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Challenges in the Search for the New World

Let Us Turn the Crisis into a Renaissance

 

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Ghandi

 

The humanity ends year 2008 by experiencing a crisis of philosophical and civilization system. The existing value system is being questioned, and the gap between “profitable and useful progress” versus “meaningful progress” is steadily increasing.  Vast development has been recorded in the field of science, but this progress can be utilized by only one billion out of the six billion of world population while the remaining five billion, the Earth and nature, suffer the consequences and are actually harmed. 

 

Hence the humanity ends year 2008: - by a crisis of the licentiousness of Capitalism and of market economy; -by decline of the middle classes, who have always been the backbone of contemporary societies, but are increasingly self-aware and have had enough of being exploited as milk cows to pay for the stupidities of the few super-rich (the number of millionaires in the world was 6 million in 2008, which is by 10% more than in 2007);- by disgraceful increase of poverty in both the so-called “developing” countries and  in the “developed” countries  as well as by growing gap between North and South;  -and finally by scandalous failure of the single-minded, homogeneous and neoliberal/neoconservative ideologies and policies ruling the world.

 

At the same time, the humanity ends 2008 with a new ray of hope, an imperative necessity of new ideologies and value systems, a demand for re-assessment, and a re-interpretation and renaissance of democracy and human rights.

 

On the threshold of 2009, the main challenge for all of us around the world is the consciousness of making successful this main transitional period of the 20-21st centuries, learning lessons and meaningfully assessing it, so that the lessons learned from catastrophes of the previous century – the genocides, slaughters, intra-national wars, economic and social disasters, fascism, violence, and biased authorities, aggression, licentiousness of economic and social injustices and inequalities, destructions of the humans and nature of 1914, 1915-18, 1929-30, 1935-45, 1960s, 1980-2008, for the sake of storing up greedy profits- were not learned in vain.

 

The challenges we face in the context of this fundamental crisis of philosophy/civilization and systems are as follows:

1.       EITHER, perceive soberly the deep reasons of the crisis, give meaning to the progress and scientific development, for the sake of spiritual and material welfare of the overwhelming majority of the humanity; adopting a proactive motion, to review and give new meaning to the principles of freedom, equality and brotherhood, determine a new value system and an ideology of alternative formations; try to answer the questions lying in the heart of the crisis – what societal project shall be developed and what makes this society meaningful?; choose the way of peaceful revolution, i.e. revolution of values,  which will come from practice (from the street), with the new types of struggle and mobilization developed by the youth, as well as workers and the impoverished, because the existing intermediary institutions, such as trade unions, political parties, etc, are perceived as weakened and non-influential. (The recent developments in Europe come to prove this: mainly the increasing protest movement that was started by the youth/students in Greece and was against the ruling system and its representatives; student protests launched in December in France, and the parents and civic units joined them – the Government had to withdraw its educational legislative project, fearing from the Greek “infection”, but the protest rallies continue and a series of new rallies are already announced for January 2009.)

2.       OR, to blindly ignore the main reasons of the crisis, and gain a snowball effect, sticking into the circulation of panic and depression; instead of looking for real alternatives, stick the head into sand, like an ostrich, and not to see the reality and imperatives deriving from it - trying to save the system, once again make efforts towards REGULATING THE SYSTEM... thus, deepen the crisis even further and make the reactionary, disastrous consequences irreversible for the majority of the humanity, as the attempt of “saving” the system is taken at the cost of already oppressed and impoverished middle classes, workers and the deprived – though cutting wages, unendurably worsening working conditions, unemployment and homelessness, or the increasing fear of such perspectives, fundamental collapse of illusions, and especially the illusion of unlimited economic growth, insecurity towards the future and spiritual blindness.  All this and more will lead to uncontrollable outbursts, as the intermediary structures are weakened, too; will lead to morbid brutalities of finding and punishing a scapegoat; all sorts of xenophobia will increase, including racial, gender, religious...; this will lead of total violence, repressions, dreadful legitimacy of  authoritarian as well as fascist ruling methods; will lead to intra-national wars, particularly within the “developing” countries and people that have fallen behind the “profitable/useful progress”, and ... finally, this will bring to the SAME RESULT, which is the collapse of the system.

