Opinion: (Professor Robin Matthews, President of the League of Strategic Management and Accounting): “In the story of the Tower of Babel, Babylonians tried to create a consumerist Tower that reached right up into the Heavens. The project failed as the Tower crumbled and the people ceased to be able to communicate….
“In the Bible, people began to create a Tower that was to be a materialistic ladder to Heaven. The Tower crumbled when the communication mechanisms of finance were lost. In the last twenty years the global economy has undergone enormous economic growth. Europe and North America, created a consumer based, materialist Tower Babel made of debt and excessive leverage. This Tower collapsed as confidence in the language of the financial world (debt, securitization, leverage and antidotes trust, liquidity and interbank lending) collapsed. The extent of the aftershock is still an open question….
“Although the latest crisis appears to originate in the financial sector, the origins are much deeper. Capitalism and the relentless search for competitive advantage, has resulted in huge volumes and variety of goods and services. Demand has to keep pace with supply, which marketers seem to understand, but economists have ignored. Over the last twenty years, the manic search by firms for competitive advantage has been most marked in the speculative mentality of the financial sector, creating Towers of debt based on speculation….
“The recent Tower of Babel, like the archetypal one, was built on illusory foundations of symbols, or building blocks of assets that had value only so long as people continued to deceive themselves that they had value. It was bound to collapse at some time; the critical point occurring when the language of communication broke down. The builders, suppliers and managers of the Tower eventually ceased to communicate because they no longer believed the assets of their trade, debt and liquidity have any real value….
“Recent increases in wealth are founded on the necessary split, at that time, in the sixteenth century between languages of science and the spirit: between the language of science and the language of mysticism. One outcome, in addition to wealth itself, has been the confusion of spirituality and mysticism with superstition…. Perhaps understanding the collapse of the modern Financial Tower of Babel as signaling a critical point, opening up the possible emergence of new languages and new understanding of dimensions of Being.…
“Positive effects may be dormant within the complexity of the global financial network…. They arise from its complexity and independence. Perhaps we have reached a critical point where change on all scales is possible? Perhaps the change could be recognition that co-operation should be substitutes for competition, the search for competitive advantage and acquisitiveness? Perhaps new ways of being in the world will emerge: recognition of interdependence is a step towards realizing the need, at a practical as well as a spiritual level for compassion.”