Collapse or Breakthrough?
The theories of chaos can thus help us to identify the “patterns”, the orders hidden in the events which sometimes seem to us “chaotic” or without having direction.
We also know as I show in this article, that after what is called the chaotic phase, there will either occur a collapse of the observed system or, on the contrary, the emergence of a new equilibrium, of a new system, always more complex than the previous one.
Because we have passed the tipping point in a number of areas (social inequalities for example: the richer we are the richer we get, the poorer we are the poorer we get), I believe that we are either at the dawn of the collapse of our civilization as we know it (this is the vision of collapsologists), or on the contrary at the dawn of the emergence of a new civilization (this is my vision, that of an emergeologist).
Three challenges for our civilization
I would like to invite you to observe three challenges for our civilization which I believe are signs of the possible emergence of a new civilization:
- A social and philosophical challenge: Individual Vs Group
- A social and political challenge: Democracy Vs Technocracy
- A social and generational challenge: Young Vs Old
A social and philosophical challenge: Individual Vs Group
As I have spent a lot of my life in Asia, I have observed the differences between Asian and Western countries. I have written several books on this subject.
One of these cultural differences seems to me to be of particular importance today: the difference between Western individualism and the more group and collective aspect of Asian cultures.
For many reasons related among other things to the different religions and philosophies, Western cultures tend to value more the individual while Asian cultures tend to value more the group.
My observation here is of course very general, at the level of culture, and does not prevent the differences at the level of each individual.
Also, before describing cultural differences, it is important to remember that the characteristics of a culture are a matter of statistics.
We can identify in the behavior of an individual at least three levels of influence:
- Universal: Regardless of their culture, most people worry about their children, have some form of fear or questioning about death, etc.
- Cultural: statistically (this is the important word), a group can share a certain number of behaviors and values, it is precisely what we call the culture of this group
- Individual: whatever their culture of origin, every individual retains behaviors and values that are specific to her/his and not necessarily shared with the other members of her/his group. For example, we will see below the importance of the generational aspect on values and behaviors within the same culture
Each culture has advantages and disadvantages (from my point of view … you have of course the right to disagree according to your own values):
- Positive aspects: respect for the individual, promotion of individual genius, human rights, minority rights, the possibility (and even promotion) of individual fulfillment
- Negative aspects: egoism, egocentrism, narcissism, promotion of personal success only
- Positive aspects: respect for the group, the collective
- Negative aspects: the individual can be crushed by the group, absence or difficulty of individual creativity, the individual must step aside in front of the interests of the group
For example, before entering the swimming pool, the Westerner hardly takes a shower (he must often be reminded that it is obligatory …) and takes a shower carefully afterward. The Asian shower carefully before entering the pool so as not to soil it …
Another example, most of the COVID-19 related restrictions in Western countries have led to some reluctance, resistance, or even demonstrations. Conversely, in South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Singapore, very strict measures such as quarantine or tracking by phone or GPS did not pose a problem for (almost) anyone.
To me, what would look quite like a collapse of civilization would be to choose the worse of the two: a society of hyper egocentric and narcissistic individuals (thanks to Tik Tok and Instagram) in a society of absolute surveillance (private or state, or both).
Conversely, what would be the premises of a new, more harmonious civilization would be to choose the best of both: a society where everyone can fulfill themselves individually whatever their personality and their choices while contributing with joy and harmony to the group (s) to which he or she belongs.
To go further on this subject, I invite you to read what the living teaches us to move towards a more harmonious civilization.
A Social and Political Challenge: Democracy Vs Technocracy
When I was 20, and probably since the end of WWII, the world was roughly split in two:
- The Democratic – Capitalist world lead by the USA and the so-called Western world
- The Socialist – Communist world lead by the Soviet Union (China was not yet the economic power it has become)
There were also a few countries that declared themselves to be “non-aligned” and which were more or less so …
The choice then seemed clear to many ideologically and geographically: the good guys (us) or the bad guys (them).
