In “The Great Reset: An explainer” I gave a brief description of the political and economic backdrop that led to humanity entering the pandemic at a moment of social extreme with a paradigm shift due or even overdue.
I explained that trends in society tend to occur in cycles that can be conceptualised as a swinging pendulum.
The truth is that this concept is simplified because it infers that trends oscillate around a stationary point but we know that – no matter how much conservatives seem to dislike the idea of it, at least over shorter time frames – human society has progressed an awful lot since we mastered fire and put circles to work (as wheels and then gears).
So intuitively most of us understand that our societies progress over time, but most of us also recognise that there are periods where change seems to happen quickly, and there are other times when change happens slowly, or perhaps conditions even go backwards. In many ways we see societal progress over time as the diagram below shows, a wavy line but generally heading up to the top right hand corner of the graph.
To make the situation even more complex we all understand that societal progress is in reality a whole host of factors ranging from major issues such as how we view inequity in wealth (the major idea discussed in the ‘explainer’) to relatively minor factors such as how we choose to dress and present ourselves, though older members of society through history have often treated these as far more significant issues (for example in the 1960s when young people as a cohort really began to express their individuality). That is in part an over-reaction from those who feel insecure that they are no longer a part of the demographic that sets trends within society, but it is also a reflection that all of these trends intersect to produce an overall view of societal progress.
In other words, if we were to narrow in on that wavy line of progress we would notice that it is the overall trend, but that there are an infinite number of trend lines – some more significant, some less significant, some oscillating more slowly, others more rapidly – that together make up the overall trend. This is a little like zooming in on a Google map revealing progressively smaller roads which are less and less significant to the overall way people move around, but that does not mean that those very minor roads are less significant to all of us (e.g. those who live nearby in the case of roads).
Of course the relationship between capital and labour – those who have large pools of resources and wealth at their disposal, both personally and/or as a consequence of status or position within society, and those who do not – has always been one of the most critical trends affecting human progress.
Now these wavy lines of social progress can still be reconciled with the swinging pendulum concept if we think two-dimensionally, or in the second derivative as some who like maths prefer to say.
If you are not a fan of mathematics, let me explain it this way. Imagine that you have an animation of a singing pendulum on your phone which you are looking at on the face of your phone. Turn the phone a quarter turn so it is at a right-angle to you and then gradually raise your phone as you move it from left to right while visualising in your mind the position of the round end of the pendulum. Hopefully you can visualise it tracing a wavy line like the one above.
Now in this concept I intentionally chose a pendulum singing widely and above the centre point because that is how progress has occurred for humanity to this point as I described in my explainer. The path of the centre point of that pendulum swing is drawn on the next diagram to show that it indeed rises at a constant stable rate but that there are moments of extreme when the pendulum approaches a course change at the top of its swing.
I referred to this concept of an upwardly rising pendulum for societal progress in an earlier essay entitled “How Might Milton Friedman Respond To The COVID-19 Pandemic“. Friedman is considered a hero of conservatives as it was in large part his intellectual rigor that led to the reforms of the 1980s most famously implemented in the US by President Reagan and in the UK by Prime Minister Thatcher due to their veneration by Anglophone conservatives. In Australia reforms around this time were implemented by the centre-left Hawke/Keating governments.
The main point of that essay was to say that I believe that the Mr. Friedman who wrote “The Social Responsibility Of Business Is To Increase Its Profits” in 1970, if he were brought forward in time to assist humanity in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing his economic rigor to intersect with recommendations of medical experts, would not have recognised the economies that he was dealing with because it would be unfathomable to him the extreme to which his ideas had been taken. Thus I posited that he would have said that if he was to formulate a response to the COVID-19 pandemic he would not be starting from here!
There is no need to rehash exactly where we are, in my view, in an observational sense as it would be a repeat of that essay and much else that I have written over the past 3 years including most recently in “The Great Reset: An explainer” and in “The Great Reset At Work“. Instead I will label the most recent half century of that wavy line of social progress with dates as below showing how through the 2010’s the pendulum was at an extreme and its direction change has created the perception that our progress is actually retarding.
However, if we narrow in on the model for the present day and through the next few decades this model explains exactly why I am ultimately very optimistic.
