Belgians know how to poke fun at themselves. Especially to laugh at the creativity that results from having only inappropriate tools to fix a problem. Hence a title for a compilation of photos from the streets of Belgium: ai???not every solution is the answer to a problemai???.
Isnai??i??t that especially poignant in an age where everyone in power seems to act the opposite? Staring at those pictures of unworkable solutions, I canai??i??t help but think of our political leaders. For them, any solution can be the answer. More so, if they are the populist kind, driven by short-termism.
It might seem we are living at a time when the border between hope for a better future and fear for the years to come seems eternally blurred.
It is though very likely that the generation following us will point to this decade as world-changing. On climate change, Naomi Klein said, ai???we are out of non-radical solutionsai???. Yet, in many ways, one can wonder ai??i?? who are the real radicals in our society? Those, aiming to build a sustainable future and thinking of the rights of future generations?
I would argue real radicals to be those supporting short-sighted policies, built on eternal optimism and ignorance. The kind of optimism that assumes that the greatest of our challenges in making the planet sustainable for human life, can all be solved by some mysterious future technology. And that we will have that technology because we are smart.
We are so smart, in fact, that while getting to the future, we will just continue having policies and the kind of politics that not only destroys our environment, but also destroys relations, creates inequality, leaves most on this planet behind and excludes people from decision-making.
And traditionally, youth should be full of hope built on confidence of a glorious future, which many generations before us have indeed seen. The blinding belief of a better future, which asserts that no matter what, we have earned that future. Perhaps we should be grateful that we are, albeit too slowly, coming to realise that it is not about creating hope, but creating desire for action.
Huge change is happening around us at every level already.
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And quite a lot of that is for the better. But most is not. Change is driven by globalisation of the kind where power and wealth is concentrating in the hands of too few. While technology offers opportunity to change, and some great disruptors are led by our own generation, they are currently only exacerbating negative trends.
In the short term, the change coming with the fourth industrial revolution will tear every seam in our social fabric. And young people will be caught up in the negative trends first.
We are unprepared to think beyond current dogmas and policies. We have a broken macro-economic system, where record levels of bond buying and monetary stimulus combined with record low interest rates have failed to spur investment and growth of quality jobs that would benefit young people. We know also that demographic change and eroding middle classes will lead to radical need to reform welfare. The annual act of balancing the government books at the expense of young people that we see today will not cut it in the long term.
This is scary and it should not surprise us that there is backlash. Yes, Europe is moving on a dangerous path towards nationalism, led by fear mongering. Globalisation and the kind of technological disruption is a source of anxiety for all of us. And populism easily takes hold if we crave quick fixes where any answer will do! In a world of social and economic exclusion, such desire should also not be surprising.
If we did not know better, we might be fooled to think that European leaders, running from one crisis management summit to another, are drug addicts, looking for that post-summit high. Another summit saved the day! Or at least that is what we are told. Oh, such fools! Without our generation, they have no chance to get off the hamster wheel. If only they dared to involve young peopleai??i??
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ai??i??because ai???We are the movers and shakers. Of the world for ever, it seemsai???
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