I accept that my perception of what is going on the world is tinted by the lens through which I find myself viewing it. Brexit, Trump, Knife Crime, The Wall, Gaza. The daily menu for rumination is endless. But what worries me most are the reactions I see and hear around me; in the street, on the train, in the barbershop, on radio phone-ins, and on social media. People sound angry. Angrier, it feels to me, than just a few short years ago. Not just a good old-fashioned straightforward type of anger. The anger that wells up in our chest when we observe an injustice only to dissipate soon after. No, the current anger that is milling around among us is more impatient, more intolerant and much more pervasive.
What’s going on? We hear the cry around us all the time for greater certainty. I hear it everywhere. People demand answers and they want them now. They want decisions and they don’t understand why decisions are not being made, now. They have had enough of politicians, they have dismissed experts, indeed they feel that the whole ‘establishment’ (whatever that actually is) has let them down and they have simply had enough.
This is unfortunate timing, as we are living in an era that is arguably the most volatile, uncertain, ambiguous and complex period in the history of the planet. The term VUCA has been coined specifically to capture this and has become something of a trendy managerial acronym. If there was ever a time when we humans need the capacity to live with, and cope with, VUCA conditions, then this is it.
image by Alexey Kljatov // creative commons
But this growing intolerance is not happening simply by chance or because the world has hit a particular high water mark of VUCA. It appears to me to be more sinister than that. It is being fueled by politicians and governments, ably supported by elements of the media, to generate populism and simplistic thinking. Arguments are reduced to ‘Yes versus No”. “Us versus Them”. “Right versus Left”. Social media often gets blamed for causing shallow analysis and lack of critical thinking, and I have some sympathy with that view. But, let’s be clear, social media has exaggerated and amplified things, it has not created the problem. When we are engaged in our social bubbles we get fed more of what we already believe. Information comes to us, not as conversations with arguments and rationale, but as soundbites, as snippets, as shock headlines. We become more and more lazy in the way we consume data. Continue reading