Modus vivendi and hyperdemocracy

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By ANTÔNIO SALES RIOS NETO*

The current civilizational crisis is just the reflection of a long crisis that contains elements that may suggest that it is reaching both its apex and its exhaustion in this XNUMXst century

“We are not going to go out to solve the world starting from the macrocosm. We need to start from the microcosm, without a doubt. (...) Man has to convince himself that the most important thing is everyday life. Man lives every day” (Millôr Fernandes).

“Just as it is necessary to protect the diversity of species to safeguard the biosphere, it is necessary to protect the diversity of ideas and opinions, as well as the diversity of sources of information and means of information, to safeguard democratic life” (Edgar Morin ).

After patriarchy was installed around seven thousand years ago, the human world and what we know as civilization became a stage for wars, massacres and destruction. Violence has become not only a continuum in history but also been normalized, becoming something inherent in the historical process. Hence the impasse arising from our great cognitive block, which Humberto Maturana translates in the following terms: “For the members of the community who live in it, a culture is a field of evident truths. They do not require justification and their foundation is neither seen nor investigated, unless in the future of that community a cultural conflict arises that leads to such reflection. The latter is our current situation.” As long as patriarchal culture prevails, the human world will never cease to be socially conflicted, politically unstable and environmentally deadly, a world in a permanent state of suffering and discontent, as Sigmund Freud had already observed.

From this perspective, one of the best understandings of what history became may not be in Hegel's interpretation that reality is driven by a progressive dialectic towards an increasingly improved civilization, in which one can imagine an “end of history”. history”, which he seems to have glimpsed in the emergence of the Prussian state of his time. The same “end of history” that Fukuyama saw in the “last man” of US liberal democracy that many now see in life algorithmized by the heady new world high tech – as seems to be the case with the Homo Deus envisioned by Israeli historian Yuval Harari –, as civilization slides into darkness.

Apparently, Artur Schopenhauer, when observing man with his “blind and irrational will”, seemed to be much closer to understanding the historical process – forged in the conflicting patriarchal culture – than Hegel with his “cunning of reason”. That is why, in order to try to better understand the human condition and the very serious current planetary agony, we need to follow recommendations such as that of the Spanish theologian and philosopher Raimon Panikkar: “see, on the one hand, whether the human project carried out during six millennia by the homo historicus is the only possible one and, on the other hand, to see if it would not be necessary, today, to do something else”.

The current civilizational crisis that plagues humanity did not start in contemporary times, with the market view of the world imposed by economic liberalism, now globalized, which channeled human desires, through the fetish of merchandise, to the illusions of individualism, consumption and of accumulation. It is just the reflection of a long crisis that contains elements that may suggest that it is reaching both its apex and its exhaustion in this XNUMXst century. Millennial patriarchal culture has its natural condition in a state of permanent crisis. As Eric Hobsbawm rightly said, “history is the record of the crimes and madness of humanity”, a history guided by the desire for control and domination whose power of destruction – not only among humans, but above all the environment –, was potentiated and it amplified in the same proportion as the tools created by man.

In order to envisage the possibility of a neo-matristic rescue, in which democracy can finally be represented in the coexistence of different ways of life, which interrupts, at the same time, the millennial patriarchal dynamics and our current ecocidal civilization route, we would need to perceive reality under new lenses and broaden our capacity for imagination to new political and economic conformations, since the engine of history has been the freedom of politics and the market – since when the first sketches of the market appeared in the vicinity of the Mediterranean, there are about twelve centuries before of Christ.

Indeed, freedom and security are two conflicting concepts derived from patriarchal dynamics. The notion of freedom seems to have emerged together with its loss, provided by the appearance of the culture of patriarchal domination. Thus, the need for security was forged, which in turn limits freedom, feeding back security again, generating recursive pathological behavior: man trapped in an eternal conflict with himself.

In pre-patriarchal European matristic cultures, which can still be observed in the way of life of the original peoples, African traditions and many remaining community experiences, spread around the world, perhaps it does not make much sense to talk about freedom because it constitutes a natural condition of the lifestyle. In these cases, relations of consensus and understanding prevail, and not of appropriation and subordination. We live immersed in a culture in which security is implicitly guaranteed by the integration of man to his circumstances. There is a natural coupling between man and his environment. This is not hostile to man as it is in the thought pattern of patriarchal culture.

