The world around us doesn’t make a pretty sight does it? The 2008-09 recession has exposed many fault lines that we all were about to forget or were oblivious about. West was leading the way with a consumerist mindset with USA as the leader of the pack. Organizations around the world were feeding this mindset with products of all type with China as the leader of this pack. Assumption was that an Industrialized, inter-connected and consuming world would be sufficient to make the world a just, equal and enriching place. All was hunky dory till we were all woken up from our slumber by a rude shock of the collapse of Lehman Brothers!
We are being told now that the path we had embarked upon was unsustainable and at some stage something had to give. From 18th century onward the world started moving away from a low productive agrarian economy to a high productive industrialized economy. Industrial economy meant usage of fossil fuels with a large carbon footprint. While income levels and quality of life of many improved, environment was being damaged irreparably. If Industrialization has to continue at the same rate, then not only we run the risk of exhausting fossil fuels but also creating an extremely polluted environment. This could lead to severe health issues, life span reduction and eventual destruction of Earth! On the other hand, if we reduce the growth rate, we risk unemployment, poverty, starvation and death of millions. Thus we are stuck in a vicious cycle. However, anything detrimental to environment would mean leaving an unsafe living condition for our future generation. Is that what it has come to then? Is it current generation vs the future? Is it an “either-or” scenario?
On the other hand, we had financial institutions that have enticed people into borrowing beyond their need. The borrowed money has been used to increase production that did cause increased employment. The increased production yields fruits only if there is enough demand. Demand depends upon earning capability of individuals, which in turn depends upon availability of employment. If for any reason unemployment rises, increased production leads to unsold inventory and hence losses and eventually drives financial institutions towards bankruptcy. Also bankrupt financial institutions mean no availability of credit in the market, without which organizations fail to meet their production requirements further adding to the unemployed workforce. Another vicious cycle that we are perennially stuck with as well!
We thought Governments were by the people, for the people and of the people. However, Governments world over went and helped the financial institutions by pumping in funds. Those funds were used to pay off bonus and salaries to already rich top bosses rather than those who were impacted with unemployment. However, Governments are stuck in a vicious cycle of their own. For Governments to function and help people they need revenue, taxes are their revenue. To help increasing population they need an increasing revenue. Increase in revenue is possible only if they widen the tax base with moderate taxes or maintain a smaller tax base with higher taxes. Governments cannot widen tax base without increasing income of poor people, to increase income of poor people they need more revenue, to get more revenue they need to levy heavy taxes on a smaller tax base. This often leads to loss of revenue due to black money. Thus most Government officials often use power bestowed upon them to focus on providing benefits to the smaller tax base, earn kickbacks, generate a moderate revenue sufficient for its upkeep and forget the masses. Thus the Governments world over become “by the poor people, of the aspiring to be rich people and for the super-rich people”
What emerges is that We are industrialized but with scant respect to environment. We are industrialized but instead of poverty eradication, cost optimization and profit became the primary concern. We became globalized but with scant respect to the local workforce. We became globalized but with no equality. We consumed but consumed just for the sake of consuming and that too way beyond our means and requirement. The more we consumed the rich became richer and the poor continued to remain poor. The more we consumed, the more we became susceptible to lifestyle diseases. The more we consumed the more a newer deprived classes. Of course, what we’re being deprived off became relative and subjective. In this shadow fight between the haves and have-nots’ humanity has been a casualty!
We have created a strange world. A world that suffers from both its extremes. We have extreme luxury and abject poverty. We have obesity and malnutrition. We have food shortage and food wastage, so on. At least are we happier? We live in a world that has built ways to connect with people across the world but where we are completely disconnected with people next doors! We are becoming a generation of people with attention span of a 5-year-old, lonely and depressed. Are we healthier? Obesity, diabetes and Cardiac diseases. In this bargain have we at least managed to create a safer world? Increasing defense budget of every country each year, including the poorer countries and increasing threat of terrorism don’t indicate so.
Could all of this be because we followed wrong role models all our life?