The Post-COVID Economy — Not What We Think It Will Be
One of the revelations we have experienced during pandemic lock-downs is how interdependent we are. Because each of us is merely one tiny part of a vast system of interconnections, when one segment of the system breaks down, we are all affected. A tiny piece of genetic material called COVID-19 took over the world and brought business and economy to a screeching halt. The lesson? That we can’t live without each other, not that we can’t live without stuff.
During lock-downs we were able to observe some realities about our current economic system. Market sectors that provided online services and products gained in market value because they became essential. The economy quickly folded into itself, preserving only services we couldn’t live without, that is, ones that provide basic needs.
At the same time, we experienced enormous suffering at not being able to see loved ones and found ourselves looking out for others, sometimes strangers, who were in need of food and other support. Being abruptly separated from family and friends brought to light the importance of our relationships with each other.
These observations and their impact are the underpinnings of organizing an economic system that is fiduciary in nature, that is, one in which we act on behalf of other people, putting their interests ahead of our own, feeling a duty to preserve good faith and trust. In this kind of economy we all act as fiduciaries to each other, an attitude that is opposite to the one of competition and cut-throat business practices that now assail us.
Many have suffered due to loss of income during the crisis of this plague, but now that movie theaters, restaurants, other small business, and even some big ones like the airlines are re-opening, they are having trouble hiring workers. There is a dawning realization that working to create profit for a company, but earning only poverty wages for oneself, is unfair. We are seeing anger and despair at being on the losing end of the income gap, resulting in increasing random violence and more suicides — helplessness expressed externally and internally.
…is not as simple as raising the minimum wage. It is as complex and multi-faceted as is the problem we have created, and it must be based on certain laws of nature, because ultimately nature will have her way with her immutable laws and she will kill us in the process if she has to.
A human being experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
We have yet to understand that we are part of Nature, that we are in it and are managed by it. Our relationships with one another create a force that strongly influences us and moves us forward. It is up to us whether that force separates or unites us. The stipulation that will hold us together is called mutual guarantee, the condition of caring for one another and assuring that no one lacks basic sustenance. It is the development of the willingness to live together in a global and integral manner. I care for others and all the rest care for me.
The natural tendency toward connection is innate in us. We see it today as a separating force — rioting against what we don’t like, radical political and religious opinions, random violence and increasing rigidity in our thinking. The first step in shifting toward connection is to avoid harming others, then gradually to love our neighbor as ourselves. The force of love is what will unite us.
Economy Is a Reflection of Human Relations
Economy is the factor around which to create a better world because, in its broadest definition, it is the medium through which we relate to each other in fulfilling our needs and creating comfortable lives. It is not just about money, but about decision-making, setting priorities, sharing the abundance of the earth, innovation and manufacturing. And at its root is our relationship with money.
As long as advancement in all sectors of society is based on who gains financially, our plight will worsen. During the past decade or so, some business have learned that the creation of a workplace in which employees’ individual needs for creativity, self-direction, collegiality and rewards for working well together increases profits and worker loyalty to the organization.
We will have to develop and practice social intelligence — the ability to aim outwards, to be sensitive to the needs of others and to learn how we can be instrumental in creating a healthy economic environment. Interdependence is a law of nature and we are being pushed to align ourselves with that principle.
Instead of having a set of policies that are equipping people for the globalization of the economy, we have policies that are accelerating the most destructive trends of the global economy.
Nature relentlessly pushes toward establishing among ourselves an environment of connection with each other as the principal goal — an economy, if you will, of love for one another. How do we envision this?
In innovation, the aim will be toward the provision of essential services, essential employees and essential businesses in order to meet basic needs. The focus on benefit to consumers over corporations will eliminate businesses that focus only on the bottom line, that change technology so a new model must be purchased, and other such practices.
As our sensitivity to others increases through focusing on the common good, we will change how we relate to the other levels of nature — inanimate, vegetative and animal — and the general ecology will revive. The manner of work in occupations regarded as essential will derive out of the principles of social intelligence. The definition of essential will grow to include goods and services that provide not just food and shelter, but happiness, camaraderie, good relations with each other and a general joie de vivre.
Companies that understand these new principles of relationship and that they are the means for coping with life’s challenges will become market leaders. They will focus on products and services that feed the public’s growing need and desire for connection with each other.
In a connected world, the marketing sales approach will be the of forming good connections with customers by considering them partners. Mutual dependency between business and customers — need and fulfilling of need — will drive the conception and manufacturing of new products. The measure of success will be the satisfaction with products that people enjoy and that last for a long time. The products and services become a means by which to benefit the people with whom the company is in contact.
A good salesperson will be one who attracts customers through giving hope, warmth, care, internal fulfillment and good advice on how to cope with life. Thus, the initial product becomes the salesperson’s attitude. The mind-set of business will change from seeking financial gain to providing the means for people to live happy and satisfied lives.
The integral approach will evaluate the success of work teams as a whole, thus individual employees are measured according to their contributions to the team. Personal motivation comes from the warm connections within the team and collective success will feel like personal achievement.
The role of workplace leadership will no longer be charisma, but the creation of a warm and caring environment in the work environment. The leader will feel and demonstrate concern for the well-being of all team members and their motivation will increase as they see this new method become highly successful.
Education — Moving from Here to There
We have a choice: we may correct ourselves from egoistic to altruistic or we may wait for Nature force it on us. We have a hint of Nature’s direction as we watch the more virulent Delta variant of COVID-19 spread around the world. She is not quite finished with us because we are not yet listening.
The scenario described above is not pie-in-the-sky, but our future. It is, however, a far leap away from how we operate in business now. Unemployment will rise as more lethal viruses or increasing natural disasters close us down again. Governments will try to manipulate money and/or impose Draconian laws to try to bring things back into control. Breakdowns of our institutions will spawn global social unrest.
The challenge will be how to effect the transition of society/economy to ones that are in alignment with the laws of nature. The answer is in education and, as far-fetched as this may seem, governments will have to finally understand this and build systems that pay people for being educated about who we are, the system that manages us, and how to enter the flow of its laws.
Ultimately, however, the changes will come from we the people as we learn what we have to do and create a collective inner attitude of the reality or our interconnection and interdependence. And this is where we start. Aim for cooperation and collaboration among us and our associates, learn to make concessions to each other in small things, practice tolerance and understanding, be against nothing but for something — unity and connection.
We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.