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On the 'Indignados' of our times PDF Print E-mail
Life – Consciousness

Syntagma_Square_indignadosThe times in which we live are very difficult, not simply because there is an economic crisis, but also because the crisis is multiple and is connected with a political crisis as well as with a major ecological crisis. At the same time, this is an age of 'revelation' both of political power of every kind and of the failings of the world's peoples. The chief problem of human beings has always been inertia of the consciousness which makes them indignant only when they couldn’t to survive, but without having the capability, at the same time, to handle the situation correctly. More particularly, the Western world of our times has been characterised by a complacency based on prosperity (in spite of the existence of the poor).


The world is threatened by a kind of self-destruction, and it is a luxury to sit in judgment from a position of safety or to criticise the 'imperfections' of developments in society, which may in the last analysis prove to be non-imperfections.

Not a few criticise the 'indignant' citizens who gather in Syntagma Square, in Athens, mainly because they do not have an ideology, they do not have specific demands, and for the fact that each one is animated by differing motives and is following different models. They are even regarded as probably apolitical and potentially inclining in a fascist direction. But let us take a look, to begin with, at these first three characterisations from other points of view, so that the situation becomes more lucid:

A. - As to the criticisms levelled

1. The demand for an ideology lacks seriousness. The familiar ideologies have been exhausted both by the mistakes of their representatives and by their inherent weaknesses. The political parties themselves have not succeeded, for the same reasons, in re-establishing them in renewed and improved form nor in promoting them in a climate of trust, since this has been totally lost, and it has become abundantly clear that trust cannot be based on words, but on motives and actions. The anthropological factor which clearly rises up as a cause of this failure was not located within the framework of any ideology and for that reason is difficult to understand, beyond the fact that - in any event - it cannot be manipulated by organisationality. The only thing organisationality can do as a therapy, and not as a secondary, measure is to make it even more harmful for society, and a factor for disharmony.

Furthermore, the present age calls for a new approach of this kind, without the complete rejection of the old elements, an approach which is capable of dealing with today's complex problems effectively. These problems are not only the material ones, but the model of life itself, because man today is more composite than he was in earlier times, which means that this new approach must also penetrate, in a way which brings renewal, the psychological field (which includes both emotion and the mind). Times have changed, not as a calendar succession of time, but as a change in people themselves; for that reason it is a great irony to call for a ready-made ideology when people have only just woken from their lethargy. Ideologies as ideals and as ideas are formed not by political parties, but by thinkers who go before; then come the political parties and others who possess executive power and shape them adaptively, correctly or incorrectly, so that they suit their own space-time and their ambitions.

This is what is still lacking from our age, and the political parties fear that with the 'new' which is on its way, they will no longer, in the nature of things, be an avant garde, and so they will lose their prestige and the fantasy of the uniqueness which - in any event - they did not possess. Briefly put, they fear the loss of power.

Thus, for someone to demand today an ideology from the 'indignant' citizens means simply that he/she is expecting that they will have taken a ready-made ideology from the existent parties and organisations, and that, naturally, this ideology would be as old as the parties themselves. At a time, moreover, when the parties themselves are seeking unsuccessfully to define their new identity - it goes without saying, for reasons of adaptation to society and power for selfish motives - they cannot require, nor can anybody else, a ready-made ideology from ordinary citizens who are protesting against the problems as a whole. In the end, it is the whole range of organisational structures which attempt to exercise power in society which are passing through a crisis.

The political parties and the extra-parliamentary organisations have always played with the word 'ideology', which lent them prestige and credibility, but today, in practice, most party-political ideologies have converged with one another so much, or have so much obscurity as to their objectives and the means they invoke, and, in addition, the party and organisation structures have been revealed as so inadequate, that the term no longer means anything to the multitude of people, who see how futile the institutions and ideologies have proved in protecting the common good and the individual.

Consequently, the non-existence of an ideology is a positive thing for the present, and shows an absence of party politics, a sign of rudimentary unity, and an admission of a lack of clarity in the apprehension of what is to be done and of what the situation is, and this is reasonable, because today's world is much more complex than it was in the past, and the crisis is now clearly anthropological, and, therefore, not subject to manipulations by means of organizational agencies. This admission of lack of clarity the parties and the politicians have in no circumstances been willing to make in their history, as they regard and present themselves as experts and authorities, in spite of the glaring proof to the contrary.

Such a situation, as it is not delimited from its inception, is open to what is really new, which is encouraging for the future, which alone will judge things. In spite of the fact that we believe that it is probable that the anthropological crisis world-wide is of such an extent and depth that man will not succeed in meeting present and future challenges successfully, we nevertheless believe that no one can confidently prejudge the future, and that the unexpected is an integral part of life and necessarily imposes upon an attitude of humility.

