“Four Scenarios for the Post-Corona World”
I would like to comment briefly on this assessment of what a potential post-Corona Society would look like: “Four Scenarios for the Post-Corona World” which, of course, presumes we will succeed in avoiding total disintegration and collapse. It is interesting since in conception it follows the pattern of Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”, which pattern I’ll attempt to draw out and make explicit below with the basic representation.
So, let’s see how the four scenarios map to the cross of reality — of how we are as if “crucified” on a cross of space and time.
First scenario: “a possible return to neoliberal orthodoxy” would be the backward glance and movement, a restoration of the status quo ante. This return to precedent would seem inhibited by the fact that it left us unprepared for, and was a major contributor towards, the present social crisis. We can largely thank Margaret “There is No Such Thing As Society” Thatcher and Ronald Reagan for that, but it has now proven to be a bust as we rediscover the social co-determinants of health and well-being. Even Boris Johnson, ironically, in a major reversal of conservative thinking has rediscovered the value of society. The general consensus is that there is no going “back to normal” after this.
But, at the same time, you do not want to stifle the individuation process or the value of individual initiative. Neo-liberalism (and neo-conservatism) was flawed because it was a totalising ideology and an extreme example of Blake’s “Single Vision” and the dogma of “the one best way”. So, we must preserve the individuation process but without the absurd excesses of the pursuit of self-interest.
Second scenario: “we move towards a more authoritarian state monitoring”, already a strong possibility with surveillance capitalism or imperious authoritarians like Trump or Bolsonaro or Orban. So, if the return to neoliberalism represents the backwards glance, this scenario represents the “inwards” — the inner organisation we might recognise as Fortress Mentality.
While completely undesirable and distasteful, we also have to avoid the problem of anarchy within. We need to recognise some authority, even if you’re a secular anarchist who only recognises the authority of Bookchin or Kropotkin, or if you’re a Christian or Buddhist anarchist, you still recognise the authority of Christ or Buddha. So authoritarianism instantiates another version of Blake’s “Single Vision” as the road of excess and hubris that is of limited sustainability, even though we see it now being attempted in many jurisdictions under cover of the present crisis. So we need authority but not authoritarianism.
Third Scenario: “a return to growth at any price (Belle Epoque)”. If the return to neo-liberalism represents the trajective (past or backwards) front of the cross of reality, and authoritarianism represents the subjective (or inwards) front of the cross of reality, this third scenario represents the prejective or (future or “forwards”) front of the quadrilateral. This, too, belongs to Single Vision and is a dead-end in any case because of the problem of expecting infinite growth on a finite world. Yet growth is a natural indicator of life and vitality.
So, we need a “revaluation of values” as regards the nature of growth. You don’t want to suppress growth because that would also foreclose on any prospects for the future. Cancer, as you know, is also a growth. So we need to acknowledge the need for growth and progression without economic or population growth. So, ideals of personal and spiritual growth must supercede material growth and expansion, which already appear to be precluded and constitute a dead end.
Fourth scenario: “accelerating the ecological transition and a rapid rethinking of our growth model”. This scenario clearly points to our faulty relationship with the Natural world, and therefore to the “outwards” or objective front of the cross of reality. There is a lack of concord between society and nature which urgently needs rectification. We approach Nature presently as if on a war footing, and that is wrong-headed.
But, at the same time, in our enthusiasm for rectifying and mending our broken relationship with Nature, we must be cognisant of sustaining the other necessary fronts of the cross of reality also lest this scenario also decay into another form of “Single Vision” by exaggeration.
We see in each of these scenarios something of the “four social diseases” that arise when a society fails to uphold and maintain its space and time axes within the quadrilateral — a mandala, and what necessarily results from “Single Vision” in relation to each front: decadence, anarchy, permanent revolution, and war are the four diseases that strike one of each of the four fronts of society’s cross of reality — the possible total disintegration of its mandala-like structure (in fact, Yeats’ “widening gyre” of his poem “The Second Coming” is the disintegration of the mandala).
We are in the mess we are in because we did not balance the four fronts of the mandala, and what is necessary now is to distill from each of these scenarios what is necessary and vital in them and discard what is not, for there is even here diamonds in the rough, and wheat in the chaff. And as Rumi rightly says, “the cure for the disease is in the disease”.
Though we think of the hyperpartisan and polarisation happening along a linear spectrum from left to right, that’s now how it is presently playing out. It’s along two axes and not one, so there are four poles in play — two of space and two of time. And what Christians call “the way of the cross” and Buddhists call “the Middle Way” is the way of the mandala — to live from the centre of a fourfold structure without getting too carried away (hubris or transgression) in Single Vision. Even when it is necessary to accentuate one of the fronts of the cross of reality, it must be done with idea of the whole structure in mind, as necessary to rebalance the whole.