Change the world or survive in it

Change the world or survive in it

We tend to think that we live in a time of great change. In a way, technology is changing the world. But on very important, perhaps fundamental, matters, we are still in the eighteenth century. I mean how we organize our society and how we govern ourselves.

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The philosophers of classical Athens devoted much of their work to defining and evaluating concepts such as power, participation, and freedom. It is strange that now, perhaps because of the collective conviction that the world and the person are unchangeable (we have developed a deep, and not entirely unjustified, aversion to the hypothetical alternatives to capitalism and the “New Man” of totalitarian regimes), we do so. Do engage in it with maximum enthusiasm.

What we call “Western civilization” or “Western culture,” our frame of mind, has almost always been more stable than we think. We can list three transformative flares: Athens, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment. little more

Alexander the Great is very much in charge. This wonderful century of Athens, the fifth before our era, in which Socrates, the student Plato, and his student Aristotle demonstrated the advantages of free thought, lasts only a short period: what goes from the victory of Athens over Sparta (one of the most terrible wars of societies of all time) to the conquest of Athens by the Macedonian absolute.

Socrates teaches thinking. Plato (read Republic(The Communist Manifesto which the Cambodian Pol Pot was to sign, although it was directed exclusively at the intellectual and moral elites) points out that to improve man, it is necessary to improve society first, starting with governance and ending with education. Aristotle, a Macedonian and extremely conservative, preferred to devote himself to establishing science.

However, victorious Macedonia, through Alexander’s armies, imported Persian ideas, linked at the same time to Chinese ideas. The feverish intellectual freedom of Athens was over, and stagnation had arrived. The East seeps into the West. Two new philosophical schools appear, Stoicism and Epicureanism, which aspire, through indifference, for man to suffer as little as possible. (Both are still surprisingly valid, and with the addition of a dose of Zen Buddhism, we can sum up the package with the term Self-help). Plato would have been horrified.

Rome espouses Stoicism (Seneca), the ideal philosophy of empire. Think about the poem ifRudyard Kipling said: If you bear everything carelessly, “the earth and all that is on it will be yours.” As beautiful as it is silly. Seneca was greatly admired by Paul of Tarsus, the founder of Christianity. The millennium in which the Christian religion imposed itself on the West combined Seneca’s stoicism with Aristotelian conservatism.

This long barrenness finally ended thanks to the Renaissance, not so much because of its art as thanks to scientific discoveries. From the astrolabe to the printing press, from the microscope to the compass to firearms, technology breaks down every seam. The world is explored and transformed. However, the mechanisms of governance had not yet changed: royal absolutism, whether enlightened or brutal, only began to be called into question with the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. The Constitution of the independent United States and the French Revolution allowed societies to modernize as much as science.

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Since then nothing has happened except the failed experiment of the Soviet revolution.

They will tell me that supranational bodies, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, globalization, and European unity are not easy. These are important phenomena, yes. But there is no successful global declaration in Gaza. Depending on the results of the upcoming European elections, it will be necessary to reconsider some things that were happily taken for granted.

When it comes to governance, we have yet to discover anything better than liberal democracy: one person, one vote. A system that, with increasing inequality and in a context in which the phrase “free and equal” seems like a joke (we achieve educational equality and then we will talk about it), is deteriorating and surrendering to the special power of technologies of communication. The old liberal democracy has become more of a media system than a democracy. We are inundated with a cacophony of propaganda and lies. Instead of thinking about how to change this, we turn to Stoicism, Epicureanism, papal mysticism, and, in short, the art of passive survival.

There is no need to wait for China to establish itself as a planetary empire. In fact, we are already oriental caricatures.

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