The System which rules us and which we benevolently call Civilisation, is actually a despotic plutocracy – a tyranny of greed. This dictatorship of the greedy is also a tyranny of the superficial and, subsequently, the most envious and stupid elements of society. Above all it is a tyranny of purposelessness.
Purposelessness creates shallowness and hates all depth. Without any authentic purpose to thicken its achievements, that which is won remains insubstantial and unsatisfying. Instead of being satisfied by our accomplishments we long for the success of others.
In the tyranny of greed, one follows one’s desires without knowing where those desires come from or where they might be taking us. On the whole, the tyranny of greed is a hopeless affair. Like all despotisms, the tyranny of greed negates humanity and ignores human rights whenever they do not favour its own greedy, superficial, and envious purposes.
The tyranny is so entrenched in our civilisation that it seems unmovable. But immovability has been the symptom of the collapse of all tyrannical civilisations. The stagnation of the system will always crumble under the disquietude of its citizens and their need to move forward.
To vanquish a dictatorship of purposelessness, the procedure is quite simple: inject an authentic purposefulness into that same system … and by authentic we mean meaningful for humanity; we mean an authentic human purposefulness, one that envisions an authentic human progress towards a civilisation with a forever evolving human quality of life.
But for that to happen we have to start seeing these purposeful human aims toward authentic progress ourselves.
The practical worlds that societies enclose are shared experiences that can exist without a common language. If you have access to money and there is a supermarket nearby, your survival is ensured. Any tourist or ex-patriot who is ignorant of the local language knows how that works: you go to the store, pick what you want off the shelves, pay and leave, without needing to utter a single word.
What this means is, we have created societies in which even dummies can cope … but … have we intentionally made societies for dummies? Is there a structural aim to this simplicity? If the basic elements of survival are quite simply ‘get a salary and close proximity to a supermarket and you’ll be fine’, how can real progress on a human, sapiens level, come about? What is there to inspire the masses for more when they are perfectly comfortable with much less?
The essence of the practical reality boils down to this, and practical reality is economic reality. The progressive motor of the homo economicus is his or her ambition, but the most practical side of the practical world is that ambition and dreams are not necessary – in fact, they are not even practical. The American Dream might hover around, but in general it gets lost in the linings of the corridors of Walmart.
A society that can be imagined without any need for language is a sapiens-impoverished one. The practical world that economists dream of is language-poor and Sapiens deficient. It is an inhuman or anti-human world.
The opposite of this world would be one in which language becomes a priority. This means that a literate society is a human one. Humanity as a purposive, progressive entity, could be measured according to its literacy. Reductionism is a fascist, anti-humanism with a purpose toward creating a silent, ant-like species (although, even ants communicate more than supermarket shoppers do).
Linguistic interaction is necessary for intentionality and its development is necessary for the intentional progress of society itself and for the creation of a human civilisation pushed forward by democratic, intentional progress. A linguistically poor society, on the other hand, is impoverished in democratic intentionality.
Deep thinking requires linguistic richness. Even the ability to synthesise linguistic expression needs linguistic richness as well. One who lacks linguistic dexterity in the first place cannot simplify what they could never express in the first place.
Language, along with our physical motor skills, is the first thing we learn. For human society to properly function in an intentional, progressive way, we should never stop progressing linguistically, even if this means abandoning the practical side of life.
Underlying the tragedy that the Covid-19 pandemic is, lies a conflict which is quite clearly revealed, if not yet resolved, by the extent of that catastrophe. We’re referring to the political/economic conflict between the public and private sectors of our lives.
For decades neo-liberal thought has argued the superiority of the private sector in terms of quality and efficiency, and yet, now, when put to the real test, that private sector has shown itself completely incapable of tackling the most pressing problems (health and security) created by this crisis. In fact, the pandemic has stripped the private sector bare of all its lofty pretensions, revealing its absolute impotence, while promoting the power of the public sector as the only force capable of dealing with crisis.
In a few months, the pandemic has dealt a crippling blow to our private-sector-friendly world, throwing the system into a melt-down, and exposing its failings in such a way that it has to be asked who the system was built for in the first place. If it was built for society, why has it proved so incapable of protecting society in times of crisis (not just in this crisis but in any tragic time)? The answer is clear, the private sector is not designed for the authentic needs of a society as a whole, but for the surplus needs and fantasies of the wealthy, who are the only ones who really benefit from the private-sector economy.
