The current global avalanche of changes that are unprecedented at the political, social, and economic level seem to prove that we are living at a historical turning point. For example: the rise of a new form of global terrorism, with an army and control of large areas in the Middle East, daily waves of immigrants and refugees that Europe is refusing to assist, palpable global warming and climate change without any sign of a solution, a global economic crisis and the erosion of social and labor rights, the rise of the apparently racist new right on the old continent and the confirmation of a racist with fascist leanings such as Donald Trump as the leader of a great world power.
The analysts and media are unable to come up with conclusive responses or explanations, and the average citizen is bewildered, as if the waterfall of events were just an inexplicable game of luck, one in which you can only sit and wait for an abrupt end. However, some analysts point to historical similarities with World War II, which arose as a product of the economic crisis of 1929 amid the rise of economic inequalities that spurred the ascent of fascism, and which, as we all know, ended up as the most savage war in our history.
The wave of conspiracy theories which hope to shine light on our hazy future claim coordinated attempts to bring about a new world order, the imminent arrival of aliens or even the repetition of the astronomical events which occurred just before the great war in order to explain the accumulation of ominous events. The only certainty is that every effect has a cause, and perhaps if we simply analyze the behavior of human beings over the last several decades, we might be able to find the causes.
Universal laws always come true, and although logic may seem to guide us, we are dazzled more by cultural inertia, context and human feelings than by reason. In this, we lose sight of a principle declared in Hermeticism* and confirmed by science: “Every cause has a consequence, and every consequence has a cause.”
It is customary for our institutions and managers to address only the most evident external signs of a problem. This strategy wins elections, with election campaigns, political ads and announcements aimed at citizens and the media that promise a brave and vehement fight against our visible enemies: the failing education system, drugs, war, unemployment, evictions, city planning, the economy, culture or the environment.
Notwithstanding, it doesn’t take digging much deeper to realize that the quantity and complexity of effects point to a twisted root that we rarely attempt to unravel. What is more, the cloaking of these symptoms then becomes a genuine strategy that reveals the lack of an earnest desire to reach an authentic and lasting solution, heroism which would be the act of a mature and wise society. However, our society does not see the possibility of profound reflection, because that would force it to make changes that affect the structure of its very identity. For our contemporary civilization, one based on the law of pure capitalist exchange, that is a blasphemy that is intolerable and that must be punished by persecuting the media and labeling those who dare to point to the original roots of a problem as “enemies” and “subversives.”
According to this rhetoric, Africa and developing nations suffer from poverty, from constant armed conflict and from social and economic inequality, all because of bad leaders who don’t know how to properly administer their bountiful natural resources – not because the large corporations of the First World contribute arms and surreptitious assistance to different factions in order to generate profit once they have obtained the rights to exploit their resources.** And by the same token, immigrants flood across the borders because they are naive youngsters who believe that they can easily obtain everything that they have seen on television, and because they have a desire for adventure, not because of extreme need, war, or the fact that a complete absence of other possibilities leaves them no other option.
There are endless examples of this type of rhetoric, which feeds on fear and prejudice that have been strengthened by economic crisis. These arguments revive old nationalisms and xenophobia. The source of unemployment and cuts to social welfare isn’t the ruthless pursuit of profit which drives the outsourcing of industries to countries with more lenient legislation and a lower cost of labor while the financial system is always rescued and triumphs. Rather, it is the arrival of the foreigner who has come to take your job. And not just that; it also generates delinquency, because those who arrive aren’t good people. We forget that theft has an economic, rather than a cultural origin, and that petty theft, which is based on pure necessity, does not occur in the wealthier classes.
In this darkly uncertain era, amplified by the dizzying array of sources, opinions, news reports and experts in the current technological, political and economic situation, the reality of the day to day can seem indecipherable, as if historical events were products of random luck and coincidence, and not of steps initiated by humanity and carried out by politicians and companies.
As an example, in 1995, when I lived in Mexico for the first time, the generalized poverty and the abysmal social divide there surprised me, particularly because the people of the country seemed to accept it as something inevitable. Sometimes you could sense an internal rage against the situation, but there were no complaints, although I always thought that that social climate was a pressure cooker that would vent the pressure in some way or another. Today, the power of drug cartels and their control of large areas of the country is a direct consequence of the seeds that were sown for decades by an economically unbalanced society, the fruit of which is now being seen. The same correlation can be applied to the war in Iraq and the rise of the Islamic State, or to the poverty imposed on developing nations and waves of immigration, or to climate change after decades of abusing the environment.
Actions create consequences for societies as well as individuals. If the consequences of our behavior are positive, we reap the rewards, but if they are not, it is foolish to blame bad luck. The modus operandi of the contemporary world is not to argue with the landlord who, faced with a leak in the roof, chooses only to use containers to contain the dripping until the whole building comes tumbling down.
The problems and the consequences that we are currently experiencing are the product of our leaders’ tendency to defer decision-making and the creation of tangible solutions to the future. In the end, we all pay the cost for this short-sightedness and we will continue to suffer the consequences in the future unless, through some miracle, we wake up.
*Editor’s note: Hermeticism is a religious and philosophical tradition based upon writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, dating from ancient times.
**First World is a term that describes countries of the world that are well developed economically and industrially and that have a relatively high standard of living.