One of the characteristics of our culture right now is the distinction between the contributors and the hoarders. Under pressure, the contributors create, experiment, try and fail as they look for ways forward, whilst the hoarders gather together as much as they can and wait for winter to pass. Adam Grant describes the case well in “Give and Take“, and others have looked at the situation over centuries and noted the same. However, stand back enough, and we can see the typical pattern as fractal cycles – broadly, create, grow, hoard, decay – and regular, a circular pattern where decay prepares the ground for creativity.
We are alive today in a period where the longer cycle of civilisations – around two hundred and fifty years – is in its final stage of decay. Right now we appear to be in something of a “double bubble” – a downturn in the short term perspective of our economy, contained within the longer-term downturn of our capitalist civilisation. And, no, it’s not your fault any more than gravity is.
The challenge to us is that we know it, and we have a choice to make – whether to focus on hoarding what we can find of what’s left or creating the conditions for the new. I’m sure I am not the only one who is repelled by the sight of hoarders playing in space observing the impact of their hoarding below, even if only for ten minutes. On the other hand, whilst we have created conditions that have rewarded hoarders for a few generations, Thomas Picketty’s observation that return on labour is chronically lower than the return on capital indicates we are at the end of a temporary phenomenon. Just about all the hoarding has been done.
We have to create in such a way we can all thrive on this planet, and I think that is less about fighting over what has been hoarded and more about creating what cannot be – communities, societies, culture, friendship, and yes, love. We cannot hoard relationships.
Hoarding strikes me as such a sterile and myopic activity, grounded in pessimism and hopelessness, yet we have institutionalised it in corporations whose prime reason for existence is to hoard.
Corporations will not create the conditions we need for what is next because it is not their nature.
What will take us there are conversations in small groups about what is important to us and linking those conversations together to weave a better fabric for society. People in groups who share a purpose defined not by accumulation but grounded in creativity and optimism for what we are capable of as humans.
The indications are we don’t have long before it becomes too late, so it’s time to start. Someone close by you is beginning this sort of a conversation if you choose to listen. We all have a voice, and need somewone to listen.