The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your whole life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted lifeKatsumoto from the motion picture ‘The Last Samurai’ from Warner Bros
I am not the writer who coined the term ‘the Great Resignation’.
More significantly, I am the writer who sort to coin the new era in human development which we have entered of which the ‘Great Resignation’ is but one of many wide-ranging demographic and societal changes emerging. I refer to it as the ‘Great Reset’ era, and have done so since writing my seminal essay “The Great Reset” which I published 30 March 2020 at MacroEdgo.com.
Within this context, the ‘Great Resignation’ is indicative of broader changes in individuals’ identity and association with paid employment.
Now I am presenting you with the opportunity to read the most important article you will read this year. I know that sounds like a sales slogan, or at the least arrogant in the extreme, but I admit I want to grab your attention. This is no campaign for subscriptions or anything of the like. I just want the opportunity to capture your thoughts for a moment so that together we might participate in making our existences immeasurably better.
All of the changes we are witnessing as a part of the Great Reset era revolve around a growing dissatisfaction with the individual rewards from the extreme form of capitalism as it had been ‘practiced’ in the new millennium and as we entered the paradigm-altering COVID-19 pandemic.
I foresaw this new era earlier than others for one simple reason – although now a stay at home Dad, I am a former research scientist with a background in infectious disease (in aquatic animals). By some coincidence, I count Dr Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Institute of Virology – famously referred to as the ‘Batwoman’ for identifying bats as the primary hosts for the SARS family of coronaviruses – as a former colleague and a personal friend, though I did not re-establish our connection (which was lost when I retired from science in 2004) until after I had begun to write on my concerns about the imminent pandemic on 3 February 2020 in “Social Cohesion: The best vaccine against crises” published at MacroEdgo.com.
Understanding what lay ahead for humanity, and now with broader interests ranging from socio-economics to investment markets, I realised that the pandemic would cause a psychological shock to survivors that would result in major changes in our societies in ways that war, famine and pestilence have throughout human history. In those early days of February and March 2020 I countenanced a possibility where the mortality rate from infection may be as high as 4% – just over 3 times greater than that which was observed in the first year of the pandemic in wealthy nations with societies having older age structures – and given the human loss, suffering and social disruptions experienced, we all should be incredibly grateful for each of those three percentage points of lower virulence!
(It is important to understand that the mortality rate for the original SARS virus was 10%, and for the similar middle eastern respiratory virus it was 50% – ponder for a moment on that…).
From February 2020 I implored all readers to accept that our world had changed and to think forward to how we wanted to emerge from this serious challenge, especially with the larger looming threat of the climate crisis. I especially challenged my own Federal Government in Australia to think broadly to offer greater optimism for our younger generations by making substantive progress on these major issues.
Our relationship with work is changing for good
We have all emerged from that cognitive dissonance of the early pandemic period to understand that we are living a ‘new normal’. Few, however, really understand the breadth of change that has been experienced, fewer again understand the directions those changes are taking our societies, and yet fewer again have the capacity to think forward and discuss how we all might want to engage with those changes to bend the ark of change for the betterment of all of humanity.
That is what I am aiming to do here in what I believe is one of the most critical aspects of the changes that are occurring in our society – the fundamental shift in the way we identify with ourselves through what we do to earn a living. And, yes, the conditions for many of these changes were in place as we entered the pandemic, but the psychological reset caused by collective ‘pandemic reflecting’ is interacting with these trends to cause major change and thus an opportunity for significant improvement from a path that was growing increasingly toxic for the majority.
I sincerely believe that we are on the cusp of a tidal wave of health issues, especially mental health issues, stemming from poor psychological safety at work that will lead to claims on corporate and public institutions the likes of which capitalism has never seen. It will dwarf any other collective claims for damages that can be thought of, and it is in plain sight and obvious for all to see.
When I explain it, the natural thought process will be disbelief because it is the way things have always been – power disparities, from feudal overlords to toxic bosses and managers bullying and harassing subordinates, has been part and parcel of what humans associate as ‘work’ since humans first gathered into societies.
Similarly, I wonder how many people even in the 90s would have thought that concussion would be something that ‘football’ codes, of the type that carry the ball in the hands, in all of the major Anglophone nations are struggling with. After all, concussions – and much worse – were no doubt commonplace many hundreds of years ago when our British ancestors first carried the pig skin “through town and village streets over fields, hedges and streams” (see “History of Rugby Football“)
(Even fewer would have pre-empted the need to address concussion in professional female rugby competitions 😉 – if you ‘missed’ the ‘joke’, it is a reference to the rapid progress on gender equality in rugby codes undoubtedly taking many by surprise.)
