We, We, We
That we are in the midst of a “global crisis” is no longer questionable. Since there is also ample evidence that the term “globalization” covers far more than the correlation between stock markets worldwide, a more accurate meaning of the term should address the interconnected nature of today’s reality at large. We are “global” not just in the financial sense, but also, if not primarily, in the social, if not emotional sense. Our sentiments affect one another so intensely that they can start social blazes in country after country, passing from one hot spot to the next via the fibers that connect the World Wide Web.
The “Arab Spring” has expanded far beyond the Arab world. In each country the causes and the manifestations of the protests wear different attire. In Egypt mass demonstrations overthrew the government. In Syria, the people’s heroic resistance in the face of carnage is a testimony to the profoundness of the change that has taken place in people’s spirits. They simply cannot tolerate tyranny any longer. In Israel, it is a (so far) peaceful demonstration, but of an unprecedented magnitude. In the demonstration that took place on Saturday, August 6, 300,000 people participated, roughly one out of every 22 Israelis. If one out of 22 Americans were to participate in a demonstration, it would require room for roughly 14 million people.
In Spain, the tent camps of protestors have been standing for months, with no solution in sight. The Occupy Wall Street movement followed suit starting in New York, then quickly spreading like wildfire around North America, and soon enough, around the whole world. In the UK, violent riots erupted that seem to baffle Prime Minister David Cameron, who was caught off guard vacationing in Italy. In Greece, riots have become the expected response to every austerity measure put forth, as Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos stated in Parliament that “what the country is experiencing is not the worst stage of the crisis. It is an anguished and necessary effort to avoid the ultimate, deepest and harshest level of the crisis. The difference between a difficult situation and a catastrophe is immense.” Even Chile is on the protest-map with violent student demonstrations. According to a CNN report, “More than 60,000 demonstrators protested in Santiago.”
Yemen, Libya, and many other countries are either on the list of countries where unrest has erupted, or are about to join it.
When you analyze the crises in each country, it is easy to see that social, economical, and political injustice are at the bottom of all of them. Yet, these wrongs are nothing new. They have been plaguing the history of humankind for thousands of years. So why is everyone protesting specifically now, and why is everyone protesting simultaneously?
The answers lie in the structure and evolution of human nature. As Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell beautifully illustrated in The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (Free Press, 2009), people today are not only narcissistic and self-centered, but are becoming more and more so at an alarming rate.
As narcissists, we put ourselves in the center, and “grade” everyone else according to the benefit they may bring us. This is how we connect to the world, through the spectacles of self-entitlement. However, this is precisely how we must not function if we are to succeed in an era of globalization, when the world is interconnected and interdependent. To succeed, we must want to benefit those to whom we are connected just as much as we wish to benefit ourselves. If we are connected and dependent on each other, then if they are happy, so will I be. And if they are unhappy, neither will I be happy, as demonstrated by Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, and James H. Fowler, PhD, in Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives – How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do.
The solution, therefore, lies in shifting our viewpoints from self-entitlement to social-entitlement, putting the society first, and our egos next, in order to eventually benefit ourselves.
In practical terms, this solution entails three goals:
- Guaranteeing the necessary provision to every member of society.
- Guaranteeing the continuation of that mindset by inculcating prosocial values using mass media and the internet, and primarily the social networks.
- Using our prosocial work for self-enhancement in order to fully realize the potential that lies within each of us.
To achieve goal 1, an international panel of statespersons, economists, and sociologists, in which there are representatives from all the nations, must be set up and devise a plan for establishing a just and sustainable economy. Note that the term “just” does not refer to equal distribution of funds or resources (natural or human). Rather, a just economy is one where no person on earth is left uncared for. Thus, a starving child in Kenya may not need the latest model of iPhone, but it is undoubtedly entitled to proper nourishment, a roof over the head, proper education, and proper healthcare.
Conversely, a child of a similar age in Norway may already have the latest model of iPhone, but still feel miserable to the point of taking his or her own life, or worse yet, that of others, as recent events in that country have shown us. The distress in the two cases is very different, but just as acute, and both must be addressed by the panel, keeping in mind that, as Paul Krugman, the 2008 Nobel Prize laureate in economy and The New York Times columnist said, “We are all in the same boat.”
Achieving goal 2 requires a shift of mindset. Since the media determines the public agenda, it is the media that must lead the way to annihilation of self-centeredness. Instead of the current “Me, me, me,” attitude it has been cultivating for the past several decades, the new mottos should be “We, we, we,” “mutual guarantee,” and “one for all and all for one.” If the media explains about the benefits of mutual guarantee, and the harm in the narcissistic approach, we will naturally gravitate toward sharing and caring, rather than toward suspecting and isolating ourselves. If commercials and infomercials show veneration toward giving individuals then we will all begin to want to give, just as today when the media shows reverence to the rich and powerful, we want to be rich and powerful, as well.
Such a prosocial mindset will guarantee that our society remains just and compassionate toward all people and at the same time that all the people willingly contribute to that society. Additionally, many of today’s regulating and restraining agencies, such as the police, the army, and financial regulators will either become obsolete or require a fraction of the resources and human power that they require today. Thus, all those financial and human resources will be directed toward improving our daily lives, rather than merely keeping them relatively safe, with diminishing success.
In such an encouraging and prosocial atmosphere, goal 3, “Using our prosocial work for self-enhancement,” will be a natural offshoot. Society will encourage, strive, and make efforts to guarantee that each of us realizes his or her personal potential to the maximum, because when that potential is used for the common good, it is in society’s interest that we realize it to the fullest. Moreover, liberated from the need to protect ourselves from a hostile environment, a treasure trove of new energies will lend themselves to our self-realization. The result will be eradication of depression and all its related ills, and a dramatic improvement in our satisfaction from life.
After a few months of living in a society oriented mindset, we will not understand how we could ever think that self-interest was a good idea. The evident success and happiness of such a society will yield ever growing motivation to promote and strengthen it, thus creating a perpetual motion in favor of society, and at the same time, in favor of each of its members, without neglecting a single one of them.
In our globalized reality, only a structure that deems the happiness and well-being of all the people in the world equally important can prove sustainable and successful.