Apparently, not quite.
National states are still fighting each other like small kids at the playground and sadly, the recent developments seem much like a regression towards an even more bullyish and irresponsible behavior from the part of our leaders and institutions.
But we can’t give all the blame to our corrupt political establishment. Most people today are still stuck in the daily existential struggle of Me Vs the World, with the less privileged facing tremendous peer pressure to try and emerge from the slums, while the more privileged — after decades of consumerist lifestyle — have become weak, self-absorbed and lost into obsessive thinking habits and hyper-stressful routines.
For as long as we can remember, we’ve been trapped in a social system that encourages the worst traits of human nature — such as greed, aggressiveness and narcissism — and instead suffocates free love, honesty and critical thought.
Now at last, the day of reckoning is coming close: science warns us every day that passes of the imminent threats we are facing as a species: disruptive climate change, environmental devastation and mass extinctions are going to doom us to oblivion unless we’re able to change our ways in the very short term. One thing is certain:
the culture we inherited is not functional to life and doesn’t comply with the meaning of our existence on earth.
As humans, we urgently need a new direction forward and new shared guidelines to help each other change track without leaving anyone behind.
This is what the ‘WE’ is intended to be: a planetary charter of values for the XXI century, a moral compass to orient our very first steps as responsible adults in this new and wonderful adventure that opens ahead of us!
The new paradigm differs from the old in three essential points:
1. Peace between men Vs. Endless war.
2. Harmony with nature Vs. Exploitation of the environment.
3. Sustainability for future generations Vs. Reckless over-consumption.
1. Peace between men
At this point, no activism to change the world can tolerate the use of violence to reach its objectives. After WW2, we understood that the traditional way to solve human affairs, on the battlefield, stopped being an option since it threatened to destroy humanity in its entirety, leaving no winners or losers. As Michail Gorbaciov stated,
“Every human is on the same boat, and we’ll all sink or swim together”.
The only way to realize a radical transformation of our lifestyles and a reset of our social and economic frameworks is to work together as a species. The old barriers between races, cultures and nations are relics of the phase that preceded and accompanied the process of becoming who we are today.
The struggle for survival, that shaped the transformations of living creatures, and the struggle for power, that guided the clash of human civilizations, left in each one of us a residual aggressive impulse whose primary expression is self-affirmation and repulsion of death.
The acceptance of one’s own limits (and death) as necessary steps in the universal evolution of the species, has the liberating effect of dissolving the illusory separation between the individual self and its neighbours, allowing this primordial fear of the other to be replaced by mutual love and respect.
“The tiny, silent voice of our conscience” — as Gandhi would say — reveals us that the only human way to solve conflicts is to convince each other; if I try to impose my reasons, either with physical or moral violence, I have already lost, the conflict and my humanity with it.
The only way to free other people from the mistakes we attribute to them, is to take on ourselves the weight of that burden of pain we feel they should be suffering.
“If you do that, I’ll kill you!” — was the slogan of the Western Civilization as it took over the planet. “If you do that, I’ll die!” — that’s what the prophets kept saying, from Buddha, to Jesus, to Socrates.
From now on, this principle cannot remain the exclusive feature of a few enlightened masters: it must become the common ground on which to found a new, planetary human society.
What inspires this vision is an unconditional love and faith in the human potential, even when it manifests itself at its worst.
2. Harmony with nature
The objectification of Nature, seen as a totally measurable and disposable resource, has been one of the fundamental axioms of the industrial age.
Between the most influential advocates of this perspective were some of the enlightened fathers of the scientific method, such as Sir Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei and Renè Descartes.
In their eyes, Nature looked like a huge mechanical clock. Given enough knowledge, everything natural could be explained rationally — hence the knowledge=power equation.
In some infamous passages, Bacon argues that nature “must be taken by the forelock”, “bidden to your service” and “made your slave”.
The work of the scientist is to “shake her to her foundations“ in order to “conquer and subdue her”. She has to be “put on a rack”, and “her deepest secrets must be tortured out of her”.
That’s why knowledge was seen as the ultimate power: by methodically extracting all of her secrets one by one, nature could be totally subjugated by the human race, whose ultimate goal was the achievement of a supreme intelligence, instrument of its absolute domination over the world.
But those were only the delusions of our young and arrogant mind: first Einstein’s relativity theory and then Heisenberg’s discovery of the uncertainty principle in quantum physics completely debunked the old mechanistic models of reality.
There is no absolute rational truth to be found in nature that mankind can reduce to a mathematical model.
All rationalizations are local and contingent since even by the simple act of observing reality, the human subject is inevitably altering the very fabric of reality itself. Knowledge shouldn’t be mistaken for a static reflection of the outside world, and should instead be considered for what it is, a mental construction that interprets the world, and by doing so affects the same reality it is trying to explain.
In all honesty, we have to recognize that the act of knowing is really an act of planning the world, even when the observing subject is committed to the maximal contemplative detachment possible.
In reconsidering the subject/object relationship between the observer and the observed, we realize that the human mind is really only a tiny part of the universe where it was generated and to which it belongs, but also that in its journey of exploration the mind has indeed the power to change that same universe, and forge it according to its needs.
This apparently magical power has nothing supernatural to it: in fact, it is rooted in the very nature of that complex phenomenon that is none other but Life itself. We see the universe as we do precisely because we are alive. This is the human condition:
Nature is our home, a tiny region of space where, around planet Earth, emerged a vital belt — the Biosphere — this wonderful twine of elements that make Life possible.
The problems began because the old paradigm was inadequate to grasp the structural interconnectedness between humanity and nature, which is not reducible to the simplifications of a purely quantitative method.
