What’s new?

What a joy to leave the dreary winter months behind and tread the sunlit paths of spring. Not everyone is uplifted at the thought, however, and that is a shame. ‘We are doing well – so why are we so miserable?’ the NRC headlined on February 21. Why indeed?

Of course we have to maintain a critical outlook at all times and perhaps the whole of society should be turned on its head, with all the unpleasant side-effects that may bring. But new and different times are, well, nothing new. The future is the stuff of fortune tellers. We simply don’t know what it will bring and it bothers us no end.

The image we have created of ourselves after years of prosperity and peace in our little corner of the world is not a realistic one. Thanks to the internet we have adopted a global mindset and that has made us realise that our status quo is an exceptional one. And that has caused a bit of a stir.

But seriously boys, and girls too, what’s new?

In reality, we have gone through it all before. Just look at what humanity has had to deal with through the ages, never mind the planet. Big changes have always provoked vague feelings of fear and have brought both good and bad in their wake.

Our outlook on the world has always been coloured by the moral principles, political and social opinions, technical developments and whatnot of our time. The wheel, the bow and arrow, the clock, the printing press, the steam engine, penicillin, the computer and the internet, to mention just a few bizarre concepts, were all revolutionary when they happened. In retrospect they brought more good than bad. And what we now regard as ‘normal’ could, in future, be labelled ‘abnormal’ and vice versa.

However, automation and digitalisation have been speeding up the process of change considerably. In the past it took people centuries to adapt to a new society whereas now it’s a matter of a single lifetime. Two generations ago the country was at war and there was great suffering and poverty. And we’re only one generation removed from the people who would put up a rickety chair by the side of the road to look at the new-fangled automobiles and planes – a serious pastime not that long ago. People were smoking like chimneys and the man of the house would carve the Sunday roast. In 2019 car and plane travel as well as smoking are coming ‘under fire’ as well as meat consumption and gender identity.

The rapid changes of the last decades have brought great prosperity. In an ever-changing society priorities change. That doesn’t mean prosperity will suffer but it does mean people will start to look to other than material things to make them happy. We have to move with the waves of change.

There is no such thing as a carefree life. The climate problem is huge and the forces of nature cannot be underestimated. We shall have to do our utmost to achieve sustainability. That means we have to adapt and be agile enough to implement changes in our lives. We have to use our growing insight and common sense to face new situations. And we must do so positively and with a good dose of awareness of our own insignificant selves. Precisely now that we are ‘going global’, such a helicopter view could lift us from our pessimism.

To face a brave new world with common sense and patient wisdom, that is JAH!’s philosophy. The interpersonal and future-orientated arena in which we operate merits no less.