As a teenager in 1969, I was on holiday in Perth
with my family staying with
my father’s parents in their old home. One morning something happened
that I remember vividly but I think I have never spoken of before.
I was thinking about waking up and drifting in and out of sleep. Then I heard
the most powerful rumbling whole being shaking sound. I don’t know if it
was a dream or a vision but no one else spoke about it so I have always believed
it was a private experience.
The sound seemed to continue for a minute or so although it may have been less.
My thought at the time was that I was in the midst of a nuclear explosion. The
Third (and surely final) World War had started and soon it would all be over.
I woke up to the most surreal scene. Nothing had changed. Everything was just
as it had been the night before. Everyone was carrying on as normal. It was as
though the war had happened but had left everything looking the same. I hadn’t
heard about neutron bombs
at that stage but if I had, I would have thought that
the war had been fought with some new weapon. Something that left everything
looking the same on the outside but hollow on the inside.
Surprisingly the experience didn’t frighten me but it did take me into
an altered state for much of the rest of the day. Eventually I came to realise
that my experience had not been part of the physical world, but to this day I
am left believing it was real nevertheless. I do not often stop to ponder what
it meant but from time to time I do.
I relate this story here because it tells something of the similarity of the
world we now live in and that of the sixties.
As a teenager, we lived with the Cold War with a constant threat of massive nuclear destruction.
We all knew the acronyms ICBM and MAD and
the tension between the Soviet Union and the USA
was constant news. The Cuban Missile Crisis took place in my lifetime although I was too young to know much
about it when it was news.
Then in 1967 the Six Day War between
Israel and the Arab nations started. Seeing
the first news of the attacks and Israel’s march into Egypt on TV, my father
remarked “I guess we’re about due for another world war.
The later part of the sixties was a time of hope in the midst of extreme fear.
The sixties saw the sexual revolution and we saw the ‘Flower Power’ movement
in San Francisco. All this took place in the real knowledge that the world could
But the world did not end. We survived. The threat of all out nuclear war receded
and a new age seemed to be dawning with the amazing events in Berlin, Moscow
and South Africa. At breathtaking speed the Iron Curtain had fallen and Apartheid
was gone. The threats to world peace that had hovered over us all my life were
But it was a brief interlude. Any final illusions we had that interruptions to
peace were the death movements of a dying animal were shattered on September
People growing up today are living with the same constant fear that lead to my
dream in 1969, but there seems much less hope. There is no sexual revolution
and no flower power.
The threat of terrorism is a constant in our lives with the news of a new threat
to blow up planes on transatlantic flights from Britain breaking as I write this.
World demand for oil has caught up with the limits of our ability to produce
it with Chinese and Indian demand only starting to kick in. The free run given
to the West from cheap imports from China and cheap services from India is coming
to an end.
The doomsday clock is ticking.
The doomsday scenario is important for us. Not only is it a real potential scenario
that maybe we can’t or won’t do anything to avoid but, more importantly,
I believe that only by looking this scenario in the face and tracing out the
shadow of its hand do our minds become fully open to alternative scenarios.
The alternative scenarios I am thinking of range from groundbreaking new inventions
(such as new sources of energy or radically more efficient ways of using the
energy sources we have available) to the next social revolution.
Regardless of the type of changes that we need to adopt as a society, at the
core of those changes must surely be the need to bring more ourselves and our
creative ability to the task of creating alternative scenarios. And our most
influential social institutions — corporations — must surely play
a central role in bring more of our creative ability to social and industrial
The twentieth century saw the development of the modern corporation. By its end,
opportunities for organic growth had become limited by the sheer size to which
corporations had grown. The immergence of the junk bond market enabled growth
by acquisition to continue for a few more decades. Lazonick & O’Sulllivan
suggest this has been achieved at the expense of reinvestment in our commercial
enterprise with the consequent destruction of long term productivity. (Lazonick
and O’Sullivan 2000). Corporations themselves are not only facing the doomsday
scenario through external pressure, but also by becoming empty on the inside.
Individually, I believe bringing more of ourselves to creating the future is
about bring our soul to work.
In similar fashion. corporate survival is dependant on corporations, like the
tin man in The Wizard of Oz, finding their soul.