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Living in a Rapidly Changing World

Nowadays, almost every citizen in the world is confronted with rapid changes in society. The uncertainties are often overwhelming or frightening, and can result in reactionism, and burnouts.

The Corona crisis adds to these worries, but we may keep mind it is not only source of trouble. There is a set of mutually influencing changes that have been occurring already for quite a while, and are perhaps more fundamental. In a way, Corona fits into this pattern. Understanding what these changes are and how they work out, can ease our dealing with realities of our times. It can also help us dealing better with the virus and countermeasures taken.

Old Social Structures


The permanency of old social structures is evaporating. The economy, banking, and the media transform faster than many can follow. These transformations resemble the video clip, that sequence of fast changing separate images, with the video clip itself as a product of global transformation as well.

The first worldwide change is a loss of old social structures, structures that were constricting but also reassuring for a long time. We now live with the dissolution of close family ties, traditional village life, national borders, religions, political parties, trade unions and, last but not least, permanent employment.


All together these declines certainly offer new opportunities for some, but also create uncertainties, fear, and consternation, consternation that can be experienced like when you are thrown out of an aircraft without any help of a parachute.

A sense of alienation from the products we make, is growing with the longer and more complex chains of production distributed over several countries. The feeling of powerlessness increasing with the news about corrupt bankruptcy management, incomprehensible bank products, extremely rapid changes at the stock market, and the moving of financial and physical investments from one country to another beyond the control of national governments and unions.

New Social Structures

Another set of drastic changes in society include privatization of government-owned companies, also called ‘devestment’ by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This divestment brings the privatization of health care, education, housing, public transport, drinking water supply, and power supply in many countries, with more widely felt losses than benefits.

Company mergers, another trend of recent decades, can cross national borders too, such as between KLM and Air France, the German company Bayer and the American Monsanto, or university faculties.

The frequent mergers force readjustments upon workers and clients who become increasingly tired of it.


Rapid technological changes also require constant learning of new skills by workers and employers. And Flexibilization of permanent jobs urge for yet another type of reorientation.

Next to declining social structures, and privatization, we see the liberalization of national borders, allowing more freedom of international movements of goods, services, migrants, and tourists.

Many in the world have more education, free time, and access to social media that provide for large amounts of information, with the result of confusion, consternation, and mistrust.

A rising development allied to both liberalization and social media is intercultural strife. People of different cultures increasingly interact, while often underestimating how cultures shape behaviors, or expecting the differences can be overcome at short range. But a culture are as tough as it is underestimated.

Dealing with the Changes

What can help is awareness. Awareness is a relief in itself. Understanding that all the above changes are largely interconnected can be relief as well.

Develop inner stability, in order to become less dependent on outer securities such as were offered by old social structures.

Identify or attach less with the company you work for or buy from.

Combat a sense of alienation by becoming closer to yourself. In other words, enrich yourself.

Transform, as much as is healthy for you, from a passive attitude to an active or proactive attitude.

Learn to think critically about information. Check, whenever possible, the sources of information that you take serious or bring out to others.

Retreat from the online and offline hectic as often as you can.




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Dr. P.E. van der Werff

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