We will be proposing a procedural vision with a broader context than the one that is usually used to view this type of analysis.
The aim is to take a social-historical look and try to discover how the era imprints its characteristics on the process we are living through.
Ortega said with respect to the era of the disillusioned soul (the era that began with the generation of ’98 and continues to the present day): We do not know what is happening to us, and that is what is happening to us.
Silo’s book Letters to my friends describes extensively the world of today and the near future, highlighting the social and personal crisis within a context of destructuring.
Let us look at some of its characteristics as we observe them today:
The distances of formation landscapes. As technology and social change accelerate, the distance between our social belief system (the filter through which we interpret the world) and current events increases, and we experience the collapse of these beliefs without the emergence of alternatives that allow us to understand what is happening. We often cling to the past, seeking refuge in a world that no longer exists, in an attempt to integrate what is happening.
Uncertain future. Compared to the future that was conceived 60, 40 or even 30 years ago, when a positive development of science, technology and social wellbeing was envisaged, today the image of a dystopia is installed, whether due to a climate crisis, a possible nuclear war, economic collapse or even now with the recent appearance of an artificial intelligence application that could eliminate millions of jobs. This image of the future today has at least two characteristics: it is uncertain, i.e., several possibilities are open, and on the other hand all these possibilities are equally catastrophic. It is a look that tends to colour everything, from the global to the personal.
Uncertain present. It is no longer the case, as it was 10 or 15 years ago, that the future is simply uncertain, but that the present is also confused and ambiguous. You read or hear a news story and you are not sure if it is true or false. The number and combination of elements that come into play to describe a situation, the manipulation of information, the increase in unstructured data, all contribute to diminishing the horizon of certainty of the common citizen who cannot trust anything that is a little beyond his or her immediate perception. The citizen feels overwhelmed, saturated by the volume of fragmented data. The responses they give are immediate, to the latest stimulus, often of an “urgent” nature. There is a withdrawal that tends to alienate individuals from the world around them, a social world that acquires characteristics of “suspicious” and fearful, the intentions of others are “suspicious”. There is mistrust. Individualism, rather than a social model, becomes a refuge from a hostile and incomprehensible world. The withdrawal into oneself generates a passive attitude towards the world in which one ends up denying one’s own body as a way of relating. This results in what we know as emotional or magical consciousness.
The growing neo-irrationalism. One of the consequences of the above, both on a personal and social level, is the advance of neo-irrationalism as an attempt to “stop the world”, elaborating easy looks and landscapes that explain the situation using old resources. Unfortunately, because of the altered consciousness that accompanies such mental dispositions, such irrationalisms are often expressed in fanatical and violent ways (denialism, terra-planning, climate change denial, fanatical religious groups).
These are some of the characteristics which, in our opinion, make up the situation we are living in and which, moreover, are the characteristics of any change of civilisation. They mark the moment of crisis that heralds the birth of something new.
Diagnosis and treatment
We are at a moment of destructuring within a closed global system. This destructuring goes through states, politics, the economy and reaches individuals, disintegrating the social fabric. It is precisely the recomposition of the social fabric from the neighbourhood units that Letters to my Friends suggests (particularly in Letter 10). Conversely, a broad social project cannot unfold from a dismembered social fabric.
Summing up and paraphrasing the argument of Letters to my friends, the crux or root of the crisis we are living is, precisely, destructuring and its expression in individuals and the social fabric.
Due to the growing social destructuring, these do not seem to be times of great social projects, but of humble work in neighbourhood units that develop demonstration effects, generating bonds of solidarity to the extent that they act coherently while maintaining a global vision.
In the Explanation to Letters to my friends, J. Valinsky writes:
The proposition is clear that every militant must forget the mirage of superstructural political power because that power is mortally wounded at the hands of destructuring. In the future, the President, the Prime Minister, the Senator, the Member of Parliament will be worthless. Political parties, guilds and trade unions will gradually move away from their human bases. The State will undergo a thousand transformations and only the big corporations and international finance capital will concentrate the world’s decision-making power until the collapse of the Parastate.
In the final paragraphs of Letter 10, Silo says:
Speaking in spatial terms, the minimum unit of action is the neighbourhood in which all conflict is perceived even if its roots are very distant. A centre of direct communication is a neighbourhood point where every economic and social problem, every problem of health, education and quality of life must be discussed. The political preoccupation is to prioritise this neighbourhood before the municipality, or the county, or the province, or the autonomy, or the country.
As soon as the neighbourhood units implement a humanist plan of municipal action and this municipality or commune organises its real democracy, the “demonstration effect” will be felt far beyond the limits of this bastion. It is not a question of a gradualism that should gradually gain ground until it reaches every corner of a country, but of showing in practice that a new system is working in one place.
By extension, we can apply the same approach to projects such as a new constitution. This applies to Constitutional Councillors, Constitutional Convention members, the counter-economy, voters and groups who, without an overall objective, assert their own claims, unconcerned with the bigger picture.
In synthesis, we think that Letters to my friends, completed 30 years ago, gives us the interpretative keys to understand and act in this epochal crisis and we believe that now is the time to concentrate on the recomposition of the social fabric as an essential task. Some experiences in this sense show us an accelerated social disintegration, although we do not know if this is going from bad to worse, or if the timid attempts to recompose the social fabric allow us to say that the first dawn of a new epoch is already in sight…
Nothing coherent can be done if the social fabric is disintegrated, so let us set about this humble but essential task.
Carmen Gloria Ayala, Oscar Cerda, Micky Hirsch, Marcos Aviñó, Adolfo Carpio
Centre for Humanist Studies – Tókarev Institute
Los Manantiales Park, Chile, April 2023