute the majority of Commonwealth member states.
All the ideals that have governed the group since its formation, the promotion of human rights, democracy, the rule of law and free trade, will be things that Johnson would hardly bother himself about.
He will be a nightmare to those who ever thought that an august body such as the Commonwealth deserves someone to uphold some elements of human decency as its face.
He will not give direction to hundreds of deals that his predecessors left unfinished.
In his own words, his biggest priority will be to make Britons wealthier, healthier and more secure.
The selection of his cabinet signals a strong leaning to the nationalist right.
He will break rules and bend the truth as he stumbles from one big disaster to the next. Jenny Jones, who was a London assembly member when Johnson was a mayor, aptly remembers him as a funny and charming bloke that you can enjoy a cup of coffee with, but not entrust your cat to while you are away.
Like the leader of the world of the free, he is also prone to being disrespectful and patronising towards women, calling them all sorts of names.
He will be to the world what our very own Herman Mashaba is to South Africa, passionately asserting his determination to make Joburg better, but making no attempt to hide his dislike for immigrants.
To Johnson, Africa is a country that can benefit from adopting more British values. He does not see the continent’s life expectancy increase as a consequence of more states opening up and adopting pragmatic economic policies.
He wants the continent to be a carbon copy of its former colonial masters. That should be worrying for Africa and more difficult to trust such an absent-minded fellow whose current priorities appear to be only about how the conservative right sees him.
He is likely to forget that Britain has become probably the continent’s biggest springboard into European markets.
His determination to renegotiating a new trade pact with the EU will mean more focus on Britain than trade liberalisation, poverty reduction and up-scaling the continent's weakest economies.
Already, trade exports from Britain have mothballed over the past few years.
As he looks ahead to solidifying his acceptance to conservative right, he will hardly bat an eyelid for the continent.
Instead, he will add to a growing number of Western countries who believe that protectionism and nationalism is key to the future.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has had her hands full trying to show Germany that an inclusive world is much better than the chaos in Libya and Iraq.
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has become the biggest threat to the progressive thinking.
Johnson will be applauded by countries such as Italy and Austria, which have embraced the right-wing nationalism that is riding on the crest of the aftermath of the financial crisis and a big influx of sub-Saharan migrants from North Africa.
He will see globalisation and immigration as a dilution of national identity and a threat bigger than Hitler.
The ride for emerging economies will be hard and bumpy.
If it was unthinkable in the past for Britain and the US to be at the front of such an onslaught against international solidarity, then Johnson, like Trump, has shown us that it is not impossible to reverse all the gains that have been made in more than 70 years.