Winter discontent, spring of joy?
By Jim Poling Sr.
Published Jan. 24. 2019
If John Steinbeck was alive today he might consider changing the title of his 1961 Nobel prize-winning novel from The Winter of Our Discontent to The Winter of World Discontent.
Our current winter of discontent is not simply about the problems of one family or one place. It is a winter of global discontent – or most certainly a winter of western world chaos and unhappiness.
There is hope, however. In the Steinbeck novel the main character reaches into his pocket for a razor blade to slit his wrists. Instead he pulls out a talisman placed by his daughter to remind him of his importance to his family and community despite his moral lapses.
Similarly, we see some hope in our current discontent. Last week, for instance, the chief executive officer of BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest investor, wrote to world business leaders telling them they must become leaders in a divided world.
“Stakeholders are pushing companies to wade into sensitive social and political issues — especially as they see governments failing to do so effectively,” Larry Fink wrote in his letter.
Bang on, Larry. Business leaders should step forward and begin emptying the septic tank of social problems that our governments have been unable, or unwilling, to handle.
Business leaders must focus beyond the bottom line. They have the experience, the skills and the tools to start fixing our social breakdowns.
Many of our political leaders do not have those tools, skills or drive. Or, if they do, they too often are rendered useless by political expediency.
We witness the damage every day. Britain, still controlled by a stiff upper lip ruling class, is a whitewashed shadow of itself, economically and in terms or global leadership.
The United States, weakened by cancerous degeneration of morality and democracy, has become a comedy sketch. Except it’s not very funny that tens of thousands of federal employees are hurting because of the month-long government shutdown.
In Canada we have a federal government unable to solve the dilemma of how to get our oil to world markets while ensuring environmental safety. In Ontario, we have provincial politicians wrangling over whether the provincial police force should be led by an unqualified buddy of the premier.
Our once vibrant western world democracies have descended to the level of kakocracies – government by the least qualified people.
Authoritarians are stepping into the vacuums created by complacent democracies. Vladimir Putin of Russia and China’s Xi Jinping are centre stage as world leaders now and are working to make authoritarian government look good.
One strong hope for strengthening our ailing democracies is population turnover.
Mr. Fink’s letter to business executives notes that the largest transfer of wealth in history is occurring now. Billions of dollars are starting to move to Millennials and Post-Millennials as their grandparents and parents pass on.
As these new generations gain wealth they also will gain power. And if you think that 25-year-old sitting on the couch staring into a smartphone doesn’t have any thoughts on wealth, power and change, you are dead wrong.
The seventh annual Deloitte Millennial Survey shows that Millennials and Post-Millennials want to see dramatic changes. It found that only 19 per cent of the young people surveyed believed that politicians are having a positive impact.
By comparison 44 per cent said business leaders are making a positive impact and 75 per cent believed that multinational corporations have the potential to help solve the world’s social, economic and environmental challenges.
The survey involved 10,455 Millennials in 36 countries and 1,850 Post-Millennial (also called Generation Z) respondents in six countries.
Young people are inheriting not just money but the world and all its problems. They are the future leaders and they will demand and make changes.
Yes, there are dullards and airheads among them. (If you want to see some of them look up the video of the Covington Kentucky Catholic High School students, wearing red Trump hats, mocking a native American elder singing during the Indigenous People’s March in Washington last Friday.)
However, you have got to believe that intelligent Millennials and Generation Zeds are the people with the abilities to turn our winters of discontent into springs of joy.