Gomá and Vallín: "After the Cold War we transferred the unrest from Moscow to the neighbor below"

Perhaps we are living in the best moment in history.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
02 April 2024 Tuesday 10:26
5 Reads
Gomá and Vallín: "After the Cold War we transferred the unrest from Moscow to the neighbor below"

Perhaps we are living in the best moment in history. And liberal democracy, which recognizes the dignity of each individual, is the era in which the weakest of any other time would have chosen to live. But there is a clear malaise in democracy. Trump or Bolsonaro exhibit behaviors that years ago would have cost them their position. Now they gain support. A situation in which the philosopher Javier Gomá and the journalist Pedro Vallín have launched themselves, between drinks and dishes in various bars and restaurants in Madrid, to examine where we are. And because. What is the moment of democracy. The result is Penultimate Truths (Arpa), a conversation in which they even do a final striptease so that readers understand what experiences and tricks in life their reasoning about that system of penultimate truths that is democracy, always unfinished, is based on.

“Liberal democracy is the end. Suddenly we arrive in a world where the story ends. Not in the sense that we are already in paradise, but that it is an essentially imperfect world. The system we are in can and should be improved, but it should no longer be changed. Any alternative has some regression. And this represents a problem for the sentimental education of citizens, who in the past could live with the imperfection of the system and the perfection of the utopia that was presented to them. Today, an education in imperfection is necessary, a maturation in which to live is to live in imperfection, to be infected with a certain stain, a certain impurity, while the human heart longs for a kind of perfect happiness," says Gomá, director of the Juan Foundation. March and author of essays such as Public Exemplarity.

Along these lines, they recognize that today there is a “hunger for meaning” that seeks solace in nationalism, a more radical religion and blaming others. “There is a hunger for a cold war, for simplifying duality,” they point out. “We are in a moment of risk and it is good to be aware, but it does not have to be a cycle of irreversible decline,” says Vallín, who believes that “there is an invincible fragility in liberal democracy.” “The pandemic has shown that it is the most solvent system: despite all the Eastern philosophy that we ate with the pandemic about how well China was going to do, the more hierarchical or vertical a country was and the decisions made were, it was worse. “The pandemic was a mind-blowing stress test of liberal democracy.”

“With democracy we complicate our lives. But that complication is in line with the complexity of the modern world. She is more creative in finding solutions,” Gomá emphasizes. That he admits that, in any case, “the viability of the democratic project depends on what individuals say and feel, with which citizen education acquires absolute centrality. Could a catastrophe occur? Could. I think it's not going to happen. But the risk for democracy is the administration, the social humor, not challenges like climate change.”

And today, he admits, “we are the best, but we are angry.” And they recite some causes of anger inherent to modernity, in which “the res publica gives you dignity and you seek happiness. And that creates spleen, melancholy.” “And as modernity progresses in the recognition of dignity, behaviors that were previously invisible now become disgusting. And that disgust produces discomfort,” he added. And despite its material failure, to this they add the cultural triumph of Marxism: the idea that culture is a weapon for manipulating power, which "leads to a culture of suspicion and people's discomfort, because the "The only smart one is the one who suspects."

And of course, there is the end of the cold war: “It had a binding component on the well-being of democracies because in comparison socialism did not resist and because the enemy for democracies was outside. And an enemy outside is a glue. The rivalry with the socialist system allowed liberal democracies to experience brutal self-esteem. Now, however, we internalize the discomfort and transfer it from Moscow to the neighbor below. Not because I got married and signed a mortgage and I shouldn't have done this and my life is shit,” Vallín summarizes.

And although he recognizes the dualization of societies caused by four decades of neoliberalism, he believes that this factor has a “only relative relationship with the bad social mood, because the Trumpist revolution came after eight years of the most socialist government in the United States. in half a century. “I don’t think anyone has ever won an election for improving people’s lives in material terms.” Another different thing, they admit, is that “today there is a feeling of helplessness because the problems have lost their human scale, not only those derived from globalization, but the great challenges, pandemics, climate change. That's why part of the anger is expressed with the return from the shelter. Nationalism triumphs.”

But despite the difficult electoral year that the coming months will entail, they are optimistic. “Trump had won everything in 2020 and there was an exhibition of North American democratic resilience because basically Biden won with an unprecedented result for the Democratic party. “It is a success for the country,” recalls Vallín. And Gomá believes that, despite the doomsayers who believe that these last two centuries of Enlightenment have been just an oasis, today "there is a kind of immanence of the conquests that have to do with dignity."