Certainly, it would not be expected by Marx, for whom the experiential, cultural and spiritual parts of our lives form various levels of a “superstructure” that is determined by our economic lives.
However, some great thinkers viewed the state of conciousness as the determining factor of the material, emotional and intellectual aspects of life. Further, certain historical political figures viewed a happy society as the expression of a “wise and virtuous condition of the individual mind”. Lycurgus, the founder of Sparta; Solon, the lawgiver of Athens; Socrates; Plato; Aristotle; and other ancient philosophers all had similar convictions regarding consciousness, which only differed based on their various conceptual models about virtue. Rousseau, with his disdain for civilization and faith in the natural love for the common good, posited that a healthy and spontaneous humanity could exist without the the plague of civilization. And what about Nietzsche, the mystic poet and politician, who went as far as positing that God and the consciousness of the individual and civilization are the same and of the same truth?
In my mind, consciousness is our only hope at this the present historical moment. Lack of consciousness makes us arrogant and increasingly destructive to the point that our current way of life cannot guarantee our own survival.
Here, I will not go over issues such as climate change; pollution; poisoning of our water; pestilence by massive unhealthiness ;or the economic crisis, because I want to focus on the idea that all these issues result from a deterioration of consciousness, which is expressed in blindness without compassion and robotización – all under the cloak of mediocrity.
We are drowning because of mediocrity. That is to say, we are spiritually insignificant; because, instead of striving toward a wise and virtuous condition, we have become burdens to our neighbours and the life around us.
When I mentioned the extra-economic ills, I insinuated that a "vice" can be remedied with an "antidote" to explain how the repressive, moralistic pólice-spirit, damages human development, which could be rememdied through a work of cultural innovation that will propose the cultivation of Dionysian spirit.
Similarly, is it possible to remedy the cowardice behind the authoritarian spirit? If it is not possible to remedy the fear of the patriarchal mind with a wise policy that encourages the cultivation of the heroic spirit and courage as the the Spartans practiced, we should be interested in reducing the submission, inhibition or violence towards the general populace through a less authoritarian upbringing and education.
Cowardice does not appear among Christianity’s deadly sins (although there is a pre-Christian translation that includes it) and it has been "wiped off the map" as a convenience to authorities who have always asserted themselves through punishment and threat. But did we not go through a "paradigm shift" in our time in which we recognized the growing ineffectiveness of violent power?
Sometimes cowardice is manifested through insecurity, shyness and "weakness of character." And we know how, in the course of European history, cowardly masses constituted the force of the most vehement tyrants. It is natural that the weak follow the strong and it is understandable that the fearful looks to the powerful for security, but sometimes fear does not appear as fear, but as an inflexible fanaticism. Rather than submit to visible and personal authorities, some submit to beliefs, ideology, and ideals, like the famous Don Quixote--who was independent of those around him, but determined to follow the knight of his dreams, or like the Nazis. And sometimes cowards appear daring and bold, such as captain Matamoros (or captain Spavento of the Commedia dell'Arte, or Scaramouche) for whom the best defense was to attack. In his case, we are talking about a paranoid character, who is seen as overly-aggressive, as he sees enemies where none exist and projects onto them his own bad intentions.
But can’t one say that we are all paranoid? Distrusting not only our neighbors, but ourselves and nature. As suggested by many science fiction films, the appearance of extraterrestrial organisms is always depicted as monstrous and malevolent. And so comes our distrust in nature (which we share with other animals), which suggests that that civilization itself has been accompanied by a process of self-domestication of our own species by which each generation teaches its children to go against their spontaneous pleasures and instinctual lives. It is precisely this basic mistrust that does not allow us to feel intrinsically good, so we need to police our society and minds, which equates to having an adversarial judge within ourselves.
If we think that our paranoia makes us unhappy and destructive, we should start cultivating an attitude that resembles what we could call confidence or faith (only faith in life and not a faith based dogmas). One who trusts in life and accepts it as it is as you trust in your own abilities, has no need to control everything. And he who does not have to control everything can live and fly among the most creative minds of people.
I have read somewhere that in response to the most important question that science can bring about the universe, the answer of Einstein was that "it is benevolent" and naturally an affirmative answer, it would calm our distrust of the unknown –aliens, Russians, or marijuana. But shouldn’t we worry that the antagonism that we harbor toward our true selves, by distrusting our own goodness alienates our descendants’ upbringing and education?
Already in pre-history, we humans learned to "set ourselves above nature" and demonize it, as with the forbidden fruit of the evil serpent, and as we have been domesticated, neutered and conditioned during our upbringing, education, and ( at least secretly) by experts on our television screens. We learned the discipline of "putting in place" (i.e. in a dark corner of our minds) our inner wild animal. But our instinctive, natural world has turned against us and converted us into a passionate world –voracious and aggressive, dominating us through seduction and to a greater extent than we have mastered our instincts -- confirming the old christian adage that “the world belongs to the devil." If the world is hopeless, then I think it will go through a transformation of parenting and education, so that these are geared more towards liberating the individual from the chains of their conditions and habits. Only then would we recover the courage to serve life rather than obey the reverberations of a paternal authority accustomed to a morbid passion for the command.
Despite the overused will of God by religious, political and moral authorities, we could attune to the idea of a cosmic will and open our ears to the inspiration of those who are willing to "obey their inner voice".
Translation by Jason Hodges and Horacio Silva