Shakespeare once posed the question, to be or not to be. In the developed world, we need to pose the right question and ask ourselves if we are to be human or not? Will we even ask the right questions and face the key issues of the day head-on or be in denial.
One key question for the developed world that is not being addressed is how are we going to deal with the consequences of technological change? We have, in the last two hundred years, seen amazing technical improvements and new forms of employment. During those years, we witnessed the steady improvement in the standard of living for most people.
Today, things have changed. These changes in the developed countries have not only affected unskilled and semi-skilled workers but skilled workers as well. The era of globalization, mechanization and robotics has left us with a growing uncertainty of what to do about the future. The seemingly unending race to consume only those products produced in low wage nations has left the developed nations with a conundrum as to how to deal with the increasing disparity of income and how to deal with the level of unhappiness due to economic insecurity. With a growing amount of people who are unemployed, and underemployed, political and social instability is a real possibility.
Not only are we seeing a rise in what might be referred to as a higher level of permanently unemployed citizens but we are seeing a rise in the level of the partially or part-time employed. The underemployed find themselves taking jobs far beneath their level of education and training. This leaves many frustrated and unhappy.
Retraining has become a necessity. Only governments or a combination of both the private sector and the state have the resources to retrain workers who have lost their jobs to new technologies. The question is whether we can keep pace with the speed of change and the need to meet the demand for these new skills.
For some there appear to be only two choices as to how to deal with this new reality. One view is to have the state take responsibility for the problem through financial assistance.
The other view is that welfare programs are a failure, and that assistance should be ended. They put the failure of gaining full employment at the door of those seeking it. They must have done something to deserve their misfortune. The use of the word laziness has resurfaced to describe many of those on welfare and unemployment insurance.
Perhaps there are other choices, other than a growing dependence on the state, or doing nothing to help those who are out of work or have lost their jobs. It is time to reconsider whether the benefits of globalization are outweighed by the detriments. If citizens of the developed nations are suffering as a result of our insistence on buying the cheapest goods produced, it is time to rethink what we are doing.
Low wage nations have built-in advantages, environmental rules are lax if existent at all, unsafe work conditions are prevalent, and child labor is permitted, thus lowering their expenses. It is hard to compete if the playing field is unfairly tilted in the direction of nations whose labor costs are at the lowest.
I for one would rather see, a return to self-sufficiency and self-reliance, even if it means that what we buy is more costly. The price tag, may be higher, but the other benefits would make the cost worth it.
I don’t know if you would call it patriotism, or nationalism or just common sense, but each society’s health is more important than just how much money a corporation can make. An individual’s self-esteem and happiness is worth more than a few individuals ability to make a great fortune. Life is about more than how wealthy we are. Life has more value when we can spend more time with the family or to just be able to walk in a neighborhood park or go to the library. Life is about community and family, not the size of your bank account. But too few of us have the time to enjoy the so-called smaller things in life. Too many of us must have both parents working just to get by.
A return to the local is essential for our own well-being. A greater involvement in our own community would greatly help. As Tip O’Neill, once said, “All politics is local.” Let us find good ideas that instead of going top down, cause improvements from the bottom up. In a very Jeffersonian sense true democracy can flourish if we trust the people. The concern is that we are too apathetic.
America was on top of the world when we took care of our own. The same is true for other developed nations who are suffering as a result of globalization and rapid change.
Social unrest is guaranteed if we do not ask the right questions and have a national discussion on what to do with what appears to be an inevitable path that we are currently on.
So to be or not to be is really the question. Will we be human and take care of each other or inhumane and only care about ourselves. Doing nothing is not an option, nor is letting our fellow citizens suffer from hunger and poverty, an option. We are dependent on each other. Government can not improve our lives alone. We need to participate in our own destiny. We must seek a middle path of greater self reliance instead of depending entirely on a government check.
John Winthrop set forth a code of conduct for his fellow Pilgrims that we would be wise to follow today. ” Wee must be knitt together in this worke as one man, wee must entertaine each other in brotherly Affeccion, wee must be willing to abridge our selues of our superfluities, for the supply of others necessities, we must uphold a familiar Commerce together in a meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality, we must delight in eache other, make others Condicions our owne, rejoyce together, mourne together, labour, and suffer together, always haueing before our eyes our Community.”