The New Normal

We live in turbulent times. Yet the One Love concert in Manchester last night was a moving tribute to all of those who had been affected by the incidents in both London and Manchester in the past few weeks, and a powerful signal that we should always choose love not hate.

Growing up in both Manchester and Berlin in the 1980’s has profoundly shaped my worldview. Both cities were transforming themselves in different ways and for different reasons. The no-nonsense attitude and Mancunian humour imbued us all with an infectious confidence and creativity, which has helped to transform the city beyond all recognition in recent years. So I was particularly shocked and saddened by the suicide bomb there 2 weeks ago but have also been heartened by the humane and mature response that exemplified the aftermath.

And in Berlin, the speed with which the cold war eventually ended surprised us all. Even though I was still in school, it seemed that the division between east and west was deeply entrenched and apparently insurmountable. Yet the euphoria of the wall being literally torn down has been described as one of the defining moments of the 20th Century, and I learned a powerful lesson about how change can happen if we stand up collectively to demand it.

In addition I vividly remember the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005. It was the day after London had won the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games, which had been a day of collective euphoria in the city and beyond. The very next morning I was in the tube train immediately behind the one that was blown up near Aldgate. So we ended up being stuck in a tunnel for hours without any clue what had actually happened. Once we finally made it above ground I walked to work and was shocked to learn that one of my colleagues was seriously injured in the incident. In the end we found out she had lost a leg in the explosion. The next evening we had tickets for a gig and, like many people we did think about whether it was wise to still go out. However it was an amazing concert as there was a real feeling of solidarity which was inspiring and reassuring, and that, more than anything, is what has stayed with me.

I was reminded of all of these times and places by the senseless incident near London Bridge over the weekend. It is simply another terrifying reminder of the peculiar times we live in. So where do we go from here? Do we simply accept these types of events as the new normal, and allow them to diminish our collective spirit? Or do we try to better understand the motives behind these incidents and try to channel the immense humanity that we have witnessed in Manchester and London (and Berlin) to create something different; something better?

I sincerely hope it’s the latter. And more than ever I believe that openness and mutual understanding are more important than ever, especially with those who we disagree with and find a way to work together. And so I feel like the work that we strive to do at 100%Open can play a role to create a people-sized solutions to these planet-sized problems.

A society is only as rich as it’s poorest citizens. And far too many people are disenfranchised and disempowered from our society and economy right now. This is not a recipe for a peaceful and sustainable future and has to change. So with the forthcoming election this week I would urge all who are registered to vote in the UK to do so, regardless of your political persuasion. It’s just too important to opt out and leave it to others, usually those with the greater vested interest in the status quo, to decide. And yet putting a cross in a box every few years is not nearly enough.

It does appear that disruption and change are ever present and we must nurture our empathy for those different to ourselves, and find ways in which we can listen to and help each other. My German Grandmother spent her entire adult life trying to come to terms with the reality and after effects of World War 2, believed that there would never be a World War 3. The reason she gave for this was due to the fact that in the 2nd half of the 20th Century it became possible to visit and connect with those who appear so different to ourselves, through the ubiquity of air travel and latterly through the world wide web.

And yet just as we have become more connected than ever, in other aspects of our lives and societies we have never been more alone. Too many people are simply left behind by the riches and progress beamed into our homes 24/7 through increasingly immersive media.

In these strange times, it is essential to look up from our screens and connect with others different to ourselves and to exercise our empathy muscles. Perhaps sharing a pot of tea or creating space to find out what is keeping them up at night. If we do, we never know what might happen, but I remain more resolute, and more determined than ever to learn from these incidents and to channel them into a more positive, open and humane society.

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