The point is that when society recognises that something must be corrected, especially with the threat of huge financial if not societal imposts in capitalist societies, then change can happen very swiftly so that many find it difficult to believe that conditions were ever any other way.
Moreover, any organisation that fails to recognise the significance of the change may find itself a victim of ‘creative destruction’, or more accurately the ‘invisible hand’ gently guided by good governance aimed at better outcomes for the human beings that make up our societies.
What makes me so certain of this bold statement?
I am close with 3 individuals whose mental health in recent years has been very severely impacted by their careers, or more specifically their relationships within their workplaces, and most significantly with their managers. After all, organisational culture forms from the cumulative actions of many individual human beings.
Now three people does not sound like a lot, I accept, but I have to be clear that this is a very high proportion of my closest social contacts. In our adult lives together my wife and I knew we were not the type of people who wanted to spread ourselves thinly spending time and energy socialising with large numbers of acquaintances. Instead we preferred to connect deeply with a few special people who deserve our love and full attention, and that has been especially the case as we raised our family, and even more so in recent years as stresses have taken a toll on our energy reserves and resilience.
Friendship is a privilege that is earned and re-earned through empathy and selfless giving, and it is never taken for granted. And deep connection of the type that nourishes the soul is only possible between two higher-order beings (I did not want to exclude the vital connection some humans feel with their companion animals).
These three people are all authentic, compassionate, highly intelligent and accomplished people. All reside now in Australia but were born overseas, two in developing nations (and are people of colour), and one is a female.
I worry for each one of them because I know the toll that these stresses have had on their mental health. All of them have hung on for prolonged periods in these toxic conditions in the hope that key personnel changes might alleviate the situation. They each perceive themselves as vulnerable, in my view accurately, for at least one reason. Though not a trained psychologist, I fear that the threat to their psychological safety that all have experienced will have lasting impacts as well as to those nearest to them.
I am certain that in the situations that have been described to me, my close connections are not the only people in these toxic situations that are suffering. I know that their colleagues are also suffering working under the same conditions. And I am certain that even the aggressive and/or bullying managers are hurting and that must be affecting their own mental health as well as those closest to them.
What these close connections of mine describe is a workplace culture that is so toxic that survival strategies are necessary for all. Those who are authentic face the metaphorical equivalent of hitting their heads against concrete and we all have a breaking point in such situations. The danger is that perspective is lost so that these authentic human beings become trapped, almost institutionalised (as do long term prisoners), and Australia’s high personal debt levels make people more vulnerable and susceptible to this.
It must be acknowledged, however, that financial vulnerability is commonplace throughout the developed world as well as the developing, and it has increased in recent decades in many modern societies through extremely high personal debt levels or where lower and middle-class incomes have not nearly matched those of the elites.
Less authentic individuals compromise their integrity inside the workplace culture believing – from observed and learned experience – that it is the only way to succeed. Those same individuals within fairer, more compassionate workplace cultures would likely have chosen a better path.
Ultimately those who succeed, perhaps more accurately are perceived to succeed, in toxic workplaces do so at a cost to their mental health because many know that they have come to view treating people poorly as acceptable. After all, no parent teaches their child to behave with psychopathic/sociopathic traits, instead what is taught to children typically is co-operative, ideal (what ultra conservatives might describe as idealistic) sharing and caring behaviours, even if much less ideal behaviour may be role modelled to their children as parents have ‘carried’ their work stress with them into broader society for example at sporting events, in supermarkets, or when behind the wheel of their car.
Early in the pandemic I recognised that elites in society would want everything to return as near as possible to pre-pandemic conditions as soon as possible as they wanted to reinforce the privilege to which they had grown accustomed in the system that had favoured them so greatly (see “What Really Scares The Global Elite“). I also understood that everyday people, off the hamster wheel even for a brief period, would reflect on their existence and may decide that it is falling short on what they had hoped for or perhaps even expected in societies that relentlessly promote hard work and ‘side hustles’ to grease a cycle of material accumulation and ever-growing aspiration.
As lockdowns wore on people, in both nations that followed an elimination or heavy suppression strategy and those that balked at strong measures only to find them necessary to prevent the total breakdown of their health systems, we heard much about growing mental health concerns as if this were caused solely by lockdowns. I do not minimise the social anguish that minimalised human connection caused, but I do suggest that there was much more to it.
