Preface by Sam pitroda (to be confirmed)

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titrePreface by Sam pitroda (to be confirmed)
date de publication21.01.2020
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typeDocumentos > économie > Documentos
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What is modernity?

Modernity is a powerful and courageous project of autonomisation and, thus, of liberation of human intelligence with regards to all obscurantisms. This liberation movement occurred by changing the vision of the world, by changing the ultimate value at the horizon. As is happening today with the transition to transmodernity, the first moderns changed their visions and their Horizon.

One has to go back in the context of the end of the Middle Ages to understand the terrible level of human stupidity and wickedness in the repression of human intelligence by the Inquisition and its tribunals, which did not tolerate any scientific autonomous research. Indeed, only a few isolated people started to think and act differently from the norm—Michelangelo and the audacious Italian artists, Descartes, Galileo, and also out of Italy, Copernicus, Jean Huss, Luther, etc. Some perished at the stake. They were not conscious of the fact that they were the founders of the Renaissance and modern times. They thought of themselves as isolated thinkers who were marginal and threatened by the Inquisition.
        1. New ideas of space with perspective and geometry

It was thrilling in the Renaissance to open up the horizon, to create a new vision, and give life a new meaning. When, for example, Donatello, Ucello, and Piero della Francesca begin to introduce perspective in their paintings, they are not conscious that they tilting Europe toward modernity by completely transforming the perception of space. By introducing perspective, they transform the medieval space into a modern space. Modern space, indeed, is geometric and defined by scientific criteria. It is not anymore a symbolic and flat space, like icons, for instance.
        1. New mechanical time—the clock

A small machine came to slowly structure time—the clock. In the monasteries, the days for the monks were shorter in the winter and longer in the summer. In addition, everybody followed the churches bells. The monks themselves invented the clock and, henceforth, held their prayers according to it and no longer by following the sun and other cues from Nature. Thus, they anticipated “modern” time, measured by machine. The far-reaching consequence of this mutation is the reform of efficiency invented by Taylor which made it possible to time down the motions of chain workers to increase their output. Time has been completely mechanised by the industrial modernity.

It is most surprising that the modern vision took back, maybe unwillingly and unknowingly, the pyramidal power structure, exactly like in the pre-modern vision that they criticised. However, they replaced God with the goddess of Reason.

Moreover, most surprising also is that modernity transposed the clerical structure. Modernity gave itself a new, invisible clergy—the economists. And this clergy has its cardinals and the Holy Inquisition, which calls to order the economists or the Chiefs of State who deviate from the orthodoxy of the ”free market.” Indeed, the free-market economy functions as a rational and scientific religion. This is normal because the rational truth, as Prigogine notes well, was improperly elevated to the rank of implicit divinity. Without this faith, it is impossible to reach important positions, for instance in central banks and national governments.

The change of vision and paradigm was accelerated and reinforced by the fact that the European society passed progressively from agriculture to industry. When making objects in a factory, there is no need anymore to go in procession to pray for the divinity’s help. Humans have become completely autonomous in the process of value creation. With reason, one functions perfectly well. No need for anything else. One becomes rational, because rationality is enough to live well. There is no need for anything else. In addition, the idea is that probably religion was a pure invention of human mind. One can understand why modernity has become sceptical concerning the inner dimension of humans.

As I have already mentioned, Prigogine and Stengers were the first to emphasise this point. Modernity, in fact, unconsciously, gave science an almost divine role. Why? Because modernity kept the pyramid and replaced God with Reason. Since science is rational, it leads us, therefore directly to the Truth, which is the “divine” apex of the pyramid. And this, without us having the need for churches and clergies. Science succeeded in its complete autonomisation with regard to religions and obscurantisms, but it acquires an exceptional, almost divine, status. It is above ethics, it is above responsibilities since it is good and true. To criticise it is to be ignorant.

As I showed in the last chapter, this is one of the major dangers of the current global situation we are in. We are tackling technologies that concern life and our survival as a species, but we tend to use the modern vision of science and technology, which are not adapted to the gigantic planetary stakes that are present. The major danger is to have a vision and a horizon that are maladapted to the stakes of our era.

Technology also, in this modern world, functions on the model of a supply economy. This is normal since technoscience is considered true and, thus, good. It is normal, therefore, that everything it supplies is a benefit for humankind and, thus, must be bought. This leads us straight to the consumer society. We realise very well that we cannot, through the 21st century, continue to consume in an unsustainable fashion.

