A Toolbox for living in the 21st Century

Photo by Alberto Bigoni on Unsplash

Apparently, the 21st century is becoming increasingly difficult to live in. Still reeling from the effects of the Financial Crisis, with global warming looming, the Coronavirus crisis still in evolution, and social inequalities stronger than before, we can’t help but feel a loss of faith in the sets of morals that prevailed in the 20th century. How is one to live a sane and effective life in the 21st century?

Education was based on the requirements of the Industrial Revolution: produce disciplined citizens, ready to work in the factories, or after pursuing higher education, create new factories. Morals were based on adherence to the prevailing religious and moral model, often called the silent majority.

In the middle of the Sixties began a reversal of the economic and social model. With the introduction of computers, the economy began shifting from an industrial to a knowledge economy and for the first time, services were bigger than the industrial sector.

The ever-expanding use of technology and the immense power of computers began producing concrete effects: gradually jobs began to be replaced by computers and economic growth was no more producing stable jobs and social security but just the opposite, more and more competition, more and more productivity resulting in the elimination of jobs in many sectors of the economy.

Needless to say, the family model changed radically, with statistics showing that the traditional family model of married couples with children turned to a minority.

Among all these changes it seems incredible that social structures remained largely unchanged: a mass education system based on memorization and not on developing critical thinking goes on like nothing has changed, resulting in an ever-increasing sense of malaise in the school system everywhere. Religion fights to provide a sense of stability and justice using the same doctrines as before, and politicians keep on relying on marketing tactics and polls but fail to respond to the complex issues of today: environment, energy, unemployment, immigration, social inequality, etc.

So, what can we do? How can we live a sane, happy, and productive life today?

We need a change in mentality, in habits, and in lifestyle, and to do this we must develop a new toolbox: a 21st-century mindset focused on knowledge and the experiences, both positive and negative, we collected from the last decades.

First, we must not seek security. The old social model is not there anymore. We need new tools designed to comply with this new reality. What is the nature of the new reality? Change. So these tools must be based on change. Here are the good news: the same circumstances that upset all aspects of 20th-century living, produced an unlimited supply of new tools to allow us to face the requirements of the new century. For the first time in humanity’s history, knowledge is free and available to everybody. We are free to take control of everything in our life: our health, our diet, our finances, our education, our lifestyle and for the first time also we realize that everything is interrelated — our way of living, our mindset, our finances, our diet, our exercise habits, our health status are all related to each other.

While Industrial societies required a strict set of rules to function and a well-defined hierarchy to impose them, today’s society, after decades of disruptive changes, requires the exact opposite: collaboration, sharing, the capacity to adapt our thinking and our rules to rapidly changing circumstances. Rigid, dichotomous thinking is not only obsolete, it lies behind many of our current problems. The same goes for our planning processes. Inflexible goal planning and linear time management don’t cut it anymore. After setting our goals, we need to reevaluate them constantly and adapt them to the real conditions of our life.

Today, after decades of disruption caused by rapid changes, we are in a position to take a step back and take an unhurried look at the way we live. We have the knowledge and the means to make more intelligent life choices, a more balanced use of technology, and be more aware of the environment and our society as a whole. Just like in the first days of the Industrial Revolution, our era has everything, from modern Robber Barons and hate groups to incredible accomplishments and new opportunities, showing us the worst and the best of what we are capable of doing — the future is in our hands!

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Peter Manthos is a Babyboomer. He lives in Athens with his wife, his daughter and their dog Dali. He studied Economics, travels a lot and he reads voraciously.

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Peter Manthos

Peter Manthos is a Babyboomer. He lives in Athens with his wife, his daughter and their dog Dali. He studied Economics, travels a lot and he reads voraciously.