“From the moment I could speak I was ordered to listen…”
Cat Stevens, or Yusuf Islam as he is now known, wrote those sad yet perceptive words a long time ago in his unforgettable ballad, Father & Son. These words are sad because they are true.
We have been conditioned to perform, to serve and to observe. From the first day of school to the first day of our retirement we are pulled every-which way by a multitude of forces that demand our time, our money, our obedience, our love and, sometimes, our health.
Why is this?
What have we gotten so incredibly wrong in our approach to life, society, family and that thing we call a career?
Religious people say we are made in the image of God, yet political leaders treat us as consumers – the cattle of capitalism. We say we enjoy what we do, yet millions upon millions of us fall prey to burnout on the job.
Could it be that we are not happy? On a deep level. Superficially we smile, exchange pleasantries and Netflix tips with our co-workers, while inside we are slowly dying.
We have become slaves – not just to consumerism – but to technology, ideology, religion and not least, work.
As a wise man once asked: why would anyone want to spend their lives working to earn money to buy things to impress people they don’t know or care about?
Our socio-economic model is based on supply and demand. But which comes first? The marketing. Create the need, the dependency, and you have a functioning model for business. But is that all we have become? Consumers?
As long as the economy is growing, then we are told we should be happy. When we have too much money saved the banks increase loan repayments; when we don’t have enough they drop them. Governments print their way out of economic downturns by releasing more paper money into our world, devaluing that which already exists and creating imaginary debt that will saddle generations to come.
2020 has shown us quite clearly that consumerism, career, politics and technology cannot save us. Only we can save ourselves from these modern diseases that slowly but surely suck the marrow from our bones and leave us empty, bewildered shells as we face retirement.
One might ask the question: who is our socio-economic system built for? But we all know.
There are foot-soldiers, cavalry officers and there are generals. Each has their place in the great scheme of things. But perhaps that is now about to change.
BLACK SWAN THEATRE held an event in Monterrey, Mexico, in February of this year, launching a series of keynotes and panel debates around the Future of Work. We even started filming a documentary and started to write a book on the subject. By mid-March COVID-19 had arrived in all of its gory glory, placing the major economies of the world on hold as political leaders and epidemiologists struggled to find consensus and direction. Everything came to a standstill.
In the meantime, we were told we should work from home, avoid socializing and try to avoid hoarding toilet paper. Masks were good, then bad, and then good again.
As our erstwhile leaders struggle to find a safe pathway to the future we are seeing companies crumble, people losing their jobs, and our older generations being sacrificed at the altar of the economy.
Progressive nations are looking at how a new socio-economic model can replace the current, failing model. Universal Basic Income is an idea mooted with increasing frequency by leaders worried that the peasants will revolt as their jobs are lost to AI and automation. Who can blame them?
I’ll get to the point.
Is it not time to make a change? Is life about the pursuit of happiness, money or influence?
Let’s, for arguments’ sake, say it is happiness that we are all searching for.
If we shifted from measuring Gross Domestic Product to Gross Domestic Happiness, would our socio-economic experience change radically?
What would it look like? What would you like the Future of Work to be?
At BLACK SWAN THEATRE we believe in asking the more uncomfortable questions that confront our society in an effort to find new pathways to a desired future.
We do so for business, NGOs, local authorities and governments. We approach every problem from a 360-degree perspective focusing on the impact of Policy, Society and Technology and using that we design experiments that can help to find direction in collaboration with some of the brightest minds of today.
Until humanity begins to look forward for comfort, rather than over its shoulder toward the past, we will continue to struggle as our socio-economic system changes around us, despite our best efforts.
There are no lessons about tomorrow, only yesterday. To find tomorrow we must innovate.
How will you adapt to meet the demands of tomorrow?
Perhaps we can help.