I believe that many saw a binary nature to the situation, the only problem being that neither option was all that fulfilling let alone enriching to them.
A life isolated to a dwelling is sustainable only for a period, but how much room to grow into the person that they wanted to be was available to them before the pandemic?
So we entered the Great Reset era, and others recognised the ‘Great Resignation’ which many elites have sort to trivialise, minimalise or outright dismiss as a normal delayed rotation ever since the phrase was first uttered. Again this an attempt to influence perceptions amongst society to take things back as close as possible to how things were pre-pandemic.
Is it really a surprise that individuals and families, especially in urban areas (with less opportunity or access to resources for self-sufficiency), require an income (usually incomes) to survive and/or pay down high levels of personal debt, and thus sort another job after resigning?
Is that a triumph for contemporary extreme capitalism? I think not.
Those who wish to see that as part of a normal rotation, I say fine, let them believe that, or at least let them publicly express that as being their belief.
Those who lead organisations and reject the message that many are sending place their organisations at risk of obsolescence or outright failure. What is more, a recent Bloomberg article found that the largest number of CEOs, themselves, left their (US) posts between January and May 2022 since records began in 2002 (see “The West Is Facing a Followership Crisis“). And of course Sheryl Sandberg, one of the most ‘successful’ and influential female corporate leaders as Facebook COO and former Google executive, and the author of “Lean In”, was one of the most famous adopters of the Great Resignation.
It is clearly a case of needing to observe actions rather than be influenced by meaningless words.
Workplaces in the Great Reset era
A manager is a human being who manages at least one other human being at work.
Already there are AI robots that are hiring and firing human beings. And a human being does not ‘manage’ robots or software – these roles have been around a long time and they are described as that of programmers and technicians.
In many ways it is irrelevant how technically competent somebody is – if they are not capable of connection, compassion and kindness, then they are not capable of being a manager.
Good managers select quality team members to carry out technical aspects of workflows.
Every human being has stresses and concerns in their normal lives – their children, parents, other personal relationships, health, their pets, etc, etc.
In every single interaction we as human beings have with another human being we need to have this in mind, and that is especially the case with people whom we interact with on a regular, often daily, basis.
If we do not, and we see other human beings purely on a transactional basis, in terms of workflows or tasks that are being performed ultimately for our benefit, then we are treating each other as if we are all machines.
Generally the current crop of managers that have been selected through the extreme capitalist system see subordinates’ problems purely in terms of impacts on them – how they will achieve their own KPIs or otherwise impress superiors when this person is not ‘leaning in’ to the workload that has been allocated for them.
Clearly such an environment is not conducive to bringing the best out of every individual working within that organisation. In fact, such a culture is dehumanising and antithetical to individual development and achievement.
Rather than being a warm and fuzzy concept of a future utopia where nobody is ever mean to another person, as in the movie “Demolition Man” with Sandra Bullock and Sylvester Stallone, it should be clear that as well as beneficial to broader society, workplaces with healthy, compassionate cultures are organisations which are set free to maximise their potential by allowing their true greatest asset – their people – to be the best they can be.
And the culture I refer to does not involve sitting in a circle and singing songs, religious or otherwise. Of course if there are groups that want to do that, it should be respected. But inclusion is recognising, respecting and embracing diversity.
What matters most is the authenticity of the compassion we show each other.
The pendulum swung far
I recently viewed an interview on Bloomberg Television with Bernard Loonie, CEO of BP, where he discussed the workplace culture he fostered. What Loonie said superficially sounded promising and progressive, but after stating the compassion ‘credentials’ of that culture, he felt the need to assert that this culture does not preclude difficult discussions about performance.
Well of course it does not, but the fact that Loonie felt the need to be explicit in this shows that this frame of reference is coming from someone who is concerned about appearing ‘too soft’ – or ‘insufficiently dominating’ – to certain factions of stakeholders, presumably within the investor community.
Every human being searches for meaning in their lives. We all want to believe that what we do matters. When it comes to paid employment, what we do is very important to us because in our current lives it still consumes the majority of quality energy and time of our lives, and that is why ‘what we do’ is so critical to our identities.
Therefore, dissatisfied employees is nearly always a failure of leadership and management, even though self-interested and egocentric managers often blame ‘lazy’ subordinates for ‘underperformance’.
