Scandinavia is the new cradle of civilization

As the world enters a new phase, Scandinavia has a head start. ( Picture courtesy pixabay.com)

If you have a look at world history, there have been four major phases of civilizations in the past. I am adding a 5th phase to this, essentially starting with the second decade of this century.

Human History in Phases:

These phases are based on logical grouping of human power structures, which have changed the course of history, and evolution of human society.

Phase 1: Harappan, Mesopotamian, Chinese and Egyptian civilization led the development of humanity from 3000 B.C onwards till 500 B.C. ( The phase of the River Settlements)

Phase 2: Chinese, Mongolian, Persian, Turkish, Indian, Greco-Roman — ruled by absolute monarchs ( The phase of the Empires) 500 B.C to 1400 A.D

Phase 3: British, Dutch, Portuguese and French empires, manifesting into trade colonies ( The phase of the Colonies) 1400 A.D to 1950 A.D

Phase 4: Birth of independent nations ( almost 200 of them), (the phase of Nations). 1950 A.D to till date.

Phase 5: is in the making. I am yet to name it.

But in this article, we will explore Phase 5, which is key to understand the further evolution of humans as a civilization. We know the direction in which Phase 5 is evolving.

Phase 4 was built on wars. Finally, nations were born. Nations as ‘concept’ has taken primacy over other ‘concepts’ evolved by humans. The concept, based on geographical boundaries, has an anthem, flag, army and people’s identified by a book called the ‘passport’. No other ‘concept’ has evolved so much in human history. But each phase, if you might note, is shorter than the previous one.

Phase 5, essentially is built of Phase 4, and will reach a final shape in due course. I am not a futurist, but certain developments are obvious and built on the shoulders of nationhood.

There are few fundamental rules for each phase change, and Phase 4 and 5 won’t be exceptional. This change will happen based on two specific steps.

  1. Jettisoning the old thought processes of Phase 4
  2. Evolution of humans overall into Phase 5.

What are the new factors that will catalyze this change?

We shall examine them closely. I already see the emerging waves of Phase 5. Here are some of the factors that will accelerate this change.

Climate Change and Sustainability:

Phase 3 sowed the seeds and Phase 4 brought this upon us. In the name of development and growth, humans have expanded, encroached and abused nature in many forms. Pollution and Plastic have changed the world to such an extent that humans cannot live without and the rest of Nature cannot live with.

Dead fish, sea creatures and floating islands of plastic, melting ice caps in Arctic and Antarctic regions, unseasonal rainfall and floods are all harbingers of this issue.

The Paris Agreement, which was touted as the final agreement between the Nations for committing to reduce carbon footprint ( read this as the final act of Phase 4), is already falling apart.

A new order of thinking and commitment is needed, beyond geographical borders defined in Phase 4 would be needed.

Human Inclusion:

I had written a long article about this. It is important to understand the changing geopolitical currents influencing human inclusion. The rise of the Islam and China will influence this century at large.

However, more importantly, democracy in the larger countries are going through an upheaval. Nations are struggling to find a middle path between extreme left and right. This distraction of democracy will set the stage for a match up between Islam-China- Democracies, in a potboiler. We just hope the climax is not yet another World War.

The bastion of democracy has shifted from the Western Europe and the US. A new form of evolution is expected.

Finally, what matters is how the ‘inclusion’ question is settled. Immigrants, differences on caste, creed, color, race, gender, gender choices and religion, will influence the society — and will head to a final solution, ‘Human Inclusion’.

Nationhood will have to be replaced by more inclusive societies. Migration will have to become a global phenomenon. The ageing population of the advanced countries will have to accept the younger peoples from the lesser developed nations to keep moving forward. With the overall population being expected to shrink eventually this century, for the first time, the human species will have to make adjustments that will open up the evolution of Phase 5.

Feudalism, patriarchy, exclusion-ism and other forms of hierarchical divisions will disappear in Phase 5. The world will go through a flash point before such a society is achieved.

Putting Technology in its place:

Whether it is for climate change or healthcare, education or entertainment, technology has permeated into our lives and is almost ubiquitous. W are also seeing the direct and adverse effects of technology — in this regard, technology has reached the end of its tether.

Blind application of technology is where solutions are searching for problems. Rampant industrialization and growth have led to unbridled growth, and application of technology is aimed to accelerate the growth. With stock markets and wealth indicators taking precedence, technology, which has become easier to use and cost effective, is accelerating this ‘unbridled’ growth to the next level.

Everywhere, there is a push to ‘code’ and use technology for solutions, that may, after all not need technology at all. Indigenous solutions, using simple, nature based techniques and resources can be more sustainable solutions, that can help create ‘solutions’ but unhinge technology as the only solution provider.

However, technology cannot be written off. It is, most often, the necessary tool for change. But it is important that societies learn to appreciate the change needed in their ‘practices’ that can use this technology effectively.

Where there is significant scope for technology is in natural conservation, forestation, climate change retardation, reduction of pollution, healthcare, de-urbanization ( than smart cities) and education. Stock market fueled technology businesses should not lose sight of such opportunities of greater-good, but step down from the revenue and stockholder value creation bandwagon to address them. It pays in the long run, to let the battles chose technology than let technology create battles.

The Dilemma of Developing Nations:

BRICS and G-20 are the two new economic formations that are currently deciding major developments in the world. BRICS is the largest group pushing the world economy’s growth outside the G-7.

