When will the crisis be over? – A study on learning, unlearning and relearning.

By complete coincidence, in the past three days I happened to witness 6 conversations, all ending with “let’s hold on until the crisis is over…”! Living in Greece in 2010 to hear such statements is far from being unexpected. However, in all those cases, I was left with the same question mark; “what do they really mean by the crisis being over?”

The truth is that in all those conversations I happened to be rather a witness or an observer than an active speaker. In some cases I wasn’t even there from the beginning. However, it was most obvious that all contributors shared an undeclared hope that the crisis would be over and in one way or another things at some point would get back to normal. I guess this undeclared hope is commonly shared everywhere that some kind of crisis has struck; it’s human nature.
Before, though, I proceeded with this article, I looked up/confirmed the definition of “crisis” in a dictionary; “An unstable situation of extreme danger or difficulty”.

Frankly, yes, our society and economy are going through some major crisis based on the above definition. Three decades of specific borrowing and consuming practices piled up into a dead end that became as obvious as a pre-shock before a threateningly approaching devastating earthquake, which in more realistic terms would be a bankruptcy or default of the economy. The psychological violence of being taken aback was immense. A fragile value system built anarchically over three decades started shaking, pointing out the human face of greed, irresponsibility, lack of social conscience, egotism, arrogance, passiveness and all that we can all be or not be.

However, going back to the conversations I witnessed, I realized that most contributors identify the crisis with the problem. In a generically approached way, in their hope that with the end of the crisis things will get back to normal, I feel they interpret “normal” as what they used to know as “normal”. Their hope pinpoints an attitude that now that the crisis is taking place we are on our tiptoes, antennas stretched, filling wind holes, and they look forward to the time that everything will rest in peace for a considerable period of time, with some lessons learnt. Is that the case though?

Speaking in parabolas, a natural crisis such as an earthquake or a tsunami end at some point, but is what’s left behind ever the same again? Definitely not. On the contrary, those that have experienced it and survived have to relearn to live and grow in the new conditions. Similarly, I believe the current social and economic crisis, if it hasn’t ended yet, it is ending. And we all have to learn how to live, function and grow in the belatedly new reality.

National and sovereign debts are too big to stop existing. They will have to be adequately managed, otherwise aftershocks or new shocks will be striking on our thresholds. And those debts, that are not only economic, but also social, ethical, moral, have reasons for piling up. Reasons that range from long term consolidated structural habits, to individual ethical and actual micro-crimes.

Pythagoras, pre-defining the golden middle, announced the need of at least an equal period of time of correctional pain to the time that malady built up. An obvious example of that will be the huge structural pain of 2 whole generations regarding the pensions system; converting the pension system from a pay-as-you-go one into a funded one will take two generations of paying contributions on both levels, so as to smoothly support the current pensioners who paid on the pay-as-you-go basis for the pensioners of their time, and at the same time fund their own pensions, as there will be no workforce to pay their contributions for the pensioners of their time in the future.

This is just an example. Equally, there will be no space for “silly Billy” business. No more good intentions, big ideas and great expectations basis for business, without planning, cost centre management and almost scientific monitoring. No more education for the sake of certification. I guess it’s all about … adulthood!

All this above may be fair but it’s painful. However, it is not the crisis itself. The crisis is the psychological violence of realization, as well as a few short term structural changes and shocks that in their majority have taken place or are taking place as we’re speaking. And this crisis is getting to an end.

For those, though, that identify the responsible world of each citizen to save to have, to be substantially educated to competitively survive and grow, to contribute to the collective welfare fairly and accurately, to stop hoping that their decisions won’t come face to face with them without paternal governments making way for their shortcomings, news is that this new world is not going to end. It’s just unveiled itself after a period of fruitless fragile hope. On a smaller scale it’s no different to the 40 year old healthy adults living with and surviving over their elderly parents in the Mediterranean, or healthy, educated adult professionals of major corporations and the public sectors developing their jobsworth attitude over unproductively over-caring or under-monitoring employment anywhere in the West.

It’s tough, it’s sad, it’s unfair bearing in mind human tendencies to rest on solid grounds. Human life is so short that it’s hardly possible to perceive the “unsolidness” of any ground! But the crisis is over or getting to an end shortly. The new world though will be there.

Alvin Toffler said “The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”.

I guess we are all face to face with such a challenge then; we learnt, and now we have to unlearn and relearn. And we will!


Copyright© 2011  Yannis Stergis
Republication or use of part or all text without written permission from Yannis Stergis is strictly prohibited.