Managers’ perceptions of ‘under’ performance are thus related to unmet expectations of those managers through either ‘over’ expectation or a mismatch between the worker and the role. Of course there are many reasons, relating to both managers and workers, on why a mismatch might occur. However, when there are issues on the worker’s side then the most compassionate course that a manager can take with them is to counsel empathetically to unearth whether the mismatch can be resolved or whether the best course of action for their wellbeing is to move on to another role.
Now I know that a lot of current managers will read the above and say something like “I don’t have the time to hold the hands of my subordinates and treat them like children”. Any manager who had those thoughts should perhaps devote some reflecting time on whether they are mismatched in their own role. The reason for why I expect a lot of current managers, both male and female, and even potentially those of diverse genders, will be of this opinion is because they have been selected through a long history of “imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy” workplace cultures in which “denomination is the organising principle” which has only become more extreme since bell hooks first began to use those words (as in “The Will To Change: Men, masculinity, and love” which I read recently – I must confess that I was only introduced to the writing of bell hooks after her passing).
The problem within organisations over recent history has been how to reward those who are technically very competent but are not necessarily passionate about managing others. The easy answer to retaining these technicians, to justify promotion and higher salaries, has been to promote them into managerial positions in spite of their lack of proven competence at managing or even relating with people. Higher managerial remuneration itself is acknowledgement that those with a genuine capacity to manage others is a high value add to organisations. However, promotion into management due to technical competence without competence or passion for developing personal relationships is a sure fire way towards value destruction, and ultimate disillusionment of subordinates and the manager, themselves.
Again, what ‘we do’ has been critical to our identity and self-esteem, and even a superficially impressive job title does not compensate for the truth that all individuals know whether or not they are doing that job well.
While the damage to the organisation is significant, the damage to individuals – and thus society – is even more important to consider as the impacts may be extreme. Recently I read about a man with a young family who became ‘locked in’ from work stress, entirely unresponsive to those nearest him, and thus depriving him of almost all of his quality of life.
Amongst my personal connections I have personally witnessed chronic decaying of personal wellbeing in the form of mental health deterioration expressed in work-related nightmares, depression with bouts of extreme depression, physical cramping, feelings of helplessness and catastrophising, isolation and disengaged/disconnection from loved ones and support networks, loss of self esteem, loss of energy to perform normal daily and personal tasks, and general reduction in capacity and decision-making. Another connection has spoken of altered personality including yelling at colleagues and atypical irritability with loved ones. Perhaps the most concerning connection is the one who is reserved about how they are feeling when the stress and pain is obvious when looking into their eyes.
I must also be clear that rather than worsening the situation, the at first forced, now desired, separation from the workplace through working from home initiated early in the pandemic has had a positive impact on my connections, generally. Certainly in the case of one of my connections it prevented an acute period of trauma from resulting in a nervous breakdown. Still for each connection it is true that even certain names at the header of an email, or flashing up on screen for an incoming telephone call, is enough to retraumatise them and send adrenaline coursing through their bodies as their autonomic fight or flight response is activated.
“I’ve seen the trauma and the damage done, a little part of it in everyone; but every toxic workplace is like a setting sun”*
Workplace safety is said to be paramount in all contemporary workplaces. Yet the resistance by many leadership teams towards attempting to genuinely address psychological safety in workplaces exposes the reality of the triumph of lip-service over substantive action.
There is no doubt that every mention of toxic workplaces in the press must elicit Pavlovian responses in the major injury law firms and it is a virtual certainty that background work is already in progress. Group actions will provide a safer avenue for redress for many victims of toxic workplaces.
Once there is a major win, there will be an avalanche of collective claims.
Moreover, the option to join a group claim will be a relief for many victims as the stress of individually standing up to bullying is so much more intense, let alone the retraumatisation inherent in prosecuting a case, with the added prospect of judgement by external parties, surely prevents the majority of victims from taking individual action. Most who manage to gather sufficient courage and strength to move away from the toxic environment surely spend the majority of their reserves in doing so, and wish to move on with their lives and not risk prolonging injury and impacts from retraumatisation involved with taking further action including legal action.
Those who have found the courage to stand alone are rare, impressive human beings who deserve all of our respect, support and love. One need only consider the extreme stress under which the brave women in Australia who stood up to blow the whistle on toxic workplaces in parliament house – Brittany Higgins and Rochelle Miller – and in Australia’s resources industry.
