According to Heidegger, in the traditional philosophy commencing with Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, human existence became the subject of mind and thus lost its immediate existential dimension and acquired an objective and thereby metaphysical character. Man no longer relates to the world from the experience of his tragic existence, based on a fear of death that can be overcome by relying on gods, but by way of thinking and activity derived from thinking, which draws him into the sphere of inauthentic existence – into the oblivion of Being and, consequently, to nihilism.
Heidegger discards philosophy because it turns the world and man into objects, and his criterion for determining the truthfullness of Being in the contemporary world is an idealized image of the Hellenic world as the product and object of a divine (self)will. Heidegger strives to abolish philosophy, which turned man’s existence into an object and thus reduced man, as a concrete social being, to a metaphysical being. Heidegger claims that, with his fundamental ontology, he is trying to overcome metaphysics; however, everything touched by his thought was turned into the metaphysical.
According to Heidegger, what is essential should be sought in man’s relation to Being. The experience of one’s own existence through co-existence with Being is the point where meta-spheres, as the starting points for self-reflection of philosophical thought, are abolished. In that regard, overcoming metaphysics is achieved in the sphere of man’s immediate relation to his existence and not in the sphere of social processes that determine people’s lives. At the same time, man’s experience of the limits of metaphysics can help him overcome the metaphysical way of thinking.
Heidegger does not realise that metaphisics is only one of the ideological manifestations of a world in which man is abolished as a historical, i.e., an authentic and life-creating being. Metaphysics is the self-consciousness of capitalist reproduction processes, which are in conflict with man’s life-creating nature and history. A petrified man and a petrified world – this is the essence of metaphysics.
Overcoming the way of thinking that objectifies man and the world involves the abolition of the world in which man has become the object of in-human and destructive processes. The abolition of the capitalist world through changing practice based on a life-creating mind is the main presupposition for the abolition of metaphysics. The abolition of the process of objectification of man and the world and thus the metaphysical way of thinking can be achieved by reviving the life-creating potentials of nature, man, history, and mind. It is about the overcoming of the world producing metaphysics as its ideology, and not about the abolition of the critical-changing mind by way of the poetical – which produces a religious approach to Being as the embodiment of the ruling processes abolishing man as an authentic historical being. Metaphysics cannot be abolished in thinking or by the abolition of mind, but through a political struggle that will abolish destructive capitalist barbarism and enable man to become the creator of his own history.
Heidegger creates the impression that man can relate to the concrete world as a being outside of the world, that his relation to the world is not conditioned by the nature of the world and the nature of his existence as a concrete social being. His philosophy lacks the self-reflection of man as a concrete social being, which means the self-reflection of his concrete existence. Indeed, man does not relate to the world as an extra-terrestrial being, but as somebody who belongs to that world. The experience and reflection of the world are conditioned by the nature of the world in which man lives and the nature of his existence as a concrete social being. Marx is right: “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness”.
Fundamental ontology does not consider the real world; it rather creates an ideological image of the world based on the political projection of the future advocated by Heidegger. The ideological world becomes the image of the world that mediates between man and the real world and, as such, is the means for abolishing man’s reasonable relation to the world. In this respect, Heidegger comes close to Christianity as a method of ruling. According to Christianity, man should believe that his slave‘s life leads to heaven. Indeed, with his slave‘s life, man enables the ruling class to strengthen a governing regime based on the exploitation of people and the destruction of life.
Heidegger confronts the mind’s emancipatory and life-creating potential and, in that context, the idea of a reasonable world. Heidegger’s confrontation with the mind is actually a confrontation with a reasonable man. Considering the fact that the world is ruled by destructive capitalist mindlessness and that the creation of a reasonable alternative to capitalism has become a matter of humankind’s survival, Heidegger’s philosophy not only has an anti-emancipatory, but also an anti-existential character. Without a critical-changing relation to capitalism, which involves man’s becoming an emancipated reasonable being, the world is doomed.
If philosophical thinking is possible only as the thinking of Being, and the thinking of Being as its objectification, then the poetical, as the experience of Being, becomes the abolition of philosophy and thus of man’s reasonable relation to his existence. The poetical represents a “detour” of the mind and acquires a liturgical dimension.
Heidegger is not concerned with essence but with existence, but existence is determined with the essential criteria established by his concept of Being. Our concern, however, should not be whether what is exists, but that existence is what makes the world human and man a human being. In other words, it is not about man’s being, but about the being of Being in which the possibility of man’s being occurs. Heidegger represents what is (real world) as it is not, only to represent what is not (abstract “Being”) as if it is. The basis of his fundamental ontology is not the real world, but an ideological image of the world as the reflection of his political projection of the future.
Heidegger creates a myth both of his philosophy as a supra-historical thought and of himself as a supra-historical being. Heidegger’s philosophy is not aware of its own limits, which are a necessary product of the times in which it appeared. In Heidegger, there is no self-reflection of philosophy departing from its being a concrete historical thought, conditioned by the nature of capitalism and bearing its seal.
Heidegger’s philosophy is modelled after Ancient Greece, where there were no separate spheres of tehnology, art, philosophy, religion… At the same time, his thought derives from philosophy as a separate sphere of the capitalist supra-structure, which obtains authenticity relative to other spheres and does not derive from the totality of the world, which in ancient times was in unity with being. Although Heidegger criticises the world of tehnology, his philosophy represents the other side of that world, or more precisely, his criticism of the world of technology is conditioned by that very world. The nature of that which is criticised inevitably conditions the nature of its criticism.
Heidegger explains contemporary concepts with an analysis using traditional philosophical terms. Indeed, modern man thinks in an essentially different way from Ancient man. In Ancient Greece, man’s approach to the world and human beings was holistic and had a religious character, which was based on the authoritarian political principle of the ruling slave and racist order. “Traditional philosophy” can connect traditional and modern thinkers in the same way that mythological imagination, with its ideological character, connects ancient and modern worlds.
The thesis that philosophy is essentially the “love of wisdom” (philosophia) is a myth. The source of philosophy is not the “love of wisdom”, but the ancient slave, racist, sexist and pedophilistic order. In Ancient Greece, philosophers had the role of the clergy in Medieval times. As with religion, philosophy has always been a political tool of the ruling class for preserving the ruling order. Rather than being grounded in reason, philosophy is one of the institutions of the class order. It is based on the interests of the ruling groups, which privatized the mind making it the exclusive means for defending the ruling order.
