Discomfort at the imperfect end of the story

Perhaps we live in the best moment in history.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
02 April 2024 Tuesday 11:20
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Discomfort at the imperfect end of the story

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

"Liberal democracy is the end. Suddenly we arrive at 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 must be improved, but it must 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 we need an education in imperfection, a maturation in which to live is to live in imperfection, to be entrusted with a certain stain, impurity, at the same time that the human heart yearns for a kind of perfect happiness", says Gomá, director of the March Foundation and author of essays such as Public Exemplary.

Along these lines, they recognize that today there is a "hunger for meaning" that seeks solace in nationalism, a more radical religion and blaming the other. "There is a hunger for cold war, for simplifying duality", they point out. "We are in a moment of risk and it is good to be aware of it, but it is not necessarily a cycle of irreversible decline", defines 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 we ate with the pandemic about how China would fare, the more hierarchical or vertical a country was and the decisions made, the worse it would fare . The pandemic was a mind-boggling stress test of liberal democracy.”

"With democracy we complicate our lives. But this complication is in line with the complexity of the modern world. She is more creative in finding solutions", underlines Gomá. Which admits that, in any case, "the viability of the democratic project depends on what people say and feel, so that citizen education acquires absolute centrality. Could a catastrophe happen? I could. I think it won't happen. But the risk for democracy is the administered, social humor, not climate change".

Today, he admits, "we are the best, but we are angry". And they recite some causes of discomfort inherent in modernity, in which "the res publica gives you dignity and you seek happiness." And this creates spleen." "And when modernity advances in recognizing dignity, behaviors that were previously invisible now become disgusting. And disgust causes discomfort", they add. And despite their failure, they add the cultural triumph of Marxism: the idea that culture is a weapon of power, a fact that "leads to people's discomfort because the only smart one is the suspect". And of course, there is the end of the cold war: “It had unifying power over the well-being of democracies because the comparison with socialism did not hold up and the enemy was outside. Now we internalize the discomfort and move it from Moscow to the neighbor below. Not to the fact that I got married and signed a mortgage", sums up Vallín.

And if he recognizes the dualization of societies caused by neoliberalism, he believes that it has a relationship "only relative to the social bad mood, because the Trumpist revolution came after eight years of the most socialist government in the US in half a century. No one has ever won an election to improve people's lives in material terms." Another thing, they admit, is that "there is a feeling of helplessness because the problems have lost their human scale, not only those resulting from globalization, but also the great challenges, pandemics and climate change. That is why part of the discomfort is expressed with the return to the shelter. Nationalism". Despite the difficult election year, they are optimistic. "Trump had won everything in 2020 and there was an exhibition of American democratic resilience," recalls Vallín. Gomá believes that, despite the difficulties, "there is a kind of immanence of the conquests that have to do with dignity".