 

But this second option, which will be combined with paying a big human price, can be avoided and prevented, in case we are able to cleverly accept that the system has cracked and the crisis is the warning of its collapse; in case we are aware of the reasons and choose the first challenge and way – save the human being and nature, and, unlike we have done in the past, do not inseminate new human slaughters as well as do not serve some nations on the sacrificial altar, for the sake of formation of the new system/new world.

 

No doubt, we, the young, middle and old generations, have lived and are living an amazing turning historical period of the 20-21st centuries.  We only need to be conscious and build the new with a true choice of challenges and ways.  Though the birth will be painful and difficult, let us make its result a miracle, rather than a disaster.

 

*              *             *

Indeed, there are nations and countries, which are embarking on wonderful internal transformations in the moment of the crisis.  There are also nations and countries, which mainly accept the disasters and major blows of the crisis, and are sacrificed in one way or another.   Let us not give rise to passiveness and fatality, saying that “it has always been like this and will continue in the same way, nothing depends on us”.  No, many things depend on us, let us recall the true wise words of Mong Tseu: “S/He who has a just idea of providence, does not stand at the foot of a wall which is in danger of falling into ruins”.  

 

Is the progress and renaissance of internal transformations a unique ability, characteristic of YOUNG nations only, or do the OLD nations have it, too?

 

As of November 2008, it seems that the United States of America (USA), which has achieved great and irreversible historical progress, is giving a new idealism to democracy making it more fraternal and equal both internally and universally.  This is a clear step for rebirth, true to the ideals of its founders, that is – building the US as a new and ideal country, based on democracy and human rights.  This was embodied in the US Constitution, which can also be considered to be the first declaration of human rights, although at the time of its conception it excluded the rights of women and slaves… They have been forming a country based on ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity.  The United States, which has had centuries of slavery, slaughter and internal warfare, and has not fully reconciled itself with its history, is building its nation through dreams and Hollywood movies.

 

Following an innovative and expensive political campaign, 47-year-old Barack Obama won the November presidential elections in the US.  The newly elected president Barak Obama became a historical and universal symbol of renaissance, hope and especially of new idealism based on equality.  But the US today is more than unequal and unjust.  The class and racial logics are being confused.

 

During the recent years the African-American upper middle class has grown, but the poor and very poor have been ignored and the percentage of deaths among them was the highest (the disaster in New Orleans following Katrina storm was one of the examples of this reality).  Obama revived the idea that “The USA is the country where everything is possible”.  In reality, Obama is a representative of the meritocratic elite of the United States; but it is interesting that the American people are cautious of the elite, as they believe that the elite failed and betrayed them and conspiratorially brought about the depression of 1930s, as well as the current and past recessions.  The interesting peculiarity of Obama is that he is part of the American elite (he has graduated from the famous Harvard University, and was the first black editor-in-chief of the University’s authoritative journal), but after finishing the university he preferred social work in the poor districts of Chicago.  He is a man of knowledge, and at the same time he is a man of doubt who is not afraid to humbly pose questions. Indeed he should be an intellectual, since he speaks and listens, has the ability to be silent, to listen, and he has the virtue to doubt, question and search.  We can say that the newly elected President of the United States in an anti-elite intellectual.  He, and through him the US, symbolize change, renaissance and new idealism.  This already is an irreversible and indisputable achievement, regardless of what will happen in the future.  As for how long the symbol will continue to inspire people of the United States and the rest of the world is a different issue which needs to be thought with caution and carefully.

