Divide & Conquer and the borderless ‘Imaginator’

Guest post by Josh Artus, CUBE team member.

20th June 2016


This Thursday a nation will vote on its love for its fellow man and woman. This is not just a monetary issue but more importantly this is becoming one on how inclusive or exclusive we as England want to be to our neighbours.

History is showing me that we are being thrust back a few hundred years by neo-colonialists relishing in the power of ‘divide and conquer’, in moments of division populism sways over ethics and rationalism. Mistakes are made with mob rule mentality, unwittingly giving strength to those who will lead to their own downfall. Rather than describe how I feel the “#leave” argument is ignorant, fascist and simply regressive I’d like to comment on how the hard work since the 2008 crisis is about to be undone in the UK, conveniently the time I came into the professional world in September 2008, great timing eh?. It was also a time when original pillars of society were crumbling. Institutions who were heralded as beacons for the growth of civilisation had proved their weakness, selfishness and the fallacy of chasing growth (GDP) at any cost.

In the wake of 2008 people in all walks of life saw homes taken away, jobs disappear, cities falter and opportunities diminish. In England we eventually had the riots of 2011 where disaffected and disadvantaged youths who’d had just about enough saw their tensions rise on the shooting of an innocent man by the “man”. Since then we’ve grown, we’ve fought hard to grow, people have had to. We’ve had a beautiful thing called the internet and software to propel us forward.

Adam Neumann of WeWork infamy summed up the post 2008 working generation very well when said that his tenants “would rather make a job than take a job”. This was the attitude set out following the 2008-9 crisis as people set out their own agendas in how to climb from the abyss in front of them, no longer seeing faith in the institutions they moved their faith from ‘corporations’ and ‘institutions’ to the .com world. We argue the exponential rise of coworking spaces is down to how it provided a space where people breaking away from institution could gather to try and answer the question of how through collaboration and knowledge-sharing we might be able to create new and independent economies. It was a space where people could imagine, it was open to thought and innovation, it was a place that wasn’t designed for the purpose of factory like work or consumption, it was a mature free thinking space based on collectiveness in a capitalist economy. The blend of imagination and a borderless tool of the internet meant we became denationalised and saw the world, its people and economy as flat and accessible on equal terms. The tech-enabled demographic don’t think of how their business works in their country, they only think how this can make things better everywhere. The sharing economy, as it patronisingly came to be known, is evident that when mobilised, people were able to generate economy of great size in their own form and enrich their own lives without state intervention of ideology. We became borderless given our tools and requirements to collaborate and ‘Imaginators’ as it was our job to start finding tangible methods of solving great problems using these great new tools.

The odd thing is, despite the sharing economy being worth £15bn to UK GDP in 2013, possibly double that now, they are understood to lower GDP. That’s a bad thing right??? Well, I beg to differ when as a borderless person I can access new tools and resources bettering my quality of life. Huge aspects of my economy have been democratised and given on equal terms, actually bringing are more capitalist structure into play. Potentially risking growth in these markets for the betterment of international trade deals, a GDP favourite, is regressive to societal welfare, certainly as even if more tax revenues were to come in those seeking power are low taxers to business and believe in a smaller welfare state. Everything we’ve been building recently can easily be taken away by a Brexit….everything we’ve had to painstakingly work hard for, having to innovate new solutions, create companies, balance a more complex society all through a recession and at once. With the comments made by Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies in the London Evening Standard we simply stand on the brink of cutting off our noses to spite our face.

This is why in June 2016 we sit here I claim we are facing a colonialist tactic of divide and conquer. Populism is being used to turn hugely complex grey arguments into black and white ones, playing on the ability to make a complex argument simple, turning ‘us’ against ‘them’ and using wide-spread ignorance on a complex topic to their advantage. (In truth as David Mitchell said in the Guardian recently, 99% of us who are too ignorant to truly know an answer let alone vote on it). A country is divided and as opposed to asking how we can grow together and solve great problems, we’re finding ways to see how we can do less and build bridges between our neighbours next door and across the Channel. I saw recently a quote that read “if the leave campaign was about how Britain could contribute more to the world if it left the EU then I’d be interested. But it’s not, it’s about how Britain can give less and take more from the world….come on Britain, we’re better than this”

Admittedly things are going slightly awry at the moment but a lot of America’s success in the 20th century that came in the arts and business can be put down to huge immigration in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, ultimately allowing for cross-pollination of ideas. Without European Jews mixing with Afro-American musicians we may not have had the Blue Note Jazz label. Universities were bolstered by liberal thinkers, such as Josef Albers and László Moholy-Nagy from the Bauhaus seek a haven for idea expression away from fascist closed minded home nations.

We’re entering into an era where cognitive technologies are about to wipe out millions of functional performance based jobs. Even though that may seem scary it does mean we have incredible technologies at our disposal to build better societies, we should be seizing these times, not retreating from them in cowardice and protectionism. In order to progress as a human society we need to create the new jobs and industries of tomorrow – we can only do this working together, cross-pollinating ideas, using systems based thinking to create what hasn’t been done before.

The world economic forum recently ran a series questioning the ethics of GDP as a tool for growth. The Leave argument are looking to take back control of economy by dividing us, creating instability and belief that their re-negotiated trade agreements will work by stimulating measurable traditional and dated GDP. The world has moved on and this won’t work, we stand to get hurt deep after 8 years of hard work.

Mate, I don’t need your GDP I’ve got wifi….and you can #leave, leave me and my friends the f**k alone…we’ve moved on.

THECUBE is a coworking space in East London, founded in the belief that in order to innovate and create the ‘known unknowns’ we need to curate inclusive environments for knowledge share.