If the past fortnight was any indication we can predict rather confidently that this year may well be as turbulent as the previous one. Looking back, in 2019, we saw economies in turmoil, polities in turmoil, and countries in turmoil. BBC commented that 2019 was the year in which popular protests hit almost all continents except Antarctica. From Hong Kong to Paris, Beirut to Delhi, there was fury on the streets for some reason or the other. In France it was over Pension Reforms, in Iraq over their country’s future, in India over the Citizenship Act. Bolivia, Sudan, France, US, everywhere people were on the boil. What about 2020? The trend continues. Is human patience wearing out or is it that the powers-that-be are taking people for granted. Whatever, but peace is gradually eluding humanity. In management jargon, there is a term to explain this phenomenon. It is said that the Zone of Acceptance of people is shrinking. Zone of Acceptance describes the area of human mind where commands or dictates are tolerated. If a command or dictate falls there it is accepted. This zone is gradually shrinking and thus the likelihood of acceptance of commands or dictates is decreasing. Whether it is actually happening or not or whether such a zone exists at all may not be ascertained very scientifically but inferences can certainly be drawn by taking cues from the events that are unfolding. Dissent and distrust is certainly on the rise and people are not willing to take things lying down. Interestingly, another contradictory tendency is also discernible. More and more people in positions of power are wont to assert their views authoritatively. It is this phenomenon that is intriguing. Whether aversion to authority is on the rise because of authoritarianism or the other way round, but there is undoubtedly a growing discontent among the masses across the globe. There is some kind of a distrust that is engulfing the human mind. A President is elected in Algeria and protestors take to streets. A Prime Minister is not accepted in Lebanon because people believe he is a member of the ruling elite. The French President propose new retirement benefit formula and people take to streets. The Iraqis are wary of some kind of an Iranian interference in what they think is an attempt to decide their country. A law is passed in the Indian Parliament and there is wide spread protest against that. Hong Kong seems to be on the boil continuously. What is going on? And what is going wrong? Long back Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler founded the school of individual psychology and stressed the importance of diffusion of power. He was of the view that power is a great motivator and people have the craving of power. With time, this need for power is getting accentuated and there is growing tendency to power equalise. Though power always was a higher order need of humans, the information age has acted as a strong catalyst. With access to information the individual now starts questioning the authority more aggressively. And he wants to equalise. What makes the other guy more superior to him, he wonders. And the resultant response is his disdain for the other guy. There was a time when few talked and most listened. But the times have changed. Everyone is talking and no one is listening. The New Year, then, seems no different.
Pathak is a professor of management, writer, and an acclaimed public speaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org