With the gradual loss of this coupling, security and freedom became both a growing human need and an unresolvable conflict. If we continue trapped in this dynamic, our civilization horizon will become increasingly unsustainable and the environmental and social collapse a real possibility, already for the coming decades. What, then, could distract us from this growing prospect of self-destruction?

Since it is politics intertwined with the market that have guided history for so long, from this premise we can raise the following reflections to think about the possible ways out of the current civilizing impasse: which political philosophy and which economic system could support a dynamic shift civilization so radical? Under what circumstances can democratic sociability start to prevail over imperialism? Finally, how could a new vision of the world, at the same time, be open, plural, inclusive and integrated to the complexity of the web of life on Earth, emerge?

Two respected contemporary authors seem to have developed a relevant contribution in this direction, which converges with the possibility of a neo-matristic revival. One is British political philosopher John Gray and the other is French economist Jacques Attali. Each of them, working in different fields of the social sciences, realized how the way of life of the patriarchal culture, identified by Maturana from the biology of cognition, forged the entire historical process.

Jacques Attali and John Gray managed, each in their own way and in a convergent way, to understand and explain the patterns of sociability that drag humanity into the current abyss. It is noteworthy that neither of the two make references to each other in their many essays and formulations, nor do they address the study of patriarchal culture as Maturana does. However, their thinking and Maturana's have a great convergence in their understanding of the overlap between the economic, political, philosophical and biological dynamics that move human action and that forged the entire civilizing process.

John Gray is a former professor of European thought at London School of Economics, a former ally of Margaret Thatcher and one of Europe's leading experts on political philosophy. Soon after events of great geopolitical impact such as the Washington Consensus (1989) and the Gulf War (1990-1991), supported by the New Right of the Reagan and Thatcher era, in the 1980s, John Gray realized that the lassez-faire global deregulation and the deterioration of social cohesion go hand in hand, and that “politics is the art of inventing temporary remedies for recurring ills – a series of expedients, not a blueprint for salvation. Thatcher was one such expedient.” Thus, he came to the understanding that “there is no sustainable alternative to the institutions of liberal capitalism, even if reformed”.

Later, in the early 2000s, after expanding his perceptions even further on the dynamics that move the historical process and that dragged us into the current civilizational impasse of a planetary scope, John Gray goes deeper into the roots of our ills and arrives at conclusions such as that “if human beings are different from other animals, it is mainly because they are governed by myths, which are not creatures of the will, but creatures of the imagination. Emerging uninvited from subterranean regions, these creatures rule the lives of those they thrill. Many of the worst crimes of the last century were committed by people excited by what they believed to be the reason.”

All of John Gray's thinking is permeated by this understanding of the human animal, which he considers more appropriate to call homo rapiens: "a highly inventive species that is also one of the most predatory and destructive". Among the many essays he has written, the book straw dogs (Record, 2006) is one of the best syntheses of his thinking, and a legitimate treatise on how patriarchal culture operates in contemporary times.

For John Gray, there are two main myths that govern and feed human conflict – whose core is found in religion, especially in the Christian faith that shaped the entire Middle Ages – and that sustain modern politics until the present day. One is the belief in the progress of humanity and the other, linked to the first, is the idea that history moves inexorably towards a universal civilization, a unique way of life. In short, for John Gray, “with the weakening of Christianity, the intolerance it bequeathed to the world became even more destructive. Whether in imperialism, communism or incessant wars to defend democracy and human rights, the most barbaric modes of violence have been promoted in the name of a higher civilization”.

These two myths constitute, until today, the main foundations of the failed civilizing project of US liberal democracy. They are the ones who feed the human fantasy of trying to mold the world in their image and, in this way, save it from a supposed evil (which includes those who do not follow the West's playbook) to be exterminated. John Gray does not believe that we can ever get out of this Manichean dynamic – inherited from the same Greco-Jewish ideals that forged Christianity and shaped the entire history of the West –, much less that the human animal manages to return to its primordial state. Once you tasted the fruit of knowledge, there was no going back. At most, John Gray envisages that human suffering can be mitigated, if there is an effort to remodel the liberal project to what he calls “modus vivendi”.

