It feels like the world is on fire. From Egypt to Greece, India to the UK, Spain and now North America, we are currently living in an international worldwide wave of protests.
Avaaz.org gathered 500,000 signatures in just four days in support of the spreading demonstrations, and there is no slowing down in sight. According to Avaaz, “Thousands of Americans have non-violently occupied Wall Street, an epicentre of global financial power and corruption. They are the latest ray of light in a new movement for social justice that is spreading like wildfire from Madrid to Jerusalem to 146 other cities and counting.”
In my hometown of Vancouver, Occupy Wall Street is arriving Saturday, October 15.
The Wall Street protests might be new in action, but they are manifestations of long-felt sentiments. The common denominator is finance: a lack of it, an abundance of it for too few, irresponsible misappropriation or downright theft and greed. An incredible pop-up blog titled, “We stand with the 99%” shows photos of the wealthy 1% who want redistribution, and support the majority. One man’s statement says it all, “I don’t deserve better health care because I got lucky with stock options. I am the 1%. I stand with the 99%.”
We have created a global economy that defines a successful country by how much stuff is sold. For eras, especially with the rise of the industrial revolution, we operated on a market of GDP or Gross Domestic Product. The majority of the world today values “success” simply by accumulated unbalanced wealth. If our only measuring stick of value is rampant capitalism, then surely we shouldn’t be surprised that this is the international outcome.
Apparently Bhutan saw ahead of its time in the 1970s when they created Gross National Happiness or GNH. For them, success didn’t mean how much product they put out, it meant a holistic sense of personal and professional development for their citizens. From spiritual to environmental, personal health to mental well being, Bhutan created seven guidelines to evaluate and calculate the GNH of their state. They connected the simple dots that the rest of the world has fallen behind on seeing. Humans cannot sustain happiness when void of authentic inherent value—and that will never just be measured in sales.
So, where are we now?
We have an open opportunity to understand what has brought us here and how it did not work. If our existing system and foundation clearly does not serve the 99%, then it is time for more people to be engaged in a dialogue that will. We need to reapproach the old with a fresh set of eyes that understands interconnectedness. People, like business or government, are not one-dimensional. A renewed sense of what value means (that is not solely driven by monetary gain) might be a vehicle that gets us closer.
If Bhutan could do it in the 1970s, what will it take for us to do it today? There is much to be done and the time is now.