A new era is dawning. We humans have been self-developing for five decades, a time where ‘Me’ and ‘I’ stood front and central. This focus on individuality has brought us a lot. It allowed for an unprecedented flourishing of creativity and innovation. But it is not the final phase.
A revival of ‘Us’ – of the ‘We’ – is now dawning. The intensity of suffering around us – depression, addiction, loneliness, burnout, stress – points to an old truth: people do not become happy by solely being focused on themselves. We humans only feel entirely fulfilled when we can do and mean something for each other.
The realisation is growing that our identity as a human being consists as much of a “We” as an “I”. That realization, that we need each other deeply to experience meaning and happiness in this life, is central to my vision.
My ideal world is a place where people strengthen and support each other. In which we see each other’s preciousness and dignity. A value that is not tied to success, status, power or money. New science is increasingly showing how deeply interdependent we are. It is not survival of the fittest, but survival of the nurtured. We humans feed each other with our care and attention.
We develop each other. My ideal world is a place where literally everyone feels: I belong. No person left behind. We have been told that needing each other is a sign of weakness. That is a real tragedy. It has banished many people into deep loneliness. The road to this new world is to focus on reconnection in the coming decades.
Our biggest challenge lies here. A lot of pain has been suffered in human relationships. Between parents and children. Between family members, colleagues, neighbors and school friends. We have vowed in defense of the pain to never be so open and vulnerable to any person again. Hence we were completely thrown back on ourselves.
The road to reconnection runs through all this pain and suffering. If we want to establish new relationships, we must face the pain of our experienced disconnection. We know around us the toll that society takes when pain is pushed away. Disowned pain goes underground and causes further damage. The bill is then invariably paid by innocent people: our partner, our colleagues or neighbours and worst of all: our own children.
What is needed today above all is kindness. Courage and gentle Kindness. Courage to take off the masks, our “happy emojis”. And kindness to enable us to take care of the pain together again. We can only do this together.