“Human civilization has become too dense, too fast, too overheated. It races too much in a certain direction in which there is no future. But it can reinvent itself. System reset. Cool down. Music on balconies. That’s how the future works.” – Matthias Horx
“People keep asking me when corona will be over and everything will get back to normal”, says Matthias Horx, Germany’s most influential futurist and founder of a renowned think tank for future research. “My answer is: Never. There are historic moments that make the future take a different turn. We call them bi-furcatons or in-depth crises. This is such a moment.”
The world as we know it dissolves before our very eyes, but as we stand by the windows or on the balconies of our locked-up homes, looking down on the deserted streets of Mallorca’s villages and towns, maybe you feel – or at least have the shadow of an inkling - that a new one is already taking shape.
Nobody I’ve been speaking to has the slightest doubt that nothing will ever be the same after this, and as dire as the lookout is for a tourist-centered economy like we have it here on this island, I wonder if we might not actually like the new world that is in the making.
The Planet on a Holiday #
Before corona, the news was dominated by one big topic: global warming and the destruction of the planet Earth. A State of Climate Emergency[[LINK TO ARTICLE]] was declared by many countries, Spain being among them. And still, no matter what scientist said, no matter how many kids took to the streets in the Friday for Future movement demanding our globalized economy and our individual behavior to change, some of the biggest players put their heads in the sand and refused to listen.
Enter COVID-19, and the world is grinding to a standstill with a loud, shrill screech. Italy, the European country hardest hit so far, was the first to decree total shutdown. And while health professionals are, right at this moment, fighting a heroic battle to keep their overwhelmed health system going and save as many lives as they can, within a fortnight of this decision, something astonishing is happening: The murky water in Venice’s canals have cleared and the white swans are back, and dolphins have starting taking over one of the biggest ports of Sardinia. It’s hard to believe how fast a tortured nature is able to move back in. If you sit quietly enough and listen you will hear the planet breathing deeply. The Earth seems to relax – which is what a living being does when it its on a holiday.
Mission Blue: Hope Spot
Everyone knows Mallorca is a popular tourist destination but did you also know that the island is home to a growing network of marine protected areas?
“No Nothing” #
Fasting has a long tradition as a spiritual practice for purification of body, mind and soul, and a fast is what we’re on. Instead of food, of which we have plenty, we are forced to quit a lot of things that come with our modern lifestyle: No racing from appointment to appointment, no rushing from shop to shop, no hustling and bustling through busy streets, no sitting around in bars and cafés and having a good time with friends (that’s a hard one for me, I admit), no yoga class (ditto!), “no nothing”, as one of us put it in our last session before curfew.
What a coincidence, the corona crisis has come upon us during the Christian forty-day “Great Lent” before Easter - a season of fasting and giving up luxuries in an attempt to mirror, to a certain extent, the sacrifice of Jesus. However, in other years, it was a small minority of people worldwide who took it really seriously, with every country that goes into shutdown mode to slow the spread of the virus, a bigger and bigger share of humanity joins in.
Suddenly, the superficial feels stale. Silly Sitcoms babbling away and fanning lukewarm air, street fashion blogs about the latest frills and furbelows, talk shows offering a platform for the wannabe important – they are quickly losing lustre as they don’t reflect what people feel and want.
What we all crave, and this is what usually happens during times of lenten, is to take our life experience to a higher level. With all our senses sharpened, everything seems more intense, and our thoughts reach deeper.
The confines of our own four walls are too narrow to just focus on ourselves. This is not time for selfishness! We raise our heads and take a breath and look around for things that really matter. How are my loved ones doing? My neighbours? My community? What can I do to help? How can we stay apart, but be in touch?
Suddenly we feel the need to call instead of sending ten-word messages, and when we speak, we really talk. Being forced to quit our usual lifestyle is like stepping back and looking at it from a distance. And we see, it doesn’t work. It never made us happy. It only made us run and chase and pant and buy expensive things we do not really need.
Do you really think we will forget that lesson when the crisis ends? They say that once you’ve taken a bite of the apple from the tree of knowledge there is no going back…
A Question of Survival #
We humans are a lazy lot. It’s hard to make us change with gentle words and arguments. We need to feel a lot of pain to move. This is not only true on our small individual level, but for all humanity. Our persistence in keeping up old ways long proved to be counter-productive or even outright destructive is just one example of this natural inertia.
Now, you might think that as soon as the coronavirus has been, if not eradicated, then at least tamed by the development of new vaccines and pharmaceutical remedies, the world will quickly get back into its deep ruts and nothing will change.
How could anyone in their right mind think that big industry would stop going after maximum profit once the pandemic is over - unless governments imposed strict rules and high taxes on environmental misbehaviour, which they would be reluctant to do in the recession that is bound to follow the crisis?
Money makes the world go round, and I don’t think that maxim will shift. BUT. I do not believe in the transformative power of politicians, not even the well-meaning ones’. As soon as a new bill is drafted to change the world for the better, twenty lobbyists will stand behind these people’s backs and start tugging at their sleeves to make them bend the rules before they even had a chance to see the light of day.
However, if these lobbyists suddenly had something tugging at their sleeves … No, I’m not naïve, I’m not talking about anybody having an epiphany moment, send Saulus (the original name of Apostel Paul) to the where the pepper grows and suddenly turn into Paulus. But what if the money- and decision-makers of this world suddenly heard a little voice whispering in their ear that they are at risk to lose not only a share of their profit, but the very base of their existence?
Coronavirus 2020 is doing what nothing else could do before: it exposes the faults of our globalized economy in a way that doesn’t give room for denying. Not through feeble laws or regulations, but out of sheer necessity the whole economy – big players and small – will carefully look into what they are doing.
To create a sustainable footing for their businesses is a question of survival. Gone are the times of just-in-time deliveries and transferring, as a general rule, production facilities to the place of cheapest labour, because what’s the use to chase after a bit more profit if this means that your company goes down the drain come COVID-20 – and come it will? Shareholders wouldn’t let this happen. Neither would the CEOs. The world is changing. We are drifting towards “GloCalization”, as Matthias Horx puts it – setting the global on a local footing.
Focus on Change #
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I do not want to downplay what is going on right now and what is in store for many of us in the coming weeks and months, and maybe even years. It pains me to think of all the people - not only on this island, but worldwide- who feel they are being pushed into an abyss of despair right now, losing the very foundation of their existence, worrying about loved ones who are ill or at risk, or being sick themselves.
And by no means is it my intention to belittle the untiring work of medical caretakers, scientists, policemen and others working endless shifts in an effort to save lives and contain the virus as best as they can and have no moment to spare to step back and reflect just yet. I am deeply grateful they are having my back and keep us all going, and, in times of standstill, make the world go round whatever it takes.
This said, and now that we’ve all got stocked up with potatoes, pasta and toilet paper and given our hands a good, good scrub, I invite you to stop worrying for a minute. Let’s step out onto our balconies and sing and laugh and celebrate – and focus on the good things ahead.
Proof of the Possibilities #
Nature is reclaiming its rights. Ducks have been spotted walking around Paseo Mallorca, and a dolphin swimming in Palma Bay!
www.horx.com and www.zukunftsinstitut.de.
Por Ulla Rahn-Huber
20 marzo, 2020