This revelation has to be taken seriously, and regarded as a positive lesson as we approach the challenges of the greater tragedy within which the pandemic has emerged – the tragedy of the climate emergency.
Like all tragedies, the pandemic generates both fear and pity, but also the idea of reconciliation, which, as Hegel points out in his Aesthetics, comes from “the glimpse of eternal justice”[i] that it affords. Hegel goes on to say:
“In its absolute way, this justice overrides the relative justification of one-sided aims and passions because it cannot suffer the conflict and contradiction of ethical powers which according to their concept must be unified to be victorious and permanent in true actuality.”[ii]
According to Miguel de Beistegui, Hegel believed tragedy to “awaken in us the feeling of the necessity of the reconciliation of the powers of ethical life.”[iii]
The pandemic is not a tragic work, but a tragedy experienced, endured and suffered by hundreds of millions of people throughout the world. Nevertheless, this real rather than fictional or literaryform of tragedy does not diminish the level of calamity with it, rather it exacerbates it.
Of course, writing from the very midst of the real, may seem to argue against the author’s credentials by accusing him of a severe lack of objectivity, but the very act of analysing the crisis from the point-of-view of the aesthetics of tragedy does, in fact, proportion an objectivity.
What the tragedy of the pandemic has shown us is that the tragic figure lies in the private area whilst the hero of this epic disaster is the public sector. This is not the typical tragic tale of the fall of an over-ambitious individual, but that of the collapse of a whole, over-ambitious system. That is the great revelation and hope that this current disaster affords us.
The shock we are experiencing today, is an age-old one that exists in all tragic art; it is the clash between rights and duties. But once exposed, the weaknesses of one must succumb to the virtues of the other in order for a necessary, mutual co-existence to be feasible in a sustainable way in harmony with the natural world and its laws. A natural world that will, like the gods, destroy us if such a co-belonging cannot be resolved.
As Beistegui says in his essay on the tragic in Hegel: “The revelation, the true stake of tragedy, is the proper mark of the Destiny which imposes itself as the absolutely rational in which Spirit is reconciled with itself.”[iv]
Our actual world, smitten by a profound nihilism that has been seeping into its fabric for the last hundred and fifty years, seems bereft of Destiny … Perhaps it is, or has been, but the current tragedy has unveiled the enormous errors of our system and the desperate need for it to reconcile its most antagonistic forces. In this way, the tragic scenario we are currently immersed in has to be seen as intrinsically necessary and, because of that, essentially positive.
We have evolved in a rapacious way, away from the natural world which also constitutes and ultimately conditions our own natures. It is now time for humanity to look for an authentic destiny through which our own sapiens’ dimension can be realised and developed. We stand now exposed as a species, and despite the horror, we need to understand that we can, we now have the opportunity to, elevate ourselves through this challenge by allowing the heroic-side of our societies, the public sector, to take the lead.
The tragedy of the Covid-19 pandemic is the tragedy of the audaciousness of capitalism. Capitalism has a tremendous pride in itself and pride attracts the wrath of hubris, which paints all cruel self-satisfaction with the tar of tragedy. Like Oedipus, capitalism has perverted the laws of nature with its arrogant own laws of perpetual growth. It has ravaged and slaughtered in a consciously self-profiting way, like Macbeth, which is also an unethical way. Our world is like Hamlet’s Denmark and we all know something is rotten in the State. However, after the pandemic has left the State stripped naked and infirm, Fortinbras arrives in the form of the public sector to rebuild the empire. In this sense, the reconciliation has to come through the off-stage reconstruction. After the tragedy the revolution.
Heidegger defined Being as that which is unconcealed or, more accurately, he proposed that what entities are depends on the conditions that allow them to manifest themselves, and it was this dependency that Heidegger called Unconcealment (Unverborgenheit).
Implied in this link between Being and Unconcealment is a dependency on the unconcealed buried in the nature of all Being.
Unconcealment is an important concept for us for three reasons:
Firstly, we believe that the Universe, as an entity, has evolved in a deliberate way that enables Unconcealment to come about.
