Here we post the words spoken by Pía Figueroa – co-Director of Pressenza – on the occasion of the presentation of the Greek edition of Silo’s book Letters to my Friends in Crete:
“Thank you goes to my Greek friends for this invitation to the island of Crete, the cradle of a very important nonviolent civilisation, and I’m also grateful for the presence of each one of you here this evening for participating in this presentation of the Greek edition of Silo’s Letters to my Friends.
I find it very significant that we have this book in our hands now, here in Greece, given the tremendous economic, political and social upheavals that you are experiencing and that is so well described in these pages written between 1991 and 1993 in the literary form of letters, epistles, and with the full title of Letters to my Friends: on social and economic crisis in today’s world.
Was the global crisis that currently affects us already showing its clear indicators at the start of the nineties, so that Silo could describe it with his characteristic precision, alert us about it and contribute his orientation regarding what to do in order to transform the direction of events? Or is this book ahead of its time, anticipating what we would come to experience decades later? Whichever it is, the book has without doubt this double nature that day by day allows us to value it even more.
When I was present at the Cultural Centre where the book was presented for the first time in the city of Santiago, Chile, where I live, I heard the author in person define what we call “crisis” with the following words: A “crisis” is something that carries us from one situation to a new situation which presents its own problems. A crisis is popularly understood as a dangerous phase, out of which can come something either beneficial or harmful to those entities that experience it; in this case, those entities are society and the individual.
These ‘letters’ brought to the readers of the book explain what happens in a closed system. Evidence is given of a world in which the concentration of financial power overpowers all industry, all business, all politics, every country and every individual. And in a closed system there is no other alternative than its destructuring. In fact, the destructuring of socialism seems to have been the start of a global destructuring that is accelerating so much today. This is the moment of crisis in which we find ourselves. How will this be resolved?
Silo outlined two possibilities. On the one hand, a kind of entropy that exists in closed systems which does nothing more than make the situation worse, and on the other hand a kind of opening of the closed system not thanks to non-natural action, but rather due to the intentional action of human beings.
Since the nineties, it was already highly likely that on a global scale the economy, laws, communication, values, languages and customs would converge. That a global power would be established driven by international financial capital that wouldn’t think twice about the populations of the biggest centres of decision-making. And the social fabric would continue its process of fragmentation. Political and social organizations, the administration of the State, all will fall under the management of technocrats in the service of a monstrous para-State that will tend to discipline the populations with increasingly restrictive measures as the fragmentation intensifies. The capacity for abstract thought will be all but lost, as it continues to be replaced by the computational paradigm of analytical, sequential functioning. All notion of process and structure will be lost, giving way to simplistic studies along the lines of linguistics and formal analysis. Fashion, language, social styles, music, architecture, the plastic arts, literature—all will become destructured. And in every field this confusing mixture of styles will be talked of as a great advance, just as has occurred at other moments of history with the eclecticism so characteristic of imperial decadence. Then the ancient hope of bringing everything together in uniformity in the hands of a single power will vanish forever.
This darkening of reason, this exhaustion of the peoples, will leave the field wide open for fanaticism of all kinds, for the denial of life, for the cult of suicide, for uncontrolled fundamentalisms. No longer will there be science or great revolutions in thought. Everything will be reduced to technology, though it will then be called “science.” There will be renewed growth of parochialism, factionalism, and ethnic struggles, and marginalised populations will sweep over the centres of decision-making in a whirlwind in which the macro-cities, before so overcrowded, will become depopulated. Chronic civil wars will overwhelm our poor planet on which people will no longer want to live. In short, this is a tale repeated in many civilizations that in their day believed in their own limitless progress. And all of those cultures ended finally in decline and disintegration. But fortunately, when one fell, elsewhere in the world new human initiatives would arise, and in that alternation of falling and rising civilizations, the old would be surpassed by the new. It is clear, however, that in today’s single, closed, worldwide system, there is no place “outside” in which another civilization might arise—leaving little possibility for anything other than a long and global Dark Age.