These brave individuals surely are massively outnumbered by the silent victims. However, just as the #metoo movement encouraged other brave individuals to come forth and discuss their pain, class actions involving very large numbers of victims will encourage many to stand collectively and expose wrong-doings.
Of course, those wrong-doings affect not only those directly exposed to the behaviours but impact others dependent on and closely connected with the primary victims.
In October 2021 Tesla was ordered to pay a 12 figure sum as compensation to an employee who was subjected to a racially hostile environment for under one year (see “Tesla must pay $137m to racially harassed former worker“). Although that figure was reduced subsequently to an 11 figure sum – which the former employee, given two weeks to accept, has rejected – it is clear that potential liabilities from toxic workplaces are more than ‘material’.
Conservative futurism – now there’s an oxymoron!
I cannot leave this discussion without a brief mention of Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, who is thought of by some as one of the most important contemporary futurists. While the progress of teams working on the energy transition and space industries – which themselves seem at odds to me – under his leadership is clearly impressive, his own views expressed sometimes hint at a deep vein of conservatism. Or was it just propitious at that moment, when his move on Twitter was still in the works, to appeal to conservatives at that point in the political cycle?
Musk’s recent forceful comments supporting presenteeism – stating that Tesla employees not prepared to be present in the office on a full time basis should look for work with another organisation – is hardly befitting of a leader of people in the new Great Reset era. Either Musk entirely misunderstands the future that workers are articulating, or he intentionally aims to subvert their desires for greater work flexibility because it is antithetical to his own views and perceptions of what is best to achieve his own aspirations.
Moreover, with much recent discussion of digital surveillance to enforce presenteeism even when working from home, I certainly hope that workers take the opportunity to consider who might be better employers. For example, Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar took the opportunity to respond to Mr. Musk and highlight his flexible work conditions philosophy.
In my view, the Tesla founder has shown himself to be a very ‘conservative futurist’.
A futurist from 100 years ago by the name of Henry Ford had a far better understanding that what was good for his workers was best for him when he instituted the 48 hour work week which he further reduced to 40 hours shortly afterwards (see “Labor Day: During FDR’s New Deal, America debated between a 30-hour and 40-hour workweek“). It is truly amazing to think how little progress has been made in this important aspect of society in the intervening century!
Feedback channels in workplaces
Any genuine attempt to address workplace culture must involve feedback channels that operate with the aim of protecting worker psychological safety rather than acting as an information gathering exercise to protect the organisation from reputational or legal liability.
Another aspect worthy of consideration is how there can be feedback channels broader than employees directly, especially for support networks when they are aware that their loved one’s managers are the cause of the toxic environment.
I have even heard an ‘urban legend’ story of a partner who became so concerned for the mental health of their partner that they sent a book on Asian prejudice in Australia to the CEO of a huge multinational because they knew, from what their partner had shared with them, that no local executive was able to look beyond their own self-interest and had little concept of inclusion. Back-channel communication then alerted the CEO to the toxic work environment in their Australian ‘outpost’.
Not everyone has that level of chutzpah to write to a CEO, and not every CEO would be open-minded enough to listen. So there must be easily accessible channels for loved-ones to mention their concerns so that organisations abide by their duty of care to their employees.
There also needs to be thought given to how to care for those without strong support networks, including those who ostensibly appear well supported with families, an increasing issue as two-income families deal with the pressures from maintaining two stressful careers.
This is a global issue
It has always been my belief that all of this holds internationally, and there have been mentions of the Great Resignation in most western media. In China a related phenomenon is referred to as “lying flat“.
Recently through the privilege of joining with an international community (of local Italians and European ex-pats) I have made new connections and those, too, have similarly struggled. One quit due to stress-related health issues after a 30+ year career in what many would have perceived as significant success in a ‘dream job’. Colleagues even rang them in hospital while they were being treated for these issues asking for more work-related tasks to be performed. Another connection quit while on vacation out of utter frustration that colleagues were calling them frequently for work-related assistance.
This also shows how modern ubiquitous communication has broken down barriers that naturally separated work and personal lives, and desensitised colleagues to the desirability, if not need, for such separation.
One of my closest connections in recent years supported colleagues on parental leave by taking on their duties for extended periods. Although my connection was not fortunate to have benefitted from such support themselves in their own career, they enforced a strong separation ethic so that the family was able to maximise their bonding through this special period, and never contacted them for assistance. There are always ways to achieve the necessary outcome as long as the colleague is prepared to take the extra care and time to respect the separation rather than taking the easiest option of contacting their colleague and intruding on their personal time.
