December 25, 2018
As we approach 2019, the world finds itself as if on a swing, but the ride is not of the soothing kind, with birds chirping around us tenderly as we enjoy the pleasant, balanced movement from side to side. Rather, we’re like a kid on a swing that lost its balance and we don’t know how to get off — socially and economically.
France has seen its worst and most violent riots in 50 years which have begun to spread to other countries, demonstrating the potential for a “European Spring.” A staggering 80% of U.S. workers report living from paycheck to paycheck, while their government was just shut down for an unknown period of time. Stock markets around the globe had the worst December in decades, and the International Monetary Fund made a pessimistic forecast of a global slowdown.
To enjoy a pleasant ride on a swing, two opposite forces should be swinging us equally from both directions. What is taking our swing further and further out of balance?
Until the early 1990s, the world was swinging between two opposite forces. Russia wanted to prove its power and success to the world with its communist regime, which acted as a counterbalance towards the U.S. and Europe. There was an underlying incentive for capitalist regimes to be as successful as possible, which also meant they had to work better for everyone.
Indeed, 30 and even 40 years ago, owning a house and a car was more achievable for U.S. workers than it is today. Paradoxically, U.S. living wages have stagnated for the last few decades while workers’ productivity has been continuously rising. Where did all the profits go? The rich have become exponentially richer.
As Soviet Russia collapsed, along with its communist hopes, there was no longer a force that would balance the ambitions of capitalism. In parallel, by way of nature, human egoism continued to grow and evolve to a higher level. As a result, today’s capitalism is dramatically different than what it was 30 years ago, and economic inequality has reached epic proportions.
In the midst of this extremity came Donald Trump, who identified the trend and was able to strike a chord with millions of Americans who felt discouraged and dispossessed from the little that they had. Trump won the presidency with a declared goal to “drain the swamp” and fight the bankers and Wall Street folks who make money from money while the majority of the public is struggling.
What’s more, Trump is working to minimize America’s sensitivity to global fluctuations by limiting connections with other countries, whether it’s through a trade war with China, raising tariffs, not cooperating with the EU and the G20 forum, and even his latest move of pulling out of Syria.
However, another force is shaping up to be the ultimate counterbalance in the current state of affairs, and that is the inescapable reality of global interdependence. If things in Europe, for instance, continue to escalate towards an economic crisis, the world will plunge into a crisis as well. In addition, most industries today have become very sensitive to borders, relying on the free movement of capital, materials, knowledge and workforce. Virtually all countries today are linked through import and export.
In other words, the world has become a globally interdependent economy, and by extension, a global society. This interdependence is a force of nature, growing stronger and tighter without our notice. If this force hits us in the face, we will experience a global economic crisis that will throw us harshly off the swing.
However, while we are still on the swing, we have an opportunity to balance it of our own accord. To do that, we cannot stop the human ego from growing, nor can we stop the growing interdependence. Rather, we have to educate ourselves about our connected world and change our values accordingly. This means that all people — from the tycoons to the protesters — have to go through a change of consciousness and recognize that our futures are inevitably connected.
When we upgrade the level of human connection, we will begin to see how to change the socioeconomic paradigm as well. Two opposite forces must be present to maintain balance. Therefore, my hope for 2019 is that we start a massive, global educational program, so that we can balance the growing ego with positive human connection. Then, we could aim for a pleasant ride on the swing.