The Roman Philosopher Lucius Anneaus Seneca (4 BCE-65 CE) was perhaps the first to note the universal trend that growth is slow but ruin is rapid. I call this tendency the "Seneca Effect."

Friday, April 23, 2021

Everything is Illuminated: The New Middle Ages

 The Enlightened Middle Ages: Prepare for a New Way of Running Society

The concept of "back to the Middle Ages" is becoming more and more widespread. Indeed, we must begin to think seriously not so much about a "return" to the Middle Ages but a "New Middle Ages" that takes its best features from the old, in particular the management of society based on justice and not on violence, the decentralization of governance structures, the economy based on local resources, and economic stability (although not of the population). That's why I have renamed my Italian blog "Electric Middle Ages." Here is a translation of a post that Luisella Chiavenuto published first in "Humanism and Science", where she goes to the core of the problems we face nowadays. (boldface highlights are mine).


By Luisella Chiavenuto

Despite its success and power, the credibility and dignity of science are at an all-time low. It is no longer a question of opposing only the management of the covid crisis, but also - and at the same time - opposing a scientistic and dehumanizing technocracy that in the absence of opposition will not step back - regardless of the covid and its variants. In a context of evaporation of jobs, the social order will most likely be based on an extended citizenship income - and subordinated to certain social behaviors. This is to maintain minimum levels of consumption and consensus - and combined with further development and updating of the current economic model - which is destroying the web of life everywhere.


The perspective is therefore long-term: resistance and elaboration of new models of thought and social organization, aimed at rediscovering the cultural roots of the past, and at the same time oriented towards a future with a human face - in which theoretical and practical knowledge intertwine and they evolve freely, without space-time preconceptions.

It is also important to support the political transversality of intent, which to a small or large extent already exists in people, within every organization. This is to slow down systemic collapses, thus giving time to the emergence of organizations that are radically different from the current ones. And remembering that this transversality exists above all outside parties and institutions - in the majority of the "politically desperate".

To allow maximum flexibility - and "ontological" confidence - in responding to the systemic collapses in progress, one can perhaps think of a sort of "enlightened Middle Ages" in which - to quote A. Langer (note: Langer was an Italian ecologist and intellectual) and others before him - all this is sought which is "slow, sweet and profound" - in a context of material poverty that will be for many an obligatory and painful condition, but at the same time an opportunity for a different rebirth.


In summary, one could speak of resistance against a Technoscience devoted to the bioinformatics and bioengineering reprogramming of nature, and of life, in all its forms - a techno-knowledge in the grip of a delirium of omnipotence and exaltation, in its dark and desperate background,

A new Humanism of Complexity can be opposed to this Reductivist Technoscience, which also includes the best of scientific thought - but on a level of equal cultural and political dignity. And with the awareness both of the greatness, and of the dark side, and of the crimes, which are woven into all cultures and all cultural currents - obviously including all contemporary ones. A Humanism of Complexity, therefore, based on a Wisdom that can be defined as non-dual, as it is oriented to the recomposition of the fractures that cross and fragment our life, our psyche, reality in all its interconnected levels.


Therefore, the clash between opposing cultural paradigms must be, at the same time, also a human and intellectual encounter between people where possible - and beyond the impossible - to overcome and recompose the lacerations. This also means supporting both the freedom of movement for everyone in every place, and the freedom to remain in their land and culture of origin. Ultimately, it means striving to radically overcome the friend/enemy dichotomy, and having the courage to speak of empathy and universal fraternity, as an ethical and political ideal - within a horizon of collaborating bio-diversity.

Ethical ideal, but also intellectual acquisition, unifying and not naive - capable of attempting global and local responses to problems that can only be faced on both interconnected sides. Are we up to these tasks? Obviously not, nobody is, it is useless to insist .... and then we can be - and do - what we can and can, accepting our limits.  But also considering that we are a mystery to ourselves and that therefore our individual and collective resources are ultimately unfathomable, like life itself.

Luisella Chiavenuto April 2021

1 comment:

  1. I like concepts of the "transversality" of society. Although it is a vague notion, rather like "mateship" of soldiers, used to good effect by nations going to war. No more or less our human social nature to find means of cooperation against a common enemy. But it easily fails. The 150 people limit, our social cognitive capacity, Dunbar' s number comes to mind. The point of having local, and not so dense populations, limited mobility, a "medieval lifestyle" is for complexity better handled by our limited social handling capacity.
    There is no easy remedy for our very poor record of achieving or understanding "universality". It is good to hope that human cultural survivors may do some natural selection on our culture, throw out the trash, and reassess who we really are.
    Today, I played in a small brass group, to help provide the standard hymns and anthems for two morning ANZAC services. The first started pre-dawn in the cold. Each year this happens in Australia, the same rituals with slight variation. Our young soldiers went "heroically" to their slaughter. The tragedy and losses of our past wars is given a mention. The long list of "heroic" conflicts over the past century get named, some still ongoing. The bigger the slaughter, the more chance of being remembered.
    Murder and heroism always gets highlighted, no doubt by all the national celebrations of once opposed fighting nations. The mutual sociopathy was engineered by leaders, to justify life risk and need to kill. There are touches of manipulative psychopathy on all sides, and national populations contribute by their susceptibility to the authoritarian delivery of it, often with additional compulsion.
    The inculcation of national patriotism is a constant desperate need of state systems.
    I presume that city - civilization design has advantaged the traits of psychopathy, defined as the ability of the ruling privileged to not feel the moral weight of consequences of decisions and lies on those we manipulate and advise, as their rules are opaque to the enslaved. Machiavelli recorded his understanding of the workings of his times, and history has more examples than I can hope to understand. This has two simple effects, in war or peace between generations. The best manipulators can have more wealth and offspring, and those with no choice, or those most easily manipulated into direct war conflict are more likely to die early in their reproductive career. Proving this is a significant trend over 5,000 years would be difficult. Success and holding status, partly in manipulation or force, is a key factor for males in getting and subjugating mates. Both psychopathy and tendency towards belief, as well as systematized religion, could be an adaptation of society to having large numbers of people and population density. More con-men who can exude trustability, more marks that will be betrayed.
    It is not so strange, that science will be misused by the manipulators, and sometimes scientists are also in with the manipulating classes. Also that resistance to manipulation may buildup in culture and survivors of past conflicts, especially when the leadership promises seem to be going sour. But population desperation created by resource shortages, brings on the need to create popular targets, system manipulators cook up easy scape-goat targets. It likely that collapse will bring on yet more zero-sum destructive conflicts designed to reduce the masses of people dependent on the states, that have become "surplus" to carrying capacity. Only after population pressure on survival resources, water and food, settles, does some sort of sustained steady state low resource, locally wise-use society become achievable.