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Dealing with the crisis our views and our incentives PDF Print E-mail
The Labour Movement-Economy

The non-economic aspect of the crisis
Strange as it may seem, it is precisely now when there has been an increasingly economic and environmental crisis that it is the right moment for thought and reflection.

However, despite the, now historically and on evidence, inadequacy of all the models, man is still looking in a frenzied manner for something which will solve the problem for him right now, without his losing whatever he already owns.

He refuses even to think, not because he is unable to, but because thought seems to him an uncontrollable venture which may destroy his mental images. All the rest for him is mere 'theory', which doesn't solve problems. Naturally, there are such instances of theoretical constructs which detach thought from reality, with the intention either of people's subjection to a state of power, or their inclusion in a fantasy for the fantasy's own sake.

However, the endeavour to achieve self-awareness and choose life objectives is neither theory nor inaction. It is reality. Up till now, society's potential for action has given the illusion of action because of the objectivisation of its aims, for instance, money, material goods etc. In effect, it has been a 'theory'-delusion which has demonstrably led to disastrous action, and hence, it was a mistaken theory from the very beginning - it was an imitation of a theory, like constant economic growth, or unrestrained freedom of desire. Unfortunately, and conversely, 'self-knowledge' can also end up as a delusion, a 'bubble' which somebody uses in order to live an untroubled life within a fantasy of solitariness and self-sufficiency. Without harmonisation with the whole, it will be a deceptive self-knowledge, sheer narcissism. It will be a mental image of self-knowledge, and not the real thing.

Thus the answer to today's world-wide economic and ecological crisis cannot simply be technocratic. Or rather, it cannot be, now, technocratic at all.  The luxury of the technocratic approach, as a specialisation in areas, such as that of the economy, may hold good for other times, when there is an abundance of resources (not only economic) and a field of development. But in the end, that abundance on which the whole development of recent decades relied was fictitious, because together with it no account had been taken neither of the rate of the growth of the developing countries nor of impending climate change, nor the rest of the ecological disaster. The development of these countries added competitors in the field of the economy and increased the ‘imprint’ of the world economy.

Nor had any account been taken of issues concerning the crisis in people's everyday life and in cultural models, though an effort has been made to manipulate by the imposition of models compatible with the needs of the markets. But the paucity of resources renders such manipulation impossible, because it's very difficult for everyone to have what they long for, and, even worse, they can no longer survive in a way appropriate to our times. The markets are not noted for their prudence or wisdom, but for their trickery, wiles and greed. These are two different things, and this reminder may seem childish in the eyes of the cynical, but in the ‘eyes’ of history it looks catalytic.

For this reason the problem in human society is that the really appropriate measures in order to deal with a crisis are hardly ever taken. This happens not because there isn't a solution, but because people are not willing to pay the full price for this solution, and everybody takes full advantage of any time margin for the payment of his share of the price, in order to have time within that margin to derive the greatest possible benefit, or at least to lose as little as possible. Ιn a final analysis, this means that everybody hopes that some other people will bear the burden of the change which is required and that he will be exempted, though enjoying the results of any improvement. This situation leads to the using up of the time within which the prevention or the satisfactory handling of a problem which has arisen can take place. This behaviour leads to the long-term qualitative deterioration of the crisis. And these others who in the end will pay are either other fellow-men or future generations. And it is precisely here that the 'love' of parents and of society for children proves in every case - if not false - certainly imperfect, misleading, and damaging.

Of course, we should note here that a part of the refusal to bear the burden is due to a (to all appearances, justifiable) lack of trust that everybody will bear a corresponding burden. In reality, however, few of those who refuse are in fact justified, because scarcely anyone has any intention of bearing it - but rather, on the contrary, they wish to shift it on to the shoulders of others. And, fundamentally, what makes the difference is intention. It is this which determines the course of events, at an individual and a collective level.

The time has clearly arrived for us to come to terms not with other people but with our own selves. But this has always been the more difficult part of our efforts through the course of human history. Up to now, only others, and not ourselves, have been to blame. Politicians, of course, have been at the top of the list of those 'others'. Not that this isn't right, but it has not been the only cause. Everybody expects a perfect environment which will permit them to be, according to the general delusion, 'perfect'; they demand a perfect system of administration, a perfect economy, and so on. But such a thing does not exist as something outside people. They forget to admit that they would be 'perfect' without, in effect, having lost anything from their acquis! This is why they do not dare to pose and  answer two crucial questions of conscience: first, how would they, in the utopian case of such a perfect system, deal with their desire, which is, in any event, an existent one, for acquisitions and superiority, and, second, what self-worth  would a person have who was absolutely dependent upon his environment and without being able to resist any stimuli of anti-social behaviour? If it is supposed that there is no human self-worth, then the defence of human rights would have neither meaning nor a support. One must also ask the same thing about beings, generally.

It is in this way that the defective edifice of human society has been based upon people's negative side; it is something, that is to say, which literally has been permitted to develop. It has been allowed by everybody, nearly everybody. Just as, for example, before today's economic crisis, people were delighted when they gained large sums on the stock exchanges, without wondering about how economically and morally right this gain was. They have also consumed irresponsibly, without wondering whether this is related to selfhood, although, deep down, the burden of the need for a definition of selfhood is what is prompting them.