The liberal State is the result of a long experiment initiated in Europe in the XNUMXth century which, despite many deviations, seemed to be (at least from a philosophical point of view) imbued with the purpose of a more tolerant and plural human coexistence. However, the forces of the millennial patriarchal culture, which since modernity have been anchored in reason, progress and individualism, with much more strength than in the past guided by the dogmas of the Christian faith, made such a direction unfeasible. In this way, they dragged us towards the convergence of the multiple intertwined crises we face today, mainly the political, social, economic and environmental ones. This last one, the most disturbing of all, is getting closer every day to becoming insoluble and irreversible.

“We need an ideal that is not based on rational consensus about the best way of life, nor on reasonable disagreement about that best way of life, but rather on the fact that human beings will always have reasons to live differently. O modus vivendi it is such an ideal.” To achieve this, John Gray also understands that “we don't need common values ​​to live together and in peace. We need common institutions in which many forms of life can coexist.” The possibility of realizing a democracy dispossessed of patriarchy, as Maturana suggests, may perhaps emerge if the liberal project is capable of reformulating itself and opening itself up to this modus vivendi (John Gray's formulations about the possibility of modus vivendi are gathered in the first chapter of his book Gray's Anatomy, Records, 2011).

On the other hand, the modus vivendi proposed by John Gray is very similar to the possibility of reaching a “hyperdemocracy” in approximately 40 years, as envisaged by Jacques Attali. The reason for this long interstice of four decades is that, according to Attali, humanity must still experience two “waves of the future”, the “hyper-empire” and the “hyper-conflict”, including as a kind of prerequisite for hyperdemocracy to emerge. .

We know, as we discussed in the previous text, that the hyper-empire (planetary market, without the State) and the hyper-conflict (after the violence of money, the violence of weapons) are clearly emerging on the horizon. These two regressive perspectives are condensed in his book A Brief History of the Future (Novo Século, 2006), which offers a reading of the world that, despite being ambiguous, seems quite realistic about what may await us in the near future. Attali has an apocalyptic and at the same time hopeful vision of the future, converging with Hölderlin's verses quoted by the philosopher Martin Heidegger: “Well, where danger lives / that's where it also grows / what saves”.

Jacques Attali is one of the contemporary thinkers that deserves a lot of attention. Coming from an Algerian Jewish family, he founded, with the support of Muhammad Yunus and Arnaud Ventura, the NGO Positive Planet which, in 23 years, has already supported more than 11 million micro-entrepreneurs in creating positive businesses in poor neighborhoods in France, Africa and Middle East. He is the author of over eighty books, sold in 9 million copies and translated into 22 languages. He was an adviser and adviser to the government of François Mitterrand (1981-1995), therefore, he experienced and knows well the dynamics behind the realpolitik, and he is one of the few economists who seems to have the intuition that we need to accept our fragile natural condition and thus sees some light at the end of the tunnel.

In recent years, Jacques Attali has been dedicating himself to disseminating the idea that humanity urgently needs to replace the market economy with an “economy of life”, a proposal defended in his most recent book The Economy of Life: Preparing for What's Next, in which democracy, with all the conflicts that are inherent to it, is the essential regime for the construction and maintenance of this new civilizational dynamic. In this work, he defends “a proposal to spare our children from a pandemic at age 10, a dictatorship at age 20 and a climate catastrophe at age 30”, warning that the time has come for us to urgently make the transition from the current economy of survival to an economy of life .