Today, events have shown us that the majority of these predictions were correct. National states have lost their sovereignty with the emergence of a para-state managed by the international financial system that cruelly imposes its conditions on countries to the detriment of its citizens, as was dramatically clear in the recent negotiation between Greece and the Eurogroup. In Europe and the United States the irrational (and illegal) response of xenophobia is cruelly punishing immigrants for being directly responsible for the growth of unemployment, when the real cause is the migration of big companies from their original locations to other parts of the world where labour is cheaper (or slavery). The European Union, one of the most hopeful projects of recent decades, has already started to show obvious signs of fragmentation, because destructuring is an unstoppable mechanism that respects nothing. This tendency also affects the social fabric, within which today it is difficult to identify broader references (such as social classes or generations) and everything is reduced to an infinity of specific demands without coordination between them. Finally the exponential growth of psychological illnesses, drug addiction and suicide manifest as nonmeaning that has expanded over this world that is now completely dehumanised.
In this context of accelerating social fragmentation, the proposal to advance towards a Universal Human Nation no longer looks like a distant and unreachable utopia but rather as an inevitable historical necessity if we want to overcome the crisis that we’ve been brought to by the closed system of globalisation.
Back then Silo asked himself, “How can human beings change the direction of events? Who will be able to produce this formidable change in direction if not the people themselves who are precisely the subject of history? Have we reached a state of sufficient maturity to understand that from now on there will be no progress unless it is by all and for all? That is the second hypothesis explored in these letters.
If the idea takes hold that there will be no progress unless it is by all and for all among the peoples of the world, then the struggle will be clear.
In the last phase of this destructuring, new winds will begin to blow in the social base. In ordinary neighbourhoods, in the humblest workplaces, the social fabric will begin to regenerate. And this will apparently be a spontaneous phenomenon, which will be echoed by the appearance of a multitude of groups made up of working people, now freed from domination by their union leaderships. Great numbers of decentralized political groupings will appear and will clash with the established political organizations, which are led by increasingly isolated elites. Fresh debate will begin in every factory, every office and every business. Short-term demands will give way to a consciousness of the broader situation, in which labour will have greater human value than capital, and in which the risk of labour will be clearer than the risk of capital when it comes time to set priorities. People will easily come to the conclusion that a company’s earnings should be reinvested in opening new sources of employment, or should be applied in other areas where production is still increasing, rather than as now diverted into speculation which only ends up increasing the profits for Big Capital while destroying entire industries and leading to the bankruptcy of the apparatus of production. Finally, businessmen will begin to realize that they, too, have been reduced to mere employees of the bank, and that in this emergency workers have now become their natural ally. Social unrest will again intensify, creating an open, direct struggle between speculative capital as an abstract, inhuman force, and the forces of labour—the true lever of transformation of the world.
People will begin to understand that progress depends not on debt with banks, but rather that banks should grant credit to businesses without charging interest. And it will also be clear that there is no way to stop the growing concentration of capital and power that is leading everything towards collapse, except through a redistribution of wealth.
Real, direct democracy based on referendums will then be a necessity, because people will want to move beyond the agony of non-participation and the constant threat of social unrest. The powers of government will be reformed as today’s formal democracy, so dependent on financial capital, loses all meaning.
This second possible scenario that Silo describes will for sure come about only after an initial period in which the problems will continue to intensify. Then, he continued, there will be a period of “one step forward and one step back” in which each success will be multiplied, having a demonstration effect that will reach even the most remote corners of the Earth thanks to instant means of communication.
This is not about taking power in a few nation states but about a worldwide process in which these new social phenomena, which are the antecedents of a radical change in direction, will continue to multiply.
So, instead of the process of change ending in a mechanical collapse we have seen repeated so many times before, we will see the will to change and the peoples of the Earth beginning to travel the road towards the Universal Human Nation.
This second possibility is the alternative on which the Humanists of today place their futures.
That’s why we are paying attention to what is happening in places that are in the vanguard in terms of crisis, to the people such as you, the Greeks, who are surely more conscious of the misfortune and the inhumanity that we are seeing. We care a lot about what the simplest people are trying to do here, the way they are organising and the solidarity that they are showing.
We have too much faith in human beings to believe that everything will end stupidly. Perhaps it is precisely from here where something new and repeatable in other latitudes starts to be produced, a demonstration effect of the possible and necessary response for a great change, for that radical change that humanity is so in need of.
That’s why, inspired by Silo’s Letters, humanists want to accompany this process that opens towards the future, here and wherever it starts to happen”.