1. The Economic Failure: creating well-being for all
The twin rise of Trump-type politicians on the one hand and the new global terrorism (which is impossible to defend with traditional mechanisms, such as metal detectors) on the other hand, have made one thing crystal clear: you cannot fight these fields of negativity (Trump) or destruction (terrorism) directly by choosing the old weapons. You can only fight them by addressing them at their root. And at the root of both phenomena lie the core issues of an economic, political, and spiritual failure to further evolve the operating logic of today’s societies.
2. The Political Failure: creating distributed, dialogic participation for all
The second failure is the lack of an evolving democracy. Around the world the future of democracy and governance is in question. The paralysis of Washington, DC, in national politics over the past decade-plus; the outcome of the Brexit vote, which generated a result that it seems most people didn’t really want; and the toxic impact of special interest groups that highjack the political process in many countries all are symptoms of a system that badly needs an upgrade—an upgrade to a system of governance that is more direct, distributed, and dialogic.
The Brexit referendum does not prove that referenda don’t work. If anything, it proves that we probably need more, rather than fewer, elements of direct democracy—but we also need to pair them with a real dialogue and factual information, as opposed to the bunch of lies and false claims that the pre-vote Brexit debate was based upon. The very fact that the people affected most by the Brexit vote, youth and people in their 20s in Britain, were the demographic that participated the least in the actual decision-making, offers another lesson for upgrading democracy. We need more direct and distributed (technology-enabled) elements, with more true dialogue calling for new places of deep listening and dialogue across communities. These are the keys to regenerating a culture of civic, and civil, discourse.
3. The Spiritual Failure: activating the sources of human creativity
But maybe the biggest failure of elites in Europe and elsewhere concerns the spiritual void. Terrorism is the negative side of expressing human creativity (or the lack thereof). Every act of terrorism is an expression of a creative potential that has gone astray, that was unable to manifest in the context of true creativity that generates positive impact. Where does that problem start? It starts in schools that fail our kids by teaching for testing instead of nurturing their deeper sources of creativity and learning.
We find the same spiritual failure in the Brexit debate. The entire pro-EU argument amounted to a dismal attempt to scare people into believing that leaving the EU would have profound negative economic repercussions. Scaring people as a strategy of persuasion is a losing strategy. Ask the environmental movement how that has worked for them. This inner void was made even more visible by the leaders of the two main camps, David Cameron and Boris Johnson. Cameron held the vote purely for personal gain—to secure his own reelection, effectively shifting the risk to the country as a whole. Boris Johnson did the same: positioning himself in a way that helped his future career at the expense of the country.
The different priorities—personal ego vs. the well-being of the country—have always been crystal clear. Just look at the Republican Party in the US Congress, which chooses to hurt Obama over helping the country to succeed. Ego-awareness has always won. It’s that spiritual void, the lack of awareness that focuses on the well-being of the whole, that is the real breeding ground for a pre-fascist phenomenon like the Trump candidacy.
The spiritual void cannot be filled with just another ideology or another straitjacket of traditional ethical norms. That would mean moving backward. Moving forward means updating the educational system in a way that allows every human being to genuinely connect to their own sources of humanity and creativity, which happen to be the source for all social renewal.