Em A Brief History of the Future, published in 2006, Jacques Attali provides us with a very plausible glimpse of what may be in store for humanity in the coming decades. In this work, he analyzes the long history of capitalism and, from there, makes some projections of what would be its probable developments in the first half of the 2060st century. Based on the different patterns, rules or laws that he identifies in the evolution of the very long history of market democracy, he understands that the “most credible face of the future” will be that, by 1, three waves will break out one after the other. of the future: (2035) the hyper-empire (between 2050 and 1980), in which the nation-state will be gradually absorbed by market forces, represented by transnational corporations, and replaced by the Surveillance provided by the advancement of the algorithmic revolution initiated in the 2s; (2050) the hyper-conflict (between 2060 and 3), as a result of the instabilities generated by the hyper-empire that no longer has the constraints of the State to regulate it, in which profound convulsions, driven by “regional ambitions”, “pirate armies and corsairs” and the “anger of the laity and of the believers”, will trigger wars of all kinds, on a world scale; and (2060) as a response to the perspective of self-destruction of humanity, the possibility of a planetary hyperdemocracy opens up, around XNUMX, taking the course of a civilization devastated by the two preceding waves.

This prognosis actually has many correspondences with the patterns of history. But this foresight is also inspired by a great effort of optimism to avoid the hell that Jacques Attali fears the future could become. Obviously, he also considers how much the future is determined by unexpected events that can alter its trajectory, without deviating, however, from a foundation that, according to him, permeated all of history: “from century to century, humanity imposes the primacy of individual freedom over any other value”. The Covid-19 pandemic, like the war in Ukraine, for example, represents those planetary-scale events that can advance (or slow down) and significantly alter the flow of history.

From this premise that there is a libertarian impulse that moves humanity, Attali thus expresses his tragic optimism: “About 2060, or sooner — unless humanity disappears under a deluge of bombs —, neither the North American Empire , nor hyperconflict will be tolerable. New forces, altruistic and universalist, already active today, will take power worldwide, due to an ecological, ethical, economic, cultural and political urgency. They will rebel against the demands of Surveillance, narcissism, and norms. They will progressively lead to a new balance, this time worldwide, between the market and democracy: hyperdemocracy. (...) A new economy, called relational, which produces services without seeking to profit from them, will develop in competition with the market before putting an end to it, just as the market put an end, a few centuries ago, to feudalism. In these coming times, less distant than is believed, the market and democracy, in the sense in which we understand them today, will become outdated concepts, vague memories, as difficult to understand as cannibalism or human sacrifices are today”.

The irruption of hyperdemocracy imagined by Jacques Attali, as a response to the convulsions of the two preceding waves, involves at least three main intertwined emerging phenomena: (1) The rise of social altruism, in which alterity and cooperation will replace, in political relations, individualism and competition. New social and political actors will exercise a type of leadership in which, according to Attali, “they will not believe themselves to be the owners of the world, they will admit that they only have its usufruct”; (2) A new relational economy will emerge moving away from the current predatory market logic. It “will not obey the laws of rarity” and “will allow the production and exchange of really free services – entertainment, health, education, relationships, etc. An economy in which “gratuity will extend to all areas essential to life”; (3) The development of the common good, among them universal intelligence, as a collective result of hyperdemocracy. “The common good of humanity will not be greatness, wealth or even happiness, but the protection of all the elements that make life possible and dignified: climate, air, water, freedom, democracy, cultures, languages, knowledge…” .

This prescience of Jacques Attali, as well as the modus vivendi recommended by John Gray, although they appear to be too utopian, they have some foundations in current reality. The so-called third sector of the economy, made up of numerous non-governmental organizations, which today is still very embryonic in view of the hegemonic structures of the State (first sector of the economy, the public sector) and the market (second sector, the private sector), holds many equivalences with what could become a hyperdemocracy in the future. This third sector movement has a lot to do with the regenerative potential of the sociocultural revolution that has been emerging since the 1960s, tending to increasingly influence the political and economic scope of many societies, in search of another possible world.

All these organisms follow the logic of democratic sociability not appropriated by patriarchy, especially by the matristic impulse of the voluntarism of those who engage in this activity, a feature that does not exist in the current Corporation-State produced by neoliberalism (resulting from the absorption of the former national States by the transnational financial market). . This third sector may represent, in the future, the main emerging force of resistance to the current establishment global who bet all the chips on the laissez-faire (dis)guided by algorithms, which has only amplified the degradation of democracies and the maintenance of predatory capitalism, increasingly increasing our political and environmental vulnerability.

