Back in 1970's Britain, a whole new counter-cultural scene emerged from what was a highly volatile time.
Economic recession, cultural stagnation, and huge waves of youth unemployment left the country with an angry, disaffected sub-set of society that wanted to take control and create new ways of doing things.
Jobs and opportunities were almost non-existent, respect and faith in government were at an all-time low and with no end in sight, a DIY ethos was about to take hold that was surprisingly deep in terms of creating a movement that people could rally around.
Think punk and you think music. Think punk and it conjures up images of piercings and mohawk hairstyles. But punk was much more than this. Punk was a whole attitude, lifestyle, and philosophy of being directly proactive to make a change in the world...and this definitely was a movement that rapidly spread its culture all across the world, with a legacy that's still alive today.
To the original punks...doing a total '180' had to be better than the status quo, mainstream society being served up at the time.
If you checked out our last blog on The Great COVID-19 Wealth Transfer, then you'll know that there's going to be one hell of a reaction that comes out of the global pandemic due to a greater gap developing between the haves and have-nots, and many more people will be dragged into unemployment due to whole industries disappearing and the streamlining of remaining enterprises.
Could COVID-19 lead to a whole new 'punk-like' scenario developing, where micro-entrepreneurs are the new rebels, standing up for the disenfranchised and 'left behind', and actually taking charge of their own situation?
The ingredients are definitely all there in this post-COVID wild west, so let's dig a little deeper into where we're at and potentially where we're going...
Greater State control is coming for us all
Whatever country you're in and whatever your opinion is of how your government has reacted to the pandemic, it's fair to say that this will all be water under the bridge compared to what the aftermath of a post-COVID world will look like.
Governments have been in full-on reactionary mode throughout 2020, bankrolling the economy through necessity and numerous extensions of furlough schemes and centralized support.
It's highly likely that there is now a huge number of zombie companies being artificially propped up, and when the twin factors of government grants/cheap loans and vastly reduced consumer spending hits, then the long tail of mass unemployment is going to bite. And bite seriously hard!
Libertarians beware...the role the State is going to be taking from now on will be much more interventionist, with many decisions on spending, planning, and strategy handed to a relatively small number of authoritarian bureaucrats.
Some industries and cities will be anointed winners. Others will be hung out to dry as not making financial sense to support and economically unviable (just look at the hospitality, arts, and service-based industries through the COVID-19 pandemic...)
Corruption and cronyism will be served up in ever-increasing quantities. Tough decisions will have to be made in terms of taxes, spending, and support, with less money swirling around the economy...
I repeat once again, the haves will continue to grow. The ever increasing base of have-nots will still be counting the cost of redundancy, lack of growth, and low investment for decades to come.
When unemployment and crushing poverty reach an unsustainable level, power and a general entitlement to uprising will begin to formulate in the masses, leading to a battle with central governments. Anger, frustration, and possible violence may follow...
We're not aiming to be the voice of doom here, this is just a possible scenario based on the facts, but it all sounds a lot like what's happened in other deep recessions and moments of hyper-disruption before.
And we're walking into the absolute perfect storm here unless something seriously innovative comes along to help the world build back better...
So what will Punk 2.0 be all about?
Well maybe it won't be about music this time, but I do hope there will be some great new innovative genres that give us something exciting and edgy to enjoy... (the comfortable, middle of the road 'Ed Sheerany' stuff we've been force-fed through more static times may need to make way for someone with bolder political attitudes...)
But whereas the punk of 50 years ago picked up any instrument and learned 3 chords to express themselves... maybe the new punk will be something which actively does change the world through millions of people realizing that modern-day software tools are their new drums, bass, and guitar in terms of helping them reflect themselves...with an actual tangible impact created far beyond culture...
Steve Jobs famously predicted that the home computer was going to be a bicycle for the mind, and would play a major role in the evolution of human beings as a productive and creative force, helping individuals express themselves all on their own.
But maybe the next evolution of human expressive behavior is ready to come out of COVID-19...with a much longer-lasting impact than what has come before...
Technological evolution leads to people revolution
Since Jobs coined that famous bicycle quote 30 years ago, even he would be impressed and amazed about the rapid progress we've made in mixing and merging technology with the everyday human experience.
We've had huge increases in processing power, revolutions in hardware and software, and the switch from top-down 'relatively expensive' software programs (Microsoft Windows as an example) to democratized open source solutions, and free tools now being the norm.
We've had cell phones evolve from the equivalent of microwave ovens in briefcases to actual phones, to smartphones so impressive that being able to call someone is actually just 1% of the feature-list.