The “love of wisdom” is a euphemism concealing the truth that philosophy is a specific skill of ruling that establishes power in people’s minds, namely, the ideological club of the ruling class and as such the instrument for preserving the ruling order. Philosophy has never been guided by original human interests and, in that sense, by mind. This is the main reason why modern philosophy “has not noticed” that capitalism is destroying life on the Earth and man as a human and natural being.
The definition of philosophy as the “love of wisdom” implies that “wisdom”, and man’s need for wisdom, precede philosophy. “Wisdom” acquires an abstract dimension and becomes independent of society and human beings. It becomes a distinct entity, whose concrete nature is not questioned. It is not a historical product and has no historical dimension. Should we not, however, first answer the question of what “wisdom” is and where the “love of wisdom” comes from, and try to explain its nature? Is it an inherent part of human nature or the need for it was created in the course of human society’s historical development?
Historically, wisdom precedes philosophy and derives from the existential sphere based on the working classes’ struggle for freedom, on labour, on the development of man’s cultural being and on a respect for nature, and not on the class order based on the exploitation of working classes, stupification of the human race and destruction of nature.
If philosophy is indeed the “love of wisdom”, then wisdom is the criterion upon which the truthfullness of philosophy is determined. Who is wise: a man who claims the existence of a non-existent and bows to a non-existent as if it were existent, or the man who is aware that it derives from religious imagination, imposed on people as “truth” by the governing philosophy (religion)? Ancient philosophers used reason to create the illusion of the Olympic gods so as to deify the existing world and prevent a demise of the ruling order. Plato’s philosophy provides the best example. His belief that people are “the toys of gods” is one of the most detrimental philosophical “truths”, exploited by the masters of the world for over two thousand years in their endeavours to destroy the working people’s libertarian dignity and justify their own dominant position.
If philosophy is indeed the “love of wisdom” and philosophers are the “lovers of wisdom”, why have philosophers never expressed interest in the “folk wisdom” born from the life struggle of people living upon their labour and opposing a ruling order based on oppressive and destructive mindlessness? During their life and liberatarian struggle, people all over the world have created a plethora of gems of wisdom that never came into the focus of “serious” philosophy. “Wisdom”, in the form of established philosophy and religion, has always been a privilege of the ruling class. “Folk” have never been entitled to wisdom. Slaves and serfs, and later on peasants and workers, have always been reduced to a mindless “mass” that must obey and submit to their masters. Working people were not supposed to be the source of wisdom and have the self-consciousness of wise people. Ever since the onset of class society, that is what the survival of the ruling order has been based upon.
While in the works of Shakespeare, Goethe, Njegosh… we can still discern the traces of folk wisdom, later philosophy, based upon the capitalist division of labour and specialization, developed a specific language of philosophy and a specific way of philosophizing that entirely disassociated itself from folk wisdom. This was further supported by the development of the theoretical sphere of science and art, with which, along with the existent religious domain, philosophy is confronted and intertwined. At the same time, philosophy saw the development of branches within itself, each striving to become a predominant thought. Philosophy becomes an elitist thinking that, due to its specific jargon, is completely separated from “ordinary” people. As with classic versions of Biblical texts, increasingly complex and obscure philosophical terms become holy formulas, which do not serve to prompt people to think about the essential, but to kill their willingness to think.
To deprive the working people of reason has always been the primary task of both philosophers and the clergy. This is the basis of the contemporary strategy of ruling, with working “masses” reduced by capitalists to a working-consuming herd. Philosophy becomes a professional activity and acquires a paramount political significance. Contemporary philosophers acquire a status similar to that of the Ancient Greek philosophers and the Medieval clergy.
Historically, there are two parallel contemplating worlds: one is generated from the life struggle of working people and the other from the oppressive and parasitic life of the ruling class. There is a libertarian-life-creating wisdom based on people’s struggle for freedom and survival, on the one hand, and the wisdom of the masters, institutionalized in the form of philosophy and religion and based on the exploitation and oppression of the working people and the conquering of the world.
Folk wisdom is based on people’s life-creating struggle and finds its truth by offering them a possibility to solve their existential problems. It comes from the life experience of working people and contains instructions for everyday life, being, in that respect, a constitutive part of life. Its truthfullness is not verified through hollow academic disputes, but in the course of everyday struggle for survival and freedom. Folk wisdom can be a universal truth only in formal terms. In concrete terms, it can be a guiding principle only to those who live the kind of life that gives rise to this thought and to which it relates.
A typical example is the maxim: “All in good time!” as one of the most relevant and wisest folk wisdoms. It is based on a thousand year old experience and its true meaning can be understood only in terms of man’s struggle for survival and freedom. It indicates the importance of a reasonable relation to the future and, in that respect, the responsibility for making life decisions viewed from the perspective of their causes and consequences. To do the right thing at the right time and take into consideration the possible consequences – this is the elementary principle of a reasonable life, which should enable the preservation of life in the contemporary world and the creation of a more humane world.
Philosophy develops by focusing on the development of the very process of thinking, which has a master and, in that sense, an instrumental character. It is not part of people’s life-creating and libertarian practice, not a part of life itself, but is rather a mediator between the world and people and obtains the legitimacy of being reasonable in the context of the philosophical sphere, which is alienated from people and constitutes part of the dominant ideological sphere. As a separate sphere of thinking, it is foreign to people who live in line with the wisdom which has a life-creating character. It is no accident that leading philosophers are usually close to the ruling order, often acting as consultants for “strategic issues”.
Kant’s “categorical imperative” (“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law”), which is one of the corner stones of modern philosophy, is a typical example of the political instrumentalization of philosophy. It has nothing to do with man’s life-creating and libertarian practice or, in that sense, with wisdom, but is rather an ideological scam intended to produce a false “moral” consciousness within an abstract “citizen” and thus ensure survival of a capitalist order based on conflicting personal interests of the atomized petty bourgeoisie.
The conflict between libertarian mind and established philosophy can be traced back to the teachings in natural science and law offered by Sophists. The same applies to the criticism of the Olympic games and the Olympic champions, which grew louder with the demise of the Hellenic world.
As far as Christianity is concerned, a typical example of the political instrumentalization of Christianity in the defence of the ruling order can be seen in the maxims: “All things come to him who waits!” and “All authority is from God!”. As opposed to what the great Serbian educator Vasa Pelagic, guided by a libertarian wisdom, came to concludes that “churches are shops where priests sell lies about God”.