The growth measure has always been about GDP’s. The race essentially will redefine the leader board. The growth essentially is driven by ‘number of jobs’ ‘production manager index’, ‘Gross Domestic Products’, and other economic indicators that essentially is about pushing ‘monetary growth’, driven by consumption economies.

Their growth as nations ( going back to Phase 4), is still on, aided by demographic dividends ( greater number of youth than aged), and they have to grow at a pace that will

In the process, the BRICS and other ( G20 minus G7) nations, have created economic inequality, pollution, huge demand for energy and creation of waste ( plastic, e-waste etc.,) without control.

The political fabric is always driven by ‘hero-quotient’ — a word I am convinced that measures the faith of a large population on a single individual( the hero or the messiah), than themselves as society. In this process, the success is attributed to the ‘genius’ or ‘benevolence’ of that individual.

Even countries like the US, UK, Germany and France, the bulwarks of the changeover from Phase 3 to Phase 4, are suffering from these issues.

Lets revisit the three criteria defined for Phase 5 ( Climate Change and Sustainability, Human Inclusion & Putting Technology in its place). Developing countries and countries of the Western World, are too busy handling the issue of being nations. Racing to build economies of rampant growth, these nations are still figuring their way for an extended Phase 4, than looking at Phase 5.

Some of the third world nations are just starting in Phase 4. Fight for power, corruption, race to tap natural resources, building real estate and factories, mining etc., are leading priorities for these new Phase 4 entities called nations.

Third world nations can easily realize that correct their course faster than the developed and developing nations, if they realize the folly of Phase 4.

Scandinavia’s role:

This is where the Scandinavian model comes in as an early harbinger of Phase 5. Scandinavia comprises of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Denmark. They are also called Nordic countries. ( Some keep Finland and Iceland out of these definitions, for me, but it does not matter for this discussion).

Already modeled to address the three factors I had touched upon ( Climate Change & Sustainability, Human Inclusion, Technology put in its place), Scandinavia’s path to Phase 5 is already visible. However, in a globalized world, this journey will take some more time to become as an influencing global phenomenon.

Scandinavia has evolved over a period, as the happiest country group in the world. Happiness is an inherent feeling that also makes one ‘feel good’ and to define is the ‘final human goal’.

According to a chapter of world happiness report, the five Nordic countries — Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland — have all been in the top ten, with Nordic countries occupying the top three spots in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Clearly, when it comes to the level of average life evaluations, the Nordic states are doing something right, but Nordic exceptionalism isn’t confined to citizen’s happiness. No matter whether we look at the state of democracy and political rights, lack of corruption, trust between citizens, felt safety, social cohesion, gender equality, equal distribution of incomes, Human Development Index, or many other global comparisons, one tends to find the Nordic countries in the global top spots.

The report describes that ‘through reviewing the existing studies, theories, and data behind the World Happiness Report, we find that the most prominent explanations include factors related to the quality of institutions, such as reliable and extensive welfare benefits, low corruption, and well-functioning democracy and state institutions. Furthermore, Nordic citizens experience a high sense of autonomy and freedom, as well as high levels of social trust towards each other, which play an important role in determining life satisfaction.’.

I will urge the reader to go through the article further. Highlighting further, there are certain parameters that go beyond the nation & society.

  1. Welfare state generosity: Education, healthcare, public transportation and basic income cover ( a social security net), are essentially three important qualities that set up a society that does not delve to much into a fight for survival, but spends time in better efforts in higher ambitions of human life — science, engineering, arts and humanities, take further and better shape in such a society that covers the downside of lack of these basic four qualities.
  2. Institutional quality: The article highlights a) Democracy Quality b) Delivery Quality as two types of quality. Quoting the article here. ‘The first is about the access to power including factors such as the ability to participate in selecting the government, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and political stability. The latter is about the exercise of power, including the rule of law, control of corruption, regulatory quality, and government effectiveness.’
  3. Income inequality : The income divide between the rich and the power — or rather the top and the bottom most positions in a hierarchy is least. This enables a more respectful approach to any job form.
  4. Freedom to Make Choices : Ability to accept different views and choices in terms of gender, sex, job and lifestyle becomes critical for an open minded society. Such a society promotes liberal ideas, at the same time, gives space for contrarian views, within the ambit of scruples and the law. This is a difficult aspect to fathom in even in democracies.
  5. Trust in other people and social cohesion: Basic trust factors like returning a lost wallet, helping people cross the street and other scrupulous activities, and general bonhomie, strong civic sense and looking for the larger good are some of the key indicators of social cohesion.

It is not hard to link the three factors I had mentioned to the five points indicated by this article. A mature and open minded society is lot more happier, and in turn, able to spend time in looking ahead than looking behind. The Scandinavian nations have a head start here.

It will take other nations more time and upheavals to reach the influx point of change from Phase 4 to Phase 5. Time will unravel this journey as we go with its ebbs and flows.

~Ashok Subramanian

PS: Second article on Sustainability, Desiree Driesenaar

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Poet and Author. Poetry and Book Reviews. Investment Banker. IIM C Alumni. Engineering Graduate.

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Ashok Subramanian

Ashok Subramanian

Poet and Author. Poetry and Book Reviews. Investment Banker. IIM C Alumni. Engineering Graduate.

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