Secondly, the human, homo sapiens, as an unconcealing entity, finds itself in a central and essential position in the Universe. We are invested with the power to unconceal the Universe; the same Universe that created the conditions allowing for our existence as unconcealers in order to bring forth Being … Being comes from the sapiens’ unconcealing of it.
Thirdly, the vital role that humanity plays in the Unconcealment and subsequently the very Being of the Universe, creates a positive, moral purposiveness for humanity embedded in Being and the perpetuation of Being through our power to unconceal.
Before Unconcealment, or before the existence of sapiens’ consciousness, there was no awareness of the Universe and no possible context for the Universe to exist in. With the evolution of consciousness that context was created. From a purposive point of view, therefore, we think in order to unconceal. However, paradoxically, the human mind is also proficient at making its own concealments.
We were created to unconceal and yet, ask anyone what truth is, and they will almost undoubtedly struggle to give any semblance of a satisfactory answer. Embedded in our power to unconceal is also a powerful capacity for sceptical reasoning. If there is a struggle in human society between light and darkness, it is contained in our proficiency to conceal and unconceal at the same time. In fact, our very own ability to unconceal is concealed from us. Although the will to unconceal is manifest in all truly creative, artistic and scientific endeavours there is very little in the design of human societies and cultures pushing Unconcealment forward as an essential element of human activity.
In reality, the importance of our unconcealing faculties, which are our true nature, are concealed from us, and this paradoxical fact may be the basic human flaw that allows for the seemingly unavoidable propagation of all crimes against humanity such as war and famine and the deliberate fermentation of ignorance created by anti-Unconcealment, and subsequently anti-human, economic principles.
It is not hard to understand why Unconcealment as a basic, purposive drive for human beings is concealed. After all, all human purposiveness is in the main part concealed by all human societies. Of course, this seems wrong: the same societies that enmesh our lives are alienating us by obfuscating authentic human purpose from us. Surely, the first thing that a civilisation would want to impart to its communities would be a common, authentic purposiveness, yet, in actual fact, the complete opposite is true. How can this be so?
The answer is simple: the power (Wealth) that organises and runs society is an economically-interested one that reaps more profit by concentrating all our attention on the present rather than any long-term future. Capitalism builds only where profits can be made from that construction, whereas purposiveness demands a different kind of progress.
The concealment of long-term purposiveness is therefore a conscious, anti-human act, dictated by the immediate purpose of making profit. There is no profit to be made out of the long-term.
How can we honestly gauge concepts like progress and achievement on a social level? Technological advances are obvious – of course they are, this is a technological revolution age – but positive evolution has to be measured against the negative, dystopian-production side of our hi-tech, global-economy world.
Technology has created machines that can transport us over land and sea, and even through the air. It has taken us to the Moon, and we have landed robots on Mars. We are capable of exploring the entire Solar System and we can look with our telescopes into the deepest reaches of the cosmos whilst with our microscopes we can examine the minutest particles that make up reality. We have cured diseases and the average life-span of men and women is increasing at a constant rate. In terms of recreation, we have developed sports and arts that give us a wealth of cultural activities that can be easily enjoyed wherever we go in the world thanks to our marvellous digital technologies.
Nevertheless, despite all these fantastic attainments, our standards of living are dropping, and the new generations being born today will most probably have a worse standard of living than their parents and grandparents. The havoc being wrought by the climate emergency and the covid-19 pandemic have stripped the emperor bare, and it is now easy for us all to see the enormous weaknesses in the structure of our system. The world we live in is not just full of cracks, it is infested with a plague of bugs that are streaming out of those cracks.
Could it be that we have not really achieved anything at all? Could it be that the opposite is the case? – that our historical process is a constant evolution towards more despair and perdition?
If we have ever achieved anything it must be considered in terms of gain for humanity. But once we analyse achievement in terms of human-gain we find that we have lost so much. The anti-human forces (ideologies, nationalisms and religious dogmas) have always been so strong that the idea of HUMANITY has been reduced to an impossibility that only exists in Utopian fantasies. HUMANITY today equals humanity. So, if HUMANITY is impossible, how can human achievement be possible? Of course it can’t. If we want humanity to achieve anything, we must firstly believe in it.