I firmly believe that we are setting ourselves up for a golden Great Reset era where social progress will accelerate on the back of significant reform which is possible because humanity is primed for that change no matter how much conservative and other right wing political actors attempt to scare the population away from the idea of social progress (again, which I will not discuss as I have on many occasions, most recently in “The Great Reset Era At Work“).
The evidence of this is pervasive through society in the way that we communicate and tell stories, i.e. through all of our media, and is apparent to anyone perceptive to it. And my perception is that this is indeed accelerating as I would expect to happen.
Much of that change will centre around how we identify with ourselves in the Great Reset era, and at the centre of that will be the role of paid employment and creating a better balance between it and our broader lives and roles in society. Thus industrial relations is shaping up, once again, to be a focal point.
Given the level of inequality, debt, and middle-class erosion, however, the breadth of dissatisfaction expressed and change desired will surprise many corporate and organisational leaders and leave many flat-footed and unable to adjust. The impacts will not be felt just in poor performance of organisations under their influence, it may prove fatal if toxic workplace culture is exposed through the legal systems as I anticipated in “The Great Reset At Work“.
Simply Milton Friedman’s profit imperative is being replaced by a compassion imperative.
The corporate leader who has best articulated this change to this point is Indra Nooyi and I recommend this video to all.
In my next post I will describe one idea which I believe its time has come and which has the potential to unleash human potential in unimaginable leaps and bounds – the introduction of universal basic income.
Before I close, however, I feel I need to go negative once more because that is still the mood of this phase of the Great Reset era, and it is appropriate because it spells out exactly what is at stake.
As this model of social progress shows, and as most of us know intuitively when we think over the very long term, humanity is continually at its most progressed state even though there are periods where we perceive we may be regressing, sometimes for long periods such as in Middle Ages (for a brilliant blog post on this see On Progress And Historical Change at Ex Urbe).
We look back and wonder – either actively or subconsciously – how was it that we lived without developed language skills and proper shelter, without knowledge that mercury and lead were poisonous, without electricity and modern mechanisation, and without labour and human rights protections.
Many of us take that one step further and wonder how our current societies will be viewed in centuries ahead, and as our science continues to progress, what commonly used substances and practices will ultimately be proven to do us more harm than good.
I am of the opinion that this period over the past half century will be viewed dimly because, for all of our smug contempt for our ‘primitive’ forebears, we have lost our sense of community as self-interest has led to the ‘democratisation’ of human beings harming human beings as people have fallen for the Extreme capitalist propaganda that status benefits (materialism and ego) from ‘winning’ outweigh the benefits of deep and rich connection with our societies.
There are no real winners in Extreme capitalism, just an unquenchable aspiration for more wins and more things.
Even the ‘winners’ and ‘owners’ are hurting, they just cannot admit that to themselves let alone others.
A culture of domination nourishes nobody.
And when it comes to the unsustainable use of our finite resources, we are all losers even if many still refuse to admit their error.
The extreme self-interest exhibited by our leaders within the political and corporate spheres has been especially harmful. It is hardly a surprise that this type of behaviour has been imitated widely throughout society, after all, there is a reason why the term ‘leader’ developed.
For my entire life I have lived in a society where nothing is valued, not an action, thought or thing, unless at least one other is prepared to pay for it. Now that the mental health impacts of all of this are becoming understood, mainly because it is impacting the profitability and functioning of businesses, there is growing acceptance of the critical need to address mental health. But there is no market value in acknowledging that this crisis stems from the unquenchable aspiration at the heart of Extreme capitalism.
The evidence now shows that diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces are more profitable. So finally we have sufficient reason to be fair to all human beings within organisations, if only we would genuinely commit to achieving it!
And what about equality on a global basis?
That our society has devolved to the point where human beings being good to other human beings is only prudent when it is profitable says everything about us as a modern society.
The most striking peacock is equally vulnerable to the same diseases as the rest of the flock, the toughest fighting male salmon soon meets the same fate as the vanquished, and the hardest working bee will survive not one day without a hive.
The success of humankind was not built on the individual, it was built on the collective support of individuals within our society. If we wish to unleash humanity’s full potential we need to collectively support all individuals with compassion and love.
That is at the heart of the Great Reset era…
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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2022