Let us now approach the famous scientific method. It, too, is considered to be a direct track to the truth, since it is rational. By the mere fact that it is “rigorous” and “objective,” it must be considered as leading directly to the Truth. Thus, it is unassailable, in the modern vision.

Nevertheless, it is very important to note that our entire scientific, but also administrative, and even political operation functions along the same analytical method proposed by Descartes—that is, when facing a difficult problem, cut it into pieces and resolve the parts of the problem. This has been done for centuries. This analytical method has given wonderful results, but it is naturally incapable of providing synthetic results to global questions such as that on the future of humankind. This is the reason why it has lost its legitimacy as the unique method. It remains only one of the possible methods, besides other more holistic approaches. Thus, we must abandon the supremacy and domination of the “modern-scientific” method as the only possible method of approaching the future. In spite of all its qualities, it does not help us find today a solution to the problem of our continuing survival.

One should not underestimate the great jump that modernity allowed humankind to achieve with regard to violence between persons. Indeed, one of the State functions, a modern creation, has been to completely suppress violence between individuals. The law in the modern State now makes violence illegal. Revenge, even against the killer or the rapist of one’s daughter is not allowed. It must be reported to the police and to a judge. This system appears obvious to us today, but centuries were needed to get there. Even royal princes had to be imprisoned before they came to understand that duels were no longer allowed. In the transmodern paradigm, this non-violent component will be maintained and expanded outside the national borders, between States.

At the national level, modernity invented national armies, national arms factories, national military service (ala Napoleon). It created the concept of national war. Before Napoleon Bonaparte, those concepts were absent on Earth. On the other hand, Clausewitz72 and Machavelli held that war is the continuation of foreign policies through other means. Thus, in modernity, war is institutionalised and a national (and global) event which coins national unity “by the blood of the braves poured on the earth” and is part of foreign policy.

Thus, modernity integrated violence and war between States as something entirely natural. There was no alternative. If a State was not satisfied through negotiations, it was absolutely normal and understandable to go to war, if there was a possibility to win it. This attitude is held today in George W. Bush. It should not shock us, however—it is what we have done for centuries.

So why are we shocked by Bush’s policies, which are totally “modern”? Because our horizon has changed and we, the global public opinion, are no longer in the modern paradigm, even if we are not always aware of it. Bush helps us, the citizens of the world, to become aware that we are not anymore in his vision. He is like a revelatory catalyst of our transformation. He helps us to become conscious that we are changing worldwide.

In this regard, we must say, “Thank you, Mr. Bush. You make us all understand that it is urgent in this global world to invent a new framework, a new (transmodern) paradigm of non-violence between States. It helps us all to go quicker beyond modernity.”

Certainly, modernity has advanced the cause of women. The suffragettes and the feminist movement and, for instance, the writings of Simone de Beauvoir, in France, are modern movements. However, for women, the problems are far from being resolved. Indeed, women continue to be subjected to discrimination, or harassment at the workplace. Today, in many places, women still need twice the competence to reach the same level of responsibilities as men. Then, there is the “glass ceiling” in many businesses and administrations that prevents women to exceed a certain level of responsibilities. There has been undeniable progress with regards to persons and mentalities, but the structure remains too often pyramidal with the last steps inaccessible to the “weaker sex.” In addition, are the salaries equal for equal work? This does not appear to be the case everywhere in the European Union.73! Thus, the modern structures still are strongly patriarchal, in most of the cases.

Modernity also completely separated the practice of a religion from the public domain. It consigned religion to the sacristy. It is not allowed to mention religious motivations in public. In France, this separation is the strongest. Indeed, numerous countries which, in other respects, are very modern, like the U.S. and the United Kingdom still have their presidents swear on the Bible.

Modernity went even further. It spread the word that religions were due to disappear someday, since they were not rational. Only the rational is real. Some spoke of a “religion of the secularity” which tended to spread this vision of the end of religions as a new ”missionary religion.” Indeed, in Europe, we have associations of atheists, which preach atheism and are openly anti-religious. Modernity has not been able to maintain a real openness to the inner dimension of humans. It has become very materialistic.

When one reads Jung and the great thinkers of the human psyche, we see that they did emphasise the importance of the inner dimension in human beings, and of the human soul. In this, Jung prefigures transmodernity. Whereas, Freud and Lacan seem more rationalist and materialist and not very open to this inner dimension of human psyche, at least much less than Jung. In this sense they are more modern, and, thus, more representative of the 20th century.