2. The requirement for a list of demands is another phenomenon of superficiality, akin to the previous one, which deserves a reply. What, in all honesty, could such a list contain today apart from economic demands? This would be a failure, at least for a country which is plagued by such corruption and indifference to the common interest on the part of government, party political, and bureaucratic players, as well as on the part of the citizens, who have given so much support to the system of 'special favours' that it has attached them to parties and public figures.

Simply to have a feeling of despair in the face of the impasse is undoubtedly more productive for the needs of this point in time, and  the admitted apprehension of the difficulties, if correctly maintained, will lead to a different synthesis and approach to the concepts of the 'people', society, justice, the labour movement, welfare, democracy, freedom, and security. These concepts, together with others, have sunk into a mist, not only because at times politicians have done all this deliberately, but more frequently because the politicians themselves have understood them only as words which have led to power, but without admitting this, or have thought, naively and selfishly, that they have understood them without realising how difficult and inaccessible such an understanding was for them.

Consequently, for the present, the absence of specific demands cannot constitute a problem; on the contrary, it is fruitful ground for acquaintance, an exchange of views, information on the problems, emotional solidarity, and conceptual clarification of the situation, and of visions for the future. It is likely that this absence is also demonstrating the shock which people have sustained from this deep and many-sided crisis, in which the enemy has not been rendered totally specific and symbolised as it was in the past; rather, it is diffuse in society in all its strata, in spite of the fact that certain individuals belonging to the elites and certain of their groups at a political, party, economic, and any other level may personify the enemy more.

Such a shock was to be expected, for two main reasons:

(a) Because corruption has been revealed to be very extensive and not only at a very high level involving a small number of individuals, although the responsibilities are unevenly distributed, depending upon the amount of power each handles.

(b) Because man can no longer expect to be safeguarded against injustice only by organised institutions without his own participation and interest, since it has been demonstrated that the institutions cannot operate correctly without people's support, a fact which means that man is now faced with his responsibilities and is becoming mature.

Conversely, the behaviour of politicians - we would say at a world level - is even more immature, since they show no real apprehension and understanding of the crisis of the age in which we live and they treat it as an object for manipulation, they have no vision, and they confine themselves only to attempts to manage the situation (as they also did, anyway, before the crisis) and protect their individual and party interests.

We should say, then, that the projection of material demands is easy, and anyone can do it, but the projection of demands which go beyond the material element but nevertheless support a juster world is supremely difficult and requires not only thought in depth, but also a will for the good of all one's fellow-men (and not only emotionally), as well as processes for a change of direction, which cannot be other than long-term. For such changes, a piece of information or a theory is not sufficient; an in-depth psychological process is called for.

This complexity does not trouble self-centred people, because they are devoted in a one-dimensional and simplistic way to their individual or group interests and cannot apprehend anything beyond these. For them, the demands are simple and always clear-cut - as the 'national interest' is to nationalists, regardless of the justice or injustice of its content. There is no difference between individual and group selfishness. Nevertheless, for those whose selfishness extends to a world level, things require a greater breadth of apprehension and planning - only they are unable to understand human potentialities because they undervalue life.

3. The demand for homogeneity of the aim and model of the 'indignant' citizens

But this has never happened, either in the present exhausted ideologies or in the political parties, or in man himself, within himself, as he is frequently in conflict over what is right or over whether he should choose what is right or what is in his interests! The issue is that we should not have, indiscriminately, maximalist requirements, because that shows that, in reality, we do not want anything to happen, even though we may support it in words. What really counts is similarity in direction, that is, whether those who converge have the common good as their aim, because it is only in that case that there will be homogeneity of objective (even though not necessarily of specific means). If, however, they agree on a selfish direction, there will not be, in any event, homogeneity, because interests are of their nature always competitive, immediately or in the long term.

Nevertheless, regardless of the present circumstances, the evolution of society is not a momentary process, which means that what is lacking today will probably exist in the future, created gradually through processes of crisis and suffering and consequent rejection of the non-essential.

