The More Natural Man: Our Nihilistic Age as foreseen by Nietzsche

1)

THE MORE NATURAL MAN

In section #120 of The Will to Power, Nietzsche argues that man, in the 19th century, had become more natural and his subsequent definition of the ‘more natural man’ is subtle, ironic and replete with satirical criticism as it is, essentially, an attack on Rousseau’s ‘return to nature’. Yet, seen from our 21st century standpoint, the short essay offers much more than a criticism of Rousseau’s noble savage, it is, like all of Nietzsche’s thought, full of prophetic insight regarding the kind of man to come, which is to say, the kind of people we now are.

One of the first points he makes is that there never has yet been a natural humanity, and this is true. The anti-human historical process that has created our WEIRD civilisation has always been a steady movement away from nature.

It could be argued that our de-naturalisation process began with the advent of language. As soon as we started representing everything in the abstract field of names, we lost our direct touch with the natural world. In many ways, the ability to use and understand languages defines humanity and, although it would be hard for most of us to concede human status to an AI machine, even if it were housed in a perfect replica of a human body, nevertheless, if a human mind could be transplanted into a mechanical body, it would be more human than a human being who had lost the capacity of language.

Pessimists often use the excuse of human nature to criticise the so-called Utopian fantasies created by faith in human potential, but the truth is, humanity is far more of a conditional animal than a prisoner of the restrictions of nature. In a sense, language liberates us from nature by alienating us from it. Whenever we look at an object and think of it in terms of its name, we are stepping away from it into the objective realm of being-apart which allows the naming process to take place.

When claims of the apparently flawed side of human nature are made, (usually defending a thesis that humanity is an incorrigible species and that society’s problems are inherent in our biological makeup) they often refer to restrictions born from the process of socialisation and other cultural manipulations than impediments coming from natural instincts. But this thinking is erroneous and mendacious: most negative pre-programming is, in fact, social rather than genetic.

For Nietzsche, however, the natural man is something which should be aspired to. Not because it is ennobling and we all have a noble savage inside us, but because, quite the opposite, we should nurture our natural sides because nature is immoral. The more natural man therefore is the immoral man – the nihilist. In section #120, he proceeds to describe this natural-immoral man, this nihilist, and much of what he sees can be found reflected in society today. Nietzsche knew the nihilists were coming, and in this essay, he seems to welcome it.

2)

OUR NIHILISTIC AGE

Nietzsche’s attitude to nihilism is extremely ambiguous, he both welcomes and fears it, often seemingly at the same time. The only thing that seemed absolutely clear to him was that a nihilistic age was dawning. It would be an age that would bring with it the profoundly negative figure of the Last Man, in which he saw the hopeless, herd-following nihilist society that civilisation would only be saved if another, new kind of humanity can evolve out of the nihilistic mess. This Last-Man-transcending being he called the Übermensch, the Overman, which has also been translated as the Superman.  

a)    THE ONE PERCENT  

  

In section #120, Nietzsche’s More Natural Man is presented as ‘our first society’, the wealthy class. In our own times, it would represent that 1% of filthy rich and the other 10% of very well-to-do individuals who belong to the star class of business folk, finance folk and celebrities (our film stars, pop stars and sports stars). Nietzsche calls them ‘the leisure class’, for whom love (sex) is reduced to a ‘kind of sport’ in which marriage ‘is an obstacle and a provocation’. It is a purely hedonistic class, who ‘live for pleasure’. This class is more natural because a nihilist system, without any grand or authentic purposes, demands an unethical breed of unscrupulous immoralists, the members of which are ‘curious and bold’.

Bold, perhaps, as lovers of extreme sports and high-risk gambling in the financial markets. According to these definitions,the Wolf of Wall Street would be a logical, and natural product of the nihilistic system he saw unfolding into the future.

Humans have a thirst for knowledge, but the more natural man does so with a ‘libertinage of the spirit’ that hates ‘pompous and hierarchical manners’ and delights in ‘what is most forbidden’. Or, in other words, Nietzsche was predicting a lust for the perverse and the radical. They ‘should hardly know any longer of any interest of knowledge if the way to it were paved with boredom.’ The more natural humanity, therefore, will only learn, and its members will only allow themselves to be educated, if the learning process is fun. They will learn what they want to learn, not what they need to know. This explains the enormous manifestation of ignorance in our information rich world. It is not because society is saturated by information, as many of our sociologists tell us, but because it is bored by the important stuff and seduced by the fun of triviality. And it is for this reason that so many of those in the information age prefer to remain in the most part ignorant.