The human mind, which is based on the understanding and experience of the ecocidal nature of capitalism, has long been opposed to a philosophy based on existential apriorism and the myth of “infinite progress”, which thus becomes a philosophical manifestation of destructive capitalist mindlessness. A warning of the direction in which the world is moving, like the one given by Charles Fourier in the beginning of the 19th century or, half a century later, by Chief Seattle, was given long before the onset of “consumer society”, that representation of the last stage in the development of capitalism as a totalitarian destructive order.
Here are some of the wise thoughts of the Native American chief, which matter more to the development of humankind’s life-creating consciousness than all previous philosophy: “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap, which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man. The white man’s dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man. (….) We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed grasses are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man — all belong to the same family (…) We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his father’s grave behind, and he does not care. He kidnaps the earth from his children, and he does not care. His father’s grave, and his children’s birthright are forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert. (…)The air is precious to the red man for all things share the same breath, the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days he is numb to the stench.(…) You must teach your children what we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. (…). The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood, which unites one family. All things are connected. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. Even the White Man, whose God walked and talked with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. (….) The end of living and the beginning of survival…”
None of the “great philosophers”, whose work represents the pillar of Western civilization’s contemplative life, has ever concerned himself with the Chief’s life wisdom – available to the general public ever since 1854. Also, none of the “great philosophers” has ever expressed any interest in the terrible plight of Native Americans, who have almost been eradicated by American capitalism. Up to 98% of their population was exterminated in the biggest genocide in our world’s history. Tens of millions of adults and millions of children have been systematically massacred by the American regime during the course of over 200 years. This monstrous crime forms the foundation of the “American democracy” and the “new (American) world order”.
How has modern philosophy overlooked the fact that capitalism pushes humankind right to the abyss? The fact that modern philosophy is alienated from man and his concrete existence and as such serves as a mediator between man and world is the reason why the question of humankind’s survival, as the most immediate existential question, has never become a crucial philosophical question. Modern philosophy, as it turns out, is based on existential apriorism and has an anti-existential character. For hundreds of years, it has prevented human beings from realizing the extent of capitalism’s destructiveness.
Modern philosophy is a form of philosophy that cherishes progressivistic myths created by a capitalistically established and instrumentalized science. One of the most dangerous myths is that the genuine indicator of progress is the extent to which man has conquered nature. To increase the certainty of humankind’s survival has never been considered as a condition of progress and never became a crucial philosophical question. Christianity, with its idea of apocalypse, has greatly contributed to this. The progress based on capitalism is realized in a demise of the world, which ends in the Christian apocalypse.
Thinking has a concrete historical nature. It is one thing when man thinks in the blossoming field and quite another when he thinks on the brink of the abyss. A specific feature of contemporary philosophy is the fact that philosophers continue to philosophize as if humankind were not on the brink of the abyss. It is not only an anti-libertarian, but also an anti-existential mystification of the world.
Traditional philosophy is based on the illusion that freedom of the mind is possible without freedom of man. It is about a dualism of the spiritual and the material world, whereby man is reduced to res cogitans (Descartes). In the works of bourgeois philosophers, there is no self-reflection of the mind from the aspect of the concrete non-freedom of a thinking man. The freedom of a thinking man is not stipulated as a condition for determining the truthfullness of philosophy. We are dealing here with an ideological scam: philosophy is a sphere of freedom in its own right – as opposed to the world of non-freedom. How can we talk of a “freedom of thinking” with man hovering over the abyss?
As a separate social discipline and mode of thinking, philosophy has become a phenomenon sui generis. By means of his magical philosophical veil, the philosopher hovers over the world of non-freedom and destruction and relates to it as if he had not occured in that world and were not living in it; as if he were not participating in the creation of that which should be analyzed “objectively”; as if he were not interested in the future of that world and what might happen to it; as if his thought of the world were not conditioned by the nature of that world and the nature of his position in the world… A “free philosopher” becomes the ideological mask of an unfree man, whereas philosophy becomes a concrete lie of an abstract man disquised as a “philosopher”.
Philosophy is a specific sphere of politics, covered by the veil of the “universal truth”. The same applies to religion, whose “universal truth” has an absolute character and is not subject to rational verification. The thesis that philosophy is the “pursuit of truth” is but one way of turning philosophy into a myth. If the essence of wisdom is the truth, the question is what kind of truth? Historically, each ruling class has had its own truth. The truth of the ruling class in ancient Hellada was based on the slave, racist, militarist, sexist and pedophilic nature of that world, based on a cosmic order ruled by the Olympian gods.
Philosophy turns life issues into abstract theoretical questions and thus sterilizes the libertarian and life-creating potential of the mind. It separates the mind from life and ghettoizes it. The world, history, man – all that is obtained from the given ideological sphere appearing as “philosophy”. In contemporary capitalism, philosophy is deprived of a humanist and life-creating essence and reduced to a technical discipline. It is based on the capitalistically instrumentalized mind, which amounts to a technical ratio. This is, actually, the most important way in which the ruling order appropriates and ruins the mind.
Philosophers relate to philosophy in the same way theologists relate to religion: they see it as the exclusive means of the ruling “elite” to spiritually enslave the working “masses”. Philosophical elitism derives from class elitism. A striving for dominance, by imposing the “truth” through mind appropriation, is only one manifestation of the dominant spirit of class society, where intellectual activity is a privilege of the governing class. Rather than striving to make the world intelligible, philosophers strive to confront the very thinking that questions their elitist status. They do not strive to bring people closer to one another; they strive to establish power over them. What is common to all philosophers is their considering themselves to be the “owners” of truth whereas the “ordinary” people are un-reasonable creatures and, as such, lower beings.
Philosophy is an institutionalized form of the alienation of reason from man. The purpose of philosophy is to philosophize, which means to separate the mind from life and thus prevent people from becoming reasonable beings; its purpose is not to preserve the world and achieve man’s freedom. Philosophical rhetoric is a mind trap. It creates labyrinths of thought, where man, in his pursuit of truth, loses historical self-consciousness and becomes the victim of illusions. Instead of being the “pursuit of truth”, philosophy is rather the giving of “truth”. Through philosophy, truth is deprived of a concrete historical nature, acquiring an ideological dimension. “Truth” becomes an instrument in the conflict with man as a visionary and changing being and the means for preserving the current state of affairs. Heidegger’s fundamental ontology is a typical example thereof.
In addition to concealing and mystifying the truth, philosophy also serves to deprive people of their right to reasonableness, and to reason itself. Just as the clergy have the exclusive ownership of “God”, philosophers have the exclusive ownership of reason. The claim that philosophy is self-consciousness of the mind, which means that thinking, via philosophy, acquires the legitimacy of the reasonable, is an ideological scam. The abolishment of philosophy as a mediator between man and the world represents the mind’s liberation from its philosophical cage.
