Ode to Joy or Banality of Evil

Today’s world may have fallen into one of the most dangerous situations in its entire history. The world as we know it seems to face death. And the reason for this is the discrepancy between the intellectual capabilities of mankind and its power in the context of globality. From now on, the entire humanity has one destiny. But who is able to manage it properly? What type of rationality do we need to make decisions of global scale?

Of course, the world political life has always been strange and outlandish. Just read memoirs of politicians and attentive observers of any epoch. It is impossible to avoid the impression of the striking nothingness of most politicians, and most of political life in general. Ecce homo, such is man. You can’t do anything about it. But still we live here and now, and today’s life, of course, is most impressive.

There are many strange things in the modern world indeed, leaving one with the feeling that so much can still be explained by stupidity and carelessness. It looks like some kind of baby talk in the context of global warming. And you can’t even see where the light and the mind can suddenly come from (ex oriente lux – for romantics) on the background of an incredible level of short-sightedness.

Here comes Brexit, which resulted from the initiative of former Prime Minister David Cameron. And the monstrous aggravation of the situation in the Middle East as a result of the desperate competition of the so-called great and not so great powers. And the continuing bloody conflicts in the post-war Europe (which are fortunately relatively sluggish so far) – as a result of the striking short-sightedness of European leaders of all stripes and countries. And the wild discord in the seemingly exemplary country, the United States, because of and around President Trump. And the obvious global climate change and the weak-minded inability to do something about it. And many, many other things. And if we add to this much more, which is not covered at all by the mainstream media and the most advanced bloggers, the picture will be quite apocalyptic.

It would, of course, be naïve to say that it had never happened before. Of course it did happen. Take at least the First World War. Or the capture of Troy by the Achaeans. Or the Thirty Years War. Or the horrors in Cambodia with the extermination of a substantial part of the population. In general, there is something to remember. But the problem is that there was a certain locality of conflicts, on the one hand, and the power of people, on the other, was low. That is, it was possible to hide out somewhere. In Latin America: for example, in Patagonia. Of course, someone travelled there (see the biography of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, who made his way from there during the First World War), but that required special and hard-to-do efforts.

Nevertheless, today’s world has become seriously global. There is nowhere to hide. Even on the small island of Nauru.

The reasons for the threatening nature of the current situation are, of course, not in the deadly thermonuclear weapons or the amazing capabilities of the new military technologies in general. First of all, there is nothing new about them, humanity has not invented anything new in principle for the last hundred years: what we see — in communications technology, and in computer industries, and in the art of war — are applied (although absolutely amazing in its form) clarifications of the fundamental discoveries made before the Second World War at the latest. It’s funny, but there is the same situation in art: we have amazingly skilful replicas of the first third of the twentieth century by artists, filmmakers, writers, and so on, but using new technical, chemical and physical means, or – more respectfully – updated solutions. Second, and most strikingly, the political thought has not been able so far to surpass Woodrow Wilson’s bold and audacious plan of the League of Nations. If in the technological sphere the implementation of old ideas has reached unprecedented perfection, then the political thought, political theory in the most obvious way not only did not develop, but seems to be degrading.

Hannah Arendt called her book on the relationship between man and politics The Banality of Evil. She believed that it was difficult for a person to resist evil, especially if it comes from recognized institutions and personalities who head them. In essence, she wrote that a person as such is not particularly freedom-loving and fair, although nothing human is alien to them: so, after the shootings and tortures of their victims, the NKVD officers and the Gestapo men, and even the fighters of Latin American death squads communicated warmly with companions, rescued them in difficult situations, shared their last, and even died for their fellow sadists.

In essence, the whole history of humanity is evidence of the fragility and instability of democratic institutions and values.

The nature of the current aggravation of world problems, the development and existence of humanity is rooted in the fact that we have reached such a state of affairs that all future, all progress is in the hands of a globalized humanity, which has not changed too much since the neolith. This means that without the formation of a rational plan for the development of the world and the creation of institutions for the implementation of these plans, the very existence of people is at risk. Of course, even in the case of the most tragic options, it is possible that someone will survive, but one will have to forget about the current rich, successful, powerful humanity.