In historical terms, people's reactions to what is wrong with society have not had the required depth of self-knowledge and motivation, or of a logical and moral stance, but have stemmed from the difficulty of their own their predicament in a specific place and time - such as, for example, their poverty. But if their situation were different, it is highly likely that there would be neither protest nor understanding over the poverty of others. There have been, of course, brilliant exceptions, but these have always been very few in number and are an honour to humanity, as they permit the certainty that, apart from the negative side, there is also the opposite side in human nature. It is simply waiting for us to choose it.     

And so we have arrived at the present crisis and the impasse is now obvious.
And, naturally, about the world economic problem certain questions arise:

1. How much politicians actually serve the people - both those who are engaged in governmental administration and those of the opposition, since they all exercise, greater or lesser, power and seek power in spite of what they say about serving the people. It is worth noting that humanitarian service also operates to the benefit of power and the alienation by clientage of social conscience and organisation. But we must note that institutionalisation in developed states has essential deficits of humanitarianism, which, however, cannot and should not be dealt with in the framework of corruption, accepted or otherwise, and of the favouring of a clientele. In the development of social institutions and relations, the integration of humanitarian directness is essential. Institutionalism and humanitarianism must go hand in hand, otherwise the result is chaotic and authoritarian.

2. How do citizens apprehend the value of institutions beyond their individual interests?

3. How many economic - and other - sacrifices can citizens and politicians bear to make in the present phase?

4. How willing are citizens to change their way of life definitively? A definitive change is necessary. Constant development with the consequent absurd consumption leads with mathematical precision both to the impairment of the climate of our planet and to today's impasses of consciousness, since consumption covers over and compresses needs of consciousness. As long as this change appears to be a necessary 'evil', it cannot be carried out correctly and satisfactorily. This need for change points not at a fact outside ourselves, but, on the contrary, reveals the profound ineptitude of our manner of approach, regardless, in the end, of economic difficulties.

5. Economic assessments of different countries on the part of international rating agencies should not constitute the central field of effort. Such agencies lack credibility for the following possible reasons: first, they did not foresee the economic crisis because they were not able to, in which case assessments on their part are epistemologically untrustworthy or, second, they knew of the impending economic crisis, but they concealed it in order to be able to urge people to buy items from the bankrupt major companies, and themselves, involuntarily, to shoulder the burdens of these companies,  in which case these agencies would be morally insolvent. In this way they made the crisis worse. Whichever of the two is the case, it is sufficient to put them outside the field of authority of opinion. Nevertheless, they are a reality which influences countries and societies and cannot be entirely ignored as regards the negative influence which they exert or can exert.

In reality, we are faced, from the point of view of power, with the highest and the lowest aspect of self-centredness –that of unbounded wealth and that of poverty, with the gradations between them. What changes is the range of action. However, the range of action of collectivity is great and it is this which supports the whole pathogenesis of the present day through unconsidered and unlimited desire, albeit unfulfilled.

That is to say that people's chosen way of life - the day-to-day seal of their choice and its impress - remains as a centre of gravity. The rating agencies can do nothing to this. Furthermore, the re-founding of the economic system with a critical assessment at its foundations, with a rethinking about needs, means, and objectives, emerges as a necessity. In the light of experience, this rethinking will include for purposes of assessment the current and previous crises and their causes, as well as our rational capability of preventing such crises or creating another order of crises.

Usually, on the threshold of crises, people attempt to solve them instrumentally, that is, by looking for those methods which will get rid of the impasses, without touching upon their consciousness. But the whole psychic structure of man, to the degree that he has a knowledge of it, leads him to a response to the environment and to affinity with it, as, for example, by the instinct for self-preservation or of pleasure, which constitute factors of a relationship. Thus consciousness is inevitably touched by circumstances, even though this usually happens out of necessity and not by free will. In the long term, there is a shift in consciousness, which in its turn gives rise to new models and civilisations. There has never been for the majority a voluntary effort for change for the sake of conscience, but an enforced change in the interests of physical or psychological survival. When, however, the foundations are laid for change, ex post factum there is the naive impression in practice that this has always existed - which is, however, a delusion. This happens even when we theoretically accept this evolution because the intellectual viewpoint is not capable of solving this psychological contradiction. Thus mankind is unable to apprehend the historically obvious: that psychological dispositions, desires and all change, thus gradually changing civilisation as well; that these things are not unalterable and that they await either the imposition of need or voluntary self-imposition. And what seems to man unthinkable is the latter.

But why does this happen?
The answer involves a positive and a negative aspect: first, man rightly refuses to see himself as something partial and fragmented; furthermore, this is also the meaning of selfhood, and second, at the same time he refuses to look upon the self as an evolving consciousness of an entity which is outside space and time. This is basically the refusal to accept time in the conception of selfhood and a lack of understanding of it. The result of this contradiction is that, in the end, he attempts to see selfhood or existence into mental images which are immobile in time and place. Thus the unity of the self becomes authority, that is, it is regarded as wholeness already in the present, without the potentialities of the future being taken into account, while evolution becomes a repeated likeness which serves the stability of the image of selfhood, because as an image it is familiar and he can, in his opinion, control it.

At first sight, all this thinking doesn't seem relevant to the current crisis, but, if we forget, even just for a little while, our desire for immediate tangible results, we can comparatively easily arrive at the same conclusion about our true need and responsibility, however powerless we are socially. Naturally, this line of thought does not mean that we shouldn't also look towards tangible results. But what will be the results which we pursue depends entirely on our psychological attitude and choice. And it is this that will make the difference.

Ioanna Moutsopoulou, Lawyer
Member of the Secretariat of the 'Solon for Synthesis & Ecological Civilisation in the 21st Century' NGO (non-profit)

Photo from fr.wikipedia

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