What is more, in the nihilist civilisation, not only knowledge, but anything that has to be acquired has to be fun, or exciting. Given a choice, (and nowdays there is always a choice) the more naturally nihilist individual will always choose to do that which is pleasurable over something which is necessary or beneficial …

Or at least whilst the situation at hand does not involve a life-or-death consequences scenario like we have seen created by the Covid-19 pandemic. With the coronavirus crisis we have witnessed the hedonistic values of our nihilistic civilisation profoundly challenged, and the necessity of protecting our health has been able to put the universal libertinage of the spirit on stand bye.

b)    NIHILISM AND COVID-19

The pandemic experience has also revealed all the dangers enmeshed within the nihilistic attitude of our times, and we can now see more clearly what we lost when we surrendered to capitalism and the nihilisms it generated. The first casualty of our nihilist era was reality itself. Wealth, and the power it wields, has denied, or tried to deny, any needs that do not favour the acquisitions of what it wants or which impede the playing out of its own exciting fantasies and games. It is for this reason, for example, that capitalism has resisted the necessary conversion to green energy sources, because lurking beneath any new green deal is a greater purpose for humanity which threatens the basis of the nihilistic era itself. Likewise, Wealth has created false needs (those which the marketplace is more or less defined by) in order to push all surplus upward and allow the wealthy to acquire whatever they can imagine desiring.

The Covid-19 crisis has also shown us what little regard the more natural nihilists that drive our System have for humanity and human suffering. In the major capitalist states like the USA and the UK, the desire to protect the economy and keep trade flowing has been eagerly expressed even above the aim to protect lives against the disease. The natural nihilists have even made calls to citizens to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the economy and President Trump went as far to call the American people ‘warriors’ as he incited them to sacrifice themselves to the greater good of American business.

The more natural nihilist, argues Nietzsche, is practically amoral and principles for him or her have become ridiculous. Duty is only ever spoken about with irony, says Nietzsche. But the nihilist is not completely immoral. He or she has the morality, he says, that comes from his or her instincts – without explaining what these moral instincts are. In fact, the idea contradicts another theme of the essay, that nature is immoral. If there is no morality in nature, Nietzsche suggests, what can our moral instincts be? And if they have no instincts regarding morality, why should the more natural nihilist have any instincts at all? So, when he does talk of the nihilist’s morality, we think that he is referring to the morality that the nihilistic system manufactures and propagates to serve the desires of Wealth: the morals involved in the patriotic duties that demand sacrifices in times of crises – when those crises threaten the interests of Wealth.

c)     NIHILISM AND POLITICS

When he discusses politics in #120, Nietzsche intuits the evolution of his more natural nihilists into dictators and fascists. Politics is a problem of power, he says, and “we do not believe in any right that is not supported by the power of enforcement.” In order to rule the upcoming nihilistic societies, politicians will have to do it through force. All rights will be conquests, he says, implying that this necessary struggle for power, between “one quantum of power against another,” will make society strong.

Again, his prophecy came to fruition, although in a far shakier way than Nietzsche probably anticipated. At the turn of the 20th century the nihilist era quickly sank into a dark age of struggle, wars, revolutions, and incredible anti-human dictatorships, replaced, in the latter half of the same century, by less natural nihilist democracies. Representative democracy became the norm and politics was reduced internationally to a constant, if banal, struggle between left and right to win the votes of the centre, while the real natural nihilists, the capitalist corporations, accumulated incredible wealth and power by installing an economic paradigm above the political one. The resulting global empire, of corporations and international finance, became our most natural nihilist, driving the hedonism of consumerism to such orgiastic levels that it now threatens an ecological breakdown through an over-consumption of natural resources and a largely unchecked contamination of the environment. But while this global commerce increased its immense power, its fragility also increased at a reciprocal, chaotic rate. All it needed to bring about its collapse was a tiny germ; an unexpected new virus – with Covid-19 the world economy practically came to a complete standstill.

Nietzsche seemed to be speaking sincerely when he applauded the more natural nihilists’ politics of force, but what we have seen emerge from this constant struggle between each nihilist quantum is not a more noble kind of power, but quite the contrary. Civilisation has, for the most part, grown politically tired, at times even exhausted, with a tendency towards inefficiency and apathy rather than real struggle. A life that is continually fighting to obtain rights or power is not much of a life if there is no clear purposiveness to accompany the struggle. The obtaining of rights in the nihilist era is a step forward on a treadmill that takes us nowhere. All the more natural nihilist has is the possibility of the enjoyment derived from winning the game, but we are playing in a league that seems to have no end, because when it does the same team always wins.

