1.2 Europe: the zombie shopping mall


    The Austrian architect Victor Gruen invented the shopping mall. The design of such a mega shopping center is aimed at disorienting visitors when they enter the complex, make them lose sight of time and reality, and this causes them to buy completely different things than they came for.

    Our society is like a shopping mall, a zombie economy. It is a society of the living dead, in which all sight of reality has been lost. A society that is like an almost bankrupt store with empty or scarcely-filled shelves, with highly overpriced, inferior products and long queues in front of the tills. It is a shop with customers who are forced to drift about and is manned by impolite and indifferent staff. Naturally, it has an actual management who drive around in big cars, who live plush lives, and who drive from one old boy’s network to another to compare each other’s bonuses: “We are doing so well!” Because once the economy bounces back, it is business as usual, right?

    So let me ask you: do you really think that our banks are capable of repaying the “emergency loans” our “financial governmental leaders” lent to them? Loans with a value in Europe of over €1.6 trillion!

    “Ronald, what are you worrying about?” people often ask me. “You can’t change the situation.” Our brains are indeed conditioned to maintain the status quo. We are comfortable in familiar lifestyles and we have learned to amble about it. We are only prepared to change if we really have to, and if there is no other option – in times of crisis, for example.

    Yet, there is a crisis now!

    We find ourselves in a crisis of unprecedented proportions. It is much larger than the visible financial crisis. According to the economist Tomáš Sedláček in his 2009 book, Economics of Good and Evil, we made the economic system following instead of leading the system, and we created more debt, which we mistook for economic growth.

    We are at a turning point in our society, which is not obvious to everyone, but at point in which we will all go through. This juncture reminds me of Copernicus. Around the year 1500, he posited that the planets revolved around the Sun in his heliocentric theory. In doing so, he contradicted mainstay public opinion that the Earth was at the center of the Universe. But Copernicus struggled with his theory, because it undermined the fundamental values of religion, science, and the political and royal powers.

    My human-centric theory revolves around the human being. In particular, the organizations revolve around the human being. This means there is a new spotlight, a new frame of reference, which means that manufacturers, service providers, or society as a whole, no longer have a leading role in the events that shape the world.

    It is time to change. It is time to make a U-turn. It is time to take responsibility.

    This is natural for me. I have never believed that “nothing can be done about it.” This is why I became an entrepreneur: it is possible to do something about it! And, that goes for everybody. You can always take action and take responsibility. You have to have self-confidence, and faith in the process because it is always impossible to know what changes will lead to. Call it a chaos theory, which does not make it easy for us. We cannot predict the outcome of our changes, because each step leads to an increasingly uncertain outcome, which means that the solutions or views we are heading to are quite unpredictable. Change scares people; we prefer to hold on to (apparent) certainties, even though our social- and economic system has collapsed like a house of cards.