Prospectiva 2021
Misc 03/01/2021

An agenda to start rolling into the future

As much as we try to deny it, the human condition always lives on the edge

Josep Ramoneda
3 min
Una agenda per començar a desconfinar el futur  2021, el que ens espera

After nine months of feeling that life has been cut short, vaccines suddenly bring some morale to face the new year. From powerlessness to potency: baffled by an unexpected threat, governments could think of nothing better than doing what they had done all their lives: locking people up in their homes. The myth of the scientific and technological capacity of advanced societies was shaky. And fear and bewilderment took hold of the staff. And suddenly, researchers show us that at last, science is here, and against all odds they bring us vaccines in record time. The species has resources to move forward, but as much as we try to deny it, the human condition lives on the edge. The vaccine begins to clarify the horizon and eases the mood in order to face the immediate future. It is time to ask ourselves what we should do to turn this crisis into an opportunity.

Pierre Rosanvallon notes "a considerable gap between the abstract awareness that our societies have of the urgency of responding to certain questions and the weakness of the concrete responses that are provided. The pandemic has fallen at a time of change when the model of neo-liberal globalization seems to have run out of steam after the crisis of 2008, without the new cycle having been completed. The virus has made us aware that there are problems that affect the whole of humanity and that can only be resolved in this way. And at the same time we have confirmed what we already knew: that humanity is not constituted as such.

There is a widespread belief that climate change and the issue of inequalities, in societies that tend towards extremes and a world in which less and less of everything is available, are two central issues that must be addressed in order to roll into the future. Only denialist sectors, generally locked in the extreme right and authoritarianisms, deny the need to change the relationship of humans with the nature we are a part of. And for some time now the issue of inequality has no longer been a social democratic or left-wing topic, but is present in most representative headlines of liberal capitalism, which say, as a famous editorial in the Financial Times of April 2020 did, that "those in power must accept a more active role in the economy" and that "redistribution will be back on the agenda". The 2021 calendar has enough appointments to demand a progress from abstract consciousness (i.e. from rhetorical displays of good conscience) to action.

The defeat of Trump does not guarantee anything. The politics of confrontation and systematic lying has its adherents everywhere. However, a return to multilateralism is opening up, the path towards configuring shared spaces. Nevertheless, if we do not free ourselves from the drowning of the pandemic, if the logic of the state of exception in which we are installed is normalized, authoritarianism can continue to gain points and China can consolidate itself as the superior stage of capitalism. Let the pandemic not make us lose sight of the world. If politics is to regain initiative, big issues must be placed at the centre of the stage: the ecological question, inequalities, surveillance capitalism, the limits to the digital giants (installed in the divine attribute of ubiquity that allows them to escape sovereign control and taxation), immigration and the destruction of freedom systems.

At this point, the attitude of citizens will be decisive. Without haste, but without fear, it is necessary to rebuild the social ties lost by the pandemic so that the citizenry regains its confidence. It is also necessary that those in power show that they are not only capable of banning, but also of making an efficient reconstruction after the disaster has taken place. And there is a mutation in the attitude of politicians from paternalism and authoritarianism to powerlessness and attention, care and recognition of people. Politics must regain initiative - therefore, authority and recognition - but it must abandon the most offensive part of all crisis management: confrontation and permanent struggle. In this area, Spain and Catalonia have caught up with the worst countries. And we will see it again now with the Catalan elections in February - if they are held -, in that the inability to make consistent political proposals will lead to an uproarious war of disqualification, with no other objective than to save themselves. It should be, and I fear it will not be, the year in which independence steps down from the clouds, allows free expression in its diversity, and gives consistency to its projects.

It will, however, be the year in which Angela Merkel will leave, she who has conveyed moral authority and dignity that is so hard to find. This comes at a time when Europe needs political leadership to overcome technocratic inertia. Finally, this year there will also be a landing on Mars in search of microbial life. When the world gets stuck, there is always the temptation to look at the skies.