A pendulum has greatest potential energy at its extreme
Burnout has long been recognised as a serious issue in workplace cultures. It is important to define burnout as mental exhaustion, not just from the quantity of work expected of someone, but also from the quality of work tasks which must be performed, and any additional stresses from workplace culture. Increasingly it is understood that minoritised people expend much emotional energy just proving that they belong or deserve a place in many workplaces.
Early in the Great Reset era, the Great Resignation is proving that burnout is an issue that can no longer be ignored because it has become so widespread that it must be a serious consideration for organisations, and because it has such serious impacts on individuals.
Again, workplace culture is the environment created by past and present employees of organisations. It is a result of behaviours by human beings.
As a fan of the television show “Survivor” I am often taken by how many cast members state that on the show they behave in a manner which they never would in their ‘normal lives’. Through the evolution of the show, however, it has increasingly become ‘acceptable’, even respected by other contestants and fans, to use stronger and stronger psychological manipulation to achieve one’s goal of progressing in the game ahead of others. It is difficult to ascertain whether this is reflective of change in society which has become more accepting of such behaviours, whether contestants are increasingly less concerned about post-airing perceptions (in the age of increased scrutiny and public discussion through social media with very binary outcomes of either fandom or infamy), or whether such television shows are both reflecting and influencing these changes.
What is particularly interesting with “Survivor” is how its creators are so obviously embracing many of the themes of the Great Reset era of diversity and inclusion, and ultimately compassion and caring, and how that plays out against these other trends will be fascinating to view as the Great Reset era progresses. The societal ‘discussion’ is certainly obvious in the social media feeds for the show!
In my essay “How Society Will Change If A COVID-19 Vaccine Is Elusive” published 9 July 2020 at MacroEdgo.com I said:
“The Great Reset… has already begun and it is irreversible. High quality, effective leadership will nurture it so that the best outcomes are realised to the benefit of humanity. Scoundrels will try to harness it to bend society to a more warped and less inclusive version. We all must show leadership and engage with the process to achieve the best outcome for ourselves and those we love, and those who succeed us. And we should all prepare to be flexible and supple in thought to make the best decisions that we can with the information that we have as we emerge from the shock of our altered existence and as our future comes into clearer focus.”
I think everyone now can agree that there is a very obvious and intense competition to set the agenda in the post-COVID world as I foresaw before most understood that we were entering the first truly global pandemic in a century. Perhaps the timing was opportune for American conservatives in that the most backward-looking of all recent politicians was the American President at the time. Yet his actions (and inactions, especially in responding without urgency to the pandemic) only served to enforce for many people around the globe all that is wrong with conservatism and the extreme capitalist system they supported and which played a role in bringing Trump to power (interestingly that final link may be faltering as Trumpist ideological messages fit better with less well educated and thus less wealthy voters than the powerful, wealthy business interests).
I am not as pessimistic as many may be following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade which was certainly a blow to female rights and thus progressivism. In my own country our recent Federal election was a choice between a self-described bulldozer (i.e. a dominating male of my own generation, Gen X) and an obviously more caring candidate who is an inclusive team-builder. We chose the inclusive candidate and their first few weeks in Government have been a breath of fresh air that I believe all Australians have felt, none more so than Australian women and minoritised people!
The insurgency at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 and the overturning of Roe V Wade may give the appearance that the Conservatives are in the ascendency over societal progress. Indeed conservative members of the Supreme Court of the United States have stated that they aim to turn back other rights long enshrined in US law.
It is my view, however, that these are the final gasps of this period of aggressive conservatism. In fact, I suspect the haste to undo these laws is in many ways a sign that these extreme conservatives know that their time has passed.
Nonetheless, my warnings at the very start of the Great Reset era from March 2020 stand – if we want change then we must be prepared to act with enduring commitment, and pacifism I might add for clarity, because in human history privilege has never been ceded easily.