The “history of philosophy” yields philosophy no historical grounds and relegates it to a supra-historical realm. Philosophers are deprived of their concrete social being and turned into a “philosophical mind” hovering over the world. They try to conceal the source of or motives for engaging in philosophy in order to create a false image of their lack of “bias”. Like priests, philosophers also have their special robes. Behind a philosophical “objectivity” there hides a class, group and personal bias. “Philosophers” are vain people. Their philosophizing is not based on a need for truth; it is driven by basic human passions and personal interests. What is common to all “philosophers” is not a libertarian inspiration, but an elitist pride.
Bourgeois philosophy produces a false image of the world in an attempt to prevent its changing. Capitalism’s diagnosis is based on a political strategy that strives to preserve capitalism at any cost. Philosophers have not “explained the world” as Marx claims, they have rather mystified it. If philosophers had indeed “explained the world”, they would have inevitably come to the conslusion that the capitalist world is based on destruction and the creation of a new world, based on existential certainty, would have long been the basic philosophical concern.
Instead of advocating a social order based on reason, philosophy follows the spirit of a destructive mindlessness and destroys critical rationalism and visionary consciousness. A typical example is the philosophy of play, along with the philosophy of sport and Olympism. Every reasonable human being clearly sees that to insist on play as the “oasis of happiness” (Fink) only contributes to preserving the world of misery. Also, every reasonable human being clearly sees that to insist on the principle citius, altius, fortius, inevitably leads to the destruction of man as a humane and natural being. In spite of that, bourgeois philosophers glorify sport because it is a spectacular billboard for capitalism and therefore the chief political means of integrating the oppressed into the capitalist order.
Just how much the bourgeois philosophy is un-reasonable and to what extent it amounts to the means for the devaluation of man and the justification of capitalist terror, can be seen from the following example. Bourgeois anthropology is based on the assertion that man is, by nature, a greedy beast with an inherent need to kill. The wolf is proclaimed man’s immediate predecessor. Every peasant child knows that a wolf does not have a need to kill, but to satisfy its hunger. Once it is satisfied, the wolf has no need to attack either other animals or man. Also, every peasant child knows that man has tamed the wolf by feeding it. Thanks to that, the wolf has turned from a ferocious beast to the dog – “man’s best friend”. The dog, which is a tamed wolf, has become a noble creature and as such is “man’s best friend”, whereas man, who does not have any connection with the wolf whatsoever and who originates from the benevolent chimpanzee, has a “wolf nature”, which means that he is a “ferocious beast”! How ingenious is that?
Bearing in mind the nature of capitalists, politicians, journalists, philosophers, priests, traders, lawyers and members of other “elitist” professions, we could conclude that not all people originate from the wolf; namely, some of them originate from the rat and some from the snake, hyena, skunk… This could be the right topic, indeed, for bourgeois anthropology!
Philosophy is conditioned by the nature of the concrete historical totality in which it occurs. Capitalism, as a totalitarian destructive order, conditions the anti-existential character of bourgoise philosophy. Philosophy does not reveal what is concealed, but rather conceals the destructive nature of capitalism and the emancipatory potential created in bourgeois society, which offer the possibility for the creation of a new world. Not only does philosophy create the illusion that capitalism’s irrational nature is actually rational, it is also a manifestation of capitalism’s destructive irrationalism.
With different philosophical disciplines, the mind becomes mutilated, while the conflict originating within philosophy results in futile disputes which, considering the dramatic destruction of the world, have an anti-existential character. Philosophical dispute amounts to the distraction of the mind from essential life issues and the accumulation of philosophical empty-talk that blocks the mind. Instead of striving for life-creating thought, philosophy is reduced to a sterile philosophical knowledge. The history of philosophy amounts to a philosophical dogmatics that prevents the mind from freely relating to the world that is falling ever more deeply into the abyss of existential hopelessness.
In contemporary capitalism, philosophers have become capitalist theologians, who create virtual worlds not by means of a religious mysticism, but rather by means of a technocratic way of thinking that destroys humanist visionary imagination and produces virtual worlds in the form of consumer goods. The conflict between capitalism and life proceeds in the form of a conflict with visionary consciousness. Philosophers create a world without a future and thus become the gravediggers of humankind.
In “consumer society”, philosophy has become a discipline subject to the rules of show-business: it has become a form of entertainment. Even when they pose relevant questions, philosophers pose them in such a way that they lack seriousness and acquire a caricatural dimension. Philosophy is reduced to an entertaining rhetoric, which seeks to appear in a spectacular form, i.e., pre-packaged for marketing. The “quality of a philosopher” is measured by the size of the fee brought by his performance. Philosophers have become the jesters of capitalism.
Capitalism destroys the reasonable man and man’s reasonable relation to the world and life and reduces him to a consumer idiot. The velocity of the turnover of capital is the “mystic” force that determines human life and the development of the world. Philosophy is caught between a rock and a hard place: namely, between the dynamics of life dictated by the acceleration of capitalist reproduction, on the one hand, and the total commercialization of the world that destroys people’s need for serious thinking, on the other. The production of philosophical works is conditioned by the acceleration of the capitalist wheel and people’s ever narrower mental capacities, with the mind mutilated by the capitalist way of life and the ruling propaganda machinery.
Through the media, held by capitalists, the public is exposed only to the way of thinking that is in conflict with the emancipatory heritage of bourgeois society and visionary consciousness. The public space is left to corrupted politicians, ill-educated TV presenters and the “commentators” at hand, whereas the real political space, beyond the public domain, is left to the most powerful capitalist clans who, blinded by self-interests, make decision that threaten the survival of humankind.
The main source of “reasonableness” in “consumer society” are commercials. They do not show a reflective man, but mental degenerates, who treat commercial goods with a religious zeal. In light of this inreasingly dramatic process of turning people into idiots and destroying their lives, we can clearly see the fatal consequences of mind’s ghettoization. We are talking here about two sides of the same process, both grounded in destructive capitalist irrationalism.
The “end of philosophy”, as a concrete historical process, occurs as the destruction of man’s ability to make independent conclusions and act upon them. It is about the abolishment of the mind and freedom, i.e., of the possibility of creating a mindful freedom. The aim of bourgeoise philosophy is to prevent radical social changes by eliminating the possibility that change might be based on the mind. The “eclipse of reason” (Horkheimer) is capitalism’s response to the growing existential crisis and to the existence of objective possibilities for the abolishment of the capitalist world. Bourgeois philosophy destroys the seed of novum created in capitalism by destroying its historical genesis. Hence its insistence on an anti-visionary way of thinking and on philosophical disciplines that pin the human mind down to the existing world based on destructive capitalist mindlessness. This is the basic reason why sport, as a spectacular form of pinning man down to the existing world, has become the dominant (quasi) religion in capitalism.
