The historical past, our anti-human historical process (that which we call civilisation), has been a great mistake that has led us to the existential precipice we stand on today, but that does not mean that any revolutionary response to the disaster should obliterate it and create a new, sanitised collective memory as the Soviets tried to do under Stalin.
Despite the tragic exploitation and anti-human goals of the Wealth-driven historical process, the past is still humanistically glorious: primarily through the arts and sciences. The greatness of humanity lies in the fact that, despite the constant anti-human aggression we have suffered, the human spirit has always been able to find ways of expressing itself in a universal and atemporal way that will always be enriching for all who are willing to spend some time discovering and positively deciphering the achievements and eternal messages that are there. In fact, for the present and future to be humanistically positive spaces, they must be interwoven with the past, i.e., with the words, sounds and images embedded in the dreams and realisations that surge from that deep well that lies behind us. While the past has been an anti-human historical process, at the same time it has, until now, always managed to carry the great shadow of humanity forward and without human hope it would never have sustained itself for so many millennia. The past gives substance to the present and gives form to existence, and because of that we are duty bound to never ignore it nor deprecate it, although, at the same time, our relationship to this past should never be a Quixotic one that blindly defends an undefendable idea. Our relationship with the past needs to be tempered by a constantly critical approach through which the lumpy, anti-human motives of Wealth are forever being sifted out from the smoother deliberations and desires of the human.
We need to remind ourselves that authentic human existence is part real, and part fictional. Humanity has, and should always have, one foot in the practical and one foot in the mythical; one foot in the realistic and the other in the allegorical. Only then will be able to unravel the reasons of our current predicament and form the more positive view of humanity that is needed to pull us out of the mess we are so deeply swamped in.
Likewise, any analysis of the human condition has to take a concerted look at the environment we find ourselves locked in. Human fulfilment has traditionally always been hanging in a state of suspension, but at the moment we are strung up over a particularly woeful and an enormous abyss. As such, our present circumstances demand that we haul ourselves in and suspend our hopes over a more desirable landscape again. But even this would not be enough: human progress will only take place once we have been able to lower ourselves into the landscape itself and, with our feet on the ground, concentrate our efforts on reaching the other side of the horizon. By so doing we could revitalise the epic spirit of the human soul (for the epic needs horizons to cross). For pragmatism to work, therefore, it needs to be anchored to a positive vision of a possible, better human future and divorced from the needs of immediate, personal gratifications.
Of course, we are where we are now as a result of the accumulated errors of humanity’s past, errors which have crept up on us and now manifest themselves as one big collective disaster. Seen in this way, the present is like the second part of Don Quixote in which the hero meets characters who have read the first part of the novel and recognise him. And by doing so, make him the object of his own narrative. Likewise, in our current Quixotic reality, the present is the object of the past’s narrative, and this is what creates the paradigm or, at least, allows the paradigm created by Wealth to be perpetuated. Like Don Quixote, humanity is trapped by a need to be faithful to the narrative, albeit a very bad one, that we find ourselves existing as a prolongation of. When we read Don Quixote (or properly exam our present condition) we see that this situation is absurd, but we are incapable of appreciating the real absurdity which is that, with regard to our own reality, we act in the same Quixotic manner. Just as Don Quixote was a mere, absurd shadow of an epic-hero dream, so humanity has become a deviant image of the great dream of wealth.
Through society’s newfound addictions to social networks and its discovery of a new home within the borders of the smartphone screen, humanity has become trapped in a huge advertising campaign in which all truth lies in the campaign itself and its quality control is measured within the quantitative success of the campaign’s exposure. Within this campaign is recorded everything that each one of its members have done, said, seen and thought, and its success depends on its ability to automatically self-reproduce itself, more and more in the mode of the image rather than the word, with the subsequent result that reality becomes more and more pornographic (in the literal sense of that word). The new language is the photo – the complexity of words being swallowed by the simplicity of the photo. The social network experience is a new madness that is being palliated by posing as ‘the real’. In it people take things and other people for what they are not; they break off with their friends and embrace complete strangers; users think they are revealing themselves when in fact they are putting on new masks, and they are constantly encouraged to alter and re-shape themselves, distorting themselves so deeply that any authenticity has become lost forever. The social-media anthropoid wants to be the same as everyone else, even though the sameness that brings them together lies in a quest to be different from all the rest; sameness is upheld by the common search for pseudo-individualism. Ours is a present-tense world devoid of any future and delusional about our history.
In the world of social media, society and madness blend into each other as never before in any other human society. It is an anti-poetic reality in which all words are swallowed up by images that ultimately erase all authentic meaning from the social narrative. It is a world of identities and differences in which everything is the same. Despite the seemingly political and social polarisation, everything is the same.
In this sense, that which is considered ‘reality’ lacks authenticity and the systemic paradigm we live in today is an absurd fabrication of the real: the great illusion of capitalist realism. Capitalist realism is an alternative reality of alternative truths that are so skilfully embedded that they are seldom questioned. But as the gravity of our disassociation from authenticity has worsened, so has the insanity spread to potentially suicidal extremes. Currently we exist in a massive illusion, fermented by social media madness, that masks authentic reality, the authenticity that spins about a two-pronged foundation entwined around the tragedy of the climate emergency fed by the insane ideology of growth on the one hand, and the tremendous, systemic class divisions, promulgated by the tyranny of wealth on the other.
Through the power of social media, the realism of this alternative reality has been able to render any revolutionary forces driven by the real problems impotent. In a sense then, the mad Quixotic dream is that which dominates societies and propagates ostrich-cultures of downward staring people with their heads in holes in the ground. Because of this, survival depends on our ability to see beyond the present and focus on the future, but without ignoring the glorious and meaningful moments buried in the better parts of our unfortunate past.