Saturday, July 4, 2009

Pensively on the embers of the old world order

While Lehman Brothers collapsed and young starry-eyed hopefuls, still drugged with the nectar of easy money, carried their stationary boxes to the local pubs of London, a real drama unfolded in the deepest possible place of our collective human psyche. All of a sudden we had run out of things to say. The old discourse between individuals and social institutions had come to an end. Capitalism has failed us. Citizens in western countries fled the political system, by abstaining from voting, by not participating in their democracy. The modern western state has collapsed. What stands, in the shape of state hospitals, or state schools, or governments are ghosts from the past. Free marketeering ate into the fabric of social institutions, creating enormous, but virtual, wealth for a small number of individuals. To the rest it sold dreams. But those dreams are no more. They were taken away, like the repossession of cars and homes bought on cheap credit.

Meanwhile, art chose to become an autistic sideline; uncommunicative, obsessive and too personal to have any meaning to anyone else besides the artist. It became a commodity in the same way as tin or silicon or sugar or coffee, to be traded on the basis of supply and demand rather than its subjective value. Art collectors and museums turned for advice to the same people who run the banks to the ground, those adrenaline-addict risk managers who treated risk as an extreme sport. The social irrelevance of high art created a vacuum that was quickly filled by what is usually termed as “mass culture”; which due to the extreme boredom it creates has transformed from pop culture into a terrifying version of digitally-induced hallucinations in the form of movies and sounds. The only good news about mass culture is that it seeded the weeds that now kill it, namely the internet.

Science and technology failed us too. Like the banks, and the art museums, the media and the parliaments, no one trusts them anymore. Science has failed us because of its inability to solve any of the problems that face humanity. Whether it is AIDS, or climate change, or swine flue, or overcrowded cities, science has offered false promises and delivered null. Scientists joined the fray of celebrities and sold to the public untested ideas, like pin up girls use to sell unrealizable copulations. Technology, in the form of gadgets, transformed rich-country consumers into half-cyborgs and ate up whatever free time they had left, further subjugating them. Cars, medicine, you name it, simply added to the bill of expenses with almost zero benefit. I should like to stress my point about modern medicine some more, because there are many deluding to its real value. People in ancient Greece lived to an old age and were as health as we are, and yet they had none of modern medicine. If anything, antibiotics and our reliance on them, are pushing humanity close to extermination, should a mutated microorganism decides to attack us.

The old order is finished. Not because it did not have the potential to lead humanity to a better future but because it gave in too easily to the dehumanization of humanity. By regarding human beings as consuming entities, the old order created a bubble of self-destruction. To escape the confines of digital idiocy and genetically-engineered cruelty we must now begin the search for a new discourse. To rediscover humanness in art and science we must develop new institutions. We can begin the dialogue by opening our eyes and our ears, and start listening to each other.

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