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The true moral shamble and a crack of hope

In England first with the Brexit, then in the US when Trump was elected, also in India, in France now and elsewhere soon most citizens don't recognize in the words and behaviour of the people in charge of the common good they are supposed to serve, the values, the enthusiasm, the creed or the sense of responsibility they used to respect in other times. A sense of disenchantment floats adrift in the political skies. No one among the potent presidents or kings of sorts dares using the magnificent metaphors of courage, reliability, pride and integrity that were the usual vocabulary of politicians in the historical text books or in the myths that we loved. Instead they argue GDP growth, debt, bank rates, fear of strangers or military might. All over the world of politics, scandals burst out like mushrooms involving high levels of personal greed, concealed crimes, confusion between finance and governments, devastation of the common earth and more. Two of the prominent candidates for the French presidency face serious corruption charges without a blink. Trump seems to discover what presidency is about and what the world looks like. Brazil is torn apart with corruption and India seems on the brink of another wave of religious hatred. In some regions of the planet, like South America, a glint of decency still feeds people with the longing of democracy, but it is fragile. A political pattern suggests that some sort of balance of time brought humanity to a provisional Nadir before tilting back to another Zenith. But nothing is sure and the destiny of humanity in today's world is extremely flimsy. We might be witnessing the last years of a humanity decayed by a vacuum of ethic. When asked about the risks of a third word war Churchill, who wasn't an angel, answered that he couldn't imagine what WW3 would look like, but one thing he could predict without a risk was that WW4 would be fought with bows and arrows. One aspect of this moral issue is that the young generation is fed with the words, values and deeds of present leaders; that doesn't help to give them a sense of freedom, sharing and joy. Many humans have the dizzy feeling of wandering without any marker, compass or guide, of being blind in an eery night.

How we arrived in such a state of despair should give us a hint to how to avoid the worst. I recently heard someone say that wars were fought for land, for religion or for both. If we consider that land is expected to offer anyone her/his place on earth; and religion to help everyone recognize her/his siblings and basic values, we should admit that lately, those two landmarks have been bumped into or even knocked over in the day-to-day life of most humans. Globalization follows a long process. Humans have always travelled on the crust of the world in hope of better pastures or of brighter wonders. We have no ideas of when the first humans have crossed the oceans and the deserts to discover new scapes. But today's stage is of another matter. Many humans on earth belong to two, three or more places on earth, what Arjun Appadurai calls ethnoscapes or ethoscapes: her/his spot, spot meaning culture, beliefs and geography. In the global village, many of us have the sharp consciousness of belonging to one and the same humanity. Then also to belong to so many different families, tribes, nations according to one's personal fate and story; to belong to so many contradictory cultures and groups that we feel distraught. It is likely that never before have human beings been such at loss about who they are, where they belong and which language they should speak.

Lost in their wonderland, humans, wherever they walk and whoever they are, go in search of the traditional deliverers of guidelines that are the religious systems. Mentioning religious systems, I don't refer to human beliefs. We all believe in so many crap, fantasies, stories and values that we learned to be modest about beliefs. All those beliefs change over the millennia and we all cherish our own private set that help us survive in a world the sense of which is at times fairly obscure. I refer to what makes people feel together when facing the elements, the mysteries of death or pain and the other humans. This is the meaning of religion: what rounds up peoples with one another by a specific narrative. What offers to a group of humans the feeling that they are bound with their brothers, sisters and pals, that they share a mystery that distinguishes them from others, strangers or would be enemies. Actually, pushed to their limits, religious systems produce enmity. They may also produce peace and brotherhood, but not at all times and rather on their edges. And certainly not when times become so stunning that one would sell father and mother just to have a hint about where to go and how to behave.

That is the time for sales talk, patter and lies. This is the time for crap and bullshit, for illusions and hypnosis, When the old world is obviously sinking although the new one is still blurred in its halo of mist, one would obey any preacher with a solid sense of marketing and some attracting promises.

This is where we are today. Any speech asserting that you, yes, you, don't have to worry because this is your land, this is your right, this is who you are and what you deserve. Any talk suggesting that the others are on the wrong path going nowhere and not only this: they jeopardize your peace, your space and your secret desires. Any such predicate offered by a guru, a politician, a bartender or a neighbour has a chance to reach you or me or both, then a crowd and more. The more aesthetic the predicate, the more efficient. The more absurd, the more attracting. The more bizarre, the more suggesting. For we are not rational beings. Some good old stories made us think that our bright human intelligence would help us out of any chaos. Such is not the case for we are animals of basic veering feelings. We are oriented by love and fear, hoping for a glimpse of joy or appealed by a safe harbour. We are driven by our sentiments in a world that, in spite of many efforts, proves generation after generation and across times and civilizations, to hide its sense for us, and to conceal its secrets.

In a way, this is not new. It is not the first time that humanity feels lost in translating the meaning of our wonderful skies and winds. What might be a little new is that today's humanity is very numerous and has the power to blow away and for good its chance to enjoy the blue planet. When madmen reach the power to totally destroy the human habitat, we may be close to the end for good. But we don't need religious beliefs to know how to behave. We don't need old priests and scientific truth. We don't need ancient scriptures or signs in animal's guts. What we need is to be up to the situation: face it and be up to it. After all, we just have to admit that this world is no old stuff, but a brand new one. The world begins today, at this very instant. There is nothing like the big-bang of a faraway epoch. This very morning is the dawn of the great challenge and we have to be up to this challenge, however it appears and whoever we are. We can stand up and scream that those corrupt mad-people should go and leave us alone to take advantage of our senses and desires. This is today and this world is ours.

Marc Hatzfeld

Published in the may 2017 issue of the Bengali magazine Arts and Ideas, Kolkata, India

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Marc Hatzfeld, Sociologue des marges sociales
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