This brings us to the belief of life after death. I think that when the history of the 20th century and modernity in general will be written, one of the most negative points of its evaluation will be that this century succeeded in totally suppressing, in public opinion, the conviction that life continues after death. This vision of life after death has always been affirmed by all the world civilizations for thousands of years even if that afterlife was expressed very differently. The modern official vision is that there is absolutely nothing after death, and that we return to naught. In so saying, modernity generated a generalised anguish of death which manifests itself as a desperate, and vane, search for security. Here is what Willis Harman was writing in the nineties. He is one of those who best explains the current change:

“Modern Society has a peculiar characteristic, namely, that it teaches fear of death, and that fear underlies many other fears. If in fact we fundamentally evolved by mechanistic processes out of a material universe, and if life is regulated by coded messages in the DNA, then when those processes stop we die, and that is the end of us as physical organisms. If our consciousness, our cherished understandings and values, our individuality, our personhood, are simply creations of those processes, then when those processes stop we are no more. That is surely a fate to be feared, and, indeed, the fear of death permeates our society, disguised in a multitude of ways in which we seek ’security.’”

Thus, modernity generated an enormous collective regression at the level of the individual and collective consciousness. We came to completely forget and negate life after death. This is absolutely barbarous and regressive. And it has infiltrated our world society with deep fear of death that we disguise in a lot of research for security. However, this modern vision is perhaps not the last world on the question. Willis Harman continues:

“But the ‘perennial wisdom‘ of the world’s spiritual traditions has disagreed, has asserted that we are in an essentially meaningful universe in which the death of the physical body is bur a prelude to something else. The mystical and contemplative traditions have often gone on to give more details.”

Willis goes even further and speaks about scientific evidence of life after death.

”Serious attempts have been made to explore the concept of the continuation of personhood after physical death, and the evidence gathered has been disturbing to both positivist scientists and convinced religionists, because it fails to conform their preconceptions. However, if that evidence is explored with humility and open-mindedness, it seems to point to features of an emerging ‘new story‘ quite different from the prevailing worldview.”74

What Willis is suggesting here is that we are all so modern, rational, so right-brained, that we are unable to accept evidences proving the existence of life after death. In order to accept those experiments and discoveries, one has to shift worldview, or paradigm75. I invite the reader to go and read the whole of the Chapter 5 of Willis’ book. He is a very great thinker.

Let us now see what modernity has done to our bodies. They have been completely disarticulated, desacralised, and atomised. Indeed, the famous analytical method has patiently taught us to leave out our emotions, our sexuality, our bodily needs, and our feelings to concentrate on the efficiency and the yield of the industrial production, which moves faster and faster. So that our lives are atomised, separated into different boxes which contain parts of us. We have a hard time finding ourselves again and reconnecting the boxes in an integrated whole. Moreover, the desacralising process generated by modernity has invaded our body, our sexuality, the woman, and our relation to nature and life itself. We see that this desacralising process of women, the body and sexuality was already well under way with the pre-modern patriarchs. We live next to ourselves, next to our lives. We have become ”mutants” which for the Australian aborigines are no longer true men76.

Meanwhile, the number of people who do not find a meaning to their life and, even more, youth suicide is alarming. These youth suicides, which most of the time are kept quiet in our “developed” countries, are a measure of the flagrant inadequacy of our declining industrial society to the implicit expectations of the young generation. A drama which the following testimony, out of an excellent Canadian inquiry, measures the horror.

” I did everywhere what I had to do. I did not bother anybody. However, deep inside me, it was totally black. I was like a roving dog but it was hidden in me. I kept face. I felt very soon that my parents did not know what to do, what to say when I told them that I was losing it, that I had problems, that it was crying inside me. They panicked, and so I did not talk about it again…. I am 23 years old, I have a normal life, but I feel myself empty, emptied, without motivation, without inner breath and without any inner direction. I find the world incredibly meaningless and tasteless.”77

These words demonstrate the lack of meaning of our modern civilization in crisis.

Finally, to top it off, we have been taught to function only with our left brain. We have become handicapped with regard to the right brain. We almost no longer use it, except when suddenly the knowledge society asks us to be creative and to have our right brain run at a smart pace.
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