The truth must be constantly repeated, because error is also constantly being proclaimed around us, and not only by individuals, but also by multitudes. Johann W. Goethe
The new millennium has raised a new problem in understanding the future of Euro-American and world civilization. Until recently, many saw it in full bloom, but in recent years there has been an increasing number of disturbing reflections on the prospects and future of humanity, on its prospects, why, by what and to what extent they are threatened, and there have also been increasing voices about the self-destructive behaviour of man. The contemporary world is surrounded not only by a plethora of material and immaterial values, but also by previously unsuspected dangers. Communication technologies are developing rapidly and the amount of information is constantly increasing. It is true, half-true and false, and is therefore increasingly difficult to navigate.
This is above all the result of the centuries-long struggle between critical or critical-realist human thinking and uncritical thinking, between judgment and non-judgment, and between good and evil, since good can only be created on the basis of true knowledge
The history of critical-realist thought can be seen as something uninteresting, but those who penetrate it just a little will discover a fascinating world and experience similar feelings to a spectator watching a thrilling war film. If the ideological struggles of philosophers, theologians and other thinkers were not as dramatic as those of war, they were at least comparable to them in their significance – they were about no less than the struggle for the future destiny of human communities. Many thinkers experienced them as powerfully as war struggles, and their ideas often became war struggles.
What is perhaps incomprehensible, even if only apparently, is this: over the long millennia of evolution and despite the vast amount of true and irrefutable knowledge that has been achieved, there are still a large number of problems that humanity has not yet solved or has not been able to put into practice. An example is the biblical Ten Commandments. At the time of its inception it had its positive aspects, but even in the nearly two and a half thousand years since its inception, mankind has not made much progress in fulfilling its positive aspects.
The ideological achievements of ancient Greek and Jewish democracy share a similar fate, and the achievements of the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment and Modernism are no better off. Although they have many times seemed to be permanently valid, they have been repeatedly “overcome” by reaction. The present European and North American democracies are also losing out as they cease to resist the pseudo-democracy of the New World Order and are exposed to external pressure from newly rising autocratic forces. The existing struggle of ideologies has more or less been replaced by a struggle for global power domination.
Humanity faces the consequences of highly uneven economic growth and the impact of geopolitical change. Material insecurity affects individuals and many areas through shortages of food, health care, water and other adverse phenomena such as environmental pollution, excessive population growth and many others. Traditional political governments and governing institutions are struggling with the corrupting influences of powerful monopolies and mafias.
There is a general deterioration in the culture of thought and the resulting morality. There is a decline in the prevailing views and actions of the people; religious and non-religious ideologies bless fratricidal struggles. Faith in progress has disappeared and the idea that man is homo sapiens has become at least distorted, not least because nature is beginning to oppose him and because of him.
Not least among the threatening perspectives are the worldviews of postmodernism, neoliberalism, neoconservatism and neocommunism. Postmodernism suggests, in a variety of contexts and to varying degrees, that truth and goodness can hardly, if ever, be known, and that there are no general principles or binding principles. Under its banner, the arbitrariness of right-wing neoliberal individualism, subjectivism and egoism spreads, giving way to demagoguery and lies. Unsubstantiated and untrue information prevails in large numbers, which is why the contemporary world is described as post-factual.
Ideologies have always played a key role in human history and will continue to do so in the future. They are of greater importance than philosophy and theology, if only because most philosophers and theologians have often been wrong and have largely wasted their intellectual and knowledge potential in trying to solve problems that were not central to the life of human beings and human communities. If during the 18th and 19th centuries it was increasingly heard that “God is dead”, since the beginning of the 20th century it has been increasingly heard that “philosophy is dead”.
Today, humanity is living in a period of decline. Almost all previous ideologies and religions are proving to be obsolete. The values of democracy and progress are understood in too many different ways, and there is a need to formulate a new, broad and coherent set of programmatic ideas, values and principles, based on the proven insights of past thinkers.
(from the forthcoming book The Twilight and Dawn of Democracy)
This article was translated from the original published in magazine Přítomnost.
published: 16. 1. 2023