The interesting thing about the societally-created need to “make money” in exchange for shelter, food, warmth etc. is that most of us never really get a chance to stop and rest and question what any of it is for.
In some ways this is the tragedy of modern civilisation. But other times I can’t help but see it as a blessing because I’m forced to get up, show up and keep producing value for the world, in order to quite literally survive. But what is really going on here? Isn’t it worth questioning?
The need to make money within a market-driven economy has been an evolutionary catalyst, that’s for sure. Our exponential development in the last 100 years as correlated with free-market capitalism is no coincidence. But this same economy is undeniably at the root of the human-caused mass extinction we’re in the midst of, yet hardly able to comprehend.
When we have to fight each other to survive, not literally in battle but in being the “best” in order to get the work to make the money to survive, we have very little time to be compassionate, altruistic or forward thinking. We’re entrenched in culture of competitive individualism. The rules are approximately “do or die”.
At one point, western civilisation was interested in creating liveable societies where everybody had a role and everybody was supported. My own grandfather can remember when there was zero unemployment in New Zealand, for example. Not to mention when everybody could buy a bit of land and all your material needs and possessions were produced locally.
Neoliberalism (the political term for the economic era we’ve been in since the fifties, broadly defined by the global post-war re-structuring of the economy toward competitive markets which saw the rise of the central banking, international trading and interest-bound credit lending on a mass scale) hit the middle class particularly hard. Unlike members of the upper class, who can amass wealth simply by manipulating their portfolio of investments, everyone else has do it through work.
The middle class has been split into the “winners” who made it by some stroke of luck or sheer determination into the upper echelons, and everybody else who had no choice but to become working class cogs in the machine that feeds the top, never getting the chance to realise their own potential, or give up and live off meagre social benefits or worse. Gone are the days where ideas such as equality, participatory democracy, unionism and the public good hold any value should they get in the way of ones ride to the top of the economic food chain.
The internet and particularly social media has allowed a new kind of parallel economy or marketplace to flourish. One that has very little regulation and is almost a new, digital “wild west” for the enterprising. Online coaching and consulting has become a phenomenon and many people are vying for the spotlight by promising a new way of “making it” for those who struggled in the “old paradigm”.
It’s a chance for the middle class to find significance again, but we’re quickly recreating the conditions that we’ve come from. It may be hard to imagine an alternative, but if we hold the same values of competition and individualism and employ the same tactics such as fomo-marketing or scarcity mindset then we’re hardly contributing to a new paradigm at all.
We have an incredible opportunity here, but what we do with it could be the deciding factor in whether or not the human species survives the 21st century.
It’s up to us to think about not how can my enterprise increase my own finances and visibility (read: power and influence) but rather what can I do that will directly contribute to the world around me in a positive way?
How can I empower the disempowered? Elevate the disenfranchised? Does my business directly contribute to restoring the physical environment, supporting local initiatives, or improving social conditions? How can I start in my own back yard before concerning myself with “going global”?
It’s time to burst the bubble and get real about what is going on around us. Educate ourselves on history, economics and politics and be mindful about which systems we’re inadvertently recreating or perpetuating. Note the parallels and trends and decide how we want it to turn out.
It may not be obvious but we’re in early stages of a revolution. Via the social media market place we’re determining the conditions of our own lives now. Just as parliaments eventually outgrew the monarchies across Europe in the eighteenth century, we, the digital people, are outgrowing centralised governance and doing things our own way.
We’re at the dawn of a new era. But what kind of world do we want to create on the other side? We have the power and responsibility to choose now.
– Gabrielle Dawn