Absolutism is killing us
As a society we are stuck, unable to think beyond a binary left or right, climate change, not climate change. Trump’s election last year was due to our inability to extend our thinking beyond these small boundaries. Trump is what happens when you run out of ideas and believe that a disruptor will enable change. Its clear that all we will get is confusion, chaos and the Steve Bannon handbook on how to disrupt government, which will be ineffectual.
Brexit in the UK is similar in terms that getting rid of the EU will also mean addressing the real world problems of those that are left behind.
By not tackling wealth inequality and the technology deficit of those whose lives have been overtaken by both of these events, we will miss the point of either of these results.
In his 1991 book Edward De Bono said “The most powerful case for the value of argument as a thinking method is that it encourages the motivated exploration of a subject. Without the personal gratification or argument (win/lose, aggression, cleverness, point-scoring) there might be little motivation to explore the subject.” Argument and discourse in the right context are two main features proposed by Habermas for building consensus.
The reaction since our crisis happened has been straight of the Rome handbook. Punishment has not been a decet of the rosary but Austerity. This was accepted because we feel that Christian guilt overhang to atone for our sins during the stupidity, even though we maintain that for most of us it’s gone. Our media presents a steady as she goes, keep the recovery going approach. Our banks are still largely broke, both fiscally and morally. We challenge nothing go from crisis to crisis and seem to learn nothing.
Flexibility and acceptance of change are the cornerstone approaches to the 21st century. Mass migration and climate change will have a massive impact. I personally think the media are much to blame here for the binary nature of their presentation and therefore the reductive nature of the debating process. Instead of making people think of solutions or been innovative, we are constantly turned off by dogma and by infantile debate that sinks to the level of schoolyard children.
Norah Ephron said something rather interesting; that failure means you can fail again. Maybe but how can we learn from failure if we can’t get past dogmas either right or left and their inherent weaknesses. Public v Private, The Market will provide a solution bullshit. The failings of all of these tenets of society mean we are hamstrung. Simple things like our transport system, it is either a public service, meaning non-profit making or for profit and we treat it as such. Market capitalism left unfettered gives you NAMA presenting vulture funds vast profits and creating the resulting terrible housing crisis.
Whatever the rights or wrongs of the property crash at some stage you have to rebuild and bankrupting good developers for its own sake means we are finding it difficult to build the number of homes we now need. Funding a health services needs private capital as it caters for more and more people, but also does not need its role as a public service undermined.
Ordoliberalism is the basis on which the Germans run their economy. Ordoliberals promote the concept of the social market economy, and this concept promotes a strong role for the state with respect to the market, which is in many ways different from the ideas that are nowadays connected with the term neoliberalism.
They are not afraid to structure a market in a way that benefits wider society. Indeed governments will need to be a lot more interventionist in terms of how they operate. The GIG economy will bring about a huge cultural shift with more periods of time out of work for many. The introduction of the living wage in places like Canada or the universal social wage in Finland, shows the way ahead and means the uncertainty created by our current out-dated thinking will improve the lives of people in a meaningful way.
We will need all the tools of innovation, technology and creativity and flexibility to make this most difficult of centuries work. The time for Absolutism is finished and the time for inclusive thinking and solution solving is asking us to face head on our challenges to progress.