This is where the seeds of apathy in our more natural nihilist world lie. The competition culminates in elections that become a race between the same old teams, and even when those teams are joined by new parties, the game still manages to retain the same predictable results only with an increased, cacophonic squabbling between the players involved. Our nihilist societies want excitement, but this same old game is boring. As with any continuum, when struggle is reduced to repetition it becomes insipid and pointless. Only an honest, authentic purposiveness is truly worth fighting for.

d)    NIHILISM AND THE GREAT CRIMINALS

The more natural man, says Nietzsche, considers passion a privilege, and he goes on to explain this by adding the audacious: “we consider nothing is great unless it includes a great crime.”

The 20th century and what we have so far of this century, are full of these bold anti-heroes, and we have seen how so many of them have unashamedly committed their great crimes against humanity over and over again. Greatness, claims Nietzsche, consists of transcending social morals. In the purposeless universe there can be no true morality – and this is correct, but in the purposeless world even the greatest criminal nihilist will eventually disappear in the same void that the purposelessness they so revere creates.

The more natural nihilist reduces nature to the devilish and dumb, and for that reason he or she respects it, because they too are devilish and dumb. Neither the more natural nihilist nor nature itself aspires to virtue. In actual fact, the nihilist society respects nature only for what it can take from it. Natural beauty becomes an excuse to go somewhere, where that beauty exists, but when it is reached, if it ever actually existed, it is lost because of the invasion of those searching for it.

Above all, in the nihilistic age nature represents opportunities to make fortunes if one knows how to exploit it. Our nihilist society does have its base, vulgar purpose: making money, and all nihilistic purpose is embedded in it. Money equals exchange and implies acquisition. Nietzsche ignores this vulgar trend for consumerism, or relegates it to the realm of the Last Men. Devilish and dumb are the Last Men consumers, so is this what they have in common with the more natural nihilists that govern them?

e)    NIHILISM AND POSITIVISM

The more natural nihilist remains cold to the beautiful, illusory lies of art and looks for something more brutal – positivism.

Positivism thus becomes the antithesis of beauty. This is an interesting aesthetic statement from Nietzsche: nature itself is not deliberately beautiful, but it is positive. Nature as something fecund, with a desire to manifest itself, grow and propagate itself. Beauty is a human prejudice on nature and so, to be honest in a nature-centred sense, it should be rejected.

But again, rejecting beauty is a rejection of purposiveness, and without purposiveness there can be no real positivism.

f)      THE ANTI-NIHILIST PURPOSIVENESS OF UNCONCEALMENT

That Nietzsche saw nature to be devoid of purposiveness was his greatest mistake. Purpose through a will to Unconcealment is embedded in the ontology of the cosmos. The human ability to perceive beauty may in fact be one of the deepest instincts for survival in our species.

Another, more traditional, way of expressing this would be to proclaim our ability to perceive beauty as an essential element in our souls. An element that nihilism erodes by cutting it off from the nourishment it could receive from any meaningfulness.

Without that nourishment, beauty sinks into the swamps of melancholy and the subsequent depressions that our nihilistic society is infested with.

Nietzsche’s argument that we have grown stronger by being more natural nihilists is wrong – we have grown more adolescent, full of the great capriciousness and bored peevishness characteristic of adolescence. There is nothing noble in this, quite the contrary, its egoism is dangerous and its immaturity has created catastrophic levels of corruption, decadence and political stupidity.       

The perpetual process of Unconcealment in the Perceived Universe

Sun breaking through clouds over ocean

With the Universe revealed (either through direct perception of it or through speculation) it invites the Sapiens being to try and understand it, which means being able to find the thing (or things) as it (they) really is (are).

Through Sapiens curiosity, the unconcealment is constant and the ‘cosmic will’ is in a process of being fulfilled. To be in harmony with the Universe, therefore, we have to be constantly revealingit.

This constant unconcealment is also a perpetual re-revealing. The revealing is unceasing once it is established in Sapiens as part of its nature and tied to its very Being. Once a Sapiens entity exists in the Universe, every millisecond moment provides a new un-veiling and revealing becomes as constant as the passage of time itself.

