After walking amongst humanity for a while, cycles beyond the seasons or clothing and hairstyles become noticeable.
These cycles are noticeable also in political beliefs, and although that can seem boring to understand, it’s important because the political system affects all of us.
Perhaps the most important political cycle that affects everyone is the balance of power between those who have a lot of resources or ‘capital’ – that is the wealthy and privileged within society – and those who have few resources beyond their own natural attributes – that being their unique combination of intelligence and physical abilities – which they trade as ‘labour’ to employers.
In our modern capitalist societies the balance between various groups is arbitrated by our democratic rights to share our views freely and vote based on them.
In my lifetime over the past half century that cycle between capital and labour has swung from one extreme to the other as if we were on a widely swinging pendulum. When I was young the balance was in favour of labour, the majority of people, as trade unions had significant support and power within the political system.
It was a time of many strikes, high inflation and poor economic growth as priority was given to providing good incomes to the majority of people. In truth the system was not very efficient and it became unsustainable.
But from the 70s the pendulum swung back and a lot of necessary reforms happened. It’s important to note that these changes were agreed and often enacted by centre-left governments as well, which occurred in my own country of Australia.
Unfortunately humanity has not really worked out how to know in real-time when we have reached the point when too much of something is a bad thing because the balance has shifted too far.
By the time we entered the new century the balance between capital and labour had shifted too far and the signs that we had reached a form of Extreme Capitalism were showing, especially in the extreme level of inequality even in the most prosperous societies.
The middle class was shrinking and the working class poor were numerous and growing.
At the human level these deficiencies were mainly expressed in the impact on the mental health of people in the system where most felt that they were on a hamster wheel, sprinting and reaching out for juicy carrots but getting nowhere fast. The only thing in their hands were a few crumbs that had trickled off the table from the privileged one percent.
People were increasingly expressing their exhaustion but were feeling trapped, partly because they believed the saturation advertising that the rewards would be worth it if they just ‘hustled’ enough on their hamster wheels.
So by the end of the 2010s the system was due for a paradigm shift; the swing in the pendulum back from that extreme form of capitalism.
The unceasing drive for efficiency in the system, which led human beings to treat each other as if they were already machines, was unsustainable because it was literally breaking people.
Human beings were breaking other human beings!
Enter the COVID-19 pandemic which, in an attempt to minimise human impacts, or at least manage impacts on hospital capacities, led to isolation measures which for many forced separation from their hamster wheels.
Many still worked, either at home or onsite in essential services, which in itself highlighted for many that the rewards from this form of extreme capitalism were not tightly correlated with the importance of those roles in society.
This forced physical separation allowed a unique opportunity for reflection for everyone. It allowed psychological separation to varying extents.
While we were isolated from most others in society, for those who sheltered with others closely related to us, including family and other loved ones, it was an intense period of connectedness with those who matter most in our lives.
Right through this period we all searched for updates on the pandemic, watching the news or scrolling through social media, which served as constant reminders of the reality of human life and of sad loss experienced by so many.
It was always going to be the case that through this period many people would reflect on their lives and whether they felt that trading the majority of the quality time and energy of their lives for the rewards of the hamster wheel was really a fair trade.
Some parents and families realised that they had not been all that closely connected in recent years as the parents were on those hamster wheels convincing themselves that they are doing best for their families, and even children were kept busy with extracurricular activities almost as training for their own future hamster wheels.
Others realised that they had made compromises and moved away from their earlier aspirations and ideals.
Still others reconsidered whether the cost of earning extra income for now or later in retirement was worth the cost to them in the here and now while their health is good, especially as they understood that life expectancy was falling with this new ultramicroscopic threat which just highlighted one of the many omnipresent threats to human lives that have always existed.
With the pendulum at its extreme in favour of capital – the wealthy and privileged – our societies were due for a reset.
That it coincided with, and in many ways was catalysed by, the first global pandemic in a century meant that it would be a very significant Reset.
Given the potential for it to lead to the addressing of some of the longest lasting or most devastating issues humanity has confronted, in the form of social cohesion and in the climate crisis, optimistically from March 2020 I began to refer to this era as the Great Reset!
As I have consistently stated since the first few weeks of the pandemic, the more of us that engage with these changes and share our views and aspirations for a better humanity, the better – dare I say, the Greater – will be that Reset and the more cohesive our societies.
By working together towards compassionate societies we will reduce the oscillation of the pendulum and prevent the turbulence and heartache that the extremes cause. This will improve the quality of life for all of humanity and the space that this peace provides will allow us to address new crises from nature as they are certain to continue to arise.
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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2022
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