Byung-Chul Han recognizes our anti-historical condition in what he calls Punkt-Zeit – a time of points:
“Historical time … has the shape of a line, which runs or flies toward a goal. If that line loses its narrative or teleological tension, it falls apart into points, which flutter aimlessly. The act of history atomises time to a time of points (Punkt-Zeit) … History now gives way to information. The latter has no narrative length or width. It is neither centred or aimed. It collapses onto us.”[i]
What Han is describing here is our nihilistic condition. We are foundering in the non-historical world of mere information. Information without purposiveness.
This purposeless, pin-point information-reality also has an effect on our perception of humanity. Humanity itself dissolves into points of information. Every day, we get certain points of information about a pandemic, or about Islamic terrorists, an avalanche of refugees, or about the victims of some natural disaster; information which is interesting while it is news, but less interesting once the novelty starts to wane … and this is true of all information. Because of that, what is buried within all the information we receive is our own alienation from the warmth of humanity, pushing us into the cold analytical space of objectivity.
It is this objectivity that allows crimes against humanity to prosper – after all, as information, crimes against humanity have high quantitative value, and is therefore a profitable commodity. But humanity itself, humanity as a whole; or human-progress as a teleological aim, has little to no value as far as selling information is concerned. Nevertheless, if we saw humanity involved in a greater process of purposeful, teleological progress then we would not feel so distanced from the offenses perpetrated against other human beings, and the idea of justice would be more tangible also. With a humanistic teleology, crimes against humanity would be crimes committed against our own family – they would be crimes against our own source of identity; crimes against us.
The need for this association with the human is obvious in the I am (the victim) campaigns, in which masses of people proclaim a direct and personal identification with the victims of some news-worthy disaster or crime.
This message is a humanising one, that is necessary now, because we live in such de-humanised societies. But, the main question we have to ask is: How did humanity allow itself to fall into such a de-humanised state? How can a global, human civilisation be so anti-human in its structure?
[i] Han, Byung-Chul, SCENT OF TIME (Transcript Verlag, 2009, p.18)
There is a profound paradox slicing through our global-world civilisation – progress is also decline. However, the contradiction is easy to understand once we accept the erroneous nature of its inception.
Growth is supposed to be a virtue, but any growth that goes beyond natural limits is a vice. The values ingrained in us, telling us that growth is an essential component of our well-being and happiness, are not in step with reality: they are perversions, breeding deadly monsters and engendering tragic scenarios.
The problem with civilisation in the 20th century, therefore, is that it is built on this dangerously false premise. Our System tells us that the greatest value for all societies to aspire toward is growth and that non-growth means death. This argument is absurd and wrong and yet at the same time it is so widely accepted that it is the driving force of civilisation. Because of this, we can and must declare that with this century we have now become deeply entrenched in the Insanity Age.
The growth that is preached to us from the pulpits of economic wisdom, has been tagged, at the political and social level, as progress, even though the result is decline.
Our world is an empire without an emperor, and its decline began with its inception, so that there never has really been a vice, the vice is embedded in that which is.
When analysing the insanity of our age, one has to wonder if there is some kind of phoenix-hope psychology embedded in the subconscious of its affirmations. What the global-world civilisation longs for is a resurrection via a process of annihilation in its all-consuming-fire economy. This kind of thinking is of the most primitive kind: an observation of the seasons and a sympathetic-magic belief in the power of cycles. But, there is no perpetual growth in nature, it would be impossible.
The cycles don’t support perpetual growth, they inhibit it. They pull it back. In nature also, winter is not a crisis, it is a natural alleviation and a necessity. There are no elites in nature who benefit from the cyclic organisation of the biosphere; natural cycles unfold in order to create harmony. So, if we really must be cyclic in our organisation, let us be honest about it and take the real seasonal changes into positive consideration.
To have faithin progress without having any conception of what that progress is moving towards is absurd. So is the idea of progress as a nothing more than a quantitative thing, such as growth. And yet, this is our present insane condition. We are condemned to the absurd whilst we remain in the impossible tension of progress through nihilism.