Philosophy belongs to the “pre-history” (Marx) of human society – along with capitalism and its intellectual supra-structure. Even when it criticizes the current state of affairs, philosophy contributes to its preservation because it reproduces a world divided into spheres alienated from man. In that sense, philosophy is an alienated form of disalienation. No critical discussion of philosophy remains within its scope unless it is related to a critical-changing practice. Here we should remember Marx’s thesis that “the correct theory is the consciousness of a practice that aims at changing the world”. The changing relation to the world conditions the nature of thinking. This context opens the space for a libertarian philosophy, with a critical self-consciousness directing the changing practice towards the final abolishment of capitalism and thus the abolishment of philosophy as a way of thinking alienated from man.
Man cannot leave the world and relate to it as an extra-terrestrial or supra-terrestrial being, but he can “step out briefly” from that world. The nature of this “stepping out” is also conditioned by the nature of the world and its concrete existence, but it enables him to establish a relationship with the existing world and to throw a glance at the future.
In addition to a positivist relation to the existing world, whereby the world is reduced to a self-reproductive givenness, there is also a mythological, transcendental, virtual and visionary relation to the world. Man acquires the image of his concrete existence relative to an idealized image of the past; relative to an illusory heavenly world produced by religious imagination; relative to virtual cosmic worlds produced by scientistic cosmological fantasy; or relative to an imagined and possible future of this earthly world.
What offers him the possibility to “step out” from the world is the historical mind, which means his visionary imagination. By way of the historical mind, with its dialectic character, man can perceive the concrete existential and essential boundaries of his existence, as well as the concrete existential and essential potential for the creation of a future world, which can be realized through libertarian and creative practice. The historicity of human existence is the starting point for determining its self-reflection. The idea of progress and a visionary consciousness appear in this context. The quality of the current human existence is determined relative to the increasingly dramatic destruction of life and relative to the created life-creating potential – involving the life-creating potential of man as a libertarian and social being, which are not, but could be, realized through the creation of a new world and thereby a new existence.
Since philosophy is a manifestation of destructive capitalist irrationalism, a demand for the “realization of philosophy” means adding fuel to the fire devouring the world. Instead of “being realized”, philosophy should be abolished in the abolishment of the capitalist world and by man‘s becoming an emancipated reasonable being. The abolishment of philosophy does not mean the discarding, but on the contrary, the revival of the libertarian and life-creating potential of philosophical thought. In that context, dialectical thought acquires a special place, as it overcomes the mind that is pinned down to everyday living and incapable of grasping the process of society’s historical development – without which man cannot acquire self-consciousness as a historical being.
Marx’s thought opens a possibility for a demystifaction of philosophy and the development of an emancipatory mind. It confronts philosophy as the mind alienated from man, which mediates between man and the world and serves the ruling order to do away with the critical-visionary mind and libertarian practice of the oppressed. Marx sought to realize and thus abolish philosophy by way of a revolution, which would be carried out by the oppressed and conscious working people.
Today, the mind should be associated with humankind’s struggle for survival. It should become the “property” of man as an emancipated reasonable being and as such the basic integrative force of society. The mind should be freed from the cage of philosophy, science, religion, politics… and brought back to life as the foundation of human relationships, man’s understanding of the world and his relation to the future. We should develop a life-creating mind that will be the most important manifestation of human beingness. Every word uttered by man should be reasonable – it should come from the mind and be directed to it. This “rationalization of the world” involves people becoming emancipated reasonable beings.
Instead of being directed to the rationalization of the world and the struggle for its survival, the minds of tens of thousands of people engaged in philosophy and the social sciences, representing the most educated part of humanity, are directed at futile academic disputes and the interpretation of the thoughts of individuals whose philosophy amounts to the creation of a thinking labyrinth without exit. A typical example is the relation of the academic intelligentsia to Heidegger.
A true mind is not possible as the privilege of a small group of people, but as man’s right and a concrete possibility. The ideal of a mind emancipated from philosophy is a rational man and society as the community of emancipated rational people. Man’s concern for solving concrete life problems related to his survival and freedom will direct him towards rational thinking. Only in the context of his struggle for survival will man become an emancipated rational being.
The true “will to power” (Nietzsche) can be achieved only relative to a destructive capitalist mindlessness that makes man lead a mindless (self-destructive) life. The basic reasonable principle we should follow is the preservation of life on Earth. This is the most important reasonable path. To be human today means, above all, to fight against ecocidal capitalist terrorism and for the survival of life.
In a world that has become a capitalist crematorium, “free thinking” is an ideological scam. There is no free thinking without a free mind, and there is no free mind without a free man. Only in an authentic history, one in the future classless (communist) society, is man’s true freedom possible and can thought become a free activity of a free man, the purpose of thinking being not thinking itself but thinking as the essential part of a life-creating existence.
Philosophy can be abolished only through a revolution, through realization of life-creating potential within the concrete existence of man as a creative and emancipated social being. The power that enables society to prevent the destruction of life and to create a humane world are not the mystic powers that acquire mythological dimension, but the life-creating potential of national cultures and bourgeois society, along with the life-creating potential of man as a creative and social being. Revolution is the only form of existence involving the abolishment of the processes that reduce man and the world to objects. They pull down the walls between man and the world. It is the true form of man’s realization as a creative and visionary being. With capitalism becoming a totalitarian destructive order, revolution has become the highest existential challenge and the most authentic way of life. It has become the supreme principle of a life-creating humanism and as such the supreme principle on which life-creative practice should be based. Philosophy, which has appropriated the mind, should be abolished by a rational world, by people becoming life-creative rational beings. To return the mind to man is not only the primary essential challenge, but also the paramount existential imperative.