Nevertheless, despite this constancy, it cannot be assumed that a high standard in the quality of revealing is also constant. Societies have developed in ways that take hold of the individual’s power of revealing in order to trap its subjects’ imaginations within its own field of concerns. Individuals are therefore made dull by society, their minds atrophied by the predictability of the day to day and the banality of gossip. The societies of our WEIRD civilisation foments minds that stop searching, ones that prefer to have reality spoon-fed to them.  

However, the Unconcealment embedded in such a profound systemic crisis as the pandemic we are currently facing, strips the System of much of its concealing masks and its dysfunctionality gives society enough distance to get an objective view of the paradigm in which we are immersed.

What is being unconcealed today is firstly, the tremendous power that the capitalist economy has over all our lives and secondly, the enormous weakness that power has in being able to provide a dignified existence for the humanity it organises. The selfish aims of the system and its shameful exploitation of humanity to create Wealth for a tiny minority are now easier to perceive.

Whether this general Unconcealment can be translated into a positive upheaval, remains to be seen.

The need for Spaces of Possibility

In order for progress to happen in any field (social, scientific or cultural), there has to be a space cleared within societies to allow for the planting of possibilities. Without possibilities there cannot be any creativity in all social, artistic or scientific advances.

Once planted, the seeds of possibility need to be nurtured and protected from economic limitations. In fact, the first step that has to be taken to allow possibilities to grow and progress to thrive, is the creation of a new kind of economy that releases possibility from all economic restraints. In order to do this, there must be a revaluation of the purpose of money in societies and a new rationale concerning how rewards are gained and how incentives are distributed.

Democratic societies need to open such spaces by making them available to the mutual benefit of all. Each member of society should be able to feel empowered with the ability to plant their own seeds of possibilities, made available and encouraged by the collective society.

Our current, capitalist model of distribution and its global economy has been stripped bare by the coronavirus pandemic. Beyond the tragic effects of the human life lost to the virus, the ultimate legacy of the pandemic will be a collapsed world economy which, paradoxically, will actually be good for the health of the planet. This sad absurdity has to make us contemplative; in its essence it is crying out for us to revaluate the way we make exchanges and the existential prices we will have to pay for those exchanges.

But what the pandemic scenario also reveals, is that the current status quo is not the only way things have to be. With the walls of the current system cracking all around us and the foundations of the house we live in sinking into the bog we have created in building this house, it is time now to pull the house down and rebuild. But let that new home be a safe and beautiful edification for everyone, and one which is designed to make the space full of openings to other outward and inner spaces of all possibilities for everyone.

DEPRESSIVE EMPIRICISM: Agamben’s bad medicine

AGENT SWARM

SAD AFFECTS

Giorgio Agamben has been publishing a philosophical chronicle on the responses to the Coronavirus Epidemic for the past couple of months. His articles keep getting worse and worse. Here is his latest thought piece on “Medicine as Religion“. I feel sad when I read his texts. A rudimentary ethics of care has risen to prevent undue deaths being caused by the corona virus, and all Agamben wants to do is to stamp it out as “totalitarian”.

ABSTRACT FREEDOM

There is a curiously abstract aura to Agamben’s interventions. In this new text, Agamben once again makes no mention of the hospital emergency services being flooded with too many cases to handle. Instead, he brandishes the principle of an abstract freedom, that in the concrete case of the epidemic can only amount to the freedom to infect and to be infected.

MEDICINE AS RELIGION

In the name of…

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Unconcealment (Part Four): Metaphysics as unconcealment

Continued from Part Three: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/pauladkin.wordpress.com/3386

13.

Returning to the question of Being – Unconcealment is an ontological necessity. Without Unconcealment, Being is impossible. In the ontic field, through an analysis of cosmological fine-tuning, we see that the cosmos has evolved towards Unconcealment by creating conditions for life forms that can be aware. What cosmological fine-tuning suggests is that there is a certain determinism towards Being. In moral terms Being is an absolute good, and anything that threatens Being should be considered an absolute evil.

In the 16th century, the metaphysical thinker, Giordano Bruno, intuited this idea of existential Unconcealment when he talked of universal Providence, to which, he said: “I apprehend three attributes … Mind, Intellect and Love, with which things have first, Being, through the Mind; next ordered and distinct Being, through the Intellect; and third, concord and symmetry, through Love.”

Existential Unconcealment elevates humanity and has moral repercussions in our own lives, especially ecological ones. Without sapiens life on Earth, Being itself is threatened with annihilation. The first priority of homo sapiens must be: not to allow ourselves to become extinct. This is a moral imperative, and our civilisation should adapt itself accordingly. If not, it must forfeit its right to be considered a civilisation. At the moment, we have to admit that we belong to an evil empire that threatens the perpetuity of Being itself.

