To Act Now

goldman portraitSacha Goldman

September 2001

 

An unprecedented crisis encompasses all the domains of action and reflection of man today. This crisis is defined by the advent of a series of decisive issues that, even if essential, are still avoided or ignored by decision-makers. The three bombs threatening humanity, announced long ago by Einstein, namely the nuclear bomb, the demographic bomb and the informational bomb, are still present, and ever more threatening… The situation is compounded by the dangerous haze in which economic and financial systems operate, in addition to the loss of points of reference in the entire scientific world, repeated social and political crises, the globally unsettled ecological system, and a loss of meaning - both collective and individual. This is worsened by the interaction of these harmful factors, engaged in a perilous and soon irreversible process. 

It is as though the planet Earth were a stage-play, the outcome of which is unknown to the players themselves;  “the masters of the world” set sail virtually towards an alarming horizon. It is the responsibility of every honest human being, living at the beginning of this century, to act and change this course.

Within this generalized crisis, to call too often for vigilance is to run the very serious risk that these calls lose their meaning, becoming redundant.  

Never until today has there been such a need for a meeting calling for active co-operation between present-day statesmen, and scientists and intellectuals. It is therefore crucial that we deal, in a non-dogmatic, dispassionate and open manner, with the numerous questions that that must be raised for the good of humanity: how do we think about the survival of the biosphere? the information revolution? the economic and financial power within the complex framework of globalization? the need for initiatives by civil society at the world level? 

Two decisive reasons lead us to act.

Firstly, comes the evidence of dramatic events marking the dawn of the millennium in our mutating world. Who can be unaware that we are witnessing deep, complex and revolutionary changes that are causing us, the men and women of this epoch, to lose all our reference points, and which are completely disrupting the meaning of our research and actions?

We refer to this “unprecedented gravity of the problems faced by humankind today, and which imperil its survival to the scale of a few generations,” as Michel Rocard tells us, or as Jacques Robin says: “if we leave, as we are currently doing, the informational mutation of the capitalist market economy, we see the disasters: savage globalization, the decisive role of the financial markets, the corruption of money, the division of individuals as winners and losers, the control of minds for the glorification of “economisation” and frenzied competitiveness. To this we must add the intense aggression against nature, with accelerated climatic changes, global warming, and global pollution which deteriorates the health of human beings and without doubt their genetic heritage.”

Secondly, there is the evidence of a generalized disinterest, a certain passivity marked by the absence of consideration given to these subjects which have been rejected as redundant, often labeled as “pessimism” or “catastrophism.”

I - Three-step action

1 – Initiate and establish the debate

A joint initiative has progressively arisen during the past year between a group of intellectuals in  Paris (Stéphane Hessel, Edgar Morin, Michel Rocard, Patrick Viveret, René Passet, Jacques Robin, amongst others) and the President of Slovenia, Milan Kucan, who has expressed his interest in supporting a common work of reflection. This work, which commenced during the first meeting in Bled on 22 March, will be completed at the meeting to be held from 1 to 3 October 2001.

This initial group of philosophers and specialists in economic and scientific matters will be joined by other authorities from various countries. Those invited include: Jeremy Rifkin, Wolfgang Sachs, Jürgen Habermas, Benjamin Barber, Manuel Castells, Amartya Sen and others.

2 – Establish a body: a scientific and ethical authority

The working group may be established at the October meeting first as a Scientific College, to be later on associated with an Ethical College. The first group will consist of a group of philosophers and scientists; the second a group of Statesmen, such as the President of Slovenia, sensitive to the current situation and concerned with the gravity of the subjects at hand. Thus, a series of preliminary contacts were established with the President of the Czech Republic, the President of Mali, the President of Estonia, the President of Portugal, the President of Brazil and others.  Alongside the President of Slovenia Milan Kucan, who is the initiator of the network, it is hoped that political leaders will gather who are open to fundamental questions of the current mutation.