Earlier I quoted a passage from “The Will To Change: Men, masculinity, and love” by bell hooks. In the same title bell hooks tells us:
“Men who make a lot of money in this society and who are not independently wealthy usually work long hours, spending much of their time away from the company of loved ones. This is one circumstance they share with men who do not make much money but who also work long hours. Work stands in the way of love for most men then because the long hours they work often drain their energies; there is little or no time left for emotional labour, for doing the work of love. The conflict between finding time for work and finding time for love and love ones is rarely talked about in our nation [America]. It is simply assumed in patriarchal culture that men should be willing to sacrifice meaningful emotional connections to get the job done. No one has really tried to examine what men feel about the loss of time with children, partners, loved ones, and the loss of time for self-development. The workers Susan Faludi highlights in ‘Stiffed’ do not express concern about not having enough time for self reflection and emotional connection with self and others.”
“As women have gained the right to be patriarchal men in drag, women are engaging in acts of violence similar to those of their male counterparts. This serves to remind us that the will to use violence is really not linked to biology but a set of expectations about the nature of power in a dominator culture”.
This is essentially a restatement of the arguments I am making within this essay, that work in our extreme capitalist system is dehumanising, but since contemporary women are almost as likely to be working as hard in paid employment, and surveys show even harder relative to men at unpaid work (especially during the acute phases of the COVID-19 pandemic), all genders are struggling with these issues and are prone to these behaviours as a consequence of working within dominator workplaces.
Consequently, all are vulnerable to severe impacts from these toxic work environments which worsened through the era of extreme capitalism.
The right wing political ideology surrounding individualism and aspiration was articulated on “7.30” (on ABC Television) by former Australian treasurer and Ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, as the ‘novel coronavirus’ was spreading globally in February 2020 unappreciated by most. When justifying the fall in ministerial standards during the new millennium, and the lack of leadership shown by Governments, Hockey said that it was now all about the individual, that “we all believe that individuals should be their best”. However, because that is also wrapped around the right wing ideology of aspiration, in our extreme capitalist system what is really being encouraged is self-interest, greed and never-quenched desire for ‘more’ of everything.
This is the nature of individualism in extreme capitalism and it goes hand in hand with domination of others.
Hockey is correct in that the individual must be the basis of our society, but it must be because our society recognises the value in each and every individual, and that we each are at our best as individuals when we care for each other and our collective societies, and especially our global village.
Some final words…
As I said at the beginning, I am not pushing for views or subscriptions to monetise my ideas and opinions. I do have a gofundme page, but it’s yet to receive a deposit, even though I am well aware that I influenced money managers and many others who passed themselves off early in the pandemic as all-seeing and knowing, never acknowledging the stay at home Dad in Brisbane that shook them out of their entrenched dissonance (for example, see comments from 6 Feb 2020 on this article, and in my comments on “The Conversation” site from 20 Feb 2020 and there again a week later when the views that I expressed ultimately formed the basis of Australia’s policy response rather than those expressed in the article by the politically well-connected authors).
My influence led to changed and saved lives, and no award or reward could ever match the satisfaction and pride I feel for the role I have played.
Progress is achieved with humility, compassion, determination, and clear-eyed thinking, not self-interest and slavish devotion to a mythical present or near past.
I understand that it might be seen as absurd that an unknown keyboard diplomat in the suburbs of Brisbane – a nobody stay at home Dad – could be such an ‘upstart’ as to tell everyone that there is a better path to follow to a better life for all. But I am certain in my discernment and in my written words, and more importantly, I trust my ideas will outlast all of us. What is important is that you spread those words, and if not the words, at least the ideas. And that you, yourself, live them to make your existence better, positively impacting those closest with you, and ultimately making humanity the best we all can be and securing a sustainable planet.
Written with love and in unity
I must close with a confession. None of my connections know of this piece and this has been a moral quandary for me. I know that there is retraumatisation for them involved in reading and even acknowledging trauma has occurred, and I wished to spare them that. This guilt is a burden I must bare alone. While it is true that my close connections will recognise themselves in a few key passages, it is also true that very many others will recognise themselves – that is the major point of the article. I have faith that my close connections will trust in my love for them and in my intention to do good for them, for those we and they love, and for all of humanity.
I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round, I really love to watch them roll.
No longer riding on the merry-go-round, I just had to let it go
Lyrics by John Lennon to “Watching the Wheels”
For more of my writing on this topic I recommend first reading “Full Thoughts On Prof. Michael Sandel’s Meritocracy Discourse: Part 2“
Most of my writing at MacroEdgo.com relates to the Great Reset era, but the following essays are specifically from my The Great Reset series (in chronological order)
* An adaption of lyrics by Neil Young from “The Needle And The Damage Done”
This essay was initially posted on LinkedIn 13 July 2022
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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2022