Cultural Misery: disappointment and depression
In 1930, Sigmund Freud wrote his famous book, Civilization and its Discontents, and in the very first line he proclaimed: «power, success and wealth are preferred to the values of life, and are sought for their own sake.» Today these factors have reached such magnitude that the discomfort has been transformed into cultural misery. The COP-15 in Copenhagen gave us a clear demonstration: in order to save the system of profits and national economic interests, it did not matter that we endangered the future of life and the equilibrium of the planet, that has already been subjected to a warming that, if not dealt with soon, could exterminate millions of persons and annihilate a great portion of bio-diversity.
The misery in the culture, or better, of theculture, is revealed through two verifiable symptoms, all around the world: a generalized disappointment in society and a profound depression among the population. Both have a reason. They are consequence of the crisis of faith which the world system is enduring.
Of what faith do we refer? It is the faith in unlimited progress, in the omnipotence of techno-science, in the economic-financial system, with its markets, that act as the structural axes of society. Faith in these gods possessed its creeds, its high priests, its prophets, its armies of acolytes and an unimaginable mass of the faithful.
Those faithful have become profoundly disappointed these days, because those gods have proven to be false. The gods are in agony now, or they have simply died, and the G-20 tried in vain to resurrect their corpses. Those who profess that fetish of a religion realize that unlimited progress has dangerously devastated nature and is the main cause of planetary warming. Techno-science that, on one hand, has brought so many benefits, has created a death machine that in the XX Century alone killed 200 million people, and is now capable of exterminating the entire human species. The economic-financial system and the market have broken down, and had it not been for the taxpayers money, through the State, it would have provoked a social catastrophe. The disappointment is engraved in the perplexed faces of the political leaders, who no longer know whom to believe, and what new gods to enthrone. There is a form of sweet nihilism.
Max Weber and Friedrich Nietszche had already foreseen such effects when they announced secularism and the death of God. Not that God would have died, because a God who dies is not «God». Nietszche is clear: God did not die, we killed God. This is, in a secularized society, God no longer counts, either for life, or for social cohesion. Instead, the pantheon of gods we mentioned above took God's place. Since they are idols, they will show one day what they produce: disappointment and death.
The solution is neither in simply returning to God or religion, but in rescuing their meaning: the connection with the whole, the perception that life and not profit should occupy the center, and the affirmation of shared values that can provide cohesion to society.
With disappointment comes depression. Depression is a delayed fruit of the youth revolution of the 1960s. That youth revolt tried to challenge a society of repression, especially sexual repression, full of social masks. A generalized liberalization was called for. Experimentation was everywhere. The word was, «to live without dead moments; to freely enjoy life.» That led to the suppression of any interval between the desire and its realization. Everything had to be immediate and fast.
From there came the break down of all taboos, the loss of the just measure, and total permissiveness. A new oppression surfaced: one had to be modern, rebellious, sexy and to be naked, inside and out. The worst punishment was to grow old. Total health was imagined, and models of beauty were based on thinness to the point of anorexia. Death was abolished, and turned into a scary ghost.
This postmodern project also failed, because not just anything can be done with life. Life possesses an intrinsic sacredness, and limits. If they are broken, depression results. Disappointment and frustration are recipes for violence without purpose, for high consumption of tranquilizers and even for suicide, as happens in many countries.
Where are we going? No one knows. We only know that if we want to continue we have to change. Already visible everywhere are the first signs that represent the perennial values of the human condition: marriage for love, sex with affection, caring for nature, win-win instead of win-lose, searching for the «living well», the basis for happiness that flows now from voluntary simplicity and from wanting to have less, in order to be more.
This is hopeful. We must progress in this direction.
Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro, email@example.com,
done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.