3 – Consider the establishment of a broadcasting and publishing platform

A broadcasting and publishing platform could be an Internet site providing responses to the gravity of these subjects through text, sound and image. It is essential to give necessary consideration to this work on a long-term basis. After initial discussions and a first presentation to the United Nations, the possibility of support and collaboration with the Organization is being explored.
A discussion is underway for working arrangements with Gallup International Association, the world-wide network of public opinion polls, to define the methods for the preparation of a worldwide opinion poll: “Voice of the People.”
The rise of mass media and their leveling dictated by audience ratings are undergoing a dangerous simplification.  The representation of the world deserves a second front of media treatment.  With the support of the UN and Gallup an adequate media strategy could be established, providing in-depth analysis of the subjects stemming from our present work of reflection.

II – A transversal and transdisciplinary approach

All action is based upon concepts which are used as its “toolbox.” Relying on a lucid analysis of modernity, Jürgen Habermas demonstrates that the philosophical task of the mediation of rationality must be reassessed, being not only possible, but essential.

However, there are two ways to approach knowledge.  The first relies on premises leading to an already determined aim. In knowing where to go, one needs only to build the path to mark the way.  The aim is distorted by the absence of a real process of knowledge and the existence of an argument towards a pre-established objective; according to this logic, the politician ends up drowning in ideological pragmatism.

The other way emerges from an inverted process: as if knowledge escapes in the process of being sought, such as Socrates, who knew only that he knew nothing. We seek complex knowledge in dialogue with others, we “give birth to minds,” within a dialectic where knowledge imposes itself.

The first approach is that of the “Court Philosophers”, the official thinkers, the commissioned analysts of today - the mercenaries of Knowledge. In the 20th Century Anglo-Saxon world, “think tanks” emerge by functioning in this manner, producing intelligence. (“intelligence” has two meanings in English, one of which, “collecting information,” has become dominant. The second meaning, that used in other languages, has become applied to researchers and professors isolated in university campuses).

The second approach leads to a knowledge born within transdisciplinarity, which causes the “new” to emerge by epigenesis. It is the result of the meeting between these two knowledges developing tracks, links, surprising by the revelation of this reality per se, this wisdom inherent in itself. Rather than “think tank,” the term “think link” is to be preferred, the linkage of thoughts, the linkage of knowledge within the same community of thought, ready to grasp the revelation of 21st century realities.

The task which has already begun, to be developed in October, is inscribed in various processes of thought, observations and previous action.

Thus the “Group of Ten”, operated throughout the 70s. Founded by Robert Buron, Henri Laborit, Edgar Morin, René Passet and Jacques Robin, this group quickly expanded to include other renowned scientific and political personalities: Henri Atlan, Jacques Attali, Jacques Sauvan, André Leroi-Gourhan, Joël de Rosnay, David Rousset, Ilya Prigogine, Michel Serres but also Michel Rocard and Jacques Delors.

The same spirit inspired successors of the “Group of Ten”: GRIT (Groupe de Réfléxion Inter et Transdisciplinaire - Inter- and Transdisciplinary Reflection Group), the review Transversales Science/ Culture, the Pierre Mendes France Circle (CIPMF). It is that same spirit which is determining the present initiative. These structures received the support of personalities such as Félix Guattari, Basarab Nicolescu, Jacques Testart, Patrick Viveret, Armand Petitjean, André Gorz, Stéphane Hessel, Paul Virilio, André Bourguignon and many others.

If our group can operate with a transversal and transdisciplinary approach, adapted to our times and to world globalization, as is done by the above networks, it may become a truly global ethical, philosophical, scientific and political reference. It will be necessary to organize co-operation with the most prestigious researchers, thinkers and scientists.

In the political field, together with the President of Slovenia, Milan Kucan, the initiator of the network, we can expect to be joined by political leaders open to the fundamental questions of the current mutation.

This entire movement will then be able to bring to the surface and formalize the needs and expectations of a world which is in the process of exploding. These objectives may be attained in partnership with civil society and with the assistance of polling institutes in order to construct a less ferocious and more fulfilling world. A collaboration will be established with international institutions, and in particular with the United Nations.

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