Η μόνη προφητεία είναι η ιστορία

“Predicting the future must necessarily be based on knowledge of the past”. Ακόμα και αν μοιάζει μια φράση στερεότυπο ο Eric Hobsbawm την αποδεικνύει στο έπακρο. Δεν θα σε κουράσω με εξεζητημένες αναλύσεις και ερμηνείες. Το 1999, o Hobsbawm, στα 82 του χρόνια (γεννήθηκε τη χρονιά της Οκτωβριανής επανάστασης στην Αλεξάνδρεια της Αιγύπτου) δίνει μια συνέντευξη στο Antonio Polito στα Ιταλικά. Η συνέντευξη, επικεντρωμένη στην (διαλεκτική) ανάλυση του 20ου αιώνα γίνεται βιβλίο (στα αγγλικά “On the edge of the new century”, The New Press, New York) μόλις έναν χρόνο μετά (2000).

Σήμερα, είκοσι χρόνια μετά η ανάλυση του Hobsbawm μοιάζει σχεδόν προφητική. Αξίζει να το βρεις και να το διαβάσεις. Σημειώνω τις θεματικές και τις απαντήσεις που μου έκαναν εντύπωση.

The decline of the Western Empire – ο Hobsbawm λίγο πολύ έχει διαπιστώσει (σε αντίθεση με τον Fukuyama) τις συνθήκες αποδόμησης του δυτικού πολιτισμού και της σιωπηλής αποικιοκρατικής του διάστασης.

There had been three breaks in the history of the European Continent during this century: after the First World War, during and after the Second, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Well, I think the latter is definitely the one that will have the greatest long-term effects. We do not yet know what these will be. For instance, politically the future of the states that succeeded the Soviet Union is still uncertain.

(46)

It seems to me that the American century is above all based on the enormous predominance, dynamism, and size of the economy of the United States. It is of a magnitude that cannot be compared with the other capitalist nations. We should remember that in the twenties it already accounted for 40% of the world’s total industrial capacity. It lost part of this advantage during the Great Depression and recovered after the Second World War to the point where for a period it represented half of the economic power of all the other countries put together. I believe that this is going to end… I very much doubt that America can continue to be the industrial engine of the world, at least in a manner which it has been for the large part of the 20th century, just as Great Britain, at a given point in history, ceased to be the major capitalist power, because it was not big enough to remain so. The second reason for the American century has been its cultural hegemony, especially in terms of popular culture. This has been a better chance of perpetuating itself, because it has been reinforced by the increasing role of the English language and the spread of computer technology. Thus it will certainly last. However, even cultural hegemony has its limits. Think of Italy’s domination of music in the 17th and 18th centuries. It had no political, military, or economic support, yet it was total. In the end, however, it disappeared.

It is very possible that China will become a great power, even in the military sense, and it is certainly the only single state that could aspire to compete with the United States in the future… In any event, we have to consider it an established fact that fora a very long time the United States will remain the greatest military power. Besides, any conflict between the United States and China in the 21st century might perhaps take on forms different from those of the past. This is mainly because China is essentially a land power. This is a speculation, so it is perilous for a historian to say much.

(47-55)

Papacy (John Paul II) and the American Superpower – με μια δική μου σκέψη παραλληλισμού της στάσης της Ορθόδοξης εκκλησίας στην πανδημία

… I do not think that we are faced with a conflict between the papacy and the empire. I believe that we have to distinguish between the pope’s politics and theology. John Paul II is a Catholic traditionalist. This papacy marks a return to a more traditional view of the Church than that of the relatively liberal Catholicism of the sixties and seventies. How far this is possible, I don’t know. If I were a Pope I would probably do the same thing, because if Religion has a future, then it is precisely in not changing with changing times, and in keeping aloof from fashions. But I am not religious, and therefore the subject does not directly concern me.

(57)

On the Global village and Globalization – για το επερχόμενο πρόβλημα του 21ο αιώνα

One of the great problems of the 21st century will be finding out where the tolerable limits of this homogeneity are, beyond which they would produce a backlash (1), and to what extent this process could be combined with the world’s variety. Technologically, the trend toward homogenization is extremely powerfull. Think, for example, of transport. When landing in some major airport in the World, it is already almost impossible to tell in what country, or even continent we are in. The operational mechanisms have been standardized, are organized globally, and use the same language, English. A serious aircraft accident occurred recently because the Kazakh pilot was unable to understand an order in English, which came from the Delhi control tower. Send a photographer to the interiors of all the great airports in the world, and then try to distinguish the photographs: everywhere there will be the same shops, the same information icons, and the same colorful crowd. There is airconditioning everywhere, so you don’t even notice the difference in climate. In the same way, the procedures for industrial production are increasingly standardized, as are those for agricultural production. Thus, in my opinion, the problem in 2000 will consist of ascertaining how strong the obstacle to this growing homogenization will be.

(66)

(1) Οι Norris και Inglehart χρησιμοποιούν το 2016 τον όρο “cultural backlash” στην προσπάθειά τους να περιγράψουν την άνοδο της αντι-συστημικής ακροδεξιάς (Trump, Brexit, and the Rise of Populism:
Economic Have-Nots and Cultural Backlash).