Furthermore, it should be noted that it is unorthodox to require of others a correctness of consciousness for which you have not yourself made any effort, either for yourself or for service on your part to society. Here we should note that the observation that society suffers from excessive self-centredness does not justify the selfishness of any individual; it permits only what constitutes self-defence, and that narrowly interpreted. Important positions in society, self-promotion, and enrichment lie far outside the framework of the concept of self-defence against accumulated social selfishness. But, over and above this, important positions should serve not only the individual, but also society in a fundamental way. In contrast with this, we see the political parties, accused of mismanagement, turning immediately against the other parties as diversionary tactics, as if they are talking about a country which belongs to them as their property and not a country which they ought to serve. Everyone, therefore, should first and foremost deal with himself - and others afterwards. This is a difficult undertaking and, undoubtedly, if it were easy, we would all be perfect (but we are not) and society would be sound (but it is not).

4. The demand for politicisation, calm, and dignity can, incidentally, be ranked among the positive features of the 'indignados' movement.

B. - On the positive features of the 'indignados' movement

1. The protest is peaceful, a fact which demonstrates a non-aggressive approach to demands - even though we do not know how it will develop in the future. This peaceful approach shows, for the present, thoughtfulness, at least in the case of those who today belong to this protesting multitude, but it is not possible for it to hold good for all the protesters in the future. Furthermore, even today there are those who are aggressive. Despair and fear, as well as envy, competition, lack of suitable education, and the self-devaluation which turns into aggressiveness are never good counsellors. Some express a superficially similar revulsion for the improprieties and savageries of the crowd, but no revulsion for the barbarity on the part of leaders which has brought humanity to this many-sided crisis, while they have done nothing to cure it. These criticisms are dictated by unhealthy motives and are a mistake, because they do not see the whole picture, nor are they do care about it. We should also point out that the 'elites' of all kinds, sections, and levels have attempted to keep the 'crowd' away from self-knowledge - which they themselves, generally speaking, do not have - but is now likely that they will experience to their cost this deficiency which with such thoughtless zeal they have nurtured.

2. The protest is non party political. This may show disdain for the existing parties and today's politicians, but not contempt for politics as a value and for correct governance - unless expression is given to something of the sort, which should not, perhaps, be ruled out. Not to be party political is not without fail apolitical: it may express a tendency towards a synthesis of existing positive features of various political formations and a trend towards social involvement outside the walls of ideologies, or a disillusionment over the corruption, incompetence, ambition, and the immunity of the political world. These things are undoubtedly positive.

Apart from that, a world lost in the one-dimensional pursuit of material prosperity, and directed towards that, cannot be politicised immediately when it suddenly finds itself in great need. But what does politicisation mean? We cannot expect it to take the same forms as it did in the past. But is the political world perhaps - generally speaking - politicised as long as it has taken no real interest in the fundamental separation of the powers, the aim of governance, and so much else? The problem is that there has not been true politics, only party political and individual interests and ambition. Politics in the negative sense there has been, but when we judge the governed by certain criteria, we must judge those who govern by corresponding criteria. Whatever makes the many apolitical makes the few apolitical also. Naturally, there have always been exceptions, both among those in power and among the rest - nevertheless, the prevailing dynamic has been negative.

At this point, we should open a parenthesis to say that the governed should never forget that those in power are also human, with a psychological make-up similar to their own, but simply with more power. It is a fundamental error that these should be thought of as something alien to society and an even worse one for it not to be acknowledged that they have been able to exercise power since, basically, all human beings have permitted it by their obsession with their psychological distortions, such as, for example, competition, which always aims at superiority - but, naturally, we cannot all be superior. It is only that the 'anonymous' crowd (in contrast with those in power) is in the happy position of having the opportunity for self -knowledge through limitation and suffering.

On the other hand, hate would constitute a real devaluation of politics, and, in the end, would at the same time reinforce their distorted form (which it is supposed to be fighting) and the power of politicians and of other figures of strength, because it would give them an excuse for reacting violently and degradingly. It should not be forgotten, furthermore, that party loyalty as by one party’s hatred of the others (because that is what it was about) has plunged this country into darkness and deeper hatreds, which, usually, were not justified, and even into a setting aside of self-knowledge on the part of both individuals and of parties and conflicting groups.

3. The address of the movement to society seems for the present stronger than its address to the state, and this presages a state of ferment, development of relations in society, and of conclusion of relations differing from those of the past, the probable result being the expansion of ideas on the serious issues of the age, such as, for example, the labour movement, which cannot but play a serious role in the future, even if not in its familiar forms, but in forms which are much broader and also unfamiliar. Of course, on the other hand, a moral failure - which will also be a practical failure - on its part cannot be precluded. This will depend on which groups will have that dynamic with the upper hand.

4. The awakening from social and individual lethargy is in any circumstances positive, because it will provoke a crisis and will not allow negativity to become a permanent state. In the worst case, it will be equivalent to the changes in individuals in power even when, in the end, their policy does not differ.

