An Exercise Of Almost Inhuman Capability
28th February, 2019
An exercise of almost inhuman capability. That is, the attempt to paint an understandable picture of the current state of the world's affairs. For most humans, it is a daunting task to even begin to reflect upon how we, the world, can solve the predicament that we now find ourselves in. This predicament is, in no particular order, illustrated by challenges of climate challenge, natural resource scarcity, global food security, major health issues, access to primary and quality education, the need for gender equality, inclusive economic growth, the future of work, and global finance, trade and investment, among many others. It seems almost impossible, for some maybe even hopeless. So if the exercise itself is of Sisyphean character, why even bother?
About a month after the infamous World Economic Forum Annual Meeting at Davos, where leaders of the global society come together to define priorities and shape global, industry and regional agendas and to help tackle many of these challenges - arguably with limited success - I find myself pondering over the exact same questions discussed in the Swiss Alps by the purported world elite. Although this mulling is nothing new for me, I have realized that the origins of my contemplation stem from an everlasting inquiry of how I can possibly contribute to the disentanglement of our shared problems.
But when it seems as if the heads and members of more than 100 governments, top executives of the global companies, leaders of international organizations and non-governmental organizations, prominent cultural, societal and thought leaders and the disruptive voices of the Forum’s Young Global Leaders, Global Shapers and Technology Pioneers can’t seem to agree on the approach, why do I continue to spend my limited grey cells dwelling over it, if the fact of the matters is that we are incapable of coming to terms and taking collective action?
One of the answers to this question could be that I find currently find myself in Bangalore, India - in many ways a dichotomy of a city. At one and the same time, a clear and provocative representation of large number of the worlds greatest challenges such as pollution, water scarcity, urbanization, sanitation and health, as well as social and economic inequality, but concurrently a bustling city of opportunity and a beaming light and example of how the world persistently, little by little, is making progress towards resolving our most pressing issues. A city that after the Indian independence in 1947, became the capital of the state of Karnataka and from then onwards witnessed large-scale development in leaps and bounds. Nonetheless, when confronted with the reality of daily life in Bangalore, one the biggest cities in the world's fifth largest economy, it triggers questions such as the ones asked at Davos and it becomes obvious that we have ways to go, if we want to solve our global issues. At least before they get out of hand.
Luckily, being in Bangalore, also known as the tech capital of India, has purely served as a catalyst for my motivation. A motivation that propels me forward on my quest to create a positive impact within the social and environmental ecosystems that I am a part of. A motivation that allows me to reflect upon the great challenges, without losing hope, even in midst of what sometimes can seem like an unsolvable mess. Living in India has allowed me to take a habitual yet content approach to the so-called ‘grind’, which I strongly believe follows naturally from any aspiration or endeavor to positively contribute, all while knowing that it requires a methodical plan, incremental execution and daily exercise of patience, deep reflection, clear deliberation, as well as impartial compassion and a good portion of what Australian moral philosopher Peter Singer labels effective altruism.
As Albert Camus elegantly phrased it: “One must imagine Sisyphus happy”.
In other words, there should exist no shortage of motivation, when it comes to dealing with our shared challenges. Tackling these challenges offers all of us a hands-on opportunity to contribute to building a better future. A better future for not just a few, but for the many. A future that will need all of us to start reflecting upon the current state of the affairs in our local communities, countries and around the world, even when we don’t appear to find all the answers ourselves. Together, we must dare to take on the difficult conversations and we must have the courage to reflect upon the great challenges outlined, so that we all may contribute to building elements of what Josiah Royce termed “the beloved community” or what the recent and controversial Davos-critic and Dutch historian Rutger Bregman calls “utopia for realists”.