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We need to create a new culture, rethink our model of society

We enter the 2nd half of this very strange and unimaginable year 2020, totally surprising for everyone, for all of humanity, for different regimes and systems that regulate economic dynamics and the flows of life. Everything was disorganized, to a greater or lesser extent.

My expectation regarding the post-pandemic – which we do not know for sure when it will come – fluctuates: sometimes I think that some elements of a new world order, more austere, solidary and ecologically sustainable, will appear with force. We will have more public power, more research, more science, more social participation. More government as an enabler of policies for the majorities. And an active public sphere, citizen, that controls it.

Sometimes not: it seems that everything will go back to the “old normal”. And the system of financialized Capital, of the total market, of the acquisition of goods as a meaning of life, of delegative, formal and banal democracy, will rise again, rooted in consumerist individualism and marginalization. Not even the occasional neo-Keynesianism will survive. More of the same. If the past, as historians know, is not a field of exactitude, the object of definitive categorical narratives, what will the future say, in times of structural uncertainty?

My pessimism prevails when I see people's eagerness to return to the streets. Not to buy the essentials, the basics for survival. But to enter the malls, who knows, maybe just to look in the windows and get the desire to eat “plasticized delicacies” in the food courts…

Scholars guarantee that we are in the civilization of consumption and that human beings are conditioned by it. The artificial need is delirious!

Giles Lipovetoky, French philosopher, author of “Hypermodernity: hyper-consumption and hyper-individualism”, justifies, by stating that we consume “because we cannot stand repetition. For millennia, we dressed the same, had the same taste. It was the world of custom and tradition. Today it has become unbearable. We don't want to spend our holidays in the same place, we don't want to eat the same thing or watch the same movie. Today, it is the market – no longer the church – that takes care of our unhappiness. The modern world has made us permanently dissatisfied.”

I also thirst for infinity. But I don't try to satisfy it in objects, in perishable things, however attractive they may be. And you?

It is necessary to create a new culture: I want to believe that the coronavirus, with its trail of destruction, will force us to rethink the model of society we are living in, that of “disaster capitalism”. A dispute over the direction of societies is already under way. Moderately good news comes from the polls in Poland and France. Trump will not have an easy life until November… The streets that were closed until then are beginning to be occupied, with the necessary precautions, by columns of anti-racist and anti-fascist youth.

What is certain is that the aspiration for a more fraternal, more environmentally healthy and more democratic social organization will only come true if it is shared by millions, by the majority. Those who survive have a long way to go.

* Chico Alencar Professor at UFRJ, writer and former federal deputy (PSOL/RJ)

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