In my last full post I encouraged readers to be mindful of the rapidly deteriorating conditions we were experiencing before the pandemic. (July 11, “No Shortcuts to the Future”.) Surely, we all need to think beyond the present—both forward and back.
This is not easy to do, as the pandemic has aggravated preexisting distrust and further complicated every problem. To steady ourselves in a storm we need to be aware of our context. Misjudging reality can be disastrous.
America has entered a new reality in the 21st century, and the context is changing rapidly.
But this is not a sudden event. Viewed from the future, the structural change we are experiencing will be seen as obvious and inevitable. At present, however, with our perspective rooted in the past, radical change can be difficult to imagine—or accept.
Structural change is imposing itself now with disruptive effect. Precipitating social and economic disarray, it has generated fear, paranoia, and fault-finding.
Economic blows that have impaired all but the wealthiest families have been accompanied by a tsunami of civil disorder and instability.
This destruction was apparent long before the arrival of COVID-19. And, for many, a public health crisis was quickly perceived through the lens of suspicion and distrust.
But, again, this is not new. Distrust has increased steadily in America for half a century, a trend documented by major polls and discussed in my forthcoming book.
It would be useful, in my view, to ask ourselves how distrust weakens our ability to see and understand ‘the big picture’. Distrust might be reasonable, but we don’t need it to disrupt clear thinking.
What is ‘structural change’? What does it mean for the future? And, why are a multitude of crises suddenly converging on us in a short period of time?
These questions cannot be adequately addressed in just a few blog posts. However, many of the causes of structural change are quite apparent. Among others, advanced technology has altered our world dramatically, and exponential population growth has massive consequences.
Structural change is hidden in plain sight.
Economic destruction is hardly new to America, but how well do we understand its’ causes and consequences? Do we understand why periodic financial crises keep happening?
Most people want safe highway bridges, functional water and sewer systems, dependable electricity, and, of course, the benefits of technology. But, can we have everything we want?
We have become accustomed to the convenience of ‘big box stores’, but do we recognize their cost—in the destruction of small businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit?
We value technology. We enjoy the internet and the communication technologies we carry in our pockets. But do we recognize the significance of automation and robotics?
Yes, automation and robotics! Thirty percent of the current jobs in America are expected to disappear in a very short time.
This is structural change. Are we ready for it?
Fortunately, there are people thinking about it. The economist Charles Hugh Smith has written several constructive and readable books. He is thinking about how economics could be made to actually function beneficially, how to survive financially in a community economy, and the essential role of crisis in systemic change.
I recommend his book, “A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology, and Creating Jobs for All.”
Sometimes we suffer from consequences without understanding what caused them. But recognizing hard truths does not mean we have to be helpless.
A functionally authentic community is liberating. This depends on hard work and a constructive attitude. Educating and empowering ourselves won’t happen in a vacuum. We will need a diversity of perspectives and skills if we are to survive in a completely new reality.
How can we seek well-being in our local communities, economically and otherwise? How can communities network regionally to create a self-reliant, people-centered economics?
We might need to join our neighbors to grow our food. But, most importantly, we need to learn how to organize and manage projects, how to be innovative and flexible, and how to build trustworthy working relationships with all kinds of people.
The future is arriving too rapidly to accommodate the prejudices of the past. We must think on our feet as we find our way into an acceptable future.
You may watch for the next post on or about August 16.
Note to readers: You can request an emailed alert when new posts appear, by clicking Follow on the homepage. An introduction to the coming book and several sample chapters are linked at the top.