Having received its future in its own hands, the humanity was not ready to manage its capabilities. Yes, of course, we see a lot of talented scientists (and even more cheaters and braggarts), inspired entrepreneurs (and even more greedy rascals), even some clever politicians (but much more egoistic, power-loving blind fools), but even together they are not able to provide implementation of reasonable world politics.

Immanuel Kant wrote that one of the most important conditions for the development of mankind is its adolescence, the acquisition of the mind, the ability to act rationally and organically. Probably, humanity is still growing up, but, as it seems to me, too slowly. This creates a threat.

Of course, people used to be even worse, but there was no such globality as today. The death of the Roman Empire did not have a special impact on the situation in China or the ancient settlements of the Andes. One civilization died, but others remained under the arms. This is not the case today. All people have the same fate. Either all of humanity will develop successfully, or it will all disappear, at least in its current capacity.

It cannot be said that no one understands this. On the contrary, there are many signs that people feel what is happening, they feel that the world needs new, more adult and rational people, new living rules and global self-government.

In a sense, a movement like #MeToo, the struggle for the rights of various minorities, for the preservation of cultural identity, all this and much more mean manifestation of people’s attempts to grope the future, find a way towards it, work out some kind of development algorithm. By the way, the contraposition of Trump and Obama is from the same series. On the one hand, there are attempts to learn how to act in the new global environment, on the other – how to shut out, to fix the current situation, which is not that bad, and to evade answering the inexorable question about what to do with the future.

Most importantly, an indispensable condition for a successful answer to the question about the future is the ability to understand what modern people should and can be, no matter if they are a clerk or a powerful state leader. What is the meaning of their existence, how does their unique individuality combine with their inevitable limitations, both intellectual and physical ones, with the frailty of their existence?

Billions of people making up the humanity obviously need new institutions of self-government — at least in order not to turn the planet into an overflowing garbage bin, where survival is possible only in special reservations for a few. They also need new tools of education, the formation of an adult and rational person who knows and wants to live among countless crowds of the same kind.

The End of Eternity
Humankind has been lucky for quite a while, and we still exist. We may be lucky this time again. In this case, we will manage to find the key solutions, the old elite players will strike a compromise with the new global elites, and the latter will take into account the need to significantly regulate global processes. There is hope that the artificial intellect by that time will come into full force and completely relieve us of the hassle of having to regulate the state of affairs in the world.
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© Charles Krupa/AP

The main character of the movie “Her” falls in love with artificial intelligence that only exists in the form of electronic impulses in computer networks. At first, the love affair developed successfully and romantically, but over time it turned out that the artificial intelligence named Samantha (the choice of the program itself) is so superior to the person that the latter is unable to bear this inequality, since Samantha is able to communicate not only with the main character, but also with thousands of other people, and to give each of them a reliable sense of closeness and warmth of interpersonal communication. It is not easier to come to terms with this than to understand how God can listen to the prayers of millions of people at the same moment and love each of them with sincerity. Of course, the artificial intelligence Samantha is a prototype of a human of the future, capable of a qualitatively new manifestation of love and sense of community of all people, a new balance between the unique individuality of each and the need for the coexistence of countless uniqueness. Unfortunately, each of them is mortal.

“Her” is, of course, science fiction, but not stupid one, grasping something very important in the modern crisis of human development.

Love for oneself and for those like oneself is the most important circumstance, an essential condition for the survival and development of mankind. Until now, we live in a hierarchical, vertically oriented world, in a world where few make decisions about many. But both the many and the few must change, acquire a new level of rationality and find a new technology for conflict resolution.

Is it possible? God only knows.

But if this is not possible, then sooner or later there will be some kind of conflict, something like Brexit, or an ethnic conflict in the Balkans, or the ongoing mess in the Middle East, or something else that will kindle the fire of a truly global conflict. And its finale will be monstrous.

So, we face a dilemma: it is either Ode to Joy, a poetic dream of the future unity of people and happiness for all, or the terrifying limitation and vicious circle of envy, hatred and sense of insignificance within the Banality of Evil.

To quote Schiller: Joy! A spark of fire from heaven, // Daughter from Elysium, // Drunk with fire we dare to enter, // Holy One, inside your shrine. // Your magic power binds together, // What we by custom wrench apart, // All men will emerge as brothers, // Where you rest your gentle wings.