Who will save us?

Spoiler: It won’t be the bell.

Sometimes, everything seems to be on fire. Literally, as with the fires in Australia, Brazil and California, but also figuratively, with the global pandemic, climate change and violent conflicts everywhere. Who, or what, will save us from all of this?

Option 1: Technology

The idea is simple: With future technology, we may be able to maintain our first-world lifestyle, expand it even, while avoiding the long list of negative externalities this lifestyle so far causes.

To a certain degree this is definitely true, particularly when it comes to energy generation and resource extraction. Unfortunately, technology also exponentially increases our destructive potential, for example. through weapons of war.

The principle of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) may have saved us during the cold war, but it may not do so in the future – especially in the realm of cyber warfare. Ultimately, technology does hold a lot of potential. But this potential goes in every direction, and so it doesn’t hold up as a savior to count on.

Option 2: Economics

Good luck with that informed purchasing decision.

The core claim of capitalism is that if we leave the economy alone, everything will sort itself out. People will only buy what they believe in, so only good products and companies survive while the bad ones disappear. This is 100% true.

But this does not mean that it can save us from the challenges of our time. While growth and wealth creation are powerful factors in preventing conflicts and increasing well-being, the question is: How do we define “good”?

To most of us, “good” means convenient, without any regard for negative externalities that do not affect us with absolute immediacy – also because there is simply no time to exhaustively research everything we buy.

But even if we try to include social, ecological, and other factors in our purchasing decisions, the absence of regulations enforces moral hazard. I say ”enforce”, because higher standards are expensive, and if there is no requirement to abide by them then doing so anyway will diminish a market player’s competitive advantage and simply push that player out of the market. Especially if that player could simply lie instead.

So, regulations are needed for economics to be a viable solution, but for these rules to be effective they need to be established outside of economics itself – which means economics cannot be the answer.

Option 3: Politics

“Are we in agreement?”

Politics gets a bad rep these days, and for good reason. But it is important to remember that politics is what we do to find a consensus in society on every level. Politics decide who gets power, where resources are invested and which direction we develop in.

At its best, politics makes sure that all interest groups are represented according to their significance and ensures that no part of society gets marginalized.

So far, democracy has proven to be the best way to achieve this type of politics. The only caveat here is that a functioning democracy requires transparency, education, and a functioning social system.

Transparency ensures all the information is out there, through education people are empowered to make informed choices and with a functioning social system, people are less susceptible to situations where they need to vote against their best interest.

But since no democracy is perfect, it is always under threat of populism, tribalism and a ton of other “-isms”. Because of this, politics always seems to turn into a race to the bottom eventually.

Option 4: Personal growth

Nothing says personal growth like a mountain-top sunrise.

All these options have the same root: Individuals.

Individuals come up with technology, build the economy and establish social systems and hierarchies. What do these individuals want? What are their goals and agendas and where do they come from?

To be fair, there are two types of individuals in this world. One is the type who is mainly concerned with survival, every day. Whether in slums or conflict zones around the world, most of us belong in this category.

The second type includes individuals like me, who have no reason to worry about survival and are thus free to spend their days worrying about different things. It is this type of individuals who decide how things go in the world. It is this type, whose desires shape the direction of technology, society, and the economy.

What do we do with that power? I say, we have a duty to use this power to look at ourselves. Who really are we? What do we really want? Only by doing this can we see through the superficialities of power and wealth, overcome our default settings as sophisticated apes and continue to evolve with, rather than against, life in the universe.

It is not easy, of course. There are millions of possible answers to these questions. Personal growth means not simply copying one of these answers, but finding our own – and saving ourselves in doing so.

As a note to end on, this is why Micah and I are doing what we do. The retreats, the tiny house, the online course I’ve had in my head for a while now – they are our answers to these questions. It just so happens that they include the ambition to hopefully inspire others to find their answers, too.

31 thoughts on “Who will save us?

