Zoom in on the new normal
June 25, 2020 - Some 60 "Friends" were ready to attend the webinar of the Vrienden van Cobbenhagen, online, via Zoom. Almost the new common. Emile Aarts appointed himself an "appetizer" and introduced the main course—the contributions of Ton Wilthagen, Ronald de Jong, Esther Keymolen, and Martijn Groenleer.
Did everybody receive their drinks packages? No, they didn't. But those who signed up on time got it the day before and looked surprised when the courier rang. Wine, snacks, juice.
This event is a prelude to a book to be published later this year under the title The New Common, Coping with COVID-19, edited by Emile Aarts, Ton Wilthagen, Margriet Sitskoorn, and Hein Fleuren with various contributions from an impressive number of thirty authors from Tilburg University. All with different expertise.
Appetizer Aarts recommends two books that already announced a changing society: the famous philosopher Noah Harari on A Brief History Tomorrow (who hasn't got this book yet?) or his 21 Lessons for the 21st Century and the futuristic Novacene, The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence by James Lovelock. And those interested are recommended to buy these at the local bookstore in order to “glocalize” this worldly purchase, freely paraphrasing Martijn Groenleer, later in the broadcast.
Perhaps we should declare ourselves the Friends of Commonhagen
Meanwhile in the chat
Ab: Tight story, logic and structure to the new commonality.
Wouter: Nelson RR (1974), intellectualizing about the moon-ghetto metaphor: a study of the current malaise of rational analysis of social problems. Nelson asked the question "if we can land a moon on the moon, why can't we solve the problems in the ghetto? The first appears to be much easier. So we still have a challenge ahead of us.
Ton Wilthagen prefers to talk about a new commonality, “the new common,” instead of the new normal. He sketches a number of 'commonalities' in bird's-eye view: lack of diversity, exclusion (e.g. immigrants in slaughterhouses), labor market, pension, and climate issues are not generation-neutral, and humanity as far as the ecosystem is concerned, flora and fauna barely participate (e.g. biodiversity, mink), robotization. This commonality is also interwoven in the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
COVID-19 may also be a further driving force for what we had already started, such as the energy transition. Ton ends with the 5 stages of recovery after corona, freely paraphrasing McKinsey: Resolve, Resilience, Return, Reintegrate, and Reform. Recovery will have to go through these stages.
Ronald de Jong argues that new leadership is urgently needed. Other types of leaders who lead us through and beyond the crisis. Responsible leadership must shape the post-COVID agenda: leaders suitable for the new era. In doing so, old hobbyhorses must be thrown overboard. Even those who previously were the best horses in the stable (Von Hayek, Friedman) are no longer the right leaders. “We have to question their theories and methods. And not get stuck on old ideas.” We are facing an economic, an ecological, and a public health crisis. This forces us to ask critical questions: how effective is the market still today? What is the role of the government? And of companies? What is prosperity—no longer just material?
There should be a collective responsibility instead of an individual one, i.e., more focus on the bigger picture. So what Ton calls: commonality. At company level, with shareholders, in politics. It's not just about financial value creation at the expense of resources. Externalities must be included in the price, and reports from companies must also be about social contributions. Shareholder capitalism must be reformed.
Don't get stuck on old ideas
In the chat
Wouter: Thanks Ronald, good narrative! Also raises the question of whether McKinsey's schedule does not lack the point "re-value." Reimagination may come close to that, but there is a risk that people reimagine within current frameworks. While the questions you raise have a strong values dimension (which is in line with our university). The re-value?
Technology philosopher Esther Keymolen asks us the question "Is that it than?" Suppose we have an app or other technology to curb the coronavirus. Is that it? She argues that the impact new technology has on society is much greater than just a solution to a practical problem. When you say “yes” to the app, you say “yes” to the system connected to that app that ensures that it works. Is the app a Trojan horse? Think of the invasive apps developed in Poland or Russia. Are they only used to curb the virus? What leverage do we give companies like Google and Apple on our society by simply installing an app? Keymolen is not against technology, Google, or Apple per se. But she is against naivety. “We must not be fooled. New technology never just solves practical problems, but there are all kinds of interests and political considerations behind it.” Her call: “Let's be technology’s critical friend.”
Technology’s critical friends
In the chat
Rondy: Technology can have political consequences, but it's always people who apply it. That's why it's important that people consult their own conscience, values, and norms before they act. This was the case in the past (e.g. civil servants who passed on data during WW2), and it still is today.
Keymolen: Good point about people's ultimate responsibility. I couldn't agree more.
Martijn Groenleer takes us back to “the local” and shows us how the corona virus can lead to a revaluation of the region. The corona virus is not going to end globalization, but it can make local society flourish again. His key word: glocalization, a development already predicted by Manuel Castells in his Rise of the Network Society. Global flows will continue but will go hand in hand with a closer connection at a lower level. The continuing importance of place. And also: digital collectivity has strong local and regional implications. Global developments go hand in hand with divergent local policies. Martijn compares the symbiosis, the best of both worlds with the McKroket (which, incidentally, resulted in him receiving a critical note in the chat). Anyway, it's about the fact that, for example, you should buy international bestsellers from the local bookstore—which also manifests itself online—rather than from the Amazons and bol.coms.
The McKroket, the globalization of a local product
In the chat
Tim: McKroket. Worst of two worlds put together. That's something we have to watch out for in a general sense. Then there is a chance that, in the worst-case scenario, a kind of Frankenstein monster of globalization and localization emerges.
Meanwhile, more than a hundred posts passed during the webinar, which was concluded by the chair, now as "dessert", as extremely successful and worth repeating. The posts, in which very interesting contributions were made, show that this webinar tastes like more. From "We want more" to "Food for thought". We will leave the role of the drinks package to the imagination.
Thank you Friends of Commonhagen, uh... Cobbenhagen.
Watch the webinar The new normal (in Dutch)
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