Meditations on Collective Discomfort
In case you have not noticed, or are not paying attention, or you are still recovering from Lady Gaga's modern bacchanalia half-time at the Super Bowl, there is palpable discomfort in society. I don't care how many dancers we put at center-field, or what a great game it was. Let's get back to work, shall we?
What does being in an awkward position makes a person do?
Move, shift, stretch, fidget, think.
I have written extensively on the cause of this discomfort--that it--that we are entirely responsible for the condition of the planet we inhabit and the leaders we have granted the power to make politics and policies that affect our lives. I see the greatest need for change in not in the political forum, rather, our priorities as business leaders must stretch and not only accommodate the notion that we are on the wrong track---but that we can change the course of history.
It is no longer enough to just get out of one's comfort zone. We must shift our orientation and rely on creativity; we must go and look for deeper waters in which to swim. We must absorb the consequences of our laxity--our collective discomfort--, and we must meditate on solutions.
Let me explain how simple solutions work in case we have forgotten.
I needn’t remind the Peace Corps types among you that diarrheal disease is the second leading cause of malnutrition and death in children under five years old. It is both preventable and treatable. A significant proportion of diarrheal disease can by providing access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation and hygiene. Globally, there are nearly 1.7 billion cases of diarrheal disease every year. You cannot convince me that a solution does not exist for this. It does. We can very quickly implement it. Instead of considering walls, we might find ways in which we build better bridges between the business world and the have-nots.
Personally speaking, I am immensely uncomfortable with the notion that children die of any preventable disease in this day and age. I'm also vastly uncomfortable with the very idea that educational standards globally should be a secondary consideration in today's world.
Vaccines are needed, yes, of both the conceptual and literal variety.
Normative value propositions for business people are often short-sighted, and profit motivated. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. However, we need also consider the long-term. Short-term thinking keeps us in our comfort zones. We need to bump up the discomfort--and realize that the long-term mentality is one that absorbs pain and delays gratification. We must demand something slightly more ambitious than a yoga class from ourselves. We might consider that we have immense power to help one another--and most especially those who are most desperate for our assistance. Lest we forget amidst the current hub-bub that the very essence of humanity, of democracy, is to increase, not decrease the potential of the individual.
We do have solutions to global poverty and basic diseases. The world does have energy solutions that can address the growing urban community and the issue of population density today--but we must consider these problems on a twenty to a thirty-year timeframe. We can educate, care for, feed and shelter every single living person on the planet--but we must be prepared to have the uncomfortable conversations around why we resist doing so. The question we might ask is whether or not innovation is serving the needs of one tiny group of humans, or the broader needs of humanity.
Innovation can and should address basic human needs first.
Perhaps, after another four or eight years of economic irrationality, people will wake up. Maybe we will insist that as leaders we start building, facilitating and demanding technologies that do more than line the pockets of the precious few. Perhaps we will witness the advent of an equitable globalised economy. I believe it starts with a resurgence in the education system with a new-found emphasis on teaching children to value one another and the interconnectedness of our world.
Why? Because that is a long-term plan, my friends.
We're uncomfortable, together. Now, what do we do?