Progress will only happen when we can replace the work elite with the values of thinking; using the theoretical to lift us away from the constant tyranny of the pragmatic. We have been building machines to alleviate labour for millennia and yet, in many respects, we work as hard as ever – we are certainly more stressed than ever – and, despite social networking, individuals in societies suffer more alienation than ever. For progress to happen we need to have a theoretical image of where it should take us. The future is a guide and our objectives are horizons – we can always see them, and they are constantly changing and can never be reached, but we need to keep advancing toward them for progress to happen.
Progress has to be measured qualitatively and not quantitatively. Our obsession with the quantitative measure of reality has been the greatest error of our Insanity Age.
One of the reasons why we do not believe in humanity is that we believe in the economic plan of the world above and beyond humanity itself. It is as if we think: “In the beginning God created the dollar. On the second day he created Adam and Eve and said, ‘Share this dollar between you, I’ll leave it up to Adam to decide how.’”
Humanity has suffered an anti-human historical process of segregation that has been inspired and fuelled by economies of exchange that have always been equally decisive. But, what must we do in order to turn this around? What must we do to be able to look out onto a truly human landscape for once?
Firstly, it must be accepted that not everyone has something all the time to exchange and/or not everyone who does have something to sell will be able to find another person willing or capable of paying the cost of what is fairly calculated for that exchange.
Once we consider this fact, it is easy to see how the free market is not ‘free’ enough. If it were sufficiently-free then we would also be liberated from the economic condition on survival that forces us to always be exchanging whether we actually have anything to give or not.
In order for the ‘free-market’ to take care of itself, as the neoliberal economists maintain, a large part of humanity will have to surrender to the dictatorship of the self-regulation of markets. This system is neither free, nor just, nor human – and nor is it necessary. From the point-of-view of humanity we are immersed in an economic system that is neither desirable for humanity, because it does not fulfil the needs of all of humanity, and neither is it necessary. So, if it is neither good nor necessary, why do we maintain it?
We maintain it because we cannot see a viable alternative. This is because the economy we have is also the ‘reality’ we have. To see the solution, we will need to look out of the fish-bowl we are swimming in – and there is nothing harder to do than that.
However, we do have a clue. If the problem is the economy and the economy is money, then the solution probably lies in imagining a society free from money. This seems impossible at first, but if we think about automation and start to imagine the development of that automation on an enormous scale (which is an inevitable evolutionary step in civilisation’s progress with or without money) then it is logical that all production will eventually be automated with a minimal requirement of human labour.
Even though this automation will result in a loss of jobs, from a human perspective, this evolution has to be encouraged, although it can only be a positive step forward if it is accompanied by the abolition of money. With money eradicated from the picture, unemployment is no longer an issue. Each will find his or her own way of making their life fulfilling.
The key therefore to changing the economy and allowing humanity to become something, is to abolish money. This idea sounds horrifying at first. What would we do without money? After all, money is the only real incentive we have for making any exchanges: without it, all exchange, and, consequently, all progress would cease … Wouldn’t it?
Despite what most economists proclaim, the economy has not evolved with the progress of technology. In fact, in many cases, it retards technological progress. Scientific progress should be spiking more sharply than it is, and the reasons why it isn’t is quite simple, and has a lot to do with the way our economy works.
For example: the economy has not been able to implement the clean-energy alternatives that are needed on massive scale to kerb the climate emergency, quite simply because it is more interested in the profits to be squeezed out of the extracting and burning of carbon-based fuels. Despite the overwhelming consensus that a switch to clean energy is essential for the survival of civilisation as we know it, corporate powers are milking what they’ve got to the last drop. Even though their tactic of squeezing the last cent out of their business may cause a complete collapse of the biosphere that supports life on earth, the market does not adjust to the needs and desires of the general public. Rather it is a dictatorship that controls the status-quo and will do whatever it can to ensure it remains the main benefactor of what that status-quo has to offer.
If the economy worked properly and well for human interests and human progress then we would not be facing this existential crisis.
Our current economic status quo is impossible to maintain. The free-market has been an immensely dangerous experiment that is failing humanity like no other experiment ever has before.
