The large Annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi is finished. To most observers, it will be remembered by the bright statements of the President of Russia and concerns about the fate of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who previously took part in the Valdai Club conferences.
Every successful conference always has some kind of leitmotif, a thread that permeates all the events and links everything together. At the 15th Annual meeting such a leitmotif was the Valdai Club report, titled “Living in a Crumbling World”.
For many experts, it seemed too gloomy and even naturalistic. If we live in a crumbling world, they said, then, consequently, we live in a kind of a building that is crumbling in front of our eyes and turning into ruins along with us. I remember the arguments of a well-known German architect about the value of the ruins. According to his logic, you have to construct a building in such a way, so when the building is beautifully destroyed, its ruins should make a pleasant impression on the descendants. Just like now, many sensitive tourists admire the ruins of medieval castles on the hills of Thuringia.
However, not everyone blamed the authors for being too pessimistic since they believed that alarmism is necessary, that it is better to keep being anxious and thus more careful. In fact, never before the people lived so well. The power of humanity is amazing, technological skills are unique. For example, a million refugees moved to Europe - and nothing happened. Even if they amounted five times more, Europe would feed everyone and build housing that would further stimulate the European economy. Generally, humanity lived in peace for several decades. Yes, there are wars, there are “hot” conflicts - for example, in the Middle East, even in Europe. But they are still local and imply low human losses, although one must never forget, that the life of every person is priceless.
This well-being is precisely the worrying thing, because it seems that many politicians and entire elites treat the world order with unprecedented frivolity. It seems to them that it is so strong and so stable that any tricks, any stupidity are not able to shaken this stability. You can impose sanctions, declare trade wars, threaten to the right and to the left. Moreover, we live not just in the world of “fake news”, not just in the world of “post-truth”, but in something like post-humanism, in which the outlines of reality are lost completely.
Of course, the most important question is what arises instead of the current crumbling world? What the new building will look like if the present one is showered? What forces will combine its elements?
About a hundred years ago, when World War I crashed the former world’s building with large-caliber howitzers and toxic gases, everyone thought that states and other nations ended and united humanity, no matter capitalist or socialist one, would take over the globe and the reason will be the only religion.
Everything turned out wrong. States still rule the show, presidents are more important than anyone, prime ministers, kings, emperors and chairmen – these are the ones who rule the world.
It is even more surprising that we were witnesses of church schisms with serious consequences not of spiritual kind only, but quite material, like shrapnel and volley fire.
The 21st century is still at the beginning, it is only 18 years old. So to say, it is the age of majority. The century and people will have to live for many more years. These years could be spent comfortably, and both Russians and non-Russians will have to try so. In general, we need a program for the 21st century, which should include several very important elements. First, the rules of conduct for everyone, both for private individuals and states.
One of the most urgent issues is what is the most important thing in the foundation of a world building? Apparently, these are not the technology, and even the military ones, despite all its importance. It is culture, a system of values and knowledge allowing a person to act, to make decisions and to cooperate with others.
The controversies are strong, but there is no clear answer, how various values should relate to each other. Who is the man above all? A patriot? A believer? A family man? A city dweller? Black or white? Should he live and work for the benefit of the entire mankind? For his country? For his family? There are no clear answers to these questions. For Christians, in theory, there should be no difference between "Hellenes" and "Jews", but in practice this is not the case. Thus, there is no doubt that the 21st century will be filled with compromises, and people will fluctuate between the countless number of their identities, choosing one or another depending on the situation.
It is properly self-understanding, human self-determination that will be the most important regulator of development. The fact is that today we are able to study humanity; we can simulate any situations and predict how people will behave in this or that situation. This inspires optimism.
Of course, living in the crumbling world is not easy. It is even more difficult to construct a new one from the ruins of the old world. However, it is possible. With all the risks, with all the likelihood of failures, there are also quite good chances to succeed, so the future world would be completely acceptable and, perhaps, even more comfortable than the present one. The transformation of cultures will lead to the improvement of the skills of the community life; we will become more skillful in communicating with each other. Technology will make life healthier, longer and more interesting. The art of world governance will improve; crises (if they happen) and their consequences will be less destructive.
In general, a program for the 21st century exists. What will happen in reality, some of us will see.