A quick thought on where we are right now

You’d be forgiven for thinking we’ve hit rock bottom only to break out the shovels. After 9/11, the world lost its mind. Rights curtailed, industries overhauled, countries invaded. Now, Covid-19 causes one 9/11 a day in deaths, in the US alone, yet here we are.

On top of that, there is societal division, mounting US-China tensions, increasing violent conflicts around the world… the list goes on. In short: One could hardly imagine a more striking endorsement of cynicism than the year 2020.

The frustrating part is, though, that it doesn’t have to be this way. Because on paper, humankind is doing splendidly. To name but a few things at random: Global extreme poverty has been on the decline for decades. Our technological advancements are staggering, our economic growth mind-blowing – even in this year of the pandemic, which has also seen the incredible feat of pumping out not just one but several potential vaccines for a novel virus in an insanely short time.

Yes, there are tons of caveats to these things. While global poverty has declined, it has increased in Sub-Saharan Africa and may increase again because of the pandemic. Technological advances tend to not only empower but also control. And economic growth has turned rather lop-sided (K-shaped recovery, anyone?). How things will work out with the vaccine, particularly its distribution, remains to be seen.

But what is striking about these caveats is that all of them are 100% in our control. Poverty has long been not a problem of resource scarcity, but one of resource distribution. The same is true for economic recovery. How we use technology also depends on none but ourselves. This shows that how things continue from here on out is entirely and exclusively in our own hands. There are no external factors that constrain us in any meaningful way. The only thing holding us back – or propelling us forward – will be ourselves.

23 thoughts on “A quick thought on where we are right now

  1. Very well said, and super interesting thought. In a wasy it is reassuring to know that most things are definitely under our control, but at the same time, the very fact that, even though we *can* control them, we don’t actually change them, is incredibly worrying. There are of course many people who care and act to help others and improve the life of everyone on this planet, but it is still not enough, and I sometimes wonder if we will ever reach that place… Hopefully the world will gradually become more and more kind 😊

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  2. It is not only external factors that will hold people back, Markus, in my opinion. In order to cope with the Fourth Industrial Revolution people are going to have to be adaptable and open to continuous change. Complacency has already become something of the past. People need to be given the initial learning opportunities and then they need to grab them and make good on them.

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    1. Yes, it is us, as a species, who hold all the cards right now, no? From Industry 4.0 to world hunger, the resources, expertise, everything is there to solve them as far as I can tell. The only question is whether we will manage to make the cut, so to speak.

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  3. Hi Markus, this is a fantastic, thought-provoking post. I enjoyed it immensely.

    One of my favorite lines was this one: “Poverty has long been not a problem of resource scarcity, but one of resource distribution.” — Yes! I wholeheartedly agree. Poverty, hunger, and genuine human need are issues that weigh heavily on my heart as a Christian and just someone who longs to see people whole, blessed, and fulfilled in life. It’s true though, resources are wasted every single day that could change people’s lives forever. Just think of all the food that gets tossed from restaurants, grocery stores, etc. We could make a HUGE dent in hunger alone just by eradicating the wasteful mentality. We are blessed to be a blessing. If more people understood this, we could end the suffering of so many forms, one person at a time.

    Perhaps I am misinterpreting your blog post but it also makes me consider our mindsets. Far too often in life, we lose our contentment because we are dissatisfied for no good reason. We actually need very little in life to truly be content, fulfilled, ‘wealthy,’ and blessed. Happiness is not found in fancy cars, big sprawling homes, and whatever else this world pushes as ‘right.’ If anything, the more stuff we have, the less peace we have. That’s not always the case but it is quite often, don’t you think?

    When we live from a place of contentment, abundance often follows. When we recognize our own abundance, both physically, spiritually, and financially – we can give readily from our overflow. That giving spirit is what makes us truly rich in my humble opinion. We do have the power to change the world. Our actions, or the lack thereof, are simply an indicator of what we value in this old messed up world.

    Sending love to you both! Thank you for being who you are and for always sharing such wise words to get us all thinking.

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    1. Holly, thank you for your comment and I love how the post inspired you to think deeper into the topic of where we are right now! I also think that everyone has the capacity to make a big difference in this world and that making a difference always has to start by looking at our personal mindset. You also make a great point about reflecting on what we really need to be happy. Micah and I think about this a lot as well – we even wrote a post about it a while ago. Also, what you say about the giving spirit fits well with Christmas, especially now during the pandemic.

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  4. Markus, I like this post very much. I think we should have a regular check-in on ourselves and reconfirm where we are. There is so much more that we have achieved positively and we need to remind ourselves of this. Furthermore, we can add to the positive side of the ledger on an ongoing basis, especially if we take the time to think about it and build on it. Those things we think are out of hands are road blocks, nothing more. We have an amazing capacity to learn and do, to embrace one another and say what is not appropriate when we need to!

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    1. Thank you, Sean. I agree, especially with adding to the positive side of the ledger, to use your words, and take a wider perspective. After all, our ability to adapt is one of our greatest assets as a species. Despite all the setbacks, this year has also shown that, no?

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  5. Right. I always say that there are what I call “2 dreams” that hold humans back. The first dream is that of our biological selves; how were perceive the world as a function of our organs, how sexual desire arises out of our biology, how the deeprooted instinct for survival and the subconscious fear of dying propels us etc. The second dream, is the dream of our self image. It’s entirely a hologram, something that isn’t real, and yet is real because we make it real. This dream causes us to make judgements, for example, choosing to see the world from the reference of materialism – so we exploit resources both animate and inanimate, or a business pays spies to sabotage a competitor company and everyone loses out on the positive growth from that real competition. The second dream is what causes so much turmoil, it’s fabricated by us, and yet somehow seems to lead us to make poor decisions moreso than the first dream does.

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    1. Would you say it’s one dream that causes the turmoil by itself, or could it be the conflict between the two dreams that causes it? Interesting take, a bit reminiscent of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!

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  6. Wow this post really got me thinking! Part of my ancestry is from Angola, and that’s the passport I hold right now. Back ‘home’ the covid tests are significantly higher than some people’s monthly salaries so we can only imagine what it will be like when the vaccine comes out.

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    1. Yes, this is really something we should be getting right. Also with respect to vaccination. And we can get it right – if we so choose.

      Super interesting that part of your ancestry is from Angola! Have you lived there in the past?

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      1. Indeed! I actually did live there for 4 year – right after university. Got my first full time job there, then switched after about 18 months to the company I now work for but my base location changed 2 years ago.

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  7. Yeah it needs to be said, that compared to almost any time in the past 100,000 years of human history. RIGHT NOW is when you’d want to be alive. Factfulness and Enlightment now make that case pretty well — not that I’ve finished either book yet lol

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    1. Good question – in a way it always was and is in our hands. But what I meant is that external factors play less of a role than ever. For example, in the past there tended to be winters when there just wasn’t enough food to feed everyone, so people would starve. Nothing we could do about it, we just had to live with what was imposed on us from the outside. Today, this is pretty much no longer the case. Even big things like world hunger or climate change are not a challenge because we don’t have ways that could solve them, but because we haven’t managed to implement these ways yet.

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