Monday, June 18, 2012

A Return to Faith

As we collectively stare into the abyss, but are saved, maybe just, the grand narratives make a comeback. Last twenty years, which seems to have lasted forever, wiped out any memories of the past, and we have lived in the twilight of history. The fragmentation of the world was complete, and we were reduced to ourselves - just us as individuals - atomised, without beginning or end, and absorbed in various middle class pursuits of mortgages and video games. The destruction of credit - of trust in the invincibility of the system we live inside - symbolised in the mad panic of those Greeks and Spaniards withdrawing money all day from the ATMs, leaves us with the end of end of history; a new beginning of some kind.

Let's face it: We have a problem. We built a money economy which has assumed a life of its own and got ahead of itself. It is not that we have run out of money; it is just that some of us have too much of it. Not everyone, indeed; in fact, not even the nation states we built for running the affairs are in charge. A superclass has emerged, who benefit from everything everyone does in the world, without having to do anything themselves. They just sit around computer terminals measuring lives and desires, indeed setting them at will. Grand narratives did not disappear; just one grand narrative made every other alternative invisible. The only thing that made sense was to give up on changing the world.

However, history unwinds itself yet again, as it must. The visible hand reveals itself as if a gathering storm, with a step-by-step unwinding of trust and unravelling of institutions that make our world. The domino is unleashed: The civil war of capitalism has begun. Nation states and liberal politics undermine itself; democracy looks bare with a hand-in-gloves media and other compromised institutions. Too much trust results in the disappearance of all of it; suddenly very similar men can't agree on anything at all.

Charles Fourier saw history moving between organic, times of continuity, and critical, when new forms emerge, phases: We seem to be living at the fault line, just as the rules change, and what seemed obvious seems dated and duff. A new critical phase is emerging. It is also a time when alternate views about what's desirable or not, and how we should live our lives, need to be explored. To have a different view about how the society should operate isn't revolutionary anymore: We seem to be all revolutionaries now.

If that sounds extreme, read the newspapers perhaps. There is incomprehension, and a painful admission: We all got it wrong all along. We are still clinging to old certainties, trying to live in the fantasy world where Ten Commandments seemed to have been written on Microsoft Excel. However, we all know the futility of ceteris paribas world view: This is a time to throw away all assumptions. By living in denial, we are bringing up the revolution bit by bit, tea cup by tea cup, error by error. The death of this final certainties mark the death of the epoch of all-knowing certainty that we lived in.

How ironic is it then that we celebrate the return of history in the midst of this ruin of certainty, this funeral procession of middle class life? This is the point when the stories spun to keep the populations across the world glued to fantasy lives of soap opera characters breaks into melodrama themselves, the imagined that became real looks absurd all over again: In the midst of this, however strangely, one returns to faith, of goodness of human nature, of the redeeming possibility that we can arise beyond the selfishness that we were all condemned into. That discovery of humanity may be the greatest discovery of all, and this faith, of our own human selves, is what this journey may be about.

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"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

Last Words

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

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