During the past week I received reels of video footage from friends and family in South Africa revealing horrifying images of carnage and destruction. Thousands of looters were burning and destroying shopping malls and vital infra-structure with a government obviously too weak or incompetent to restore order.
It appeared as if all social order was collapsing. But amid all the chaos were signs of hope. Communities of all races got together to defend their homes and properties, gathering together for prayer, giving each other hope and volunteering to clean up in the aftermath.
South Africa is in many respects a microcosm of global problems highlighting race and gender issues, cultural diversity, and the huge disparity been rich and poor. The economic fallout from the pandemic has entrenched deeply underlying social and political frictions.
Inflection points bring out the best and the worst in humanity
Sharp inflection points, challenges and conflicts inevitably bring out the best and the worst in humanity. During my years as a reporter in South Africa I witnessed clergymen selflessly serving the poor and downtrodden in the poorest township slums. The country has brought forth leaders, poets, authors, musicians, sports and film stars admired all over the world. But some of its people were also responsible for terrible human rights violations and could be described as “the very personification of evil.”
Sometimes such contrasts can be found in individual persons. In the final years of apartheid Adriaan Vlok was the minister of police. He was the man responsible for bombing the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches and trying to assassinate its secretary general. He later publicly apologized for his actions, washed the feet of his former enemies and later ran a child feeding charity funding it mostly with his own pension.
Major paradigm shifts are underway
At the start of the 21st century we are seeing major social, political and economic paradigm shifts. Human knowledge and change has increased exponentially compared to previous generations. The American inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil argues that whenever a technology approaches a barrier, a new technology is invented crossing that barrier. He predicts that such evolutionary shifts will continue to become increasingly common, leading to profound technological change and rupturing old orders.
Digital technology is at the forefront of a doubling of human knowledge every 13 months. Just to put this into perspective: In the year 1900 it took about a century and by 1945 it had been reduced to every 25 years. This “Knowledge Doubling Curve” was first created by Buckminster Fuller in 1982.
Cultural leaps are not integrated mentally and psychologically
Such “cultural leaps” pushed by technological advances create enormous opportunity for the educated, computer-savvy middle classes with access to high-speed Internet. But we are left with less time to cope and integrate such changes mentally and psychologically. More knowledge does not mean more wisdom. A growing number of people respond to the massive cultural and economic changes by walling themselves off in radical political and religious “tribal bubbles.”
The large pool of people employed in manual jobs are no longer needed in an increasingly automated economy. Whether we are looking at the unemployed in the former industrial cities of the United States, the coal-mining areas of northern England, or the “yellow vest” citizens in low-paying jobs in France the picture is very similar. There is a growing populace feeling left out, having nothing to lose and who are open to the rhetoric of the professional deceivers and demagogues.
Those tech concerns who have reaped the most benefit from the digital revolution will have to learn to share their wealth by at least paying taxes in proportion to their earnings. This revenue can be used to invest in improved education, infra-structure, health and upliftment of poor communities.
The law of yin and yang
When things fall apart during times of crisis it is a wake-up call. It is not a time to blame so-called “instigators” but to look at the bigger picture. We need to ask questions and seek answers as to why there are so many very disgruntled, angry and unhappy people around us.
In the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang an illness always manifests itself when there is an imbalance between the polar laws of life. An imbalance causes first disharmony, then conflict and ultimately leads to destruction. When the scales tip into one or the other extreme we get to a tipping point.
Nature inevitably tries to restore the balance so that all within the system can survive – in the case of the human body, the different organs interrelating and working in harmony with each other to maintain physical health.
Humanity is currently not only battling a deadly virus but also having to deal with huge environmental, economic and social challenges. I would like to believe that humanity is edging ever closer to breaking through that barrier toward a new horizon of elevated consciousness and opportunity.
Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker
One more thing…