Translated from Serbian by Vesna Petrović (Todorović) English translation supervisor Mick Collins
Women’s Plight During Natural Calamities: A Case Study of Recent Floods in Pakistan
Recently, at the United Nations general assembly, the Prime minister of Pakistan’s speech started with the challenge of climate change, which is bringing havoc into the country through floods. This shows Pakistan’s serious concern about drastic climate change in the world which is impacting Pakistan. It is estimated that around 1/3 of Pakistan is under water, which has affected 33 million people. Above 1500 deaths are recorded. The infrastructure of about $10 billion has been destroyed. The PM Shehbaz Sharif in the UN specifically highlighted women’s plight and mentioned children’s deaths. According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Pakistan is the eighth most affected country by climate change. While, Pakistan has less than 1% share in global greenhouse gas emissions, it is more on the receiving end of the devastation of climate change. After a decade, Pakistan is standing in the position it has witnessed in 2010 but, more horrific.
Natural calamities like floods not only bring devastation with them, rather they also bring other illnesses such as waterborne diseases. It also brings more hardships for women and children. There is a general understanding that natural calamities do not make any difference in gender. It impacts all members of society equally. The United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Asaka Okai, said that whenever a disaster strikes, women and children are 14 times more likely to die than men. Women are experiencing more impact from the devastation caused by the flood. Women are victims because, during floods, natural cycles don’t stop, which occur in the body of a female, such as menstruation, and pregnancy. Similarly, women are the target of harassment, rape, insecurity, and diseases.
According to statistics, about 650,000 women are pregnant and 73,000 are about to give birth. In Pakistan, most women give birth to their children in homes, but due to flooding, their houses are destroyed. They are not left in safe shelters. Due to floods, they are shifted to camps where all family members live together and the privacy of females has decreased. According to estimates, about 1000 health facilities are partially or fully destroyed in Sindh and 198 health facilities are destroyed in Balochistan, which also decreases access to health care. Destruction of infrastructures such as roads and bridges has increased difficulty in reaching clinics and hospitals. Women are not receiving proper medical facilities and care, which increases the mortality rate. Women go through natural cycles of menstruation for which they need sanitary materials. As per media reports, women living in flood-affected areas are using tree leaves. Living in a conservative society, it is considered taboo to talk about these things. When NGOs started to collect sanitary materials for women, they faced a lot of criticism from the conservative faction of society, saying that instead of collecting unnecessary things, they should gather food for them.
During this disaster, people become homeless, due to which they are shifted to camps where access to toilets and clean drinking water becomes difficult for women. This also increases the chances of getting diseases. Living in camps, women face security issues. Male members of their families go in search of food while women and children are alone in camps. Harassment cases are reported from these areas. Recently, a case of a teenage girl was reported in Shahdadpur. The victim was raped by two rickshaw drivers who are familiar with her. They told her that there is ration distribution for flood-hit areas. If she agrees to accompany them, then you can give her access to that.
In Pakistan, women are responsible for performing house chores. Due to flooding, there is standing water everywhere. Women have to move in those waters to perform their tasks. Stagnant water is the breeding place for water-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, and typhoid. In Sindh, the percentage of malnourished kids is 41.6% (National Nutrition survey of 2018). Malnourished women and children are more prone to these diseases. The National Disaster Management Authority has reported the deaths of 536 children and 308 women. Widows and orphans face food and security issues. In Sindh and Balochistan, it is not acceptable for a female to go out of the house. NGOs should keep this in mind while distributing rations to the public. These sufferings during disasters pose deep imprints on the psychosocial and mental health of females. Their suffering will not end here in the camps but, when they move to their homes, standing water from flooding is waiting for them. There will be no home to live in for them, which gives rise to the same issues they are facing in camps.
The media has always played a major role in highlighting issues that are of major concern. It should highlight the issues faced by women during this situation by sending female journalists who can cover flood-hit areas. So, they can bring these issues to the public to make people aware of the issues faced by women. This will help in sensitizing the public that the issues which are faced by females are a matter of serious concern and importance. It will assist the government authorities to make policies that will also cater to the issues of Pakistan’s 48.5% population of females, which makes up a major chunk of the population. NGOs and government institutions that provide relief equipment to these areas should also keep in mind teenage girls and pregnant women. NGOs who distribute rations should make two counters so that widows and orphans can also get access to food easily without complication. To control harassment and rape issues, law-enforcing institutions should deal with these criminals seriously so, no other person thinks about committing these types of offences. Nonetheless, it is yet to be witnessed whether the concerned authorities be able to cater to the plight of the women during catastrophic floods in Pakistan or whether the women will be left in despair and self-help.
Anatomy of right-wing populism
Twenty-five years ago, Fareed Zakaria introduced the concept of illiberal democracy: he revealed how some legitimately elected governments undermine liberal democratic principles by eroding the rule of law and the protection of fundamental freedoms. He predicted that this new form of regime would significantly damage the status of our democracies if not appropriately challenged. After almost two decades, the 2014 speech of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán marked the official birth of illiberal democracy in modern Europe, with a discourse that echoes the 1997 article. Except that it is the exact opposite of what Zakaria hoped to hear.
Orbán’s rhetoric and attitude are supported and endorsed by several populist leaders across Europe and beyond. What the Hungarian PM represents is the result of a long democratic recession that Larry Diamond estimated to start in the early 2000s in continents such as Asia and Africa. It appears that it is now the turn of Europe, as we can deduct from the rising popularity of multiple anti-establishment and nationalist parties across the continent. Despite populism not being exclusively a right-wing phenomenon, most of its support in the EU is represented by radical right parties that are often Eurosceptic.
This aspect is also confirmed by the outcome of the last European Parliament election in 2019. The results indicate a nationalist trend and a shift from the centre-right to the far-right within the populist vote: the relative populist electoral strength was highest in two European parliament groups, namely Identity and Democracy (ID) (including Salvini’s League and Le Pen’s National Rally) and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) (including Brothers of Italy and Law and Justice in Poland), which are both very critical of the union and formed exclusively by right-wing (or even far-right in some cases) populist and nationalist parties. These two groups, albeit not achieving the brilliant results they were expecting, have won 135 seats in the European Parliament, and their main parties happened to be very strong nationally. Considering that the historic European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialist and Democrats (S&D) have lost 65 seats combined from the previous election, it is not a bad outcome overall for right-wing populism.
In 2017, Bridgewater’s populism index in developed countries revealed that this phenomenon was at its highest rate since 1930s. In addition, the think tank Timbro estimated that more than a quarter of European electors vote for authoritarian populist parties, with Poland and Hungary among the four countries with most support. Political scientist Cas Mudde observed instead that the average support for these political forces is the highest since 1940s, with over 20% since 2010. Slightly different estimations are calculated but nevertheless this shows to what extent have these parties grown in recent years. One might consider these factors as alarming, since many scholars claim the expansion of populism and nationalism could eventually topple liberal democracies and favour authoritarian regimes, as already occurred in history.
