Unless one is seized by avarice or psychotic obsession, all a human being wants is a pleasant, possibly long life, to consume what is necessary to keep fit and make love. “Civilization” is the pompous name given to all the political or moral values that make the pursuit of this lifestyle possible. Meanwhile, the financial dogma states that if we want to be part of the game played in banks and markets, we must give up a pleasant, quiet life. We must give up civilization.
But why should we accept this exchange? Europe’s wealth does not come from the stability of the Euro or international markets, or the managers’ ability to monitor their profits. Europe is wealthy because it has millions of intellectuals, scientists, technicians, doctors, and poets. It has millions of workers who have augmented their technical knowledge for centuries. Europe is wealthy because it has historically managed to valorize competence, and not just competition, to welcome and integrate other cultures. And, it must be said, it is also wealthy because for four centuries it has ferociously exploited the physical and human resources of other continents.
We must give something up, but what exactly? Certainly we must give up the hyper-consumption imposed on us by large corporations, but not the tradition of humanism, enlightenment, and socialism—not freedom, rights, and welfare. And this is not because we are attached to old principles of the past, but because it is these principles that make it possible to live decently.
The prospect of a revolution is not open to us. The concept of revolution no longer corresponds to anything, because it entails an exaggerated notion of the political will over the complexity of contemporary society. Our main prospect is to shift to a new paradigm not centered on product growth, profit, and accumulation, but on the full unfolding of the power of collective intelligence.