Looking back to step forward

Issue 37 - 05 January 2021 (7-min read)

Good riddance to 2020 - a year that was somehow too long and too short at the same time. Of course, the coronavirus was the overwhelming damper on the past year but, let’s be honest, it wasn’t that swell of a year otherwise also. It was a year of loss, of people and of connections, of opportunities and of moments, of health and of wealth. 

If we thought that starting a new year will give us all an opportunity to let go of all that we went through, the first few days of 2021 are a clear indication that we’re not in the clear. The pandemic is still raging in our countries, in fact new strains of the virus are emerging. The vaccines are being hoarded by rich countries, and their complicated bureaucracies are letting doses expire before they reach the populations. And we are still compelled to socially distance, unable to be close to our loved ones when we know a hug would make it better for just a brief moment.

There’s no way to know if 2021 will continue on the same trajectory as the previous year but, as we start the new year, we at The Global Tiller would like to take this opportunity to understand the grief that we are all feeling. Maybe it will help us all process it better and equip us with tools to once again feel hopeful. 

Loss isn’t something entirely unique to 2020 but what makes the year especially evil was that it prevented us from processing that loss the way we best know how: through social connections.

In 'That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief', David Kessler describes the many kinds of grief we are feeling in the pandemic: the feeling that the world has changed and nothing feels the same, but also the anticipatory grief of what the future holds when we’re uncertain. He shares some ways to cope with this also and, eventually, the power lies in acceptance because this is where we gain back some control. He also suggests finding balance in the things we’re thinking. "If you feel the worst image taking shape, make yourself think of the best image," he says.

True to its contradictory self, 2020 was also a year where we didn’t see grief at the scale of the global crisis that it is. News media headlined thousands of daily deaths, some even tried to put it in grave perspective: The U.S. COVID-19 toll equals a death every 1.5 minutes, 8 plane crashes a day, or 67 9/11 attacks. Yet, our minds were unable to comprehend the dire statistics, or make sense of the death tolls. Or maybe it was just one way to "ostrich" our way out of the issue. 

An empathy scientist explained the lack of collective mourning through a wide range of cognitive biases that come into play, such as the numeracy bias (our brain’s inability to process large numbers), or the ostrich effect (our tendency to avoid negative information), or the recency effect (a nearsightedness where only recent events have a vivid effect), or even availability heuristic (our tendency to overestimate events that more easily come to mind, like plane crashes or shark attacks). 

All of us are processing this pandemic through one or all of these biases and our collective response is a reflection of our collective empathy. As we move into the new year, perhaps a useful first step would be to acknowledge this grief that hovers upon all of us, so we can start thinking about how to move forward.

Some countries have shown us the way. China marked a national day of mourning on April 4 where sirens rang in the air and the entire country stood still. Spain did the same in July. Australian media is collecting oral accounts of 'Generation Covid', anticipating an entire generation who’s worldview will be shaped by this pandemic. Experts are calling it the "hidden fourth wave of the pandemic". 

The pandemic and its misery are still too present for us to gain much perspective but it may be helpful for us to prepare for the inevitable mental health crises that will come when we resurface.

We hope that you are taking the time to check in on yourself and your loved ones. Let’s hope 2021 takes it easy on us.

Happy new year!

Hira - Editor - The Global Tiller


Conversation with a Leader

We are excited to introduce Pacific Ventury’s new series “Conversation with a Leader" in which we meet leaders from different walks of life and discuss how we can navigate our future challenges.

In this first episode, we meet Keith Coats, co-founder of TomorrowToday Global. Keith is a leadership specialist and a futurist. He tells us about the challenges of our times and the leadership needed to address them. He also shares his insights on what good leadership could be and why we should care about the future.

If you like this series, feel free to share it with your community. Stay tuned for more episodes!


…and now what?

Dear reader, first of all let me wish you all the best for the coming year 2021, Gregorian calendar style. We’re starting a new decade that was closed and transitioned by a pandemic. Quite an end to the story of a decade that has seen: a financial crisis, the rise of populism, Big Tech invasion, and more.

Before we move forward, today The Global Tiller helps you retrospect for a bit. I invite you to look back not only to 2020 but also the last 10 years. Because for many reasons, 2020 was just the result of the past decade. A decade that was dominated by: the culture of ego, the culture of greed, the culture of division. 

I usually describe it as R.E.A.L.: Rigid, Exclusive, Apathetic and Logical. A way for me and those I teach, to give sense to situations that are hard to compel for the human brain. Because, as Hira mentioned above, our brains are far from being infallible machines. Clogged with biases, it’s really hard for the individual to face the challenges of our times. 

And as we’re stepping into a time of existential challenges, this could look worrisome.

It does, but only if you look at humans through the lens of the individual as it has been the case during the last decade. But we’re not mere individuals. We’re not even designed to be individual-istic!

We’re designed to be together, to live and work together, to think and create together. This is our very own nature. But this ability to work collectively, when ignored or, worse, when managed poorly (intentionally or not) can become extremely harmful and force us to become mean, selfish and terribly hateful.

So as we’re opening a new year, a new decade, how about stepping into a new age. And I will make a resolution not for me but for us: let’s be resolute to reconcile with our true nature. Let’s be resolute to find back our sense of shared duties, of dreaming collectively, of thinking together. This is when humanity has been at its best. And damn, do we need our best in these worst times!

So if you’re a leader - and you probably are because you’re curious and careful enough to read the newsletter that helps you make sense of this complex world - think about what you can do to help your community be a community again. Whether at home, at work or within our collective institutions:

  • Let’s learn how to create and nurture spaces for collective discussions (online or IRL)

  • Let’s act to show people the way that should be: one inclusive, peaceful and empathetic,

  • Let’s share our knowledge, our perspectives and point-of-view with those who think, act and live differently. 

It can start with small steps but it will generate waves of change. In the French version of this newsletter, Te Hoe, I ended the year with a theme of 'hope'. And I closed it with these words: 

Ever since I discovered hope is an emotion, I have become fascinated by this concept and amazed by its capabilities. Its best representation for me remains this quote from Viktor Frankl: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” What if, at the end of the day, hope was just the representation of our ability to make responsible choices?” 

There is our chance, it’s a new beginning!

Philippe - Founder - Pacific Ventury

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