Krönika

The future in retrospective.

» Original text in Swedish.

I am going by bus downtown thinking about how great it is that public transportation is free. Nowadays, there are very few cars in circulation. On the bus, the other passengers greet me happily and I feel warm inside. I remember the times when people looked away if our eyes met, or were so intensely busy with their mobile phones that they did not see each other. What a strange and amazing difference it is when the people are present and care for each other.

My friend has made a reservation for our lunch at a fantastic restaurant with amazing food and divine desserts. Of course, everything is organic and healthy, seeing as it’s almost impossible to find unhealthy food, neither in restaurants, in cafes nor at the grocery stores. The turnaround came when the politicians issued skyrocketing taxes on detrimental products that made people sick. They also decreed that it was forbidden to advertise junk food, candy, soft drinks, prescription drugs and all other products that obviously damage the body. At the same time, food and products that bring vitality and freshness were subsidized.

We are so lucky – what would have happened otherwise? In Sweden, more than 50% of the population were overweight (the percentage was even higher in countries like the US and Mexico) and lifestyle diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and mental illness set new records yearly amongst both children and adults. It only got worse and worse. I can’t believe that we let it go almost irreversibly wrong, before we realized that something had to be done. It was not the politicians who brought about the change, since their hands were tied by the food industry, but by the demands of ordinary people from all over the world who had eventually had enough. These days the newspaper’s headlines are all about how people are becoming healthier and healthier every year.

While having lunch, my friend tells me that his daughter loves her school. Her favorite subject is Life Skills, where the teacher facilitates conversations around feelings; the meaning of life; what people need to feel good, etc., The students get to do experiential exercises making them feel comfortable with one another. They are coached to identify their strengths and gifts, both in themselves and their classmates, and they get to understand that ALL people are unique and valuable.

No one is measured and valued solely by their intellectual or practical knowledge or their outward beauty. It is of equal importance to have emotional awareness and to be able to cooperate and communicate as a human being. Since the subject of Life Skills was introduced, bullying has vanished, the children interact positively together and get much more involved in their school. The entire school system has transformed to help students become heart intelligent, joyful people who want to contribute to society because it feels good from within.

On my way home I make a stop at the health center. Since pharmaceutical companies are no longer allowed to teach and sponsor doctors or other health professionals, people have become much healthier. The doctors act as advisers rather than authorities and get paid based on how healthy their patients are.

Nowadays, the patients are allowed, and even encouraged, to decide what kind of assistance they need. There are a great many wellness treatments available to choose from that are subsidized by the government. Integrative thinking is a mandatory part of medical education and the doctors are very well versed in these techniques. Imagine that in previous times, less than two days of training in diet and nutrition were included in medical school. No wonder people got steadily more sick when they did not get the appropriate help they needed. Thankfully, that trend has reversed! This means that pharmaceutical medication is now considered the “alternative approach,” as it really always should have been, and is not subsidized in the same way and therefore used only when absolutely necessary.


Creativity is flourishing and vigor is greater than ever ...

A short tour of the downtown area makes me joyous. I greet so many people that I meet with a “Hello!” even though we do not really know each other, although it feels like we do somehow on some invisible, yet almost tangible, level. It fills me with energy and I know that the others feel the same way. I have plenty of time, because we do not work as many hours as we did in the past. All is calm and unhurried and it is a wonderful experience.

Ever since the Citizen’s Basic Income was introduced a lot has changed for the better. Many feared that people would become lazy and not want to work, but it has been just the opposite. Creativity is flourishing and vigor is greater than ever, especially because the day to day stress and pressure of just barely scraping enough together to make ends meet is no longer present. Everywhere new organizations and companies emerge that benefit the community in many ways. For instance: supporting the people; making health promotions; helping the schools; and creating forums for children, adolescents, adults and the elderly where they can meet, socialize and develop together.

Enterprises still streamline, but it is not primarily for the shareholders and top managers to serve on, but for the benefit of freeing up time for their employees. Thanks to this, people do not have to wait until the weekend, holiday or retirement to have quality time in their life — they can live HERE AND NOW! Parents of young children have time to be with their kids and get the support, that allows them to keep up with life. The elderly are involved in the community, young people are hired as employees and both are seen as assets. On the whole, people are more engaged and involved and it creates a positive, upward spiral.

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People are no longer overly attracted to and interested in money and gadgets. Most people understand that they will never find happiness outside of themselves, so they prefer to invest in experiences and self-developing activities. The same applies to businesses, partly because they care about their employees and want them to feel good both at work and at home and partly because they know that it is profitable to develop their staff.

There are even treatments for greed, because now it is seen as a disease, which is neither good for the individual nor society. Therefore, all bonuses and high severance payments have disappeared. On reflection, those people who were involved with this kind of salary feel shame. Inner happiness is the driving force behind careers instead of money, people are not only taking but also giving back, which feels good in both heart and soul. The country of Bhutan was the first to measure Gross National Happiness (prior to GDP) already back in 1972, and today most countries are following suit. This is a clear recognition that each individual human being is more important than money and that the measure of a country’s actual level of development lies in the well-being and joy of their citizens.

I walk past the Mend-It-All shop and submit my blender for repair. It will be ready in a few days. It would never occur to me to throw away a product that can still be used, if it is possible to repair. The “wear-it-once-and-throw-it-away” mentality has definitely been … well, thrown away! It is inexpensive to repair things and spare parts are low priced. There are even university courses that focus on recycling and repair, which are very popular!

Companies producing new gadgets have a firm responsibility to design all products with as long a life span as possible and they only hire managers who have a long-term mind set. In other words, their goals are protecting the environment, our people and our planet before any short-term financial gain for the company. Keep in mind that it once was the other way around! It is now really hard to believe that products were actually designed with a “planned obsolescence”, as it was so aptly named, in other words, to break down after a certain amount of use, so that we would be forced to buy a new product. This approach was combined with advertising to convince us that happiness lies in buying new, new, new! What a waste of natural resources and money! Good gracious, how easily we were manipulated back then, buying into that lie. Today people look back on those times and smile with a knowing forgiveness now that things have changed for the better.

I marvel that the shift to the new era passed so quickly, and I am extremely grateful that I got to be part of it. I remember the first small step that led to the next step, and then the next, and after a while the pace of change was explosive and good ideas and initiatives gushed out from everywhere almost infinitely. It became a trend and highest fashion to care about goodness, to say no to injustice and to show moral courage. Wow!

When I get home, I’m full of energy and looking forward to what could be an ordinary weekday evening. For me, every day is as valuable as the next and I have the time and tranquility to allow me to fully enjoy that which I am purposefully creating. Life is great to live!

Anneli Påmark & Carl Österberg
Authors of “Vägra följa John”