Sandro Calvani| 17 Maggio 2016
We are not living an era of change, we are living a change of era. We are at the beginning of a Copernican revolution of minds, an unprecedented new paradigm of togetherness for the future of sustainable humankind. Thought-leaders in every culture of the world are trying to describe the paradigm change that is happening in all forms of humanism. What can we innovate beyond democracy? What will be the future organization of labour? Will nations disappear? Can we dream of a just world with dignity for all? Or -in short- what is the best form of society humankind has seen in its history – and how could we measure the quality of a new and better paradigm of humanism?
Should we re-read the books we studied during our education, which measured the limited successes of past theories, of those “isms” that promised happiness through a set of comprehensive rules of life, society, economy and politics? These rules or codes include socialism, Christianism, Buddhism, capitalism, feminism and democratism; however, although all of them were competent in providing rules and measurements for several successful and happy societies, they now appear unable to re-invent themselves to solve many of the big questions now facing the whole humankind. Nowadays the planetary boundaries, like our air, water and energy, migrations and levels of inequality beyond imagination as well as other global issues challenge the fundaments of past values and assumptions that our masters have taught for centuries in sociology, economics and political studies. Rules of humanism that we have accepted for millennia will not necessarily hold true for much longer.
Furthermore, new tensions and conflicts in almost all countries of the world look very much like cracks in the wall that appear a few hours before the whole building collapses. They give us a sense of unwanted but unavoidable urgency, a feeling of crisis, of a clear and present danger, similar to the limited time allowed in an exam or in student’s homework. Haste is not a good companion in any important examination.
Nevertheless, because of growing and uncontrolled entropy in the world, hastily convened extraordinary summits of Heads of States – for the first time in modern history – have become very frequent – almost weekly for example – in the European Union. Intellectually honest insiders recognize that hubris is too common a temptation for leaders unprepared to the unprecedented challenges that become evident in this change of human era. Most people are equally confused because they do not understand the nature and extent of these modern changes that is happening around them and around the world. The word “crisis” comes from the Greek krisis – meaning judgment, or decision and indeed humankind must now decide the direction of its growth and chose a new humanism.
A great modern genius, Albert Einstein, stated that the need to focus on how we build the foundations for the future: “All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded to every individual”. I love this cornerstone concept, because it puts together all the results of my research on people-centered sustainable livelihoods. It is all about empowering every individual to contribute as much as s/he can contribute to the global good of the whole humankind.
It also responds to other fundamental questions on why the building of global humanism is cracking and creaking in so many parts of the world. In fact, Frederick Douglass reminded us: “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe”.
Recent research on the nexus between sustainable growth, healthy planet and happy people proves that profit and all kind of moneys and richness must be seen as simple tools towards sustainability and happiness, and that therefore profit can no longer be accepted as just a goal for human enterprises, be they private or public endeavors. Thomas Piketty has provided evidence of the responsibility of capital and finance in building a just world . In his recent book, he has argued that inequality is not an accident, but rather a feature of capitalism, and can only be reversed through state intervention. While calling for creative social innovation, Piketty warns that, unless capitalism is reformed, the very democratic order of modern nations will be threatened. Are then money and profit, or their lack thereof, still to be considered the self-evident hardcore, the real kernel of all global fight against poverty? We have learned that to guide effective reforms, we should effectively measure what we treasure, like society’s wellbeing and its happiness, instead of just monitoring the availability of tools like per-capita income. If we are unable or unwilling to look for better indicators, we end up in just treasuring what we measure, like the gross national product (GNP) of nations and communities.
Could then the challenge for a new paradigm of humanism be bigger than it appears? Yes, it could. In fact, the latest challenge for an even more disruptive re-engineering of the well-being of poor communities comes from the new research into the inevitability of money, as we have known it across centuries. In March 2016, Hernando de Soto, a renowned Peruvian economist and anti-poverty campaigner, has argued that the recently recognized blockchain technology to exchange virtual money could be the right way to finally empower the poor and unlock global growth.
His “huge leap premise” is that “five billion people live without adequate records. They face serious challenges in documenting their economic activities, their assets, even their existence. This documentation failure denies them bank accounts, prevents them from borrowing against the homes they own, blocks them from access to insurance, and greatly weakens their bargaining position vis-à-vis anyone whose life, property, and business activities are legally documented. It is a tragic global economic failure”.
Databases such as personal IDs, passports, contracts, credit cards, banknotes, checks, bank accounts….all make possible all of our economic interactions across the world. In a single word, all the tools to facilitate exchange of goods and services are ledgers based on our trust of their keepers. We must trust the guardians of the ledgers to carry out the transactions faithfully, but also that they will be there to undertake the same role tomorrow.
The new blockchain technology – in practice – creates a very large spreadsheet that allows any user to add a new transaction with no possibility to change the previous ones. In that way nobody can steal that money, nobody can rob the bank, nobody could use it for corruption. Money will no longer be a me-me account, it becomes a WIIT account, we’re in it together.
In a recent interview, Jerry Brito, the executive director of Coin, a non-profit research and advocacy center on the cryptocurrency technologies, has quoted an estimate by Ericsson that by 2019 almost everybody in the world is going to have access to smartphones and the Internet. Therefore, poor people without access to traditional banks could have access to other intermediaries like virtual money based on blockchain technology. Furthermore, in several countries poor people do not trust their governments and the State who guarantee the banks and the traditional currencies founded on the gold of the Central Bank.
Instead they are much more willing to trust themselves, and soon the blockchain technology will provide unbreakable records of such a new financial paradigm. John Wolpert, a director at IBM, has equally expressed his company’s support to a new generation of cyber-money based on blockchain technology . In simple words, people might move to collaborate to grow a new enormous treasure: the trust and the collaboration among themselves inside their own community and the neighbors in the same livelihood or elsewhere.
Official money malfunctions in three ways: It is kept artificially scarce; it is misallocated at its source; and it systemically pumps wealth from other classes to the rich through “the debt trap. (Suzanne Phillips, in The “Banksters”)
At least 120 community currencies have been already experimented in dozens of countries, both in rich countries and in developing ones, following the good practice established by the palma local currency in Brazil in 1998 .
Are we ready for a time when being penniless will no longer mean being poor? Let us remember that in the ancient European languages, paying for goods or a service (mercede in old Italian), to exchange goods (merce in Italian, marché in French, commerce in English), and to thank others for any gift or service (mercì in French), all are words that originated from the same word meaning mercy, collaboration with the poor, and trusting each other.
People could find an infinite treasure for humankind and exploit it to create human dignity and happiness for all, if new generations of the human genus understand that, in a truly sustainable world, we are in it together.
(Excerpted from the original longer version. READ MORE)