“We got the experience, we lost the meaning”, T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
by Dimitris Konstantakopoulos (*)
Human kind is facing the most formidable threats of all its history
–The planet is going rapidly towards an irreversible climatic disaster, facing simultaneously all sort of threats to its ecosystem
– We are facing again the specter of a possible major nuclear conflict
– The vast majority of the human population lives now in conditions which are, sometimes, even worse than those prevailing 500 years ago
A very small group of huge banks, multinational corporations state and “private” secret serviceshave concentrated unprecedented power in their hands and are developing like cancer in our societies.
For the first time in human History the development of productive forces has attained the level required to satisfy all “reasonable” human needs and permit a life in dignity to all inhabitans of the planet, but, in the same time, inequality has beaten all historical records.
Also for the first time in History, the extremely limited minorities, already controlling most of power, money and knowledge, are also in the process of acquiring the technological capacity to impose a totalitarian order which will make Hitler seem a poor boy, an alchemist compared to modern chemists.
But maybe more worrisome than all those, already very worrisome “objective” facts, is the level of discourse emitted by the two persons competing to become Presidents of the most powerful country of the world. They want to rule the superpower and the world. But you will hardly find in the insults they exchange any meaningful idea on what they will do with the formidable challenges in front of their country and the planet.
Words and ideas do matter, even if they are false or ridiculous. Karl Marx used to say that Ideas are in delay compared to the Being and this is quite true. But the opposite is also true. Ideas – or their absence – is also a clear indication where a society is heading, what it chooses to know and what to ignore, what truths it needs and what illusions it prefers.
Our century was announced as a “century of catastrophes” – traditional wars in the Middle East, less traditional in Europe, like the one that destroyed already Greece and it goes on pushing it into the abyss, nuclear disasters like in Fukushima (a clear result by the way of the submission of nuclear industry to the prerogatives of a sick society in general and of the Finance in particular, the consequences of which remain hidden to a great extent). We are living in an era of “end of hope”, of huge crisis or collapse of nearly all the modern projects promising to make Humans subjects of their History (Enlightment and Democracy, Socialism, blind belief into the automatic social benefits of Science, Psychoanalysis etc.). In the East, its “socialism” has collapsed, in the West “welfare capitalism” is retreating every passing date.
The ideas of our world were mainly shaped by the (positive or negative) influence of people like Marx, Freud, Einstein, great “de–mystifiers” of our social being, our character and the cosmos in which we exist. For the time being at least, there is nobody to replace, or overcome them (in the sense the New Testament replaced the Old, or Einstein Newton).
But humans cannot survive without hope and withut meaning (project). The destruction of meaning in the political discourse of the most powerful states of the world, like the USA, is a more than clear sign for the accelerating decomposition of modern capitalism. If capitalism is still the right word to describe a system which is going into a kind of post-modern feudalism, opening the way, if it follows unhindered its natural direction, to the end of Humans, the destruction of the Planet and a dictatorship of the Machines. Maybe and in this contect, the destruction of meaning is announcingour own destruction.
It is only normal that people, feeling by instinct the terrible prospects ahead, go back to past identities, like nation or religion, or try to find new hopes (for. ex. the social movement crystallized around Sanders during the US election campaign). Still the “dark” forces seem, for the time being, to dominate the scene.
Coming back to the US elections what we see? One of the candidates seems to represent the end of Rationality, the other the end of Emotion, both the end of any kind of Ethics. But we know from the Ancient times that those three properties, when and only when they coexist, are the ones differentiating Humans from human-like monsters. (The situation in Europe, in particular in France, which is the “mother” of modern Europe, as far as politics and ideas is concerned, is not better. Probably, it is even worse than in the American center of the world system).
The characters dominating the political class reflect the illness of the “system”. Maybe this process is old enough. But after the “end” of the Cold War (not ended by the way) and the collapse of the USSR, it has come to the fore nearly everywhere in “Western Democracies”, the United States of America included.
Read the following commentaries on the second Trump-Clinton debate published in the The Nation and the Counterpunch respectively. (Or, if you prefer, you may also skip the news and just look again to the films of Stanley Kubrick, especially the last one. His genius will help you discern the nature of forces governing, to a large extent, our world and also their – unannounced and not possible to announce – project).
As the great French genetician Albert Jacquard has put it, “the main obstacle to grasp reality consists of the limits of our imagination”.
(*) Journalist and writer. He served as special advisor to the Office of Greek PM Andreas Papandreou (1985-88), working on Arms Control and East-West relations. He has been chief correspondent of the Athens News Agency in Moscow (1989-1999). He has been the Secretary of the Movement of Independent Citizens (2011-12) and a member of the Secretariat and the Central Committee of SYRIZA (2012-13). He left this party in July 2015. A member of the editorial board of the international review of self-management “Utopie Critique”, he is actively involved in the Delphi international Initiative for Democracy. He is the author of three books on relations between CPSU and Greek CP, the Cyprus conflict and US policy in Eastern Mediterranean and on relations between Nation and the Left.