Whipping Self-Interest Into Balance with Social-Interest

This is a contribution to Rutger Bregman’s article Yes, it’s all the fault of Big Oil, Facebook and ‘the system’. But let’s talk about you this time. Since it’s longer than the accepted quota for comments, I posted here…

NB: This is not the usual commentary- it’s a sketch plan of a solution people here are looking for. It’s a solution we can start developing together today and introduce to the world.

Rutger’s article is about ‘people know but they aren’t acting’ and this is a frustration me and you see on the internet and more so on this platform — like Sally Esser is frustrated “ The raison d’etre of this publication was supposed to be solutions. Where are they? “ it’s evident people are looking to transition from reading lamentations to acting green.

Informing people is one thing, converting them to act is another and perhaps harder.

Shaming as in Rutgers article, I guess comes from that frustration that people have been informed and now know but are continuing ‘business as usual’ and perhaps another last resort solution to convert feet-dragging people into action.

The impact of collective action cannot be underestimated and it begins with the individual’s identity. The people we want to convert have lived their entire lives under a system/environment that reinforces their ‘consumerist identities’ — producing and consuming for self-interest at the expense of a flourishing planet and society.

It might be easier for a handful like Rutger to convert and act green but most are laggards if you look at this through the lense of Everett Rogers‘ adoption curve — especially if you are awaking laggards with a high and generational propensity for comfort.

One way to hack the ‘adoption curve’ is through activist campaigns like the Occupy Wallstreet movement, BLM, climate Fridays, and others. These social contagions reach masses at exponential rates. If done more strategically, activist campaigns can inspire people to move beyond ‘informed’ to ‘action’.

The goal of these campaigns if am not wrong, is usually ACT-ivation against systemic injustices but what they really achieve is Agitation — exciting masses to ACT. They usually fall short of equipping the activated masses with the necessary tools to actually act.

On the other hand, ‘the system’ they want to change has equipped the same masses to conveniently act every day to reinforce and naturalise its narratives of injustice.

The system is telling Leonardo di Caprio that; ‘dude, that’s a freakin’ long hectic travel, so here is a private jet — be safe’. It’s what it tells car makers and buyers, oil companies, livestock farmers, etc. It appeals to our immediate personal needs but more importantly offers tools to get that done.

Here’s what Occupy Wallstreet told participants (who like di Caprio, ‘the system’ is laughing at and successfully telling to buy more corporate products while they protest corporate greed); ‘corporations are skyrocketing private wealth concentration and inequality, and they are in bed with governments — while you can’t even pay your bills — you are the 99%’ that’s it — how is someone supposed to act on this at the individual level?

So, what if we updated that message to add action tools for the 99% like “… here is the Planety Diversion — for every dollar you spend, you can divert 10 cents from the 1% to the 99%”.

“Between 1980 and 2016 the poorest 50% only captured 12 cents in every dollar of global income growth while the top 1% captured 27 cents” — World Inequality Report. During occupy wall street, the 99% still fed the top 1% the full unjust 27 cents every day of the protest.

The Planety Diversion would enable the +50,000 “Occupy” protesters to strategically demand that for example, 7 more cents from each dollar of their purchases goes not to the top 1% but to a grassroots planet/society need they care about. If the ‘Occupiers’ spent $50 daily (lower average daily expenditure in the USA), 7 cents per dollar yields $3.5, and $175,000 daily for the 50,000 occupiers.

Protesters aside, “67% are more likely to integrate their causes into daily life by buying products that support social or environmental causes.” BCG — The Millennial Consumer “91% would switch brands for one championing a cause.” Deloitte Millennial Survey. At 7 cents per spent dollar, the 47 (67% of the 71) million US millennials alone yield $167M daily.

What can $167M (diverted from the 1%ters) do to flourish planet/society? From interest-free loans and co-innovation for small businesses to improve their incomes and employ more people, scholarships, to emergency Medicare, homelessness, investment in climate-smart innovations, hunger, access to water, scaling social innovations, planet and society won’t have to wait years for philanthropy to flourish.

But the most powerful impact of the Planety Diversion is how it inspires a new narrative of a balance between our self-interest and a flourishing planet and society. 7 billion people have been indoctrinated with the now destructive narrative to produce and consume Only for self-interest — even if it’s destructive to Planet and Society. Actions speak louder than words. The actions we do to produce and consume under a ‘Self-Interest’ over ‘Social-Interest’ narrative, are more powerful in reinforcing ‘Self-Interest’ over ‘Social-Interest’ than tools like advertising and branding.

We cannot wish away our self-interest, but it is now more evident (read inequality, climate change, COVID-19, violence, etc) that a balance between our self-interest and social-interest is something we cannot keep postponing either.

The Planety Diversion is an early idea I’ve been working on, but now need your help to actualise. It’s meant to be an activist tool that consumers can use to whip corporates/businesses to reduce focus on shareholder profit and increase focus on a flourishing Planet and Society. As a platform, The Correspondent has members of diverse backgrounds whose input is critical to its success.

So please — if you are interested in focusing on tool-based solutions as opposed to reading further problems, reach out to me on saw@asemakula.com for details. Looking forward to hearing from you and co-designing this with you.

Idealistic Generalist hunting for How can technology coordinate consumers to flourish planet & society more; just like it coordinates us to flourish businesses?

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