Academic journal article Journal of Markets & Morality

Against Apathy: Reconstruction of a Cultural Identity

Academic journal article Journal of Markets & Morality

Against Apathy: Reconstruction of a Cultural Identity

Article excerpt

Perhaps it is out of my decrepitude that joy and creation come.

--Irwin Peter Russell

Although the contemporary crisis has some specific technical origins, certain behavioral changes in social and interpersonal relations gave revealing warning signs of impending instability. The symptoms, which are still present today, can be found in a deep disaffection with personal responsibility and civic engagement, exemplified by a growing disconnection between individuals' values and their course of action. (1) Moreover, the digitalization of every public and private sphere (2) that leads to an impressive flow of information confuses the individual who already feels lost in contemporary society and does not favor any kind of fixed reference point. (3)

Throughout human history, there have been ages of instability and transition that have anticipated paradigm shifts or changes of perception in economic and geopolitical relations. These times are coupled with a physiological sense of helplessness or decadence: an aboulia of will or societal apathy. (4) Nowadays we witness the radical novelty of an epidemic structural crisis on a global scale condemning one's sense of belonging to an indefinite and uncertain fate.

The most distinctive and worrying aspect of this is undoubtedly the "necessity of speed" through which everything becomes confused not only in the private sphere but also in the international arena. This process has ancient origins and its devastating consequences were anticipated more or less precisely by several authors over the past few decades. A few years ago, the French scholar Paul Virilio had an inspired idea, the advent of "dromocracy" that he defined as the importance of speed in interpersonal relations and political decisions. This feature is not to be underestimated. (5) We have the impression that all processes happen so quickly that they fail to lay any structural foundation for the future.

Processes happen so rapidly that the individual is unable to grasp their deep influences and is transported, unconsciously and aimlessly, as if carried away downstream by a river. One's personal identity becomes either submissive or that of a prisoner: Freedom itself seems to be a fictitious function and runs the risk of being overwhelmed by the current. We run continuously without a destination, risking the annihilation of our being and the loss of our internal compass of orientation. Faced with this omnipotent sense of fluidity, of immanent appeals and in a context of an exaggerated positivism, in which every thought beyond the material assumes the value of an empty tautology or a meaningless representation, the person seems to have no choice but a compulsive and disordered satisfaction of his basic techno-needs.

This continuous adaptability is a natural cause of frustration and disaffection with a long-term result of the deconstruction of identity and a preference for nonbinding forms of instantaneous gratification. This paradigm is self-perpetuating and self-referential. It seems that a pathological massification has drastically reduced, with a mechanism as subtle as subliminal, the "freedom of thought" filling this insurmountable gap with a kind of materialistic narcosis. (6) It is evident that this process began in the last century--father of profoundly antihuman philosophical theories--and it is not a coincidence that Jose Ortega y Gasset, prominent Spanish philosopher and precursor of many obscure aspects of postmodernity, did not hesitate to assert that

   The direction of society has been taken over by a type of man who
   is not interested in the principles of civilisation. Not of this or
   that civilisation but--from what we can judge today--of any
   civilisation. Of course, he is interested in anaesthetics,
   motor-cars and a few other things. But this fact merely confirms
   his fundamental lack of interest in civilisation. For those things
   are merely its products, and the fervour with which he greets them
   only brings into a stronger relief his indifference to the
   principles from which they spring. … 
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