In it for the Long Haul: A Steve Edge Guide to Work and Life in a Turbulent World
For a while now, the plane has been swaying amid the turbulence. The passengers are valiantly trying to ride it out. But the news from air traffic control is that it doesn’t look set to end any time soon. Of course, it doesn’t help that the orange-faced pilot isn’t in any way qualified to fly, and only passed the test by tricking his examiners. Nor does it help that the British passengers are bickering; 52% want their own private section of the plane, whereas the other 48% are happy to sit with everyone else.
Many passengers claim that this is the most turbulence they’ve ever experienced. Some Americans pipe up in disagreement; they cite the 60s, when the gap between young and old caused a huge imbalance onboard. A number of Brits mutter something about the 80s, when many lost jobs down in the plane’s turbine engines. But there is a shared understanding among the passengers; they know this current bout of turbulence is something entirely different, something that’s only just beginning.
A metaphor for turbulence
At the risk of exhausting this metaphor, we’ll postpone it there. Yes, the plane is some sort of allegory of western civilization, and yes, western civilization has hit turbulent times. This is partly due to the rise of Donald Trump; a TV personality and multi-billionaire businessman, he is now president of the USA, the most powerful country in the world. And it’s partly due to the Brexit result, which revealed a deep rift in the ideals of the British public.
But there are various other factors contributing to these unsteady times. There’s the constant threat of terrorism; we’ve already seen Isis claim responsibility for a recent series of atrocious events across a number of European cities. There’s the danger posed by cyber spying and hacking, which puts our safety, security and privacy at risk. Then there’s the infiltration of fake news onto social media; forcing us to question what we hold to be true, it demands that we re-evaluate the ways in which we gather information and understand the world.
So yes, these are volatile times – politically, socially and culturally – and the situation doesn’t look set to settle down any time soon. In Britain, the fact that no one party was able to achieve an outright majority in June’s election further highlights the lack of any general consensus among the British public. In the cybersphere, recent attacks on the NHS and a number of large international corporations continue to raise concerns over the safety of finances and information. It certainly seems as if this bout of turbulence, fuelled by division, dissatisfaction and unrest, is here for the long haul, so we better get used to it.
Or perhaps even make the most of it. Cue our return aboard the metaphorical aeroplane…
Finding inspiration and opportunity
Most of the passengers remain quietly in their seats, refusing to accept or consider the extent of the turbulence, and blindly hoping the discomfort will pass. But a few passengers recognise that with instability comes opportunity. This select group of passengers embrace being forced out of their comfort zones (some are in first class), and as they wander down the fuselage with the aisle lights flickering above them, they find inspiration rather than trepidation in the turbulence.
Like the few bold passengers on board, we can be the ones to step up and search for ways to make the best of our shaky situation, and – dare we say – even enjoy it. In the case of Brexit and Trump in particular, whatever our stance may be, stubbornness and dejection will only exacerbate the rift in public opinion. We should look to identify ways of filling that rift and shedding light on it. This might be done through art and creativity or it might be done through business and entrepreneurship.
In Britain’s arts and creative sector, for example, over 96% of people voted remain. Although this bears a significant contrast to the vote of the wider public, it would be a mistake to let it lead to bitterness and division. And if anyone can explore the nation’s differences in interesting, pertinent and positive ways, it’s those in the creative world. As Grayson Perry noted:
For me as an artist, I love it when something comes along and makes me think ‘Wow that’s a bit shocking.’ We can’t keep on peddling our same old comfortable ideas and preach to the already converted. No, let’s go out there and genuinely engage with the majority of the population.
A creative perspective
Brexit presents artists, creatives and visionaries with an opportunity to find new ways of considering and depicting national identity; in the process, we have a chance at unifying Britain. In business, the same principle stands. Brexit will present opportunities that wouldn’t have otherwise arisen, and it is the savvy businessperson who identifies the markets that emerge out of change and capitalises on them.
Although Britain’s decision to leave the EU is just one factor contributing to the turbulence that is shaking our civilization, looking at it through the lens of possibility rather than passivity sets a positive precedent for the way we should approach the wider unrest and uncertainty spreading throughout society. Whichever way we go about it, it’s about looking for unity in division and clarity in chaos.
And that’s something we can all get on board with.