It will never not be worth reiterating. Few sensible things may be said regarding the future. Not even with all the computational power in the world would we be safe from error, for reality is infinitely more complex than our ability to represent it. However, there’s the past. Much like the angel of history, whom Walter Benjamin believed he’d seen in a painting by Paul Klee (see my article in DN, 18-01-2020), we’re obliged to search for a meaning – through the interpretations of the ruins, sufferings, the forgotten things, the illusions and the injustices of the past – that may help us to understand how we got to where we are. Without meaning, we’d be left paralysed. We are creatures – as Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), a wise survivor of the Holocaust, taught us – who need semantics just as much as they need the bread in their bellies. Within this planetary confinement, following the development of COVID-19 as one reads reports on the death tolls of a war, we learn that the “normality” the most distracted among us wish to return to in full force was naught but a long state of inebriation.

Today, we’re beset on all sides by an invisible “thing” (the virus isn’t even a proper living being), forged through zoonosis in a cruel and miserable wet market of wild animal carcasses in Wuhan. The fact that the world could be so succinctly defined, perhaps in the antechamber of a greater abyss, after the virus had spread at cruising speed via the thousands of intercontinental flights which covered the skies, was only a novelty in terms of the details. In essence, the danger and the preventive treatment were anticipated, not only by scientists, but also by Bill Gates and Obama—utterly in vain.

Now, having stumbled out of inebriation, we lie on the floor, attempting to understand what became of us. In these forty years throughout which globalisation and neoliberalism became synonymous, when States limited themselves to paving the way for the efficiency of the markets, connivant with all the abuses, there existed a promise of universal happiness.

The alliance forged between neocapitalism and technoscience—which became the new “opium of the people”—discovered its faithful heralds, making superstition out of science: Bjørn Lomborg, evading the aggravation of the global climate crisis; Steven Pinker, mimicking Dr. Pangloss in his description of the best of all possible worlds; Ray Kurzweil, foretelling a technological “singularity”; Nick Bostrom, one among the many prophets of transhumanism, prophesising the digital hyperconsciousness, or the colonisation of the galaxy by our AI machines; the restless Elon Musk, placing his bets on Mars for future colonisation…

From the digital utopia, we’ve arrived at the shores of the bitter analogue nightmare of reality. One of illness, of anguish, of vulnerability, of unjust and entropic economics, of bad governance. We’re mortals once more upon an Earth which was one of “joy” in the final, wonderful poetry of Ruy Belo. Today, the Garden of Eden is wounded from within, by the destruction of the environment, by climate change, by stupidity and animosity. That’s where we must struggle, together, for survival. With eyes wide open.

Viriato Soromenho-Marques

Traduzido do Português para Inglês por João Lança Carvalho

Publicado no Diário de Notícias, dia 18 de Abril de 2020, pp. 24-25

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