By Boaventura de Sousa Santos
Someday, when the time in which we live can be characterized, the main surprise will be that everything was lived without before or after, replacing causality with simultaneity, history with news, memory with silence, the future with the past. , the problem for the solution. Thus, the atrocities could well be attributed to the victims; the aggressors were decorated for their bravery in the fight against attacks; the thieves were judges; the great politicians may have had a minuscule moral quality compared to the magnitude of the consequences of their decisions. It was a time of excesses experienced as deficiencies; the speed was always less than it should be; destruction always justified by the urge to build. Gold was the foundation of everything, but it was sitting on a cloud. All were enterprising until proven otherwise, but proof to the contrary was forbidden by the evidence in favor. There were misfits, although the misfit was hardly distinguished from the adaptation: so many were the concentration camps of heterodoxy scattered around the city, by bars, by discos, by drugs, by Facebook.
Public opinion became the same as private opinion of the person who had the power to publicize it. The insult became the most effective means of the ignorant to be intellectually equal to the wise.
The way through which packaging invented its own products and there were no products outside of them was developed. For this reason, the landscapes became tourist packages and the fountains and springs took the shape of a bottle. He changed the name of things so that they would forget what they were. Inequality was renamed merit; misery, austerity; hypocrisy, human rights; uncontrolled civil war, humanitarian intervention; the civil war mitigated, democracy. The war itself was renamed peace in order to be infinite. Guernica also became a mere painting by Picasso so as not to hinder the future of the eternal present. It was a time that began with a catastrophe, but soon managed to turn catastrophes into entertainment. When a great catastrophe struck, it seemed to be just a new series.
All times live with tensions, but this began to function in permanent imbalance, both in the collective and in the individual sphere. The virtues were cultivated as vices and the vices as virtues. The enhancement of the virtues or the moral quality of someone ceased to reside in any criterion of their own merit to become the simple reflection of the debasement, degradation or denial of the qualities or virtues of others. Darkness was believed to illuminate light, and not the other way around.
Three powers operated at the same time, none democratic: capitalism, colonialism, and patriarchy; served by various sub-powers, religious, media, generational, ethnic-cultural, regional. They were so strong that it was difficult to speak of any of them without incurring the wrath of censorship, the demonization of heterodoxy, the stigma of difference.
Capitalism, which was based on unequal exchanges between supposedly equal human beings, disguised itself so well as reality that the name itself fell into disuse. Workers' rights were considered little more than excuses for not working. Colonialism, based on discrimination against human beings who were only alike in different ways, had to be accepted as something as natural as aesthetic preference. The alleged victims of racism and xenophobia, rather than victims, were always subjects of provocation. In turn, patriarchy, which was based on the domination of women and the stigmatization of non-heterosexual orientations, had to be accepted as something as natural as a moral preference shared by almost everyone. Limits had to be imposed on women, homosexuals and transsexuals if they did not know how to stay within their own limits.
Never have general and universal laws been so violated with impunity and selectively applied, with such apparent respect for legality. The primacy of law coexisted pleasantly with the primacy of illegality. It was normal to deconstitutionalize the Constitutions in his name.
The most radical extremism were immobility and stagnation. The voracity of images and sounds created static eddies. They lived obsessed with time and lack of time. It was a time that knew hope, but at one point found it very demanding and exhausting. In general, he preferred resignation. Those dissatisfied with such resignation had to emigrate. Their destinations were three: to go abroad, where the economic remuneration of resignation was better and that is why it was confused with hope; go inside, where hope lived in the streets of indignation or died in domestic violence, in common crime, in the silenced rage of the houses, of the waiting in the emergency rooms of hospitals, of prisons, and of the anxiolytics and antidepressants, and the third group was between inside and outside, waiting, where hope and lack of it alternated like the lights of the traffic lights.
Everything seemed to be on the verge of explosion, but it never exploded because it exploded, and whoever suffered with the explosions was either dead or poor, underdeveloped, old, backward, ignorant, prejudiced, useless, crazy; in any case, disposable. It was the vast majority, but an insidious optical illusion made it invisible. The fear of hope was so great that hope ended by being afraid of itself and left its followers in confusion.
Over time, the town became the biggest problem, simply because there were so many more people. The big question became what to do with so many people who contributed nothing to the well-being of those who deserved it. Rationality was taken so seriously that a final solution was meticulously prepared for those who produced less, for example, the old. In order not to violate environmental codes, when it was not possible to eliminate them, they were biodegraded. The success of this solution meant that it was later applied to other disposable populations, such as immigrants, young people from the peripheries, drug addicts, and so on.
The simultaneity of the gods with humans was one of the easiest conquests of the time. It was enough to market them and sell them in the three existing heavenly markets: that of the future beyond death, that of charity and that of war. Many religions emerged, each one similar to the defects attributed to rival religions, but all agreed to be what they most claimed not to be: a market for emotions. Religions were markets and markets were religions.
It is strange that an age that began only with a future (all previous catastrophes and atrocities were proof of the possibility of a new future without catastrophes or atrocities) has ended only with a past. When it became excessively painful to think about the future, the only time available was the past. As no great historical event was ever foreseen, this era too ended up taking everyone by surprise. Despite being generally accepted that the common good could not fail to be based on the luxurious well-being of the few and the miserable discomfort of the great majority, there were those who did not agree with such normality and rebelled. The dissatisfied were divided into seeking three strategies: improve what there was, break with what there was, not depend on what there was.
Seen today, from such a distance, it was obvious that the three strategies should be used in an articulated way, as a division of tasks in any complex work, a kind of division of labor of nonconformity and rebellion. But at that time this was not possible because the rebels did not see that, being a product of the society against which they were fighting, they would have to begin by rebelling against themselves, transforming themselves first before wanting to transform society. Their blindness caused them to divide on what should unite and unite on what should divide them. That is why what happened happened. And how terrible it was is well inscribed in the way we are trying to heal the wounds of the flesh and of the spirit at the same time that we reinvent both.
Why do we persist, after all? Because we are relearning to feed on the harmful grass that the past era most radically tried to eradicate, resorting to the most powerful and destructive mental herbicides: utopia.