Somewhere along our way to nirvana, we got terribly lost. We raped the sea of much of its life, stripped the land of its most precious resources, dumped our waste anywhere we could get away with it — and have now mined our minds to a psychological breaking point.
Our modern gilded age has resulted in rapid depletion of our planet’s biodiversity, warming the atmosphere beyond toastiness, an untenable explosion in our population, mounting racial divide, gender disparity, widespread unemployment, and soaring income inequality. And this is only the tip of the iceberg (and indeed there are many of those melting fast and furiously to our North).
We’ve built an economy and developed ways of working that cannot be sustained. It’s time to gain, not lose perspective. We can repair the world through listening, developing a shared language, and conspiring to love.
And with the new leader of the free world – our time is now.
Unfortunately, we persist in thinking we can learn something while we’re talking. Yet all we’re really doing is regurgitating what we already know. And with all the snazzy tools we have at hand today — we only do so more boorishly. While we’re busy yapping, the cries of the natural world fall on deaf ears.
In a time of dissonance, the absolute best chance for spiraling up means getting in the right relationship with ourselves, with others, and with our environment. We can listen and learn from the Netherlands, Norway, and New Zealand and measure the wealth and wellbeing of a country by how it performs in a variety of ways: socially, culturally, environmentally, and yes, economically too.
We have hope. Only decades ago, Costa Rica’s rainforest was nearing demise. Yet through strategic funding and strict legislation, it has now doubled in size. Chobani Yoghurt made all its employees shareholders in the company — a move that let people stand on their own two feet. A social movement that was once deemed a fight for justice by Black Americans, has at long last cascaded around the globe to become everyone’s bout for a new cultural story.
Our individual impulses, organizational operations, and economic externalities can no longer suck up more human and social capital than they contribute to the world. The renewed system that caters to nature, the economy, and society must be a regenerative one.
We need to listen with curiosity and not judgment. The signals, both weak and strong, are right there for us to heed.
The global economy is expected toshrink by 3% this year. By the end of 2020, unemployment rates in the advanced world will be higher than at any other time since the Great Depression. And global government debt is at the highest level in a time of peace.
In the past forty years, the U.S. middle class hollowed out — shrinking by a whopping 60%. The ratio of pay between the average American worker and his or her boss skyrocketed from 22:1 to 271:1. The 26 richest billionaires own the same value of assets as the 3.8 billion poorest people. These same trends can be seen in other developing nations, with African and Latin American countries measuring the most unequal in the world. If history counts for anything, continuing on this path will lead to a revolution.
When we gain a shared vocabulary, we can move closer not further away from every adult having the universal right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work, and protection against unemployment. With a common understanding, we avoid getting trapped in a future of less, poor, or no work.
The sea of challenges we face rests on the shoulders of the global polity – the private sector and government each have a role, as do each of us. If we get our act together, our cultural and social systems will become infinitely more resilient. More people will have greater social mobility and be afforded opportunities to make meaningful progress.
Tikkun Olam is a Jewish concept that loosely translates as ‘world repair’. It points to the acts of kindness and social solidarity we’ve witnessed around the globe this year. Like WWII or 911 — the individual psyche is rapidly shifting. The pandemic is a war on our collective consciousness and a test of our willingness to be our brother’s keeper by changing our tune.
We’ve been forced to adopt new behaviors, new ways of thinking, new ways of working, and new ways of being. We relate to familiar people in novel ways. And to ensure we don’t get stuck in our own echo chambers, we must also connect to unfamiliar people in a different way — with kindness, humility, and love.
Yes, it may sound corny but what the world needs now is love. And at the risk of sounding drunk on my own Kool-Aid, I should clarify that I’m speaking about those qualities that come from altruistic love: curiosity, care, and commitment. Lennon was definitely onto something.
Love is more important now than ever before so that we don’t lose sight of who we are as a species: uniquely different but equally the same.