The internet revolution is leading us to a change of era
The Year of 2015. Congress of political scientists and lobbyists in Miami. The massive marches in São Paulo disturbed Dilma Rousseff. No one fully understood what was happening. An unknown panelist, who had been given a few minutes to speak, began his intervention by saying: “I ask you to remember three numbers: 60, 30, 0. Sixty is the percentage of Latin Americans who consider themselves middle class: with the right to health, education, security, and quality goods and services. Thirty is the percentage of people who actually belong to the middle class. In other words, there are many people frustrated because they do not access what they feel they have the right. is, according to the World Bank, the average GDP growth expectation for the region next year (2016) “. The bomb was activated.
And the panelist finished off: “Now let me add one more number: 13. It is the number of countries in Latin America in which presidents are authorized by the Constitution to be re-elected. What do you think most presidents will do to stay in the office? power with this level of social frustration and without the prospect that the economy will improve? I’m going to tell you what you are going to do: you are going to spend more than you have to appease the popular bad mood. This is how you are going to improve the situation in the short term, at the same time that they bring the matches little by little closer to the gunpowder. Hopefully, I’m wrong. ”
He was not wrong. They interrupted him with questions about the percentages and some minor circumstances, and nobody knows what he would have said if they had given him more time.
The key was in the rest of the iceberg, which admits a thousand explanations. Some bankers proposed the four Cs of happiness as a matrix of analysis to their corporate clients: China, commodities, capital, and consumption. In the 2000s, China was growing at over 10% per year on average. It demanded commodities (soybeans, wheat, corn, copper), which is what Latin America produces. We grew. The capital that was looking for high profitability came, and that made us grow more. Thus, more and better-paid employment was generated, which in turn fed consumption. It was Disney.
The slowdown in China – now growing at about 6% – drove demand, and commodity prices fell. Soy is worth half of what it was worth in 2012 or earlier, in 2003. For several years the region has grown little. And some countries, like Argentina, nothing. There are fewer investments and, therefore, less work. Or low-paying jobs. Consumption falls and those who have become used to living better are frustrated. An immense mass of people who had had access to better goods and services had the expectation of maintaining them. It was not possible. Many feel they are living worse. When they get a chance, they find a culprit. And they punish him, in the best of cases, with the vote. If not, with marches, with violent outbursts. As they can. A fifth C is then added: anger.
The bankers’ explanation describes the economic cycle of Latin America, but the change in the social climate also seems to have reasons for the heart that reason does not understand. There is much more than just economics. The changes are also global: there are protests in Hong Kong, Lebanon, Iraq, Spain, Bolivia, Chile. And the list continues. The planets are aligning as when the Middle Ages gave way to the Modern: the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire, the discovery of America, the rise of the bourgeoisie, the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, the crisis of geocentric theory. It is not just a handful of countries in crisis: it is the world that changes.
The problems are not very different from what they always were. The novelty is that now we know them in real-time and we have an unprecedented impatience to face them. The root seems to be mostly one: the internet. The irruption of the web is the Copernican turn that is making us go from the Contemporary Age to the next stage, whatever it is going to be called. Not only does it exponentially increase the amount of information to which we are exposed, but also – and this is the important thing – it modifies our perception of reality: time and space are no longer what they were. Neither do relationships with others. That is why geopolitics after the internet is different.
The global connection in real-time modifies the neural connections. A mobile device allows anyone to work, study, or play wherever they are, as long as there is an internet connection. No one is expected in a café anymore: as long as we are connected, we are not waiting. We live in the present whatever we have on the screen. That has consequences for parents and teachers. Also for the management of companies. And for politics: the classic politician sells the future, but the future only serves those who know how to wait. That is why it is tempting, after the electoral campaign, to offer only the present (immediate relief) and, if anything, some story about the past that maintains the mystique.