CARACAS, Wednesday April 01, 2009 | Update
The new generations of young people born amidst the information technology and telecommunications, accustomed to the continuous exchange of images, audiovisual speed and sonority, and zapping, will have more flexible, complex and fluid values than those of the previous generations
Photo: Freddy Henríquez
I clearly remember my arrival in Abidjan, the capital of the Côte d'Ivoire, in 1978. After having travelled for months the dusty roads of Sahel, that desolate geographic strip between the Sahara and the grasslands of the black Africa, decimated by draught and famine, Abidjan looked like the promised land, the place of abundance, a vision of the future. That city with its modern buildings and luxurious neighborhoods that extend dynamically over the Gulf of Guinea had also dazzled thousands of French residents and immigrants from other nations, which had invested and devoted to commerce and industry in the farthest corners of Western Africa. They were people who appreciated progress, prosperity, culture, freedom, safety, and order. In less than 10 years, however, Abidjan was besieged by crime and economic hardships, suffocated by poor neighborhoods where starving children defecated in the dirty streets filled with mosquitoes and mountains of garbage. Today, the main value of most people who live in the lands that extend along the Gulf of Guinea, as well as Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or many other places, is the mere fact of surviving, the most primary instinct of survival, of bettering oneself, like in the times of Thomas Hobbes, from fear to sudden death.
The situation of the inhabitants of the barrios in Caracas is not very different, and who reviews the written records of the Venezuela of the '60s, a country that registered the best progress indices in education, security, health and political freedoms in Latin America, will never understand when we lost the future. Can we talk about the predominance of ethical and esthetical values in the future? Forecasting the future looks more like an oracular and divinatory exercise than a quantitative scenario analysis. It depends more on the strange intuition and sensitivity to feel the irrational and unconscious than on the statistical inference.
Much of what we fantasize as values of the societies of the future are really features of the Western culture that we have assumed as universal due to an awkward ethnocentrism. Individualism, secularization, freedom, autonomy, equity, pluralism, and the rule of law are the bases of a culture from where value structures will emerge that are considered inherent in modernity, such as universalism, affective neutrality, specificity or performance.
The religious reemergence, the "world de-laicization", fundamentalist movements, indigenization, have finished off other forms of conceiving life and future. In fact, there are huge differences of values between collectivist societies, like those in many Asian countries, and the individualist ones that predominate in the West. According to different field studies developed in several countries, collectivist values are, for instance, social order, respect for traditions and the elders, security, group harmony, kindness, persistence, conservatism, loyalty. Individualist values are, on the contrary, intellectual autonomy, curiosity, creativity, the possibility of living a varied life, mind openness, individual freedom, independence, self-sufficiency.
The idea of human dignity has lead to the development of fundamental human rights, but some believe that Western societies favor civil and political rights over social, economic and cultural rights that are privileged by the Eastern hierarchical States. Furthermore, every generation of human rights claims different values. The first generation of civil and political rights, that is, rights to freedom, equality, life and personal security, to justice, legal personality, etc., demands appraising tolerance, freedom, autonomy, impartiality, transparence; whereas the second generation of social, economic and cultural rights, such as rights to work, unions, social security, health, etc., rather demands values related to solidarity, empathy or generosity. In any case, the democratic method that turns around the defense of human rights and the balance between rights and duties will not very likely be the one that rules over future Muslim societies or the Venezuelan society if the Bolivarian revolution remains in power.
We can dare think that the new generations of young people born amidst the information technology and telecommunications, with heterogeneous and multicultural education, born among virtual friends, videogames, TV shows, video clips, the Internet and Facebook, accustomed to the continuous exchange of images, audiovisual speed and sonority, and zapping, will have more flexible, complex and fluid values than those of the previous generations.
The cultural mixing and hybridization process necessarily entails an ethical aperture. Other realities of the contemporary world will force us to transform values that today we hold as fundamental. In a planet subjected to demographic and environmental stress, the concepts of individuality and freedom are, in fact, suffering unexpected changes already. In time we will probably come to think that the individuality notion that we have today, our worship of the individuation process, was a very precise cultural product that reached its maximum expression in the Western world in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.
A new understanding of personality will blur the corporal limits between the ego and the world. This is not a comeback to collectivism but a new animism, a new form of filling the world with soul, the only way of making the universe take life and be respected by that predator animal that is the autonomous individual. Paradoxically, however, in spite of the intense awareness of our connection with the rest of the humankind and Nature, it is likely that the overpopulated world where we live, privacy, quietness, concentration, silence and intimacy become the most cherished values.
Axel Capriles M.
BA in Psychology, Ph D in Economic Sciences, Professor and Researcher
Translated by Alix Hernández
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