What do we mean by right-wing populism?
First and foremost, before getting into the details of right-wing populism, an overall definition and brief explanation of populism must be provided. Mudde defines populism as an “an ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ versus ‘the corrupt elite’”. Populists also believe that all members of the ‘pure’ group have the same aims and abide by the same principles, hence they do not accept a pluralist society consisting of diverse needs and concerns. Some of them also claim that this perceived faction of ‘the people’ comprises only of one ethnicity, class and religion.
Populist parties no longer seek out compromise and consensus through tolerant and democratic practices, but instead try to overthrow what they believe is a corrupt and broken system. In this way they undermine democratic institutions such as courtrooms and media, while attacking any aspect of society that opposes the common will of ‘the people’. They also refuse the search for a balance between the needs of the majority and the minority, as they claim that disregarding the interests of the majority is a violation of democracy, thus supporting “a form of democratic extremism or, better said, of illiberal democracy”.
Moreover, the cult of the leader is crucial in the populist world. This may sound obvious because a charismatic figure is always needed in politics in order to move masses and influence opinions, regardless of the political party. However, populist leaders declare they embody the will of the people and often appeal to the worst instincts of the population, manipulating fears and anxiety to increase their support. As politics is not only made of rational thinking, but also emotions and sentiments, they interpretate fear and desperation with (sometimes false) claims and simplistic solutions to contrast complex issues.
Populist groups are usually considered ‘catch-all’ movements, meaning that they follow the popular support rather than choosing a specific side. However, it could be discussed that this wide definition of populism is reductive. In fact, French economist Thomas Piketty deems it as a generalisation and refrains from using this word since there is a variety within that group: any party criticizing the current establishment is labelled as ‘populist’ without differentiating the diverse forms of this phenomenon. For instance, right-wing populists are usually hostile to immigration and minority rights, whereas left-wing populists are often culturally inclusive.
It could be further discussed that the argument about the people versus the elite tends to be overused as we have cases in which the political system is widely corrupt, and thus brings to legitimate concern and popular discontent to demand for more transparency and equality, such as in Greece, Spain and Italy. The movements that have emerged in these countries (Syriza, Podemos and 5 Star Movement respectively) showed a different approach to politics in comparison to prominent right-wing populist parties, as they have not undermined or taken over democratic institutions when elected to govern their respective countries.
Nonetheless, the majority of European populist parties have right-wing tendencies. This type of nationalist populism (also defined as ‘national populism’ by British academics Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin) is mainly based on xenophobic and protectionist sentiments, in addition to be against the neo-liberal establishment. Right-wing populist parties tend to regard nationality as a rigid and unmodifiable homogenous identity (mistakenly connected only to ethnicity), and they are therefore against any form of pluralism, whether it is based on culture or sexual orientation. Although some national populists consider themselves patriots defending their sovereignty, it could be argued otherwise. Italian scholar Maurizio Viroli observes in his book that the terms ‘nationalism’ and ‘patriotism’ are often misused: while the former mostly reflects a protectionist and isolationist approach (rather than sovereignty), the latter is also based on the respect of other cultures.
Furthermore, most right-wing populist parties are willing to live in a democratic context, but they are against the liberal values of present-day democracies, such as media freedom and minority rights. As a matter of fact, they believe they represent the true nature of democracy, which focuses on the needs and interests of the majority that felt excluded and neglected by the ‘corrupt elite’ in recent years. Nevertheless, by emphasising the importance of the majority at all costs, they end up discriminating who is not part of ‘the people’, hence appearing to be a regressive and undemocratic response to a legitimate concern.
What are the causes of the global rise of populism?
Political scientists Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris suggest that the rise of populism is mainly due to economic inequality, which was partly caused by phenomena such as globalisation and austerity. The shift from the industrial age to what Piketty describes as a “globalised era of hypercapitalism and digital technology” has created high levels of inequity around the world. Piketty also argues that the concentration of wealth is disproportionate because the ratio of economic growth is lower than the so-called ‘return on invested capital’, hence much of the resources end up in the hands of a microscopic part of the population. Indeed, the latest Credit Suisse report indicates a great disparity in the world, with 1.1% of the population owning almost half of the global wealth (45.8%), and the bottom 55% of the population possessing only 1.3% of the total resources.
While globalisation had its own advantages (such as giving work to millions of people in emerging economies), it has also displaced many low skilled jobs and produced economic stagnation in developed countries. This has resulted in an ever-increasing wealth gap; this disparity, in turn, has created underserved communities who began to distrust the global system. Already twenty years ago economist Joseph Stiglitz (in his book Globalization and Its Discontents) warned us that rising inequality would pave the way for the rise of anti-establishment parties, such as nationalists and populists.
The 2008 financial crash further deepened the economic gap: the main consequences of the so-called ‘Great Recession’ have been high levels of unemployment, growing inequality and impoverishment of the working and lower middle classes. Moreover, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the austerity policies implemented by the European Union, including tax raises and spending cuts, exacerbated the situation. The austere measures were in fact not combined with effective social protection systems, hence degrading the conditions of workers as well. This circumstance thus led the EU into an identity crisis, which we are still experiencing today with the rise of several Eurosceptic parties.
Some might discuss that this is connected to the decline of liberal democracy, as the European Union is mainly based on liberal values. Mudde observes that the crisis of democracy results from the failure of the liberal establishment in the political system, and not from several external challengers trying to undermine it. In fact, he also claims that “contemporary populism is an illiberal democratic response to undemocratic liberalism”. The fact that the liberal system could be or become undemocratic is not unrealistic as it sounds, especially if we consider that in history liberalism was not always applied in democratic contexts, such as in many European countries in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The democratic crisis was also caused by the deterioration of traditional parties that lost touch with the lower middle and working classes, which have stopped trusting a system that has sold them false promises and has not met their needs. As a matter of fact, the level of trust towards parties across the EU has been in a declining trend in the last decade (just over 20% in 2019). This is also demonstrated by factors such as lower electoral turnout and decreasing participation in political activities, but also by the growing interest towards non-traditional parties. This aspect is critical because once you cease to identify in a political movement, you automatically find refuge in national identity, ideology or religion.
