With apologies to Madonna, we’re living in a post-material world.
You could be forgiven for thinking this is nonsense if you regarded the templates on some social media graphics websites, to quote just one example, as reflections of reality rather than magical thinking. But with a few exceptions, the half-off sales, free appetizers, and free first month at the gym come-ons for a beautiful body or beautiful weekend away are just not that compelling anymore. We have more important things on our minds these days.
If ever there was a stat that suggested Brexit tribalism has been transcended by the virus, it’s this. Only 9% of Britons want to go back to a Pre-Covid world.
You may vaguely remember the Before-Covid (BC) world of 2019 and the thirty years preceding it. It was the era where stuff ruled and people came second, where inequality, and all the brooding dissatisfactions that it spawned grew exponentially, kind of like a virus. And a deep, social-media-fueled distrust in and disdain for Government and the public sector began to metastasize into a neo-libertarian feeding frenzy glorifying the myth of the “free market”.
The momentum of neo-liberalism is too powerful to stop in its tracks. Coronavirus was a dream come true for Big Tech, which naturally responded by turning the screws, to squeeze us all a little more. Amazon, in particular, mercilessly hounded us to make just one more impulse purchase, knowing that we were locked away, pissed off, and couldn’t go to the shops like we used to.
But even as we succumbed, something had changed. We knew we had been taken. We knew we had been worked. We knew that we were pawns in a ‘rigged’ plutocratic game. And we opened our eyes, and looked at our partners, our children and ourselves a little differently. We started to experience long-buried feelings of empathy for those who were less fortunate, like “Essential Workers” risking their lives for far less money than us “Non-Essential Workers” cushing it in the comfort of our living rooms.
We worked at home, with the dog asleep at our feet, with our children sneaking in to video-bomb our Zoom meetings, and we loved them for it. Covid made good marriages better, and bad marriages worse. It put pressure on us all, and most of us, survived. We embraced those who found it hard to cope, instead of pushing them away. The weeks and months of dealing with the profundities of being human began to deprogram virtually all of us just enough for us to get our conscious heads around the following… Consumerism was now recast as a manipulation of our enfeebled, marketing saturated minds. We had months to rediscover the importance of people in our lives, in family, community, city, country. And the feeling of being part of something bigger was a spiritual awakening. Kindness muscles, stiff with idleness, began to stir.
Even our own miserly Government caught the bug, essentially nationalising the country to save us, all of us, from disaster. Our prime minister even had a brush with death by virus, which altered his Goldilocks outlook for a while. The world on Thursday December 12th and Thursday April 16th were not the same. Boris Johnson would not have a cast iron majority if the election bad been held on the latter date.
Because our world has changed.
The 91% has spoken. We have a pretty good idea that they don’t want UK v1.0, but are less sure of what they want in UK V 2.0. To get us a little closer, we might simply to do a 180 on everything in Version 1, and see where that takes us. It’s certainly a logical starting point.
Here’s what that starting point looks like.
Less inequality, less division, less fear, more focus on people and communities, More responsive, transparent Government, proof that money doesn’t equal power. Less consumerism, less marketing, more time to enjoy the best things in life, which of course, are free.
Like it (91%) or not (9%), we are at the nascent beginning of a post-material world. It will serve us well as we try to mitigate climate change, undo the ravages of social media, and realise that a better world all of us is the best way to create a better world for each of us.
We need to get started on putting together advanced conversational formats that empathise with users, nurture rather than diminish, celebrate rather than castigate, projecting government and the public sector as trustworthy forces for the public good.
SThe digital transformation of this country and indeed the world must be both logically altruistic and therefore non-ideological. Creating false divides is not working. We really do have to work together to survive.