A Bad Case of the Modern Middle Ages

The age we live and work in has been variously called “the boring age” by Time magazine, “the lost age” by various social pundits and according to Paul Krugman, history will record our age as “the third depression… a long versus great depression”. Very depressing.

Diminished hope and disillusionment abounds. The Arab Spring has become a four season struggle and the Occupy movement bubbles and boils just under the surface of society. Last year the International Labour Organization characterized the job market as “a huge waste of human potential”.

I want to add another descriptor to this age we are living through; the Modern Middle Ages. Now, there is no denying we have made significant progress in certain areas and we have much to be thankful for. But we are not feeling it. We have devolved to a survival mentality; jobs are on the line or non-existent. Work is losing its meaning. Anomie, instability in society caused by the erosion or abandonment of moral and social codes, is on the rise. We are in political and economic gridlock and have become overly reliant on “authorities” to sort this out for us.

So, with all the technology and information available to us shouldn’t we be further ahead? A similar question was asked 500 years ago, as these issues we face today are eerily similar to the issues of the Middle Ages.

500 years ago the question was quickly followed by another; “what can I do about it?” But it was not asked with resignation. There were some who genuinely thought they could do something about it and were no longer willing to “wait and see”. Some reached back in time for ideas, models and concepts that could change their situation. Others iterated and contemporized these models and ideas so they would apply to their own age. There were not many in the beginning but over time some became many and the many became a movement. Gradually attitudes changed, conditions improved and work became more fulfilling. This is how 1000 years of the Middle Ages ended and the most prolific, creative period of human history began.

There is no doubt that we are in transition today and we are moving forward but, where to exactly? This is our opportunity to define where and throw off the negative characterizations of our age. If it took the Renaissance to end the Middle Ages it stands to reason that a Renaissance 2.0 can end our Modern Middle Ages.  We were shown how to do it 500 years ago and if we reach back to the Renaissance era we, too, can imitate and iterate what worked best and apply it now to our jobs, our companies and our communities. It just takes a few in the beginning. Are you one of the few who feel you can do something about it?


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