It seems to me that the choice is more complex today and can be summarized as follows:
On the one hand, democracies are currently failing and cannot reinvent themselves. The most emblematic of this category: the USA and Europe. The beacon of democracy in the world is very dilapidated. The abstention rates are beating records, respect for the ruling elites is at its lowest. And the election results are not even necessarily recognized as legitimate as we saw on January 6, 2021, in the USA or with the Yellow Vests in France.
Fukuyama’s End of History, namely the supposedly undeniable success of capitalist democracies, seems to me to be at least compromised.
On the other hand, more and more economically triumphant technocracies … They even become more arrogant and no longer hesitates to promote their model… while declaring that they do not seek to impose it on anyone.
The most emblematic of this category: China and Singapore (and to a lesser extent India, which it seems would like to take this path).
Once again, the issue is whether we will be able to take the worst or the best of the two. In one case, the sign of the collapse of civilization and in the other the signs, on the contrary, of the emergence of a new way of living together, of a new civilization:
- Either the best of technocracies such as the efficiency of their administration and the best of democracies such as individual freedom, respect for privacy, respect for minorities, etc.
- Or the social decay of current democracies plus the authoritarian surveillance of technocracies
The answer may not be unique! In my view, it will be more of a sort of fractal image of the world with various forms of political organizations taking the best of current worlds while being adapted to the local culture and history.
The world and the Clash of Civilization according to Samuel Huntington :
The world according to Bruno Marion (LOL) :
A Social and Generational Challenge:
I am struck during my meetings around the world to note that there are fewer differences between a 20-year-old Chinese and a 20-year-old French … than between a Frenchman of 60 years and a Frenchman of 20 years. Or a 60-year-old Chinese and a 20-year-old Chinese!
And for at least ten years, I have observed in many countries a sort of split between two worlds: on one hand the older generations who hold political and economic power and who do not want to share it. And on the other hand, a world of educated young people, often very urban and above all hyper-connected, who do not see their place in this world.
Many countries are, or have been, marked by demonstrations between the rejection of an old world and the hope of a new world:
- Occupy Wall Street in New York in 2011
- Egypt in 2011
- Istanbul and Gezi Park Protests in 2013
- Occupy Central in Hong Kong in 2014
- Ukrainian revolution in 2014
- The largest demonstration in Poland since Solidarnosc in 2020
- Thailand with young people challenging the monarchy in 2020
- George Floyd protests in the USA in 2020
- Senegalese protests in 2021
- Algerian protests in 2020-2021
- Myanmar protests in 2020-2021
Have you noticed the acceleration of events in recent years?
And I must surely forget some… Please let me know and I will add it to the list.
I have met some of these young people in the USA, Thailand, Hong Kong, Egypt, Poland, or Istanbul. What strikes me is that they have as a common point that they do not see their place in the future that is offered to them (if anything is offered to them).
They are all interconnected. They often have read Srdja Popovic’s Blueprint for Revolution (which I recommend). Thus, young Burmese and Thai learn from the Hong Kong protesters who preceded them. They even call themselves The Milk Tea Alliance.
The younger generations are more and more educated, more and more informed, and more and more connected. Will they accept that the oldest ones continue to keep all the powers to finally leave them a dilapidated world?
So What Do You Think?
Of course, I am not addressing all the issues here, some of which have ended up being obvious to most of us, such as climate issues, the risk of biodiversity collapse, increasing inequalities, etc.
Simply, in the information explosion, I invite you to observe in the coming months these less known issues. I believe that they can be weak or strong signals of a possible collapse of our civilization or on the contrary of the emergence of a new civilization, a new way of living together more harmoniously.
And to promote the emergence of a new civilization and be part of the tribe of emergeologists, I invite you to read these 3 articles on how chaos theories can help us, the 3 gifts of chaos:
- The butterfly effect: how to have very big effects with small actions?
- The Strange Attractor: How to make things happen even when you can’t predict anything?
- Fractal images: how to see and recognize an emerging world?
And you, what do you think?