Let me be quite clear: without Being there is Nothing. “To BE or NOT to BE,” needs to be written like that, with capital letters, emphasising the dramatic nature of this concept. Being is everything, and if unconcealing, sapiens life on Earth is threatened, then everything is threatened. The Apocalypse won’t be brought about through the wrath of God, but it will be caused by the disappearance of that which makes the concept of God possible. Without the Unconcealment of Being, everything is exiled to the ontic purgatory of the un-perceived, concealed, infinity of Non-Being.  

Unconcealment (Part Three): Transparency vs. gossip

Continued form Unconcealment Part Two:

https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/pauladkin.wordpress.com/3382

10.

As a conscious being, the homo sapiens is a naturally unconcealing one. Nevertheless, whilst we have this passion to unconceal, we also have an aversion to be the object of Unconcealment. The conscious being in society needs to protect him or herself from the prying eyes of the society itself. Without privacy, life is stressful and the structure of society is totalitarian.

A political dialectic exists, therefore, between the need to be able to unconceal, and the need to protect oneself from the unconcealing of others.

11.

By embracing the Information Age, we have consciously and/or unwittingly surrendered ourselves to the stress and fascism of the unconcealed society. However, it is imperative to understand that unconcealment has different shades: from the gleaming brilliance of creativity and scientific discovery to the gloomy greyness of gossip and the invasion of privacy.

At the political level, the popular term for unconcealment is transparency, and whilst this is important for the healthy functioning of democracy, unconcealment also has an invasive, negative side. At the social level, this is called gossip. It is non-creative, accusative and stress creating and is often based on tenuous suppositions or blatant lies. The System loves it because it channels the creative and critical forces in society away from an unconcealment of the obscure world of power itself, into the mind-numbing noise of social chit-chat. However, with the surge of populisms in politics, the power of gossip has been thrown into the political arena, with the subsequent debasement of political theatrics, in which complex debate can be lifted out of the parliamentary setting and vomited forth in dangerous over-simplifications and memes propagated via Twitter.

The technology of the Information Age will not go away. Quite the contrary, it will offer more and more transparency, much of which will be negative and democratically dangerous. When freedom of speech devolves into the freedom for, and perverse enjoyment of, perjury and slander, democracy itself is infirm and knocking on the door of a dictatorship. To protect ourselves from this latent totalitarianism within the transparency-system itself, we have to nurture the brilliant side of unconcealment: the artistic, creative spirit and the unconcealment of scientific discovery.

12.

In order to protect themselves, the corporate powers that pull the strings of our global-world, capitalist civilisation, do allow a certain space for this brighter light of unconcealment to take place, whilst at the same time fomenting a gossip society of atrophied intellects that will happily consume that which is absolutely unnecessary. This causes a gap betwixt the brilliant creative part of society and its gloomy, gossiping grey side: a rift less visible but just as profound as the economic divide of rich and poor. However, this brilliant/grey society is only one stride away from slipping into the totally grey world of fascism. A proximity narrow enough to envisage a sudden, massive leap to the dark side.

When society nurtures atrophied intellects, it creates a breeding ground for fascism.

Read Part Four: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/pauladkin.wordpress.com/3395

Unconcealment (Part Two)

Continued from Part One:

https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/pauladkin.wordpress.com/3342

4.

If we look at the way human societies within the ever-expanding circle of the WEIRD[1] civilisation are structured and then analyse these structures according to their facilitating Unconcealment, we see that quite the opposite to purposiveness is taking place.

In order to Unconceal one must have the time to do so. Nevertheless, economies do not allow us that time as most of us are expected to work at least eight hours a day in order to get acceptable salaries. Eight hours maybe only half of our waking life, but after the time spent commuting to and from the work, our domestic chores, and our social life, one is left little time to be creative or philosophic in the unconcealing (purposive) field of life. Neither does civilisation encourage its subjects to be purposive. Free time is meant for consumers (workers turned into consumers) whilst purposive people would be too busy with reading or writing books, creating art, or just trying to think outside the box, to be concerned about something so trivial and vulgar as spending money. To keep us within the restraints of its paradigm, therefore, WEIRD civilisation encourages us to relax ourselves and relieve our creative instincts in front of the TV. The television is the perfect tranquiliser, it rests our minds and unconcealing instincts.

5.

