When Mad Max was re-envisioned and once again adapted for the big screen 5 years ago, the emphasis on societal turmoil was thrust back into the popular consciousness in a way that was truly impactful to me. What I witnessed was a completely plausible scenario by which depravity may unfold when humans attempt to jockey with the concept of “shortages”. The movie was mostly a violent affair of strung together action sequences, featuring factions of people who’d developed bad blood towards a domineering mafia controlling the water supply. In fact, shortages in this fictitious universe had gotten so bad, that water was literally all there was left to care about because everything else ceased to exist; unless scavenged for. I find myself thinking about these plot points a lot lately, as the uncertainty that comes with our own shortages unfolds.

To be fair, while we don’t face a post-apocalyptic hell scape in our modern world, we do now face a post-pandemic mess of disappointment, fed by attrition and austerity and fueled by a similar catalyst: shortages. While our society is nowhere near the levels of degradation portrayed in George Miller’s film, our economic foundation is undergoing some tremendous stress right now, and the common denominator to consider when comparing our existence to that of Mad Max is the headwind of uncertainty brought on by shortages.

Complete collapse seems like the most unpalatable way I can imagine for “tomorrow” to unfold, but the lessons of today seem so over most people’s heads that I often wonder how far off track we will get. As I scan the horizon for answers, I’m finding remarkably few examples of things that are on par with expectations. Here at ACE, we face a situation with staffing shortages at a time when customers and clients need more and more from us.  As we work through the challenges brought on by absent workers, alarmingly low job applicants, and the rapid shifts from workforce contractions and expansions related to COVID – we know we aren’t the only ones going through such dissonance. As Derek Thompson put it in a prescient piece he recently contributed to The Atlantic:

“In the U.S., job openings have hit record highs in restaurants, hotels, and other leisure and hospitality sectors. But companies are struggling to fill these roles—and to keep factories and some other businesses operating at full capacity… The result, from consumers’ perspective, is more of the same Everything Shortage.”

As I’ve alluded to already several times throughout this piece, shortages are throwing everything out of whack and ACE is not immune to the consequences so many others are also facing. However, we remain firmly focused on the bright prospect I always refer to as “Tomorrowland” by embracing new technologies where it makes sense, but also not making things so complex that we lose our way of interacting with each other. A well-formed and meaningful relationship is still the most effective tool we have in coming out of our collective malaise and we can very simply begin down this path again by incorporating some further perspective from Derek Thompson’s thoughts:

“we should all expect a bit of slowness across the service sector for a while—a bit more time for that cappuccino, a bit longer of a wait for that appetizer, a bit of confusion at the convenience store when you ask where the nail-polish remover is and the new employee who had to Zoom in for her training program needs a moment to remember the aisle numbers.”

Instead of applying too much emphasis on how quickly we expect things, recognition akin to that in the art of Aikido is perhaps a better way to frame our thoughts as we move forward through whatever this transition may yield. In essence this is to “fall into” the flow of change in a way which is not at all expected, and is instead in harmony with whatever change may come. The practitioner overcomes their own fears and uncertainties by working with circumstance in a way which breeds discipline instead of aggressive violence. In other words, we need to adopt (instead of torch) the wisdom of the past and embrace recent lessons learned to chart a way forward from the sum of both without cutting each other off at the knees while we work it out.

To juxtapose the Mad Max future, there is perhaps no better illustration of this way of Aikido than the behavior reflected by those who are featured in the recent release of another adapted film, Dune. In it, the inhabitants of the planet Arrakis, known as the Fremen, take center stage and exhibit a way of life which holds no sympathies for victimhood. Frank Herbert’s story is a seminal piece of sci-fi, but it also chronicles how these Freman live so in sync with a common cause (to terra form an otherwise barren planet) that their intrepid cohesion with that cause defines a certain resiliency they have amidst a setting that is even more limited of resources than in Mad Max; in a harsher environment to boot. As in Aikido, Herbert emphasizes the key theme of fear being the “mind-killer” in his universe.

At any rate, Dune’s well timed release reminded me of how humans can choose to act when faced with a resource crisis and that even the direst of situations can be salvaged by going back to essentials. We cannot shift away from the reality of key supplies coming at a premium in our world, but we can choose how we respond to it. Lucky for us, the futures of Mad Max and Dune are both outcomes we have ample opportunity to avoid. Instead we can strive to create the promise of Tomorrowland without such harsh struggles. It all starts with a mindset of resilience, a bit more grace, and a lot less of “Hidin’ behind computer screens” and “Waitin’ for someone else to make a move”. If we all embrace simple suggestions like these from Van Morrison’s latest hit ‘Where Have All the Rebels Gone?’ and act in the way of Aikido, what will the future bring?

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