What is the right way to live? What is a good society?". Rob Riemen (Netherlands, 1962) tries to answer these questions, referring to Socrates, with four studies that give shape to his latest book, The art of becoming human (Arcàdia, in Spanish in Taurus). Four essays in which he mixes his own life and great erudition to try to lay the foundations of a society that thinks for itself and gets out of the hole it is in: "It is a hopeful book because we still have the ability to solve it , but it's time to act".
This journey begins when Riemen receives a letter from Víctor García Salas, Professor of Philosophy at the UNAM, in Mexico, and starts a correspondence with his students telling them about the need for a "spiritual education". The best way to do this, he says, is to "think about the people who educated and trained you". From there, he introduces the memory of his mother's story, who during the Second World War was a prisoner for three years in a Japanese concentration camp in Java, Indonesia, where she lived. The founder of the Nexus Institute of thought – which encourages reflection between different disciplines – very tenderly weaves this story with the problems that come with forgetting the past. "There is organized amnesia, too many powers with a vested interest in keeping stupidity alive. Generalizing, which politician would still be elected if people were a little less stupid?".
Riemen also talks in the book about the role of intellectuals such as Zola or Bulgakov at the time, and how "they had a sacred commitment to the truth", in the face of "the current impoverishment of the quality of public discourse". Before the paradigm was politics, but once the Wall fell, during the nineties "it was replaced by the business model: today governing a country, a university or a newspaper is a business and everything is inputs, outputs, ratings, efficiency, productivity...".
"We live - he assures - in a world that is drowning in its own materialism, spiritually empty, and has become a mass democracy where politicians have become demagogues and propaganda machines in a society governed by the instincts of fear , anxiety, desire and greed, where no one accepts any responsibility”. Instead, for him "democracy is based on the cultivation of moral and spiritual values in a free society".
"We have traded our souls for a selfie, but is it more important to be handsome and sexy or do we still believe in truth, goodness and justice?". Rhetorical question?