You might say that I have an obsession with the future. A continuous effort to understand what it will bring to us as society. Many try to understand where present trends are taking us. For example, what will be the impact of technology on human thinking, attitudes and behaviour twenty years from now? Add to technology, economic uncertainty, and globalisation in business and its effects on social inequality, the Internet of Things and its imprint on privacy. The list is much longer…
Today’s main themes on a worldwide level include deflation in the western economies, the future of the euro, migration, populism with the threats to socio-economic stability coming from the radical left and the radical right, social liberalism that has destabilised civilisation’s values and mores, the consequences of the soft power of communist China, the terrorist attacks on unsuspecting targets that are happening more often, and which are sparked by the uncontrolled expansion of Islamic State.
If what I have just illustrated is the context, zoom now on human behaviour as the digi-teenagers (11- 17 years) are ill prepared for the working world, and where their parents are communicating more through their smart phones than physically. A generation that is becoming intolerant towards structures, formality and hierarchy, that lacks civility, and that sees no end to its neo-liberal aspirations.
Notwithstanding all this, we can still be hopeful of the future as we all know that society works in cycles and that history has always repeated itself. There are ways to mitigate against the rough edges of these trends and we should be preparing ourselves for these changes.
There are already indications that populism and short termism in politics is not giving results. Policies need to be based on intergenerational thinking which considers the long term implications to society. Climate change and the environment are today moving towards centre stage in the more advanced societies, hopefully we will start understanding this even here in Malta.
We can also detect in the civilised world a move towards virtuous politics, with a genuine focus on social justice, citizen empowerment and participation, and a respect for principled politicians. Virtuous politics is based on the strengthening of family values and the spirit of participative communities. Doing away with wishy-washy policies that most of the time contradict each other, and having politicians that are brave to call a spade a spade.
We can also see more space for dialogue and tolerance and less confrontation, for example on issues in Malta like spring hunting and property development and the environment. Frank and open discussion around tables with sensible people seeking a common purpose and a way out. Civil society will lead the way when politicians are still struggling with the traditional ways of doing politics.
We need to notice and listen more to artists and creative people who can balance truth and beauty. Less plagiarism, and imitation, and more genuine expressiveness in the search of identity.
Education needs to be radically re-engineered with proper teacher training where civic attitude and behaviour need to be re-discovered and taught as an integral part of the syllabus.
You might dismiss all this as sheer fantasy. You will say, we will never go there nor be there. I will challenge you to prove it.
Joseph FX Zahra