Something very interesting is happening around the world right now. Whereas we have all been united for the last few years in suffering a worldwide almost-Depression, we are now finding ourselves united in another kind of battle – a battle between the old way and the new way.
The Recession as San Andreas Fault
They say that when an earthquake happens of gigantic magnitude, the earth actually gets tilted a bit on its axis, thus altering time by one second. The great recession of the 21st century seems to have had a similar effect. Of course, in the marketing world, this is not breaking news. Before the recession, we were debating whether or not print was dying. Now we are asking if our websites look okay on the iPad. Would this transformation have happened without the great crack of hard times? Probably, but maybe we would have focused on the transition a bit more. We were occupied with tight credit and the actual danger of bank runs.
Well, in the world at large, something similar has happened. There has been a revolution. The shot heard round the world happened at some point, but we all missed it. The battle is not about politics. It’s not about US versus Al Qaeda. It’s not about Israel versus Palestine. Rather, this revolution is about the old ways versus the new ways.
Freedom is the word
What is most striking, to me at least, about events going on in Madison, Wisconsin, my own home state of Ohio, Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt, Algeria, and Libya is that in all places, the word you hear most, or see most visibly, is freedom. In contrast, you see people who are seeing the battle as an attack on the old ways, the proven ways. In Egypt, people were not chanting, “Let’s do what the US wants us to do.” They were celebrating the new-found freedom that they were fighting for to actually make change. Mubarak represented the past. Freedom was the present. As an almost perfect tribute to this battle, relics from ancient Egypt were attacked in the Cairo museum. You can’t celebrate pharoahs when you’re crying for freedom, after all.
In Madison, Wisconsin, where workers’ rights are under attack, the protesters are chanting, “This is what Democracy looks like,” as if we had all forgotten that we have the right to assemble. People protesting the protesters, who often are affiliated with the Tea Party, also affiliate themselves with their interpretation of what America’s founding fathers would have wanted. Old versus new, though of course in the US Democracy is not really new. It just seems we forgot what it meant.
In Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, and Algeria, people are protesting the old ways. They are protesting dictators, oppressive rule from European countries, and a lot more. What’s newer still is that the US is not jumping in. In these countries, the leadership is fighting back without mercy. In Ohio, our governor has suggested that anyone who protests should be fired on the spot.
You can almost hear the words echoing down through the centuries. “Let them eat cake.”
Clinging to the ancient past
And yet, while all of this is going on – while the senior citizens in Prichard, Alabama, who have not received pensions for years are fighting back at council meeting after council meeting while the mayor sits by stone-faced, while the people of Madison, Wisconsin, fight for what they have earned, while the people across the Middle East fight for the freedom they have been yearning for, old ways are thriving in other places. Nothing is more symbolic of the old ways than the fact that invitations were sent out for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Revolution on one side, royals on the other. And there’s the rift.
The World is Changing
Have you ever watched the development of a little baby? When they’re first born, they kind of are like a really sweet smelling, cuddly raisin. Then one day, they realize that they have fingers. Then they discover their toes. You can almost see the recognition grow in their faces. “Oh, hey, that voice means I get to eat now!” Or, “Wow, no one told me about this rolling over thing. That’s terrific!”
I feel like the world is kind of going through that recognition state right now, in many different places. “Oh, so, I can make a difference in my world, really. Wow. That’s amazing.”
But there are a lot of people who don’t want to see those changes, and they will fight hard to keep what they are used to as the status quo. It’s not really about political parties or ethnicity or religion. It’s about the old versus the new. It’s about print versus web. It’s about the internet versus mobile.
Which side of the great divide are you pinning your hopes to?
image by Richard Simpson. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/nzric