We regard the power to unconceal as a human virtue, and, like all virtues, one that needs to be nourished if it is to bloom. Especially as the status quo of the WEIRD world is to ferment an interest in that which can be sold rather than in that which can be enlightening, mind-changing, thought provoking and/or challenging.

6.

Unconcealing is only ever a short-term aim and never an end in itself. Once the Universe was unconcealed by conscious awareness it became a beautiful problem. The unconcealing, once started, immediately became a continual process. Reality is complex, unfathomable, impossible to really grasp – like Heraclitus’ river, it flows around us, constantly changing as long as we are prepared to dedicate some time to unconcealing it.

7.

Unconcealing is related to truth in a material sense, in that to unconceal something is to become aware that something exists, and that the truth of things depends on whether they exist or not. The opposite of truth is lies, and lies are therefore related to concealing. Between lies and truths are beliefs – which are assumptions of the existence of certain possible entities that have not properly been unconcealed.

Heidegger would probably have added here that Unconcealment alone is not close enough to truth to pair them, and that Unconcealment has to uncover a correspondence between the linguistic proposition we make about a phenomenon and the actual phenomenon itself.

8.

This reminds us that Unconcealment, as far as it is a human, homo sapiens procedure, is a primarily linguistic process. We unconceal things by naming them and describing them, but truth depends on the accuracy and faithfulness of that description. In a sense, language is a kind of technology, and, likewise, the technological process of taking a photo or painting a picture is also a kind of linguistic process. They are certainly methods of unconcealing things.

No one knows better than the artists how difficult it is to unconceal the truth of an object or a matter. Ironically, truth in art can best be expressed by concealing it rather than unconcealing it. Truth is often buried and hidden. It lurks in the subconscious and often seems happier to remain in hiding than to be revealed. Alluding to Nietzsche, we could say that this encourages the idea that truth is shy and easily embarrassed. It does not stand well on the open stage and prefers to linger in the wings. Because of this, unconcealing has to be a process of deciphering – which has always been dangerous and often leads to erroneous interpretations.

9.

But truth and Being are not inseparable ingredients. Being is what is Unconcealed: on the most basic level of Being it is the entity that corresponds to the image the conscious subject has of it. On another level of Being, it is the object that corresponds to the name or definition that it is given.

The process of Unconcealment proves the object to the subject as real. The still-concealed-but-believed relies on faith to make it real. The concealed might exist, or it might not. Imagination is positive when it can be channelled creatively into the realm of artistic concealment, but it is also dangerous when belief is accompanied by an imagined correspondence with an illusion, or if Unconcealment takes place before a solitary figure who is lone witness to a unique event. For Unconcealment to be meaningful in society, it has to have a correspondence that is witnessed and shared by a group large enough, or convincing enough to make the Unconcealment valid for everyone – or at least the majority. Such Unconcealments are valid until proven wrong. When this happens, we see that the Unconcealment of something can prove a falseness about the entity or proposition that may push it away into concealment again or reduce it to the condition of mere belief.

See Part Three: https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/unconcealment-part-three-transparency-vs-gossip/     

See Part One: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/pauladkin.wordpress.com/3342


[1] Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic

BUILDING THE POST-PANDEMIC ERA: What must be Done

A: WHAT THE PANDEMIC HAS TAUGHT US

(i) – a) One of the many dangerous weaknesses in the liberal economic model that the Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare is that as an organising force, the free market is impotent when facing the enormous task of a real emergency. At the same time, it has demonstrated the importance of having functional, central, public institutions.

– b) Likewise, it has revealed serious concerns regarding globalisation. It has largely been our global trade and tourism networks that have propagated the virus. At the same time, while the global economy has made this pandemic possible, we also see a dire need for a coordinated global response team. To protect us from future disasters like Covid, we need to strengthen transnational institutions like the WHO or the UN. A global economy needs a global governance.

 (ii) – a) The current pandemic crisis lies within an even greater existential crisis – the climate emergency.

– b) The pandemic has a positive side, in that it teaches us lessons concerning the climate emergency, principally that by reducing consumer practices and the transport of people and commodities, greatly reduces carbon emissions and gives space for the ecosystem to recuperate.

– c) This shows us that if the post-pandemic era is to be followed by something positive, it has to be a great revaluation of the global system and the role played by neo-liberal economic policies in that paradigm which has brought us to where we are now. We live in a world threatened by economic growth: now it is time to revaluate the relevance of that threat, understand and make comprehensible its dangers, and create new economic and political models designed for the well-being of all humanity.