It is undeniable that the market has been absorbing the State, just as it has suffocated Christianity, tending to assume, with the help of algorithms, the position of the new Watcher of the world, pointing to an increasingly belligerent, ecocidal and self-destructive geopolitical scenario. However, on the margins of this stupidity, a third global force begins to emerge, which is the one integrated by supranational initiatives such as Amnesty International, the Biodiversity Convention, the Paris Agreement, among others, and by thousands of non-governmental organizations, which silently advance with its attributes closest to a relational view of the world, supported by cooperation, inclusion, plurality, dialogue, tolerance, care, otherness, flexibility and respect for nature. It is these new actors who, putting the ego in its proper place, can play a leading role, in the near future, in the construction of a recognizable world, overcoming our millennial patriarchal conditioning.

Unfortunately, we will live with the tyranny of “surveillance” for a long time, which is why we will probably still see the global scenario deteriorate even more than it already is today, as predicted by Jacques Attali. On the one hand, the effervescence of insubordination, more frequently observed in Western liberal regimes, in which matristic nostalgia is present with greater intensity, could even cool down, making it difficult for the emergence of a modus vivendi or a hyperdemocracy. On the other hand, in the current illiberal regimes, where the geopolitical axis has been moving, although they do not demonstrate today that they want to impose a single way of life on all societies, as the Eurocentrism of the West has always wanted, the maintenance of rebellions and critical views trying to change realities will run into many obstacles.

In the coming decades, we will be increasingly immersed in a cybernetic arena of hegemony dispute that will offer very little space for a neo-matristic rescue, as Humberto Maturana wished. However, perhaps this new global anarchic conjuncture is the harbinger of a great cultural transformation. It is in the catastrophe sponsored by the Vigilance that the conditions for the emergence of a hyperdemocracy may arise. It is about hope in metamorphosis, as imagined by Edgar Morin: “the closer we get to catastrophe, the more metamorphosis is possible. So hope can come out of despair.”

Therefore, as indicated by the growing deepening of geopolitical instability and the environmental crisis, the fate of humanity in this dark XNUMXst century will be increasingly conditioned by two premises. The first is that “man does not support much reality”, as said by the English poet Thomas Eliot, given the intractable and dystopian world that awaits us. The second is in fact, as the irrefutable scientific evidence raised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that Gaia's tolerance for patriarchal predation has not yet been exceeded.

However, such assumptions can only be validated a posteriori, if we try and carry out the option for the radicality of a lived democracy, which can make possible a return to the vitality of the complexity of the old matristic life, to escape an unbearable sociability on an uninhabitable Earth and the perspective of an early self-destruction imposed by our permanence in the senselessness of the patriarchy. From now on, human development will rest on such portents.

Many people, who today only find meaning for their lives being alienated and absorbed by the distractions of the market and technology, and conditioned to the voluntary servitude of the patriarchal arena, would probably say that the ideas exposed here are ideologized by an overly optimistic and utopian thinking about human nature. They would even have difficulty understanding them because they are cognitively closed in their patriarchal perception of the world. They prefer to remain imprisoned in their internal conflicts, subject to all kinds of mental pathologies and immersed in self-deception, in the face of a reality that is rapidly dragging humanity towards the precipice.

Those few people who still haven't lost their matristic childhood, and manage to keep a safe distance from the unhealthy way of life imposed by the current status quo patriarchal of the technomarket, will be much closer to the feeling of otherness – the only way to reach the security and freedom that we do not find in patriarchal living and that can only be obtained in accepting and living together with the other. They don't feel the need to defend any democracy, especially those that are appropriated by the market (and the algorithms) and feed so many devastating tyrannies around the world. They prefer to live democracy in their daily lives, naturally, without much effort, and thus can enjoy the little coexistence and nature that we still have, in these times of so much agony and hopelessness. They can, in this way, enjoy the indescribable gift of living together and loving.

If emotions and conversations constitute the foundation of human life, and require a lived (and not defended) democracy, to rescue a neo-matristic culture in which humans can reconcile with the complexity of the real world, as Humberto Maturana and others realized , may hyperdemocracy prevail in this imponderable transition of times!

*Antonio Sales Rios Neto, a federal civil servant, is a writer and political and cultural activist.

 

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