Can we move beyond our need for power to create a new economic model for our survival?
Greta Thunberg has inspired many recently by calling on all powerful people to use their power to end our abuse of our planet. In strong and direct language, she calls out the ‘powerhouses’ of humanity to make different decisions.
When we consider those people who have power, we inevitably come back to the issue of money and economics. Which isn’t about whether they can afford to help humanity but whether their motivation around having, making and protecting their money is so strong that they are unwilling or unable to make different choices. And of course, as we know, it isn’t even about the money – it’s about the power that money brings – power that we are all, even the least well-off of us, hooked into at some level.
Money and power are for many if not all, key determinants of our sense of identity. For most of us it isn’t about having power over others – it’s about the money providing us with the power to make the choices we want to in our life as well as have a standard of living that we desire for ourselves and our family. As pretty much all of the research shows us, happiness and contentment are actually not money dependent once we get past a reasonable standard of living. The vast majority, whilst enthralled by the idea of a millionaire lifestyle, in fact would be quite content with something far less extravagant.
So back to the relatively few ‘powerhouses’. Will they make the choice to go beyond their need to control the world through money and the economy at the expense of both humanity itself and the planet in its entirety? Will we see the end to the choices and decisions made to service the needs and desires of the owners and shareholders of business? Events such as the World Economic Forum lead us to believe that business is tackling the less attractive aspects of the capitalist model and it is taking the well-being of humanity and our planet seriously. As an inveterate optimist I want to believe this.
And yet…in many ways changing the core of the economic model feels a bit like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas which can make it all feel somewhat hopeless. The so-called financial crash in 2008 now seems barely a dot in our rear-view mirror in terms of the impact it has had on attitudes, behaviours and substantive change around the economic model underpinning our world.
So what to do? Up the ante? Take a leaf from Greta’s book and call it as we see it? Yes of course we must do that. And we must vote with our feet. For example, get really clear about what we consume, where it comes from and what values and ethics really underpin its production.
And yet in the great scheme of things these actions, as important as they are, feel slow and relatively marginal in the changing the fundamentals of power and money. More is needed to turn the evolutionary wheel faster and shift attitudes – new politics, new economics and new business models. An acceleration of our consciousness as citizens not to buy into money for its own sake or as the basis of our power, but simply as a means of exchange, as Charles Eisenstein in his book ‘Sacred Economics’ reminds us. Perhaps the political tumult we are witnessing in the developed world is a part of that shift.