The Coming Age of Austerity and Enlightenment
For millions of people and dozens of governments around the world, the age of austerity has already arrived. For others, it is just around the corner. There is no denying the fiscal realities of the world economy. The financial condition of national governments, state and local governments and virtually every public institution are grim. Cuts in services, layoffs and elimination of programs or safety nets are already underway. To some citizens the cuts will be mere inconveniences, but to most; it will be traumatic. I predict that this coming age of austerity will help redefine societies and politics around the world. But this new reality of austerity also offers us our greatest opportunity for new enlightenment. This enlightenment will come both in the human and the spiritual form.
In these tough days I foresee a unique chance for deep self-reflection as both individuals and for society’s institutions…who are we; why do we really exist; how can we re-invent ourselves, survive and make it to a new and better place in life? Necessity has always been the mother of invention. Our new austerity portends to unleash a new spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship among the people of the world. When we can no longer spend or borrow our way out of a tough situation, we must find new ways to create value in life and earn new credits in new marketplaces.
Cuts to the budgets of institutions worldwide will have ripple effects for years to come, and we will all have to become more self-reliant, more nibble and versatile. We will have to learn new skills and begin anew with worn out tools. The manifestations of the coming austerity will lead to palpable realities: rising food prices and shortages, joblessness and grassroots uprisings that will topple or change governments as seen recently in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan.
Even the wealthier countries of the European Union and the United States will see this new age of austerity redefine the way we live and the very core of our political institutions.
The austerity of our times may also contain within it the very voice of God calling each of us to a new surrender and obedience to our Creator. It may be our time to shed the idolatry of over-consumption and hedonistic pleasures and pour ourselves into prayer, rebirth and service to others. The disparity between the rich and the poor will become even more glaring in the days ahead and will convict us all of the need to value and cherish every single child of God.
Times of austerity and enlightenment also drip with opportunity and open deep wells of spiritual power. Don’t be afraid. Seize these times. Rethink your positions. Give allowance to the perspectives of others, even of those whom you don't agree. Pray for friend and enemy alike. Rise earlier in the morning. Don’t take the little things like a clean drink of water or the love of a friend for granted. Humble yourself by trying a new task or career. Sense the needs and hurts of others and offer encouragement and hope, and a hand.
The coming age of austerity and enlightenment will be temporary. We will come through these days and be better and stronger; but certainly changed!
So seize this day, this moment and every flicker of opportunity, no matter how small and with a new zest. Embrace a God who loves you more than you love yourself and who desires only good things for you in this life and the life to come.