The future begins now: calm before the storm

 Part I

By Louis Holder

Louis Holder is an entrepreneur in the manufacturing sector  

The commencement of this series of articles by Louis Holder represents an initiative undertaken by the Stabroek Business to encourage members of the business community to enjoin the ongoing discourse on issues pertaining to the Guyana economy, the global economy and the various ways in which Guyana is increasingly affected by the interdependent nature of the global community. We would particularly welcome comments, criticisms and points of view arising out of these articles. We hope that this initiative will open a floodgate.

This is the first of a brief series of opinion pieces on changes to employment in the future, causes of this upheaval, and some possible measures to mitigate their disruptive effects. Most of what is described in the foregoing is applicable to western developed countries but middle-income countries such as Guyana are in the crosshairs. The difference is timing. Further, Guyana does not possess the skills-set to prolong the onset of these changes. The country has received some service outsourcing jobs but these are low-skill positions. It is therefore shared with the public to help focus attention on the decision-making needed to avert the imminent calamity. 

20161014coffee-louis-holderThe world is changing is ways that will adversely affect the well-being of most of its population. It is becoming more difficult to sustain the people who current occupy it especially the ability of workers to take care of their dependents. Social upheaval and wars over scarce and vital resources such as food and water will become commonplace. The driving factors for such calamity are climate change and automation. Yet no politician, not in the US, not in Europe (well maybe one country there), not anywhere else is addressing the ramifications of these two phenomena in a meaningful way so as to mitigate their damaging effects and allow for peaceful coexistence of mankind.

Over the next several articles, with the kind permission of Stabroek News’ Business Editor, I will paint my vision of the future and some possible solutions. My academic training is in Economics and Electrical Engineering Technology, and my experience is in managing people and processes in large corporations, so I bring no particular insights to forecasting future events. I am not known for being perspicacious but that should not limit any of us from observing trends and projecting repercussions. So here goes.

Let’s start with current phenomena which define the calm before the storm. The emergence of Donald Trump as a contender, and now President-elect, to lead the most powerful nation on the face of the earth is no accident or blip on the radar. One may ask how anyone described as xenophobic, misogynistic, narcissistic, and uninformed can ascend to such a position. Simple. Trump is pandering to the fears of US citizens whose worries are real. Their lives have stagnated and they see no prospect for a better future. They lash out at perceived ‘enemies’ such as immigrants and Muslims. And Trump is their standard bearer. He says what he’s thinking without regard to sensitivity, civility or political correctness. And his supporters follow suit. The US is becoming a very uninviting place for people who don’t look like Trump’s white supporters. They have been emboldened by Trump to say what’s on their minds without concern for repercussions. This has been the case with Veronica Zuleta, an El Salvador-born US Citizen and a domestic who was shopping for her employer at the upscale Draeger’s Market in Menlo Park, California. A man accosted her saying, ‘You should go to Safeway. This store is for white people.’

New York Times Editor, Michael Luo, was with his family on a Sunday after church on the Upper East Side, Manhattan and was berated by a well-dressed woman: ‘Go back to China. Go back to your f…ing country.’

Then there were the three white men from Wichita, Kansas, who converted such hatred to action of plotting to bomb a mosque and apartment complex housing Somali immigrants. As New York Times writer, Roger Cohen, says, “Go back to where you come from,” is the phrase du jour. Trump didn’t create this anger and hatred, he just gave it expression. And the xenophobia isn’t limited to the US. In Britain, people voted against their best interest to leave the European Union as a strategy to keep immigrants out. Brexit is Britain’s wall and the rest of Europe is lurching towards anti-immigrant nationalist parties.

In Australia, Norbert Hofer, the right-wing candidate surged in the polls in that country’s election with over 35% of the vote. And other national candidates in Hungary, Denmark and Switzerland exceeded 20% of the voting electorate in recent elections. Nationalism, anti-immigration and xenophobia are on the rise in Europe because of fears of what the future holds. And this is the just calm before the storm.

In the second installment, I will continue describing the status quo which, although characterized by much unease and fear, can still be considered as a period of relative calm.

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