On my mind this week.
The nature of growth has been on my mind this week as I’ve sensed small, but I think important levels of discomfort in many people I’ve talked to and in the media. It isn’t easy to pin it down to any one thing, but the theme has been around growth. As Bobby Kennedy said over fifty years ago, GDP measures everything except what is worthwhile.
We seem to have many schools of thought – those focused on wellbeing, on the environment, biodiversity, technology and a host of varied others. All are important, some critical, yet a sterile and outmoded view of growth seems to override them all. It operates in the same way as to how we used to deal with other languages by speaking slowly and loudly in English in the belief they would understand.
It is over sixty years since C.P. Snow caused a storm when he wrote about “The Two Cultures“, in which he lamented the gap between scientists and artists and their seeming inability to communicate. It seems that whilst that gap has been closed a little, we have even more significant gaps now between those who see money as an end in itself and those who see it as a means to a much larger end. We have polarising debates around whether we go back to the office or work from home, rather than the much more considerable and more critical debate about the nature of work at a time of rampant technology. We need to cut back on unnecessary travel and tackle the increasing inequality of reward between those who own the capital and those who do the work. Instead, we have “too big to fail” corporations asking for taxpayer support for their unsustainable business models.
There are much healthier debates around the nature of cities and who they are for – people who live there or the daily visitors staffing the increasingly unnecessary big offices; around regenerative agriculture and education designed for humans, not just businesses.
The big question, of course, is how we have these discussions when Corporations have become disconnected from the communities that host them yet dominate the political discourse through their influence.
In the end, it is down to each of us to make small critical choices about who we work with, where we work, what we buy and the many, many conversations we have together about what matters.
Big is past its sell-by date. Making small work is down to us.
Books I’ve appreciated this week.
Scale. Geoffrey West. A book on scale by a theoretical physicist. I’m finding this a surprisingly enjoyable read for such a weighty and important subject. Short version – scale is complex and not some panacea. We need to understand it and handle it with care.
Small is Beautiful. E.F. Schumacher. A classic and a timely read. Ahead of its time.
Turning to One Another. Margaret Wheatley. Everything by Meg Wheatley is worth reading. Inspirational and Sobering, her argument that the change we seek will come not from those who claim to lead us but from each other is powerful and was, like Schumacher, ahead of its time.
The Two Cultures. A thought-provoking article in this week’s Economist revisiting CP Snow’s “The Two Cultures”.
Seizing the Middle. From the FS blog. Somewhere between two opposing cultures is a middle—a good article on capturing it.
The Downside of Paying Attention. Psyche. Focusing carries a cost.
Speak your mind, and together we flourish. Another from Psyche. What we need is for each of us to turn up to the change underway.