Where once a social apparatus like the church was central, now individuals are lost in a sea of consumerism Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra
The idea of a superior being is as old as we, humans, can remember it. Along the times we worshipped fire, animals and nature, the sun, other (thought to be special) humans, multiple gods and the one God which is recognised by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Looking at the basic ideas in the Torah, Bible and Qu’ran, before they got reinterpreted by many, one can see a base of “love your neighbour”, “don’t kill”, “do not envy” and a few basic concepts that have been the base of the development of the human race over the last 2000 or so years. I can’t help myself but compare the first manuscripts of these (at the time new) religions as rule books, the law by which we all need to go by in order to thrive in a peaceful and prosperous community. Many, particularly recently, continue to try to separate the teachings of the different “prophets”, but really, the basic ideas are all the same. “All you need is Love”, like the Beatles sang. Then, with time, fractures opened, and one set of ideas of replicated and adjusted to each sect of the new religions. Religions became as or more powerful than States and Kings and did the most horrific things that humans have done to other humans thus far. From the Inquisition, to the Cruzades, to the Holocaust, the terrorist bombings to the Gaza Strip occupations, religion was invoked over and over again to cover up geo-political, greedy and racist agendas. We still see it today with the discrimination agaisnt women in most of the more common religions. So Enlightenment came and we started to believe less on faith and more on empirical evidence. Science became the front runner. Technology, science’s application, feels like the one thing that is moving the World forward these days. And with Enlightnment came the refusal of religion, and with that came the refusal of faith in a superior being. “God is dead” is famously attributed to the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche around 1882. Nietzsche used the phrase in a figurative sense, meaning that the Enlightenment brought about the demise of Religion and with that the demise of the concept of a God. The era of rationalism and science had come about, so there was no more need for this old concept, right? Unfortunately, I do not think that is the case. The concept of a God (in its many names and forms) was not just one to convey authority from the Church to the Commoners. It also carried morality with it and a sense of purpose. I argue that because those two concepts have disappeared. Say, for example, when you last heard of an act done out of honour, or a person’s word? And since those concepts have disappeared, society has adjusted. We now have written contracts for every action and inaction we can take around a good or product or person. There is a whole industry of lawyers whose sole job is to intermediate the relationships between individuals and between them and the state. And since we no longer have morality to give us boundaries we see increasing inequality, harassment against minorities (and the majority which is women), abuses of power by nepotism, even using image recognition to persecute groups of interest. The result has arrived, being pushed down, economically, physically, emotionally or otherwise has caused frustration in the masses who don’t belong to the higher eschelons of society. And frustration has built up to a place of anger. And that anger is starting to cause death and suffering. Bill Gates says that we’ve never had it so good, and objectively speaking, that is true. If we look at health data, we are more healthy, die less and live longer. If we look at the old poverty line, we see that a lot of people have risen above it. But what I argue is that it’s not how much the poorest have more now, but how much anyone of the 99% has now as compared to the 1%. Because we are humans and we think in relative terms, not absolute ones. The anger has come and is showing in the populist movements around the World. Unfortunately none of these movements seems to actually care for the good of the majority, they care about their votes and the us-vs-them politics. In the past, this level of anger led to revolutions. Let us see if that happens again or we have become prisioners of our own consumption.