Nature’s breakdown, following the intensive manipulations to which humanity has put her through, is the warning sign that something essential eludes our mind when we try to define reality by cutting out linear chains of cause and effect isolated from their ecological context.
The reality of a natural element isn’t in its detachment, but in its correlation with the other elements. Rational analysis, in its proceeding from the complex towards the simple, loses along the way the living web of reciprocities, a web that won’t be possible to recompose later on by the synthetic association of the simple (but dead) parts.
The complex nature of the web of life derives from the fact that, in each one of its parts, the system is operating as a whole. This fundamental property is called holism, for which every element assumes its significance in relation to the entire set, and the entire set is constantly re-defined by the interactions between its parts, in a reciprocal continuum that doesn’t allow for any substantial dualism of sorts between thought and reality, consciousness and matter.
Every one of us is thus both autonomous and inter-dependent: we are what we are in force of our unique individual nature and we are what we are in relationship with every other being.
To say that life’s evolution is the result of a struggle for survival that selected the strongest and eliminated the weakest is only a limited part of the story: a more careful examination of the interconnections that bind together all living beings, from the simplest to the most complex, from the grass blade to the thinking human, will persuade us that at a deeper level exists a continuous vital exchange, a sort of planetary osmosis.
Living beings are made for one another even more deeply than they are made to compete against each other. Under the cruel surface of the kingdom of Fear is active, less evident but ubiquitous, the vibrant community of Love.
The Darwinist concept of struggle for life, strongly biased by the ethical and political ideologies of the industrial revolution, was used to legitimate an exploitative economy over humanity and nature, without considering that by upsetting the systemic equilibrium in the biosphere, our species would end up triggering the backlash of catastrophic side-effects that now threaten its own survival.
Us humans, blinded by the power of our own mind, have lost ourselves in ego-centric delusions of grandeur that made us forget where we’re coming from. But our intelligence is not something supernatural, alien or extra-terrestrial: it was born here on Earth, between our sisters plants and our brothers animals, in this world macro-organism we call Nature and Life. Our intellect has outgrown itself, and now needs to be balanced by a ecological conscience that is fully aware of the structural symbiosis that ties us together with every other creature.
3. Sustainability for future generations
At least since Relativity, our cognitive understanding of the universe reveals us that Time is not an abstract principle indifferent and external to the living phenomena: Time is life’s most intimate substance, its evolutionary curve, so that the present contains it’s entire past and also the seed for its future.
But life’s time on earth should not be taken for granted, since it’s directly related to the energetic mass of our universe, and is going to end when this energy runs out. It follows that life’s possibilities after us are dependent on, to a large extent, to the use that we make today of the biosphere’s non-renewable resources.
Our actions shape our future irreversibly, since for every energetic transformation there’s a cost that is subtracted from the total energy stock.
“If a flower dies, nothing will ever be the same.”
“If I waste energy, I shorten the duration of Life on Earth.”
The world’s energetic heritage belongs indiscriminately to the entire biosphere, present and future.
Based on these assumptions, a new sustainable ethics is one for which good is what favors life, and bad is what accelerates its entropic decline (or death.)
The future reveals to be the most profound dimension of this new responsibility. Traditionally, moral choices were conceived regarding the present or the immediate future, the only foreseeable time-span on which we could judge the effects of our actions.
Today we know that our actions, by affecting the entropic process, will determine the living conditions of the future generations, and eventually the total duration of life’s journey on Earth.
From here, the ethical consequence is very suggestive: a true love for humanity involves also the generations yet to come. The idea of ‘Humanity’ implies of course all the generations that preceded us, and prepared the ground as well as the spiritual and material contents of our lives: the cities we live in, the language we speak, the tools we use, the food we eat. We should be grateful to our Ancestors, since they left us a chance. But we must learn from their mistakes, since this the only way to evolve.
“Today — warns Jurgen Moltmann — the regenerative rights of the earth and its web of life are constantly abused. Man-made chemical fertilizers and pesticides are forcing Nature to unnaturally intense fertility cycles, preparing the ground for inevitable and catastrophic consequences.
Who doesn’t respect the rights of the Earth represents a menace to the future generations and to the existence of Life as a whole.”
Any form of aggression to the natural environment introduces and element of uncertainty and precariousness in the future of the species, hence the necessity of self-limitation.
The new ethical guidelines for the responsible human must read:
“Act in accordance to the safety and perpetuation of life on earth, and hence of the preservation of a future for humanity.”
As humans, we must recognize that we are life. Our most basic drive in this universe is to act in such a way so as to perpetuate our species and life as whole. In a strictly evolutionary sense, this is what we are born to do.
Humanity is only a branch of the tree of life, and a quite a young one too. Instead of contemplating suicide, we should learn how to mature and bear fruits. Our potential, and not only the destructive one, is enormous. We must shift our focus from fear to love, and create a world of peace and freedom that works for everyone, including the future generations. Let’s not fool ourselves: ‘Free love’ isn’t opportunistic love where each person thinks first about him/herself. Free love is love free from egoistical interests, love for life without conditions, without asking for reward, as the love of a mother for its children.
This is our call: we believe it’s our duty to behave like grown-ups, and take responsibility for what is going on inside and around us.
We can lead humanity out of this mess only by committing ourselves — as adults — to the goal of shaping together an ecologically-sustainable world, able to take care of our common home, the Earth, and provide for our children, the next generations of humans that will inherit the planet.
If we all agree on this, what is left is to understand is how this new values can be translated into practice:
how to become the change we want to see in this world?
For those interested to walk the talk, we’re dedicating the next chapter to discuss the practical guidelines and community tools that will help us apply all those concepts in our daily lives. ;-)