The rise of extremism in much of the western world comes at a time where there has never before in the history of mankind been so much material abundance which bodes the question why many people remain frustrated and angry.
Obviously the comforts of the modern world are not providing the contentment and inner peace that is desired.
Even until the late 1960s owning a car was regarded as a luxury. If a family owned two cars it was considered extremely wealthy. It wasn’t until the mid 1970s that most households started owning a TV. I grew up in South Africa which only introduced nationwide television in 1976. Travelling abroad for a holiday was likewise considered a privilege for the very few.
When I tell the youth of today that we always carried a pocket full of coins for the phone booth around the corner, they look at me in disbelief. My grandparents were self-sustainable farmers. My grandfather was regarded as progressive because he produced his own electricity from a water wheel. Few people owned cars and most traveled with a horse cart or ox-wagon.
Technologically mankind has made a huge stride forward but it has come at huge personal and environmental cost. Our lives are extremely high-paced and stressed-out. We have more time than any other generation at the same time it has become our most precious commodity.
Most people live in crowded cities, resulting in a disconnect with the natural rhythm of nature. Modern man is constantly in a hurry, anxious and fearful. It is the perfect breeding ground for frustration and radicalism.
We can’t go back a generation. We are rather at the threshold of another technological revolution that will create and destroy jobs. Much of the social frustration we encounter probably stems from the cultural gap in absorbing the changes of the past decade – Donald Trump`s most ardent supporters are from the rust belt and coal mining areas.
The technological revolution confronts us with the age-old question: What makes me a contented and happy person? The fascination with a shiny new object at most lasts a few days.
Every extreme carries the seeds of a new beginning. The technological revolution rides the wave of left-brain analytical, “excel-sheet” thinking while the right side of the mind lies neglected. It is the intuitive side of our human nature that needs more attention. As human beings we have a “juvenile” playful, creative, spiritual and artistic side. Bringing both sides of the brain into balance is the challenge.
I only need to look at my dog’s joyful playing with a simple stick to appreciate that frustration, happiness or contentment is all in the mind. Appreciating that moment of deep gratitude of what we already have is the first step. Happy Thanksgiving!
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor and Consultant