2024 begins, almost the first quarter of the 21st century, with very little to celebrate. There are parties; also alcohol, drugs and gifts. In some cases, many gifts. Socially, the advances are more or less evident: longer life expectancy, less poverty and accelerated scientific and technological development in almost all fields.
The systematic destruction of nature, the growing economic gap between the few who have it all and the rest who want it all, the enormous probability that a criminal will take over the White House (again) and that neo populism will continue its march towards fascism in so many countries that it is about to become a pandemic.
In many ways, we are victims of our success. The almost 90 years of peace – or to be more precise, without a new world war – and an international political order anchored in the old model of the Pax Americana of the last century, have allowed the elites of the countries and the most powerful economic forces to maintain control of a system that pushes aside both new generations and new ideas.
15 years after the great international financial crisis which busted the illusion of the middle classes of the richest countries of an old age of comfort and luxuries and before the emergence of a dramatic increase in economic productivity – and here comes AI – – which condemns almost a third of the world’s youth to permanent unemployment, structural imbalances have us facing a kind of dead end.
Therefore, disenchantment is the central sign of these interesting times. Therefore, the Trumps, the Putin’s, the Musk’s, and the Milei’s. Therefore, the frustration of so many, the resurgence of racism and the search for scapegoats among the most vulnerable.
Even that kind of boom of optimism that represented the end of the Cold War and the global opening of communications facilitated by the Internet also seems to be running out. In its place rises a kind of torrent of fake news and hate propaganda that translates within our minds, above all, into fear. Very afraid.
If the passage of time brings us something good, it is perspective. Let’s take advantage of it: we know that humans, as a species, represent just a moment in the life of the universe. What are we in relation to the 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang? What do we represent in comparison to the age of our planet? (4.5 billion years). Even compared to the five previous mass extinctions – the most recent, which paved the way for the emergence of mammals 65 million years ago – humanity is just a blink of an eye. “Stardust”, indeed.
It is in that context in which, even a little bit of humility is imposed. At this point in the game, we should know that all empires end up collapsing. There is no pyramid, palace, bunker, or civilization that is capable of defeating time. China or Nazi Germany did not achieve it, nor did savage capitalism in its Made in the U.S.A. version.
Today we find ourselves at the crossroads of the end of one era and the beginning of the next. Neither neoliberal continuity nor the change towards authoritarian populism should be the way.
Precisely for this reason, this is a good time to recognize what we have achieved and try to look towards what is coming. Not to predict the future, because as individuals, even if we live to be 120 years old, in the big picture we represent just an instant.
It is something simpler and at the same time fundamental. Give something to our personal measure, with what we can, on a day-to-day basis; one day at a time the classic would say. Well, perhaps by recovering serenity, empathy, and solidarity, we will be able to rescue hope, that feeling that allows us to get busy building the new route.