What’s Left of the Left? – συζήτηση που έχει ήδη ανοίξει από τα τέλη της δεκαετίας του 1990

There is a Left, because there is still a difference between Left and Right. Those who deny the existence of this division are generally on the Right. This distinction has a long historical tradition, which goes back to the French Revolution. It has certainly changed over the centuries, but we have to ask ourselves whether a division between the Left and the Right is inevitable, and therefore destined to continue, irrespective of the precise meaning we assign to it at different times… I therefore think that we ‘ll probably continue to have a political division that will almost certainly continue to express itself socially and ideologically along the dividing line between Left and Right

…There is a possibility of demagogic and populist mobilizations around particular figures or celebrities who attract attention and enlist the emotions of great masses of people. The case of Princess Diana is an excellent example. This reality is producing a completely new political armory, which the old generation has no experience of. We are only beginning to understand how politics could be conducted in this new manner. But the real question is: is it still politics? This, isn’t just producing effects on the Left, but it is hitting the Left harder, because the politics of the Right, the maintenance of the status quo, can carry on without too much of collective action

(95 και 114)

The Homo Globatus. Ένα βήμα πριν τις συνθήκες μαζικών μετακινήσεων και μετεγκαταστάσεων πληθυσμών

A more urgent problem is the bad population distribution around the Globe. The unavoidable conclusion is that there will be massive pressures for emigration from the countries with very high birthrates to the rich countries. But, as we have seen before, one of the principle features of the modern world is that immigration is increasingly curbed or obstructed in the rich countries…This will pose an enormous political and social problem, because Europe is a tendentially protectionist society that wishes to keep foreigners outside its borders.

…Half the immigrants living in Europe are already doing so illegally and in an underground manner. In practice this means they have no rights. In the short term, the victims of this situation will not feel its full weight, because if you are an immigrant from black Africa, you are better off earning your living in Florence than you would be in your home country, even without the rights of a citizen. However, this process will create an apartheid society. Indeed, the true characteristic of apartheid is not the separation of races, as most people think. In South Africa, the races mixed in all fields of their collective life, but some enjoyed rights that others were barred from

(145)

Antonio Polito: This has been the century of the “common people”. Who now represents common people?

At the beginning of the 20th century, the peasant was a typical human being who lived off the land. But at the end of this century, this is no longer the case. We could have chosen a worker, a member of the working class that grew enormously during the century and probably reached its peak in the third quarter of the century. But today, its size and influence are shrinking fast. What about an office worker, someone who works at a desk in front of a computer? He or she wouldn’t do either. An office worker would be fine for Western Europe or the United States, but there are still vast areas of the world where this image would not mean very much.

If you insist on looking for a symbol, I would suggest a mother with her children. The people who have most in common are mothers, wherever they live on the face of the earth, and in spite of their different cultures, civilizations and languages. In some ways, a mother’s experience reflects to what has happened to a large part of humanity in the 20th century. What is no longer typical in our era is the traditional family structure that develops around the mother.

(157)

Kαι τέλος κάτι για την πολιτική του διαδρομή

Why did I remain a member of the communist party for some years after the 1956 crisis? I think out of loyalty to a great cause and to all those who had sacrificed their lives for it. When I became a communist in 1932 this was what we all were ready to do. I can remember all the friends and comrades who died for that cause, who suffered prison and torture by communist regimes as well as capitalist ones, and we should not forget the men and women who gave up the chance for a successful career to work incredibly long hours in relative poverty as party officials, paid a worker’s salary. I never had to make such sacrifices. The least I could do was show a little solidarity by rejecting the material and career advantages that could be gained from leaving the Communist Party.

Besides communism, wasn’t Russia. It as a global cause. Like many other communists, I never agreed with the terrible things that happened under that regime… Do I regret it? No, I don’t think so. I know very well that the cause I embraced has proved not to work. Perhaps I shouldn’t have chosen it. But, on the other hand, if people do not have any ideal of a better world, then they have lost something. If the only ideal for men and women is the persuit of personal happiness through the attainment of material assets, then humanity is a diminished specie.

(159, 160)

Είναι τόσο βαθιά η κατανόηση της σύγχρονης ιστορίας στο έργο του Eric Hobsbawm που η ματιά του αποκτά μια σχεδόν προφητική διάσταση. Άλλωστε, τι δεν μας έχουν πει για το μέλλον η ματιά του Ηρόδοτου, η γραφή του Θουκυδίδη, του Norman Davies, του Asimov. Αν υπάρχει ένας λόγος που η Ιστορία “λοιδορείται” ως περιττή στη κοινωνία της ελεύθερης αγοράς, είναι η πρόβλεψη της δυστοπίας του σήμερα και της κατάρρευσης του αύριο.

Γεννήθηκε στην Αθήνα στις αρχές της δεκαετίας του 1980. Γράφει όταν δεν δουλεύει, ή δεν ταξιδεύει, κάτι που σημαίνει σπάνια. Το πρωί ντύνεται εργαζόμενος του ιδιωτικού τομέα, τα μεσημέρια υποψήφιος διδάκτωρ και τα βράδια νοσταλγεί το μέλλον.

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