Sunday, February 21, 2016

The abandonment of knowledge

The main issue of our time – or the issue from which all the other issues depend and derive – consists in the fact that without real knowledge any society is lost in self-deception and in the delirium of a hyper-inflated ego: the Delphic maxim “know thyself” meant also “know your proper measure in life” and this teaching was, until not so long ago, one of the key elements of education. The pernicious abandonment/destruction of real knowledge witnessed by our age is certainly a typical trait of all declining societies throughout history. The contemporary “cultural deification of wealth”, as observed by Chris Hedges, is possible only in a society where man has lost his proper measure and horizon in life (Ne quid nimis, nothing in excess) and knowledge has been turned into a mere training or an access key to a higher position in a society whose streets have been paved with cruelty, superficiality, stupidity, and madness. Contemporary academics are certainly subservient to the status quo – they have to be, otherwise they could not be in their positions – but they are subservient to elites that are not true elites (or was President George W. Bush in any way, shape, or form a member of the true elite, rather than a menial member of a mediocre tribe of oligarchs?). In such a scenario it is not a mere coincidence that Larry Summers was once the President of Harvard just to mention one among far too many examples. In 2005 I published the book “La Società del Contrario” (“The Upside down Society”) regarding the contemporary betrayal of knowledge by Academia, trying to elaborate on some of the dangers of turning knowledge into a mere commodity and students into clients.
The immense difference between our society and all others of the past is that we possess terrifying, and somewhat unthinkable, weapons of mass destruction with the clear and present capability to wipe out a large part of all the species on the planet, ours included, of course. We might be a “dying civilization,” but this time our decay will coincide with the annihilation of our species and the possible destruction of the planet, so we should have a huge motivation to start thinking about our decline and act upon this realization! The only way for our society to move away from the madness we have sometimes shaped and sometimes been forced into, is through cultural awareness that is always human awareness, and this is impossible while knowledge remains just a “useful commodity” managed by the servants of the powerful. Hope is reasonable only if real reason, i.e., not a reason that is just propaganda, manipulation, and exploitation, or a reason of material assessments shaped by the hammer of power, regains its due and proper place in the lives and the hearts of the people.