We've had the rise of the internet, waves of innovative disruptive companies that have killed off traditional incumbents in a short space of time (Blockbuster x video x DVD ÷ Netflix 👑), and social networks that are now in their third iteration, with consolidation happening at pace.
We now live in a highly globalized, personalized, and dynamic world, with AI, machine learning, and the ultimate super-computer, the human brain all intertwined and ready to carry on with this evolution...
If you think COVID-19 could spread rapidly due to the highly networked modern world we live in today, then all of the ingredients are also there for the empowerment and enfranchisement of the individual, leveraging the power of network effects and harnessing a global appetite to do something different if the regular expected employment opportunities and State-sponsored training schemes are taken away.
Power to the individual citizen
The coming post-COVID 'revolution' doesn't need to be a violent one. The hope is that for the vast majority of us, we live in enlightened times where the prevailing attitude will be one that everyone should roll up their sleeves and get on with building a better world that needed some disruption anyway...
It could well be that this revolution will be more about the individual citizen, running parallel to the powerful State and taking charge of what can ultimately be self-controlled.
I'm not expecting 'Big Government' (at least in Western or democratic countries) to turn into authoritarian, Star Wars 'Empire' style organizations, but when the rules are so ripped up that the manual looks like it's been through a shredder, who knows what their strategy will be when confronted with chaos.
As mentioned earlier, there will be favored industries and on the whole, I'm sure the willing will be there to help as many people as possible in the recovery, but this just simply won't be possible due to budget constraints.
The emphasis will need to be on the individual to get it together, and be their own biggest supporter, their own biggest motivator, and ultimately their own biggest captain in charting the waters of what success looks like for them.
All the ingredients for empire-building and power networks
Quite simply, for the first time in history, there has never been a better time to start a business. For relatively low start-up costs, all of the hardware, software, and knowledge is available at the touch of a fingertip.
The beauty of the globalized world we find ourselves in today is that 'the individual' could well be remote in one geographic location, however with democratized access to business resources, global remote communities, and an overwhelming need and appetite for collaboration and change, the 'individual' could well be an autonomous part of something far grander that will create real change in the world.
Starting a business in a recession is often seen as a great opportunity anyway, but here in 2021, we could quite possibly have the absolute perfect mix of favorable conditions for success.
Could this new decentralized global thinking be enough to generate new alliances and networks which help individual entrepreneurs form unions with fellow 'small-frys', supporting each other in leveraging the power of their fans and customers to develop a power block of new consumer spending?
Could this new consumer spending be about an evolution of the attitude of "every dollar spent with an independent business, is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in?"
Could consumer behaviour be funnelled towards supporting hundreds of micro-brands each year as opposed to just a few big businesses?
It's a fact that 67 cents of every dollar spent in a local business goes back into the local economy. Think about that for a minute and multiply that across the globe if spent only with independent entrepreneurs and the impact that would have on our planet 🤯
Punk 2.0 is right around the corner
These new globally connected micro-entrepreneurs could well be the new wave of punks.
They can spend their day doing exactly what they want by following their passions, creating a strong identity and ultimately growing a movement around starting a business (with deep values) and a global customer base that feels deep affinity because they're also in the same boat of starting back at square one in life.
What's the alternative? Sitting around the house waiting for government unemployment support to arrive in their bank account?
Or should we as individuals feel empowered to get off our own asses and do something about it?
From yoga studios and personal trainers to new bakeries and coffee shops. From new fashion and music labels to life coaches and unique online regional cookery classes, if a global network of entrepreneurs are able to easily connect and almost exclusively spend money at each other’s businesses, then a new alternative economy will begin to emerge.
Punk 2.0 could well be capitalism with an attitude. Less snarly, more progressive, but still with 2 fingers up at government, Big Business, mundanity and offering something truly revolutionary in supporting grass-roots movements, the environment, and an alternative to an ever-increasing 'profit over purpose' world.
Punk 2.0 could well be about connectivity, community, and consumer spending finally making a difference by adding value to our planet and its people...
As the old proverb goes "Mighty oaks, from little acorns grow" and over the coming weeks and months these many entrepreneurial acorns are going to be planted in towns and cities all over the globe.
I for one am excited about where this could all go and the many new businesses, entrepreneurs, networks, and alternative ways of approaching life are going to go.
I'll see you at the front of the queue in wishing to embrace this new, empowered, "out with the old, in with the new" world we're all heading towards!
Until next time...keep winning...
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