We Are All Jacinda Now
Jacinda Arden of New Zealand announced last week that she’ll step down in three weeks, and won’t seek re-election. She said she doesn’t have enough fuel in the tank to do the job well. The highly-regarded prime minister had pushed through progressive anti-poverty initiatives, faced the pandemic, and led her country through one of the worst mass shootings in recent memory. And, she has a young daughter.
People were quick to frame this – and indeed, the way she spoke about it reinforced the frame – as an individual burning out. We’re all Arden, and we’re all burnt out.
People are quitting and many workers who still have jobs dread them even more, now. (And the people who actually do like their jobs, could lose them imminently as companies are laying off tens of thousands of workers.)
There is a wider-angle lens to use on this question of burnout. The question is what happens to a society, whether it’s New Zealand or the U.S. or global society, in the aftermath of a shared trauma: the pandemic and the political unrest in response to it, followed by global inflation and the threat of a nuclear war in Ukraine.
Last year, as the pandemic restrictions lifted, all the pent-up energy was released, as people who could bought, and traveled and reconnected. I think the instinct for many, going into the third year, will be to turn inward towards the U.S., to repair the damage done to family, to young people, and in a broader sense, the country’s social structures. In a well-functioning society, one imagines, leaders step up to give earlier generations of leaders that chance to heal. The transitions between one leader and the next take time. More decisions are made communally, because individuals’ mental health has suffered. We’ll see if that happens in the U.S.
Even in the finance system, the pace in the U.S. is changing: It’s slow money at higher interest rates, not easy money. The focus for entrepreneurs will be more onbuilding profits, not on growth.
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