For far too long we have violently pursued things we don’t need. Too long we have equated a busy life with a meaningful one, a career with righteous self-esteem. Too long we have put ourselves in the centre of our lives, the only thing that really matters to us – but does it? Although it brought us material wealth and monetary fortune, economy-as-usual has not lived up to its expectations. It did not make us better citizens, nor better partners and friends. It has distanced us from nature, our neighbours and our needs. It has done us wrong and we admit it.
We need peace, food and shelter. We need understanding, love and care. We need science, art, and religion. But most of all, we need a sense of purpose. We need to contribute to something bigger than ourselves, to be a source of meaning, a valuable part of a whole. Unfortunately, our economy-as-usual does not measure this, does not secure it, nor stimulate it. In fact, it almost kills it. We need something better, and we know how.
The economy-of-humans requires but a single step: to see ourselves reflected in others. We no longer buy in to the myth of the individual, which owes her fortune to a unique combination of talent and sweat. We see and value the merits of our shared culture, the people that raised and surround us, the bold inventions of people we do not know. We no longer value products over people, and some occupations, backgrounds and accents over others. We realise that humble, selfless contributions to the whole will make us the finest, most happy human beings.
As we went up the heavens and looked back, we suddenly saw how fragile and small our habitat is. We saw our planet with its tiny habitable landmass, sustaining life to seven billion inhabitants amidst a universe of emptiness, with boundless dimensions and unimaginable timescales. Our presence unnoticed, our struggles unheard. This blue planet that sustains and confines us, binds all of us into a species of earth-dwellers, far more common to each-other than to anything else in the entire universe. We are in this trip together.
The economy-of-humans only demands a different perspective. It doesn’t cost money, and nobody will get rich. It’s immune to financial bubbles, stagflation or even scarcity. It is as familiar to us as anything can be. And it is winning us over, one by one, at an ever-increasing pace. It might take some courage, but the gains are without borders. By taking care of, and value the others, we value, and take care of ourselves.
(This article was first published in publication 'Redefining Growth - a collection of stories on shifting values' by PICNIC during the Amsterdam Urban Innovation Week. This book was designed and made in one day by 20 participants of The Book Fab Lab on Sept 19th, 2013 - edited by Michiel Jansen-Dings. It comes with a choice of 14 different covers.)