Two Global Forces in Conflict
Part Three: The Transition That Matters
We live in two worlds.
There is the world that we receive through our computer and smartphone screens. This is the world of large organizations, governments, and people of power. It is a produced world, a simulated world, designed to grab our attention and not let go. It is not the actual world that is being presented, but a facsimile of one.
The other world is the one that we greet when we step outside our homes. It is the world of the local community, the neighborhood, the market, the park, and the local brewery. It is the place we call home.
Both these worlds command our attention, and yet our encounter with them is very different. Our relationship to the global world is one of detachment. We connect with it through images and sound. We know people as socio-political types. We turn to YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Telegram, and Facebook and we see the war in Ukraine. We think we understand because we see the dead bodies, the collapsed buildings, and the burned military vehicles. We are moved to support one side or the other, never thinking that both sides could be at fault and neither worthy of our allegiance. The power of the screen is the power of a wedge dividing people from one another. The result is a divided world of the tribe that is easier for marketing opinion and products.
Our relationship to our local community is one of direct engagement. We know people in the totality of their lives. A friend is hospitalized. We are quick to offer help to bring a meal or care for their children. We know these people primarily as persons, individuals with complete life histories.
Tommy is Howard and Arlene’s son. He teaches school at the local high school and on weekends referees local soccer league games. He is a Democrat and his wife Peggy is a Republican. She is Ralph and Juanita’s daughter, and the twin sister of Sue. They are local people that we know directly. There relationships are not mediated through social media. They are direct and real.
For most people, these two worlds never touch. For some of us, they merge every day. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to meet people from other countries. Our relationships are direct and real. We know each other and our families. We have slept in their homes, had meals with their families, and walk the streets of cities that they call home.
This is how a network of relationships forms as a global force in the world. It is not a detached fascination with some event that has no direct relevance to us. Every second of screen time produced by media companies, regardless of political affiliation, is designed to elicit a particular response. To talk directly to someone with whom you have a relationship of respect and trust is to cut through the simulated reality to find the real.
Navigating the Two Global Forces
The ironic problem is that our perception of the world is that it is now smaller, closer to us, and therefore a place for us to be engaged. We follow the trucker’s convoys in protest of COVID rules. We follow the events taking place in Ukraine. We follow persons of influence on Twitter and Instagram. We post our comments online. And yet, what do we really have to show for it. Our emotions have been stirred. We feel that we are participants on the world stage. The reality is that we are not.
We are subjects of a very sophisticated online system of the marketing of ideas and personalities. In a real sense, we are being propagandized by media companies, corporate marketing departments, and the political system.
As the world has grown smaller, the scope of the lives that we actually live has not grown more global, but smaller too. Ask yourself, what direct effect do you have globally through your engagement online. By direct, I mean a measurable difference. Can you trace some direct change that has taken place because of your connections online? How does that change make a difference that matters? The small screen in our hands is a doorway to a wider world of impact if we want.
Doing is Not Enough
The easiest thing is to do nothing. The second easiest is to do just something. But that is not my point. We can do or not do those things. It will not make much difference. This is where many people are. They are satisfied responding with a comment or a check to what is on their screen in their hand. It feels important. Particularly when you have put someone in their place because they express unacceptable ideas. But is it?
None of that really matters. You could stop all social media involvement. Do nothing more than that and the only difference is a lot more free time. Just doing something is marginally better. Action is not the alternative to non-action. Impact is the alternative to wasted action.
Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist and activist said,
“Your own acts tell the world who you are and what kind of society you think it should be.”
This statement captures for me the essence of leadership. The actions that we take freely and intentionally make a difference in the world. This is a different way of understanding leadership. It isn’t the person with a title or a big fancy office. It is rather what we do with our lives. Therefore, I see that …
All leadership begins with personal initiative to create impact that makes a difference that matters.
From this perspective, we don’t measure our lives by simply doing something. Rather, we want to do something that matters. This is the impact that creates change that matters.
The impact that we create is firstborn in the values that define who we are and the purpose for our lives. If we have no clear purpose or values that give us meaning, how then can we take initiative to create impact?
In other words, we grow into being persons of impact by growing as human beings from the inside out. This is why it is about more than just doing something.
When I first visualized the Two Global Forces, I wondered about their development into the future. After years of reflection on this thought, I came to the conclusion that the globally centralized institutions have already reached the apex of their place in society. They are now in the beginning stages of decline. I saw this transition forming two decades ago.
In addition, I am witnessing a steady increase in the number of people who are taking personal initiative to create impact that makes a difference that matters. I attribute this to the impact of three transitions.
The impact of the smartphone.
It allows anyone anywhere to collaborate with people in any other place. My weeks are filled with this kind of interaction where people are trying to solve problems in their local situation. The coronavirus pandemic has intensified this need to solve problems. As a result, more networks of relationships are forming.
The impact of rising prosperity and better education in developing countries.
The crises of the past two years have stunted that prosperity. Money is a critical issue. And will be so for near future. However, I am convinced that when passionate people committed to solving local problems begin to take personal initiative that financial resources will be found to fund their projects.
The impact of decentralization.
In other words, there is a growing shift toward focusing on local needs. Every global problem is a local problem to some group of people. I’ll take it one step further that all solutions originate in the process of solving local problems. This is local people focusing on creating local solutions to local problems. This is how power gets distributed and communities are served.
Our world is changing. It is going to be a difficult transition as I described in The Future is More than Complex. It is the background to understanding the Two Global Forces.
The Transition That Matters
We are at a transition point that can be greeted with fear or with aspiration. It is a time when the institutions that we have depended upon will not be there for us. This is why we need to shift our focus from world events to strengthening our local communities. Here’s how.
Begin by thinking for yourself.
Build relationships with respect and trust with people in your local community.
Decide what is the first problem that you like to solve as a local network of leaders of impact.
Let the fifth principle of the Circle of Impact be your guide.
Start Small. Act Locally. Share Globally. Take the Long View
Once you have solved the first problem, then train others to do the same.
Share your story with me, and I’ll share your story with the world.
Do this so that your community is prepared to face the crises that are coming to us.