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Living by Values or Survival by Defence?

Survival in times of turbulence requires adaptation; living requires a radical rethinking of the world as we see it, and doing the things we do in life quite differently. Where are we flawed and what should we be doing?

First and foremost: human beings came out of evolution as social animals. Therefore, the neo-liberal axiom that people will and should maximize their own interest is dangerous. Free markets working from neo-liberal ideals seem to be the prevailing ideology.[1] The problem is that common interests and needs are severely underrated.

Common interests like breathable air, clean drinking water. A safe social environment (and not the false security of  gated communities). Accessible education and science (so they will not serve to widen the gap between rich and poor). Accessible natural resources, well managed (so we don’t burn everything and then perish on an excess of CO2). Common interests like hard currencies (and not wildly speculative loose scraps of paper, or just heavy coins of gold). Public transport. Arts and cultural expression (instead of mind-numbing diversion). Time to meet and love (in stead of de facto slavery).

Common interests need nourishment. They need to be defended. They need to come first. Markets are great but just as totally free human beings (what happens when you feel like killing and just do?) markets can not prosper for human societies without some boundaries. Believing that free market capitalism will solve all our common problems is just stupid. What then should we believe?

Just economizing nature is another error; that of putting core values of life on a second level. The reduction of ‘natural resources’ and ‘ecosystem services’ to just economic terms introduces a gap between the common goods and their financial representation, whereby – in the end – the financial representation will always prevail over the the intrinsic, perceived value of the actual stuff they represent.[2] In this reduction, this stuff like nature, friendship et cetera looses crucial aspects, that are widely recognized but impossible to capture in financial terms.

For these reasons, life, social ties and connectedness of nature need to be leading, core values. We should unite – in national democratic governments like we do, but also on more global levels – to cherish, nurture, foster those values, because they are more real in our experience than money can every be. Acknowledging the importance or these values will automatically lead to a common goal-orientation towards well-being in stead of welfare, quality of life in stead of standard of living.

How now to make life, nature and social ties core values? Now they prove so important for people to be happy and for life to be sustainable, how to arrive at a frame of thinking and a mode of living that will keep them central anyway?

  1. [1]Kolsek (2010) in Zizek 2011: 412
  2. [2]Zizek 2011: 426