B: THE GREAT REVALUATION

(i) The revaluation of the economic model: Devise and implement a new global model based on effectively implementing the UN’s sustainable development goals (such a model could be Kate Raworth’s DOUGHNUT ECONOMICS[1] ); redesign a financial system so that it creates an economy that actually focuses on the authentic needs of society; revaluate business objectives to turn them away from the slavery of creating share-holder profit; revaluate the global economy so that it finally overcomes the shackles of national interests in order to work in the interests of all of humanity.

(ii) The new economics should take into a ccount a revaluation of the labour force model – emphasis on the introduction of new technologies (e.g.: robots) into the essential and emergency services; improvement of labour conditions for workers in general and the transition of mindless, repetitive tasks away from human toward mechanised, robotic labour.

(iii) The revaluation of technology, not only to automate industries, but also to replace all contaminating machines with clean, green technologies.

(iv) An aesthetic revaluation that frowns on too much unnecessary consumerism and looks toward the virtues of recycling and renovation over the competitive ‘cult of the new’. This implies the birth of a new kind of language, a new Newspeak.

(v) A revaluation of religions: encouraging religious leaders to emphasise the human side of their religious teachings over the perpetuation of sectarianisms and conservative dogmas.

(vi) A revaluation of humanity: as something which exists; putting human needs above nationalisms or segregating sectarian ones.

(vii) A revaluation of societies’ indifference to truth: in order to re-instate an authenticity.

(viii) A revaluation of our identities, swinging identity politics away from individual, nationalistic or religious identities to empower the idea of humanity.

(ix) A revaluation of the nation state and patriotisms, in favour of a global political union of humanity.

Kate Raworth’s plan of Doughnut Economics -the safe and just space for humanity

[1] https://www.kateraworth.com/doughnut/

Capitalism and Truth

In this age of Fake News and the Trump presidency, we clearly see the unimportance of truth, not only because of the pandemic of lie-infesting trolls and other cults of ignorance that plague our social media, but also from the capitalist-minded organisms of power that govern our lives and the individuals that direct them.

Our System, with a capital S, is capitalist and neo-liberal, and neo-liberal capitalism is indifferent to truth. An indifference which is essentially destructive, because what is buried in the indifference is a denial regarding the overall, tremendously negative consequences of its aim of perpetual growth through a constant increase in production and consumption.

Because of the uncomfortable nature of truth, capitalism has to withdraw from any relationship to it, so much so, that it altogether destroys the possibility of there being anything like truth in it – and this explains the existence of a president like Donald Trump.

Of course, because of this allergy to veracity, our neo-liberal, world civilisation suffers an agonising loss of authenticity, and this means that authenticity is the very force that must be developed in order to vanquish this desperate dictatorship of truth-indifferent capitalism. It is, therefore, to the authentic artists, the scientists and the authentic thinkers that the task of re-instating truth in our societies now lies.

This authentication process, however, is not new; it has taken place in other periods of history – in the classical period when authentic thinking first began, arising as a necessary evolution away from the ubiquitous dominance of the tyranny of myth, and this was repeated in the Renaissance, as a revolution away from the mythical dogma of biblical scripture.  

Seen in this way, capitalism’s indifference to truth is a return to the Dark Ages and the unenlightenment of societies organised and driven along lines governed by mythical assumptions, now in the form of a plague of conspiracy theories designed to distract from the real dangers of the System, which lies in the unintelligent, truth-indifferent nature of the plutocratic system itself.

The fundamental question the authentic thinker must ask today is: What kind of art and what kind of thinking is it that can rescue truth from the erroneously dangerous confusion created by the myth-making conspiracy theories and other lies emanating from the System itself?

The fundamental lie of the neo-mythmakers is that truth is a relative concept that has countless subjective interpretations. A common tactic of these neo-mythmakers is to publicly debunk facts with so-called common-sense assumptions. But common-sense, while it seems logically sensible at first, is never a healthy tool for policy making as it almost always ignores the science and overgeneralises the truth. Attitudes expressed by climate-emergency sceptics are good examples of this, e.g., a spell of cold weather in your region does not mean that the global average temperature is not steadily rising, as scientific studies show.     

For art and thinking to be authentic, they must be anchored in facts, and only then can they be contrasted with the inauthenticity of the neo-mythologies. However, it would be wrong to assume that these facts themselves can serve as a weapon to vanquish the enemy. Remember, capitalist neo-mythologies are indifferent to truth and that makes them indifferent to facts, which means they are immune to any attack from the factual realm.

