If there is anyone interested in astrology out there: this year begins with Pluto entering Capricorn. The interpretation would be something like “this is a time for restructuring of the world, of the systems and institutions that sustain our world, a time for rethinking and changing power and authority.”
Whatever the value of such transit, we are living a moment in which it seem to me adequate to ask:
“What are The Issues™ that matter here and now?”
We live in an amazing world, in interesting times, but what it is really about? And also: how does this fast-changing, rich and perilous, technological and unpredictable world impact our direct lives? I do believe that this moment in time can be used as a bridge to dreams, but i do NOT believe this would be easy, and neither do i believe that this outcome is natural or spontaneous. So, what do we have to do?
This is not to be a definitive (or stable) list. Instead, it is meant as a sketch, a something to criticize and poke, a tool to help us shape our thoughts.
- We can rethink what is the Nation-State. This thing we take for granted, this idea that today justifies wars and genocides, was pretty much invented 246 years ago by Rousseau. I do not imply that it is a bad idea per se, but i am pretty sure we can do better after two centuries of experiments and with our fairly better communications apparatus. What’s more: rethinking the Nation-State also means rethinking the very roots of the way we sustain our lives, so to say, or the ethnological infrastructure of society. And this is deep. As deep as changing this changes who (what) we are.
- We also can rethink Gender Issues. That is, what does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? (And not male/female…) As i already said, i believe that rethinking this allows for a much more consistent and harmonious (not to say powerful) social-metabolism.
This idea of social-metabolism is very important to those two first issues. The present state of the “social division of labor” implies that without commerce much of the living humans cannot deal with their basic biologic needs. That is, without buying food, we can’t find something to eat, without buying we can’t in fact live at all. Although this does create an “Achilles heel”, strategically it is an interesting way of doing things. Not only we do have achieved a unthinkable level of surpluses, of luxury in day to day life (and not only to a minority), but we also have a system that is less vulnerable than if everyone had to account for their own food. As contradictory as this seems, this system with a fragile point (the need for commerce) is actually less vulnerable. Probably this is consequence of a vaster repertoire of production means, which makes us less dependent on any one of them, but this is not the point.
This big, sprawling, game of consumption and production is right now feeding more people than any other thing in the 200,000 years that Homo sapiens has been around. It has some strange kirks, like for example requiring our almost religious repetitions of strange symbols all over the world (think the Coca-Cola brand in some otherwise-unheard-of place in a corner of Africa). It also has a tendency to inequalities, but i do not think it is alone in this respect and neither do i believe that it is possible to compare this tendency to inequality of the social-systems in an unbiased way. That is, inequality might be darn important, but it is not evil nor morally charged in any way.
This strange, odd, magical, complex, still not-understood, system can be changed. Also, it will change. And those changes will not be “natural” or “irreversible”. Those changes will be directed by concrete and direct political agendas, and we would do well to think of them directly, with the proper though-tools, instead of trying to deal with it’s consequences alone.
- We might rethink philosophy. After almost two millennia of repeating some Greeks and Muslins, we are beginning to wonder how much those ideas are self-fulfilling prophecies. In such a way that we might also start to wonder which prophecies we want to fulfill (by using them). Nietzsche has in two or three swipes cleaned up the path and also shown us many possible directions to build, but he is not understood (or completely understandable, for that matter), and we still have much to go before we really can say that we have a stable, useful, meaningful philosophy. We have to build a set-of-ideas for this “new world” that is unfolding ahead of our eyes.
- We can restructure the flow of technologies. If you think of them as recipes, you see that they are not used in our current state of affairs in a optimum way. Despite the fact that we are so-called “technological civilization”, the technologies in our world are not direct part of life, they are always boxed and isolated into plastic units. Everyone has a cell phone but no one understands binary logic. Most really interesting research takes place inside institutions so geared towards finding commercial uses for them that they end up closed and modularized. It is difficult to say what s truly relevant, to even grasp the direction our manic impulse to research is taking. Copyright, author rights, and those issues have to be freed from the juridical cage it is in now. Open-source and social-network have already made it completely clear that we need other paths for our recipe-collecting behavior, or technological development.
What else? Those not-so-simple Issues might already seem like an impossible challenge, like work for dozens of highly brilliant specialists for decades and decades. But no, what we need are simple and new ideas. We need not solutions-to-problems, which specialists can give us, but propositions.
We can do it. And the moment is now. So: what will we do?