The Year, 2011—Humanity’s Turning Point
During the worldwide unrest of 2011, millions of people took to the streets in numerous countries on every continent, from the Arab Spring to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Wherever the “social storm” hit, the demands for social justice and equality resonated through the crowds (with understandable variations among countries and cultures.) People began to demand solutions to their problems; they wanted change. Often, people could not quite formulate their demands in words, but a deep sensation that they were being mistreated prompted them to act, to go out to the streets and protest, sometimes at the risk of their lives.
Why did these protests occur? Why did they occur at this point in time? Why did they happen with such synchrony, seeming to fuel one another? To understand how things work in a global age, we need to look at the state of humanity from a broad angle rather than consider each aspect in the state of humanity separately.
The Root of the Current Global Crisis: Bad Human Relations
Since the outbreak of the global financial crisis in 2008, it has become increasingly clear that we are at a historic tipping point:
- Divorce rates are constantly rising, and many people have no wish to marry or start a family.
- Drug abuse is increasing; violence and crime continue despite the fact that the U.S. prison population has more than doubled over the past 15 years.
- The educational system is in collapse, with institutions either offering poor schooling or education that’s financially out of reach for most people.
- Personal insecurity is so high that, today, there are more guns in the hands of citizens in America than there are citizens, and this trend is growing.
In light of the above, it is no surprise that nearly 40% of the population suffers from mental illness.
In the past, humanity gradually advanced from generation to generation in the belief that its children would have a better life than its own. This gave much strength and hope. But today, the future doesn’t seem so bright. It appears as if humanity has lost its way.
Why the Economic Crisis of 2008 Never Really Ended
The primary indicator of our current bewilderment concerning the future is the world’s economic situation. Since 2008, the world has seen and endured a prolonged economic crisis. Worse yet, the prospects of finding a way out of this crisis seem dim. Nouriel Roubini—a leading economist and predictor of the global crisis—warned in 2011 that we could be facing “Another Great Depression,” that “Things are getting worse and the big difference between now and a few years ago is that this time around we’re running out of policy bullets.”
Business magnate and investor, George Soros, agreed when he stated: “We are on the verge of an economic collapse.” Likewise for Sir Mervyn King, the previous Governor of the Bank of England, when he concluded: “This is the most serious financial crisis we’ve seen, at least since the 1930s, if not ever.”
The continuous decline of the global economy is worrisome because it concerns more than our money. The economy is not a neutral network of industry, trade, and banking; rather, more than anything, it reflects our own ambitions and desires, our relationships and the direction toward which we are headed. Therefore—as can be seen below—a crisis in the economy points to a serious problem in society; namely, it points to a problem in human relations.
Globalization Reveals Our Interconnectedness
The interconnection among people throughout the world has steadily grown in the last few decades. Globalization has created a flow of goods, services, information, and people from place to place, thus effectively “shrinking” the world to that of a global village. Ian Goldin—Director of Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford and former Vice President of the World Bank—stated in a lecture that “Globalization is getting more complex, and this change is getting more rapid. The future will be more unpredictable….What happens in one place very quickly affects everything else. This is a systemic risk.”
Globalization has made it clear that we are all connected to, and dependent on, one another like cogwheels in a machine. An event that occurs in one area of the planet can instigate a domino effect that sends ripples throughout the world.
The financial market is perhaps the best example of international interdependence. Government bonds bought by other governments keep economies, and indeed countries, locked in unbreakable ties. The Chinese government, for example, must buy U.S. bonds so that Americans can buy Chinese goods, thus maintaining China’s rapid growth and preventing it from suffering from unemployment.
A more recent example of global interdependence is the American debt ceiling crisis. In October 2013, after a desperate bipartisan stand-off, the U.S. urgently needed to establish a new debt ceiling. The ongoing political struggle between Republicans and Democrats had caused them to nearly miss the deadline for setting this new debt ceiling. The world economies became afraid that America would stop buying once it exceeded its debt ceiling. Consequently, stock markets around the world reacted anxiously. Although no one really expected America to repay its colossal debt—which exceeded 100% of its GDP, passing the 18 trillion dollar mark—everyone still waited anxiously for America to sort out its political dispute so the rest of the world could continue working. After all, if America were to default on its debt, tens of millions of workers worldwide would be out of work within days.
Another example of economic interdependence is the Eurozone crisis, where stronger, Northern countries pay for the bailouts and rescue programs of its PIIGS countries (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain.) While it may seem unfair that German citizens have to pay for Greece’s past squandering, in truth, much of what the Greeks bought were German goods, which kept German workers employed and paying taxes. This, though, is a two-way bargain: The Greeks help Germany maintain its economic strength in return for Germany bailing out the Greeks when needed. This is interdependence at work!
The Crossroads of Interconnection and Interdependence
In the past, the world was an aggregate of isolated parts, but as the network of global connections grew stronger, we found ourselves in a new, volatile, and unpredictable world. Renowned sociologist, Anthony Giddens, expressed that bewilderment succinctly, yet accurately: “For better or worse, we are being propelled into a global order that no one fully understands, but which is making its effects felt upon all of us.”
Without planning it, we have moved from independently rowing our personal boats in the sea of life into being all in the same boat, as Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the IMF, has pointed out. And because now we are all in the same boat, clearly we are all dependent on one another. This means that unless we all agree on the direction in which we wish to sail, we will not be able to advance in any direction whatsoever, as demonstrated by the global slowdown. Imagine what happens when myriad people turn in myriad directions all at the same time. The obvious result is that we are stuck in paralysis, which is the current state of the world.
The global world is at a crossroads. If we are unable to solve the above paradox—that is, how individual, isolated parts can mutually co-exist in an interconnected and interdependent world, then the future is unpredictable, uncertain.
Written by Michael Laitman
Michael Laitman is a global thinker dedicated to generating a transformational shift in society through a new global education, which he views as the key to solving the most pressing issues of our time. He is the Founder of the ARI Institute, Professor of Ontology & Theory of Knowledge, PhD in Philosophy, MS in Medical Cybernetics. You can find him on Google+, YouTube and Twitter