Here we see that science alone, or a politics rooted in science, will not be enough to overcome the myth-perverted system, it needs to transcend its own seriousness and coldness in order to attack through aesthetic means any perverted judgements that have an indifference to truth. Through the didactic power and ethical seduction that can be energised via art, the neo-mythologies can be fought from within.

Art, because art can embrace the myth itself and use the truth-indifferent universe to take a stance and draw arguments within the mythical world itself, via a creation of new, legendary characters that actually seduce audiences back towards a passion for the comfort of a more ethical, truthful, authentic society. In this way, art can undermine the power of neo-myths.

As Walter Benjamin pointed out when writing about tragedy:

Through every minor and yet unpredictably profound interpretation of the material of legend, tragedy brings about the destruction of the mythic world-order, and prophetically shakes it with inconspicuous words.”[1]

Benjamin observed that it was through the art of writing and performing tragic theatre, that authentic thinking was able to undermine the powerful hold that myth had over Greek society. Tragic art is grounded in myth, but only in order to destroy it, opening a door for authenticity itself.  


[1] Walter Benjamin, GESAMMELTE SCHRIFTEN, II, 1:249

Pandemic (Part Two): our tragedy

To see PANDEMIC (Part ONE) go to: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/pauladkin.wordpress.com/3348

For decades the largely hypocritical ethics of neo-liberal ideologies have been globally chipping away at the public sector of the system from all sides, disfiguring the State and undermining any democratic quality of it. This weakening process has been carried out to such an extent that there is a widespread sense of distrust from the demos towards those who organise and govern them. In tragedy-terms, the natural law that composes the democratic State, a polis for the people elected by the people, has been perverted.

In the Greek sense of tragedy, the tragic comes into play when the human ethics clash with the divine, natural laws of the gods. Applied to our current situation, our tragedy unfolds because the nihilistic ethics of the capitalist economy that drives our system, have fallen into conflict with the natural laws of ecological sustainability.

The co-habitation of conflicting forces is the underlying condition that makes tragedy possible. In the case of the pandemic, the forces contributing to the tragedy itself are the conflicting elements of the private and public sectors, two spaces that exist in the same space (the State), competing for possession of that space. The pandemic has revealed the real scope and existential significance of that conflict, which was hardly tangible in the pre-tragic scenario, so dominated by the private sector at the expense of the public. The pandemic has shown us the impotence of the public/private system, by revealing its fatal flaws.

On the surface, it seems that the State is able to manage the opposing forces comfortably. It could be said that the function of Western democracies is solely to bind these opposing forces together and guarantee the co-habitation of the two. Within this role, the State exudes self-confidence, seeing itself as a simple individuality in which public and private dynamics and needs are harmonised, but this perception is diluted and dissolved when the true situation is revealed with the unfolding of the tragedy. So, to see the real impact of the pandemic, we need to look at the essence of that which the State truly represents in order to see beyond the illusion that its public/private mask perpetuates.

For the State to make any democratic sense, it must be regarded as a guarantee of survival for the people that constitute it. At a secondary level, it needs to be dedicated to providing comfort and dignity, both materially and spiritually. It is the organisation that organises not only the lives of the people, but also their deaths, and this organisation is expected to be primarily quantitative. The democratic success of the State depends on the quality of life enjoyed by its citizens, as well as the protection against that life ending prematurely, and the guarantee for everyone to be allowed to die in a dignified way.

This latter point is often overlooked, and that is part of the reason why the pandemic tragedy is so bewildering. In the pandemic, the need to regulate death in the society suddenly jumps to the fore. Remember, the primary aim of the State is its guarantee of ensuring the survival of its citizens, and the pandemic reveals this essential objective very clearly. Like the Greek tragedy Antigone, the pandemic tragedy is set around corpses. It is about the real problem of death in society, which is, above all, a question of dignity.

In the 2020 pandemic, what we have seen is a humiliation of human arrogance and the principle product of that arrogance is the capitalist economy. It has also revealed the dangers of perpetuating a system which is anti-natural, in our contemporary sense of working in a rapacious manner that constantly violates and destroys the ecosystem that is ultimately our only true source of sustenance.

To be natural, politics must be a conjunction of human will and nature in which the human will is harmonious with the restrictions of natural law. To ensure this, the human will must submit to ecology, and the only political force fit enough and potent enough to organise and carry out that submission, is the public sector.