The lack of fair measure – the DNA of our culture

Image: Elijah O'Donnell


We have no other way out, if we want to continue on this planet, other than to return to the ethics of caring for all things, our lives and especially the just measure

Wherever we direct our gaze, what stands out most is the lack of measure, the excess, the exaggeration, the absence of the middle path, the neither too much nor too little, the imbalance in practically all fields. .

Just measure is witnessed in all the great ethical traditions of world cultures. On the porch of the great temple at Delphi it was written in bold letters: meden agan which means “no excess”. The same was seen in the porticoes of Roman temples: ne quid nimis: “nothing too little or too much” A fair measure is opposed to any exaggerated ambition (hybris). It demands self-control, a sense of dynamic balance and the ability to impose limits on our impulses. Now, this is exactly what we lack worldwide. The lack of fair measure belongs to the DNA of our today globalized culture.

This can be clearly seen in the predominant economic-political-social-communicational system. The most flagrant example of the lack of fair measure is capitalism. Wherever inequality is established, inequality arises between the owners of capital who own and decide everything and the workers who only sell their capabilities, that is, the rupture of the just measure immediately sets in.

The mantras of capitalism in its various versions remain unchanged: the search for unlimited accumulation for individual or corporate benefit, even knowing the limits of our planet, its engine is competition without any hint of cooperation, the plundering of nature's goods and services without taking into account the necessary sustainability, the relaxation of all laws to open all doors to the process of exploration and enrichment, the pressure to create the minimum State, as it is seen as an obstacle to the dynamics of capital expansion.

The effect of this process is what the economist Eduardo Moreira, former banker turned into one of the greatest formulators of critical consciousness in our country and the main creator of the Instituto Knowledge Liberta (ICL): “The 1% of land owners concentrate more than 50 % of the country's cultivable land; when we consider the volume of money, the richest 1% in the world have more accumulated reserves than the poorest 90%; a true social catastrophe” This is a glaring example of our absolute lack of measure.

This lack of measure also characterizes the world's major media, whether written, digital and half a dozen internet platforms (Google, Meta, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X, YouTube and others) in the hands of a handful of very powerful people.

The lack of measure reveals itself to be profoundly brutal in the relationship with nature, exploited for centuries, and in recent decades devastated to the point that some scientists have proposed the inauguration of a new geological era, the Anthropocene (human beings are the main factor in the destruction of nature), radicalized in necrocene (decimation of biodiversity) and lately in the pyrocene (the increasing increase in large fires) in almost all parts of the planet.

Perhaps one of the greatest demonstrations of the lack of fair measure is given to us by climate change, already established to the point of being considered by major world bodies as irreversible. The emission of greenhouse gases, instead of decreasing, is increasing; Due to the energy crisis, they turned to the use of coal, oil and gas, which are highly polluting, and also due to the insufficiency of alternative energies. Unchecked climate change, compounded by population growth, could bring the future of human life to a halt and make the planet uninhabitable.

Among the many causes that led us to this dangerous stage is certainly the disruption of the “relational matrix”. We forget that all things are interrelated. In the poetic language of Pope Francis in his encyclical on an integral ecology (About caring for the Common Home) “the sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow (…) mean that no creature is sufficient by itself; they only exist in dependence on each other, to complement each other in the service of each other” (n. 85). Here appears the fair natural measure, broken by the sciences and many forms of knowledge.

Modernity is based on the atomization of knowledge, of things considered without intrinsic value and placed for the enjoyment of human beings or, in the worst trend, the unlimited accumulation of merely material goods. This is how the world of things came into being; including the most sacred human organs were transformed into merchandise to be put on the market and earn their due price, something already foreshadowed by Marx in 1847 in his misery of philosophy and systematized in 1944 by Karl Polaniy in his work the great transformation.

How to get out of this mess of tragic dimensions? We have no other way out, if we want to continue on this planet, other than to return to the ethics of caring for all things, our lives and especially the right measure. It and care can save the future of our civilization and our stay on Earth.

Concerned with this ultimate question, of life and death, I wrote two books, the result of vast cross-cultural research. The first was published in 2022 The ambitious fisherman and the enchanted fish: the search for the right measure. In it I preferred the narrative genre with the use of stories and myths linked to the right measure. The second completes the first, The quest for fair measure: how to balance planet Earth. In this second, I tried in a more scientific way to go to the causes that led us to forget the right measure, exactly the loss of the relational matrix.

As much as we try to believe that only a return to the right measure and the ethics of care can save us, there is always a distressing question: given the universalization of the serious existential crisis, do we still have enough time and wisdom to carry out this conversion? Hope never dies and should not disappoint us.

*Leonardo Boff He is a theologian, philosopher and writer. Author, among other books, of Sustainability: What it is – What it is not (Vozes). []

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