 

*              *             *

What restricts an ancient nation like Armenians from having a renaissance for the sake of welfare and prosperity of the people.  Why does a nation, which is a two-time world champion of the World Chess tournament, beating both the US and Israel, demonstrate an inability to record a human and national development of mind, ideals in the vital sphere of thinking, developing and implementing fair societal formations.  Is it so difficult for an old nation to ensure a decent standard of living for a population of 3 million in Armenia and about 140 thousand people in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabagh), less than 3.5 million people in total, when this nation – spread all over the - has great intellectual, spiritual as well as material and financial potential? Why is it that for centuries, and even now that we have had independent statehood for almost 20 years, the Armenian thought, Armenian soul, Armenian economy, and the Armenian society has not created a unique culture, has not developed and have never been revitalized, and thus, does not contribute to the rest of the world? Why, as an old nation, have we chosen degradation and senility? And why are we alienating ourselves and destroying the ecosystems that nourish us and give us national assets?  We are allowing ourselves to be cut off from our fatherland - that spiritual womb that feeds us – by emptying it, emigrating, perhaps even accepting its “concession” to others, and, starting from the liberated Armenian territories of Artsakh, tolerating an unfair and inhumane governance system, which is becoming worse and worse.  There is no doubt that there are pockets in our nation that search for ways to evolve, but will the body as a whole be able to adopt this path? Or will it continue to consider the problem outside of itself and to place the blame in the centuries of disasters, the small size of the nation, the unfavorable geography, and the youth of the state as a reason for its setbacks?  Isn’t it true that these “negative characteristics” that we have either inherited or have been imposed upon us have also been our assets?  The problem is in the viewpoint, self-value, faith and wisdom of the assessment and management of the potential virtues. 

 

As long as we hide our wound, ignore it and do not let it heal, we will continue to live and relate to the rest of the world in a diseased and mix state of self-humiliation, victimization, envy, and ignorant self-satisfaction; we remain passive and submitted and will be considered a candidate for sacrifice in the crises.

 

The challenge is ours. Let’s rise to the challenge!  With the wisdom of an old nation, let us be aware of our wound and heal it, let us acknowledge our setbacks and work to make them right.  During this transition of reconciling ourselves with our history we will rediscover ourselves; we will forgive and find peace of our souls, we will be reborn.  Let us not choose the route a nation that is humbly sacrificed to the crises, but that of a wise and mature nation that develops, creates, and leads meaningful progress.  We will not be afraid of crises and of others, we will not allow to be robbed, we will not run away and concede our fatherland, and we will not tolerate unfair and autocratic governments and authorities; we will mobilize our potential and will confidently develop the security and welfare of our people. We will take care and nourish our land, our nature, animals and wealth, we will be proud of our children, youth, workers, teachers, scientists, intellectuals and artists, our legitimate and accountable administrators and authorities.  Moreover, we will enrich the universal human thought and civilization with the experiences and achievements of our meaningful life, alternative social formation and struggles. In this way, Armenia will begin to constructively contribute to the world.

 

Why are we so weak-minded that we think this is an unachievable utopia?  This is exactly the type of thinking that holds us back.  Why is it so difficult to believe in a collective IDEAL, and want to be part of its invention, development and implementation, the struggle for its realization?  Is not it true that the fear,  tearing each other into pieces and endless escapes promise and hold a life full of suffering, as well as, an assimilation  of generations and loss of our human capital?!  Why would we take a meaningless route, when we can give meaning, make peaceful and reconcile our temporary visit in this world through creative search and experience of harmony with ourselves, our nation, humanity and the nature?

 

On the threshold of 2009, let us re-find ourselves, our nourishing land, nature and spirituality, let us care and be conscious of the cord connecting us to them and NOT CUT it.   Let us give birth to our collective myth, believing in the harmonic progress of ourselves, our nation, our fatherland, the humanity and the Earth; let us give a renewed meaning to the ideas of freedom, equality, fraternity and justice.  We can make the impossible possible if we believe, for the sake of our collective security, welfare and progress.

 

Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (IDHR)

Yerevan, December 2008


 

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