  1. I remember being told that computers would connect the world in a way that we’d all learn more about each other and therefore care more about each other. Do better for all. Personal growth. Information was the key. Now, older and more cynical, I see corporate entities and governments nosing around in our lives, and things have gotten murky. I use my limited online influence for good, but realize not everyone does.

    Like

    1. Yes, it is not easy. Ironic how social networks are one of the main perpetrators in our divisions these days. But it seems as if you are definitely taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. I salute you for that, because it is not easy – but it is also one of the most powerful things anyone can do.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very good points there. In my opinion, you are doing a great job on yourself and to support/protect the community. From reading your posts, you do care about the world and are willing to do something about it, and to me, it is enough to go to sleep with a smile on your faces. Keep up the great work you are doing!

    Like

  3. Like Rebecca, I think that we can only control ourselves and be responsible for our own actions.
    Part of the ‘bigger’ problem is that in different parts of the world there are different ideas of what is the best way forward. A country that is ‘rich’ is going to see the future in a totally different way to a country that is ‘poor’. Even within the ‘rich’ or the ‘poor’ countries, there are different perceptions of the way ahead. My view (I’m 70) of the world is very different from my neighbour’s (they are in their 80’s) view of the world and REALLY different from my other neighbour who is in his 40’s. What’s that expression “We’re not singing from the same hymn sheet”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. True. And we would do good to recognize these differences, because I think there is a lot of value in them. Especially in the unique perspectives each of them offer. At the same time, though, which do you think outweighs the other: The different experiences we have had during our lifetimes, or our shared humanity?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I want to say ‘shared humanity’ but until the whole world population is on the same level playing field it would be difficult to imagine that happening. Also, that level playing field might only exist if different cultures don’t exist. Imagine a world where everyone was the same! Sorry! This all sounds very negative!

        Like

        1. Haha, you make a good point though! And I don’t think it would do to simply close our eyes to the complexities of this. Perhaps we can learn to appreciate the diversity and see it as the very reflection of our shared humanity?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I look at the Earth and see so many different trees and flowers and so many different animals in many different land and seascapes; they don’t all live in perfect ‘harmony’ they do co-exist in acceptance of each other.

            Like

  4. lol I’ve been meditating, doing retreats longer than you’ve been alive 🙂

    Also been living off grid in my tiny house … check it out under my sustainability category … don’t talk about it, DO IT ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your ideas here are very good, Markus. I too reflect on these things. I my opinion, the biggest problem is the ability of technology in the wrong hands to control people. I don’t know if you’ve ever read 1984 by George Orwell. If not you should do so, it explores some of these complex control issues. Of course, corporates control governments to a large extent as the world runs on money and power. There is no real freedoms for people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment! Yes, you are certainly right that technology, money and power do not mix very well these days. It is almost eery how Orwell was able to predict a lot of it. I do think that this is exactly where personal growth comes in, though. Because who ultimately controls technology or decides on how money and power is used? Individuals do. What we can do in this is to not buy into the game of power and money that is being played around the world and that expresses itself in the fear-based control, tribalism, the generalization of others, etc. Instead, we can focus on our growth, our awareness and our choices. That way we can not only create real freedom for ourselves, but also be an example for others who may wish to do the same.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thought-provoking post; thanks!

    My own affinity for Stoicism falls neatly with your final point of looking inward and working on personal growth. I believe we can only control ourselves and our reaction to events, not the people involved or the events themselves. By living our best lives, we lead by example with the goal of eventually creating coalitions that change things for the better.

    I worry about that approach, though, because some issues – e.g. climate change – require more direct and immediate responses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! And I very much agree, especially on the larger issues you mention. But even with these issues, who decides what is being produced? Ultimately we do, by what we buy. Of course framing it this way is massively simplified. For example, government has a responsibility to enact the will of society, through laws and regulations, by ensuring transparency, etc. But I think being conscious about what we buy is exactly the type of control that you refer to. Just like I can’t control what others say to me, only how I react to it, I can’t control what companies produce, only if I buy into it. In a way, it doesn’t get more direct than that – and it also refers back to personal growth again, because personal growth is what empowers us to make these conscious choices to begin with.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: