Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall – when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”
Tom Friedman’s editorial this weekend may be an historic on. He suggest that the financial crash of 2008 is more than a correction in the market – that it may be the end of the consumer – corporate – market society.
That nature is catching up with our mad idea that we could have infinite growth and that we could find “happiness” in stuff. Most importantly that we could have a business model based on only one thing – shareholder value where all the main costs are externalized to society.
If he is right, then all our business models based on scarcity, centralization and scale are wrong. For they serve only the elite and not the larger pool of people and the planet. This is not a moral issue. Nature does not care about moral issues. But she does punish those that break her laws. If we allow them to persist, they will take us all down.
Although things could get worse, they will get better. They HAVE to. I have faith in human resilience and in our ability to tack and re-tack within the chaotic conditions we are in. In some ways I see all this as a correction in what was an artificial inflated economy fueled by greed. Greed not just among the ‘producers’ but equally among the ‘consumers’ constantly desiring bigger better more. The networked economy might have shifted some of the power and balance away from the ‘producers’, but it has not made us much happier given the mess we are in today.
Perhaps we need to redefine how we measure success and happiness. It’s a good starting point. We have been taught and have learned to make a direct correlation between financial success and happiness. And between financial success and growth. We don’t like to admit this upfront, and we often use “I will have greater options” as the explanation for desiring more money. I do it too.
This is faulty. My hope is that one of the fall-outs of this terrible crisis is that we learn not to measure success by networth of an individual. We need to stop giving away our own power by deifying those we perceive as successful, because they have x million dollars. Nature has a much more multi-dimensional model of growth, unlike our one-dimensional artificially constructed model of bigger better more.
All this might sound a bit rhetorical, then maybe I am naive. Still, my hope is that after the immediate damage-control, wealth gets more equitably distributed as a result of wresting away the power that we have for so many years imbued in our present construct of financial success, and that we can embrace different ways of growing.
Are we brave enough to learn afresh and make a new pledge?