The alternative lies in facing the reality (the beautiful truth) that technology will liberate humanity from labour and completely revolutionise the way that we look at exchange. Personal fulfilment, and our fulfilment as human beings, does not rest on what we as individuals can receive from others in exchange for what we can give them in return, but rather in the act of giving itself. In order to give, our needs must be guaranteed and every human being should have his or her basic survival needs guaranteed by the paradigm that structures the whole of humanity. That is the first step to human justice and the first step to the great revolution that will amount in a human resurrection.
In our previous post, Humanity (nothing or something?), we discussed the non-existence of humanity and the interest that the System has in perpetuating that void. The System knows that once societies perceive humanity as a liberating potential, the foundation of their carefully constructed paradigm begins to crumble. Once we understand the advantages reaped by the System through its ability to belittle humanity, civilisation itself starts to be seen as something insidious. The truth is that our civilisations have been constructed with their backs turned to human fulfilment in favour of the greed of its elite castes and classes. Nevertheless, a mere knowledge of human perdition does open a door to a revelation: an awareness that inspires a need for revolutionary action on a complete, global, human scale.
To make humanity something real, we have to turn everything around so that our doors and windows can open onto an authentically human vista.
The most significant area that needs to be overturned in this great revaluation of Humanity, needs to be the economy – our anti-human economy.
The economy, and its life-blood, money, is a system of facilitating and controlling exchange and a means of measuring the worth of the commodities that are being moved around in that exchange. This is fair enough, for things to happen and progress to be made, exchange of goods and skills are necessary. But the biggest drawback of the economy is not this mechanism of exchange in itself, but the fact that the mechanism has become a life-support system for societies. Only by being within the system called the Economy will you be allowed to find fulfilment. In fact, stepping out of the system is practically a death sentence. We need to be in the system to survive. This is because the economy-concept is based on a premise that all of us should have something to exchange that others will want to receive, and that this something to exchange is readily available to be exchanged every day. Of course, not everyone has the means for manufacturing sellable goods, but everyone does have basic labour skills, and so, those who cannot manufacture can only survive by doing the actual manufacturing for those who have the technologies to do it. What this system does is oblige those who do not have readily available goods to barter, to barter their time and labour.
It is not a new system, it has worked over millennia, becoming more and more complex and creating societies all over the planet in which a few benefit enormously from the exchange whilst the vast majority must struggle to make enough to survive. For the vast majority of human beings, life-fulfilment is measured in the fact that they are surviving and little else. The System, seen from a human point-of-view, is a segregating one, creating dissensions and antagonisms; exploitation and war. Exchange has become a fundamental ingredient for survival. But, does it have to be like this?
If we want to measure an individual’s greatness, such a judgement has to be carried out not according to what he or she has achieved for him or herself, but what that person has achieved for humanity. In this way, we see that Aristotle was more magnanimous than Alexander; Beethoven was far greater than Napoleon; Einstein was more altruistic than any US President, or Henry Ford Steve; and Greta Thunberg is more important than Steve Jobs. Likewise, any individual who commits no crime against humanity is ethically better than anyone who does. This is quite straightforward and easy to understand, and yet the current status quo always tends to look for heroism in individual actions carried out for their own advantage. Our civilisation is a star-system paradigm that creates idols and fan clubs, even though most of these idols do almost nothing for the furthering of human progress. Our society’s obsession for sports is a prime example of this: The relegation of a football team to the second division can be perceived by “fans” as a far more existential problem than the climate emergency.
Psychology tells us that hero worship contains important cognitive and emotional needs. Hero narratives fulfil both epistemic and energizing functions, inspiring meaning, hope, and growth – so greatness is an important concept for humanity if humanity is ever to become anything great itself. This tautological statement is self-explanatory and obvious, but what also needs to be made apparent is the negative effect on greatness the idolatry of secondary human figures can bring about.
If we need to worship heroes, let us look for authentic human-heroes: the ones who energise humanity with knowledge; who show us what is truly meaningful on the human rather than individual or nationalistic level; who can show us the hope inherent in the idea of human-greatness and motivate positive growth above materialistic accumulation.
Decadence arises out of individuals wielding power for themselves and for their own, in a way that is not concordant with human fulfilment. Whilst Rome is Rome and not Humanity, it is destined to fall in decadence and ruin.