5. The lack of demands and of a ready-made ideology, as we have pointed out in extenso above, is, on certain conditions, a token of health and honesty, as well as an opportunity for the development of what is new.

C. - On the future of developments in society

The elite at every level will not allow such a movement, and any other related movement in the future, to develop, and they will attempt to erode it or to strike it down directly. For that reason, unavoidably, this movement also will pass through surges and slumps, qualitative and quantitative changes, small or great, before it reaches its - still unknown - conclusion in the future. This ending could be in its internal process of development a moral failure of the movement itself or a moral victory. Apart from that, however, in the balance of the conflicting forces it could lose or win. Nevertheless, what must be expected by mankind and by any movement for its improvement is a moral victory and a simultaneous victory in the conflict with what is hostile to the world. Only that can be understood as a real victory, but any victory in the conflict which is accompanied by moral failure will be merely a change of agents of power, and, consequently, the crisis will continue to an even greater extent, and more intensely. On the other hand, a moral victory with defeat in the conflict of the powers will bring hope for the future, but it will also, in parallel, demonstrate the inadequacy of the multitude, of society as a whole, which will be an inadequacy of humanity and of its individual societies.

What constitutes moral success is a major issue and has nothing to do with conventional morality; what is needed is a sincere resolve on in-depth change and collaboration of a non-alienated intelligentsia on an analysis and formation of ideas and concepts compatible with a better future from every point of view.

Most people, malicious or well-intentioned, would regard long-term occupation, in the manner of a hunger strike, of Syntagma Square as a victory of the 'indignados'. But this is pointless and naive. Of course, those exercising power of any kind would regard the exhaustion of the 'indignados' as a victory - those in power always calculate like this. But this is foolish, because developments in society require long-term ferment and are not spent in one mobilisation. On the contrary, delay accumulates tensions and renders the situation more inflammable in the long term. But the lust for profit and power 'lulls' even the reasoning of self-interest, which is perhaps to the detriment of everybody.

From another point of view, what must change in man is his self- undervaluation, the feeling that he needs possessions in order to have value. This is a depressing wretchedness which is self-generated continuously by foolish life models. But this is never going to be overcome if man himself does not cease to see the rest of the world in terms of exploitation, as an object. As long as there is this tendency within him, unconsciously it will influence the image which he has of his self, he will see it as potentially an object. We are not talking, of course, about mindless fascinations with the games of supposed self-confidence, which are for the naive, since these intensify the objectivisation of man even more. We are speaking of a sobriety and relative fullness of apprehension.

The problem, then, is not only economic; it is a problem of security and freedom, which will increasingly be cancelled out by a shortage of money and the great difference in economic potentiality between the different strata of the population, because this difference will constitute an agent of power with unforeseen negative impacts in the future.

Straightaway, the central problem again does not lie in the economy, but in the apprehension of life which sustains a certain kind of economy - and this concerns everybody and not only the elites. We do not mean wretchedness of life, but simplicity. But this simplicity should not be a return to the past with its simplism, its gross apprehension, inertia, intellectual decline or inactivity, social standardisation and narrowness, and material indigence. We are speaking of the simplicity which will take from the past its useful and humanistic features and will include within it, first of all, a clarification of priorities in the spending of money or of what will perhaps replace money: is it to be channelled mainly to material or to spiritual goods? We believe that what supports the development of consciousness in every direction is what will also support correct economic practice, without excess and at the right time in each instance.

To speak very generally, we can say that development of the consciousness is not a representation of the consciousness, and, consequently, it should not be identified with or exhausted in artistic events (in spite of the contribution which they make) or in a superficial preoccupation with what is regarded as spiritual, but should be an inner ferment of the life of each person with influence on its direction, so that all this does not remain mere words, but become deeds. How all this is to happen will be the object of investigation by each community of citizens and the method will inevitably differ, depending on the needs of each society and its particularity. The political parties should assist in these processes as servants of the common good and not as a closed elite taking decisions in absentia of the citizens for their supposed good.

To sum up: one thing is certain - that in the future, humanity will be faced with the ever-increasing intensity of a crisis without precedent, and what is not indicated in this period is the ignoring of a good effort, neglect in the face of the despair of those who do not have the necessities of life, sarcasm, contempt, lack of goodness, and irresponsibility. And, naturally, the same applies both to the haves and the have nots. This is the moment for responsibility of mankind, and nothing can avert its advent.

Ioanna Moutsopoulou, Lawyer
Member of the Secretariat of Solon NGO

Photo from el.Wikipedia

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