Dark and unpredictable hours arise. They shake us and will shake us again. And alongside each recipe, it’s important to pause for a moment to consider the impact of our lifestyles and habits in the light of history. It informs us about the consequences of our nervousness, our relationship with others and the direction our economic and social policies have taken over the past centuries. We are currently in a privileged position to precisely examine our historical heritage, give it a deeper meaning and become actors in our common destiny.
Every crisis raises radical popular and political questions. Consciousness that forges the need to act differently and preserve the essential; life and all it encompasses. The Great Plague of the 14th century was one of the factors in the collapse of the medieval worldview. It is partly under this impulse that we have lost the moral certainty afforded by the explanation of the universe given by the Church. The Renaissance reformers rejected political corruption and dogmatic adherence, trying to free themselves from the intellectual shackles they believed to be based on speculation and superstition. The policeman replaced the priest, the scientific mind overshadowed the religious as the only effective form of protection of people’s lives.
At the end of this struggle with the medieval church, scholars could freely study earthly phenomena, with the exception of the spiritual sphere peculiar to the church. Some technical progress is the basis of a break with the Middle Ages that marks the arrival of a new era. The discovery of artillery reshaped warfare. The invention of the printing press in the mid-15th century accelerated the spread of knowledge. The introduction of the American potato into European food, from 1534 in Spain, will reduce the problem of famine. At the same time, important social phenomena affect Europe. We note the advancing secularization of European societies. A development of Protestantism and humanism, as well as the beginning of the radical changes to come, namely revolutions, capitalism, nationalism and rationalization.
From the 18th century the church exerted less influence. New energy sources were harnessed and contributed to the discoveries of the time and sparked the rise of an unprecedented industrial revolution. Scientific materialism replaced the Church’s old ideas about life. The increase in the production of commodities has enabled a growing population to gain access to a certain material security. Faith was therefore placed under the guidance of science and progress. The doctor replaced the policeman as the best bulwark against death. The thinkers of the time began to argue that human needs, which are insatiable, necessitate an unlimited expansion of the productive forces essential to their satisfaction. An insatiable desire, once condemned as a source of frustration, unhappiness and mental disorder, now began to be seen as a powerful stimulus for economic development. We have evolved in a few centuries from an authority based on faith to an authority based on respect for the rule of law.
In the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, this new worldview expanded and became rooted in the collective psyche. Europe was marked by the birth of modern states, which was reflected in the important technical, economic and social changes of the second industrial revolution. The more people mapped and named the physical phenomena of the universe, the more they could feel that the world they lived in was explainable, predictable, even ordinary and mundane. Religious phenomena gradually came to be considered taboo, abstract and outdated. So and in order to feel safe, we had to narrow our awareness of life, adopt a narrow-minded view rooted in the Cartesian philosophy and commerce that forged our contemporary age. By focusing only on the technological and economic aspects of life, a whole part of the human experience had been overlooked. The aesthetic and sensitive view of our environment was overshadowed by a purely utilitarian view according to which a tree was valued not for its intrinsic beauty, but for its monetary value.
A deep rift had begun. The threat of nuclear destruction, the dwindling of natural resources, the justified predictions of ecological disaster were the consequences of a frenzied race, increasingly technical and unequal. A historical baggage that marks the arrival of an era of great idealism, but also of unprecedented conflicts. From the 1960s we witnessed the gradual abolition of segregation, the birth and application of positive discrimination† We have become sufficiently aware that a multitude of individuals have the intuition that Western culture has ignored the higher dimensions of human life. Material security was so advanced that we could deal with basic social issues. But at the same time, the classical industrial economy became exhausted and profits tended to decline.
The decades that followed were dominated by the erosion of the authority of institutions, especially crystallized by the Watergate scandal in 1974. We also saw the beginning of the financialization of the world. The independence of pension funds (ERISA Act 1974) and the liberalization of the financial markets (May 1975 – liberalization of the activities on the New York Stock Exchange) led the savings of households to listed companies. Thus, the diversion of massive savings by pension funds through the financial markets and into working capital made it possible to obtain significant investment resources at a critical time in history. The quest of companies to acquire their capital revealed the compelling need for corporate competitiveness. It therefore had to be more innovative, faster, more flexible and cheaper to receive financial flows from the markets and continue to ensure its growth. Under this impulse, the financialization of the economy brought about a period of remarkable prosperity.
The significant economic innovations and transformations brought about by computers, the Internet, genetic engineering and composite materials bear witness to the vitality of this economy. Setting up production in emerging countries, also for cost reasons. Hyper-consumption has been advocated to ensure tangible outlets for innovation, to absorb the mass of products and their accelerated turnover, represented by planned obsolescence. It gave way to a global culture of speed, convenience and the desire for infinite abundance without regard for human and environmental constraints. Excessive performance and the management of financial goals that were decorrelated with human reality became the norm. Thus, the financialized economy produced a huge wheel in which everyone runs to earn their livelihood. A race in which you run faster than yourself, or you exhaust yourself as much as your means.
“How is it that serious people continue to believe in progress when the most massive evidence should have led them to give up this idea once and for all? † – Christopher Lasch
Some will find there a debt, others an indictment of a liberal logic that has cut man off from his fellow man and made him an instrument, a production machine for responding to financial abstractions. It is indecent to believe that this ruthlessness would lead us to greater fulfillment and satisfaction. Our evil is also our sign. Facts that reveal our sources of dependency, as illustrated by the way we have orchestrated market globalization with tight international value chains, leaving us extremely vulnerable and vulnerable in contexts as we know them. And it is indeed adversity that exposes our shortcomings and the flaws in our choices. Western states are trying to break their dependence on China. The repatriation of production capacities or their relocation to neighboring countries are real problems. The investment policy on ecology and health is being accelerated.
Aren’t we at the pinnacle of our own progress and, paradoxically, our own loss? Can our technologies and our relentless desire to automate, to find new productive innovations, have a deeper meaning rather than a semblance of promise? Shouldn’t we find more new, enduring faith relays than growth relays?
History teaches us that it is our realizations that forged history. Our solidarity that has made our way of life a reality. It is up to us to guide our initiatives. It is up to our institutions, if they still can, to support this change. We need to embrace a different value system that can free us from the obsession with the endless quest for growth. The limits of material well-being that have characterized the modern age force us to open our minds to a new conception of a fairer world.
A paradigm shift is urgently needed. The specters of fear and comfort do not shift the boundaries and continue to crystallize in debates and wanderings that betray our need for action. So they are outdated measures that are associated with the reality of our fellow human beings, our economies and our environment.
Crises we go through, crises will pass through us for years to come. Whether it concerns health, environment, social and economic. These more frequent events will mark our time and reveal us to ourselves. Indeed, it is this age that asks us to become truly aware of the challenges we face, of our need to act.
“The effort of the individual will can only really bear fruit if it simultaneously strives for a ‘higher’ or greater order. Filip Nova.
Pierre Yves Gomez – Invisible work
The Andean Prophecy – James Redfield
Jacques Attali – What will be born
Jean-Marc Piotte – The nine keys to modernity
Christopher Lasch – The Culture of Narcissism