Furthermore, the advent of right-wing populism has cultural determinants as well: the 2015 migration crisis has indeed displaced millions of asylum seekers and economic migrants, many of which coming from Muslim countries. Their religion is a key aspect because right-wing populists have increasingly exhibited xenophobic attitudes towards Islam, which is seen as a civilisational threat, particularly after 9/11 and the rise of ISIS. Whereas there is no justification for such discriminatory behaviours, raising a question about EU’s handling of the migrant crisis may be a legitimate concern. According to Article 79 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the union “shall develop a common immigration policy aimed at ensuring, at all stages, the efficient management of migration flows”. It could be discussed whether some member states have not put enough effort and resources to cooperate and find a common solution, but it is also true that the EU could have anticipated the crisis by implementing appropriate immigration controls and reception systems. In fact, Mudde acknowledges that migration policies were often “undemocratic in spirit”, meaning that they were not the outcome of collective discussions and decisions taken together with the population. Hence, right-wing populist parties have exploited this crisis to criticize the EU with improbable scapegoats: for instance, describing migration from Africa and the Middle-East as an invasion or claiming that NGOs and liberal institutions are plotting for an ‘ethnic replacement’ of the European people.
As a result, right-wing populists (or at least most of them) reject liberal democratic values rather than democracy in its entirety: those values that are entrenched in the EU and other international institutions. However, the populist response does not seem to respect EU fundamental goals and values, nor basic democratic principles. The main issue is the approach used to criticize the liberal system. Populist movements tend to appeal to the fears and anxieties of the voters to attack the elites, which are perceived as always corrupt and distant from the population. This cannot be accepted as a fair argument, because, as we cannot generalise that all populists are fascists or xenophobic, then we cannot assert that the so-called elite is all corrupt either. As a result, neither the growing populist sentiment nor the liberal establishment are to be completely eradicated, but rather challenged and improved through collective discussions and decisions.
Moreover, the rise of right-wing populism is not the consequence of a single issue, but it is driven by a combination of mutually reinforcing economic and cultural aspects (from unemployment and wealth inequality to racism and xenophobia). These factors are the result of a series of events that affected our society in the last decades, such as globalisation, the Great Recession, the 2015 migrant crisis and the decline of traditional political parties. It would be thus too simple to only blame the vulnerabilities of the liberal establishment or the opportunism of populist leaders, as both approaches have had negative repercussions on the public.
On the one hand, populists have gained popularity due to genuine issues that liberal institutions have failed to deal with. On the other hand, they have also promoted ‘culturally exclusive’ behaviours (racism, xenophobia etc.) through demagogy and propaganda, often accompanied by the spread of disinformation. Nonetheless, the liberal system has perhaps not effectively dealt with crucial challenges and has showed weaknesses that exacerbated the socio-economic crisis we are witnessing, hence allowing right-wing populist parties to flourish. The more the people have felt left behind by the system, the more they have found refuge in national identity and intolerant ideologies. Therefore, the first step to take in order to explain and fight populism would be to bear responsibility for the inequal policies implemented through the years that have left many communities marginalised and prone to vote for anti-establishment parties. A card that does not seem to have been played well (or at all), since right-wing populist parties are increasingly on the rise in many countries around the world.
Education needs a transformation. The same holds true with how we monitor our commitments
Education is the key to unlock our development challenges. Yet, millions of children and young people are left behind, unable to fulfil their potential and prepare themselves for the future. In many countries, the pandemic has struck off the modest gains of the past 20 years for the generation most affected by school closures, with long-term consequences. This week, the Transforming Education Summit comes to an end. The world’s education leaders have gathered over the last few days in New York, invited by the UN Secretary-General as part of Our Common Agenda, to debate solutions to put education back on the right track.
The Summit has come at a time when, according to UNESCO’s latest figures, there are an estimated 244 million children and young people across the world still deprived of any form of formal schooling. Over 600 million children and adolescents are either not completing basic education or do not acquire basic skills that would help them prepare for the future. With only seven years to go until the deadline to reach SDG 4, the global education goal, they are lacking the support to access a high-quality and fulfilling education. Compounding the problem is the fact that governments in the poorer countries appear to be cutting their education budgets.
The Transforming Education Summit marks a key moment. But as leaders declare their determination to improve education in their countries, we must review how to translate these words into the concrete targets, so that these promises do not ring empty, and how to monitor progress towards them. While the Summit has debated solutions to make schools safe, healthy, connected and green, countries should express the level of their ambition through national targets for each of these commitments to spur action from now to 2030.
The issues rising to the surface during the discussions and consultation around the summit are all critical. One in six children live in areas impacted by conflict that also destroys their education opportunities. Schools are being bombed and children and teachers are killed daily. Only last year, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on the protection of education in conflict zones. But more must be done to protect the education of affected children and young people.
The compound effects of COVID-19, a war in Europe that disrupted grain production and exports, rising inflation and a looming economic recession, mean that the world is edging closer towards a food crisis. When schools closed their doors with little to no notice due to the pandemic, millions of students were cut off not only from their education, but also from one of their principal food sources. An estimated 39 billion school meals have been missed since April 2020. It is not only children’s physical development that was impacted. Without food, children simply do not have the energy to concentrate, and their education outcomes are therefore significantly worse.
Another, equally significant impact of the pandemic was bringing learning from classroom to home. Laptops, computers, and iPads replaced pencils, erasers and pens as back-to-school essentials– for the lucky few: because this shift was reliant on all children having access to the technology required to learn from home. Unfortunately, with two-thirds of 3–17-year-olds unable to access the internet at home, this was far from the case. These children were left behind in systems whose efforts to catch up with the times simply failed them. As with many crises, this also predominantly affected children in disadvantaged homes and communities. The pandemic shed light on the foundations of education systems, which fuel exclusion and inequality.
Finally, with almost two billion people affected by floods, droughts and storms every year, these devastatingly real consequences that climate change is unleashing on our planet are already being felt, though not equally by all. Climate change disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in the Global South, whose education opportunities are also poorer, further compromising their ability to adapt. At the same time, education systems in the Global North and in countries contributing most to global warming are yet to demonstrate how their schools will serve their climate change mitigation efforts.
Agreeing to the actions is one step, monitoring them is crucial to provide accountability and drive ambition. UNESCO has started a process where each country sets their own realistic ‘benchmarks’ in the road to achieving SDG 4. About 90% of countries have heeded this call and established national targets which they reasonably believe can be reached by 2030, in the hopes that this will accelerate progress. We encourage countries to also set national targets for 2025 and 2030 against each of the global initiatives to be tabled at the Summit. These will represent the transformation countries want to see.
The follow-up mechanism after the Summit, based on national target setting, will be critical to convert leaders’ statements into improved education results for children and youth, as this call for action implores countries to do. The solutions to be agreed at the Summit must be appropriately monitored if we are to come out of this global education emergency.
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