There is No Longer a “Better Future” for Us and Our Children

During the last two-three centuries, by the joint efforts of the Christian and secularly humanistic ideals, it became axiomatic in the West that the humanistic progress is necessary redemption of history, that future will be better than the past and the present, that in terms of material prosperity, equality and democratic participation in decision-making our societies will become more just for all its people. But today in U.S. the idea of humanistic progress is not a cultural value anymore, it is not used by the dominant – conservative, elite of decision-makers, by the leading propagandists and, therefore, by most Americans although it is them who meant to be the direct beneficiaries of the humanistic progress project.

The neoconservative elite stopped the idea of democratic development from becoming incarnated into concrete policies without ideologically challenging it. Starting with Roinald Reignan’s (or Reignald Roignan’s) 80s only democratic politicians still occasionally could say that in the future America will be better than the America of today. What came instead of farther improvement of American democracy? – Feverish money-making and consumerist occupation with present, hypochondriac fixation on body (sex, diets, gyms, spas, recreational and correctional medicine, plastic operations, gluttony and cosmetics), entertainment, easy pleasure connected with emotional acting out, etc.

The idea of a better historical future was always mediating between us and our actual satisfaction, like the idea of a Promise Land was between Jews and their survival or the idea of Second Coming was between Christians and their swollen (in their unconscious) sins. Today the place of historical future as a mediation between the social subject and its goals is occupied by the eternal present of “financial survival” and entertainment.

When the path towards the improvement of life leads through future, a lot of emotional pleasures are irrecoverably lost. Desires are addicted to quick gratification. If you want to participate in creation of real change – for example, to fight for a new future for your country – you have to be able to bear the present reality to be able to improve it in a concrete and tangible ways. Paradoxically, you have to accept the sad fact that some important satisfactions are not available today exactly to make it available in future. The over-availability of consumerist satisfactions distracts us from the incessant task of working for real changes. People are corrupted by the childish pseudo-pragmatic logic: it’s better to have ersatz pleasure now than to have the real thing in future. People are agreeing with ready-made imaginary satisfactions instead of working to get the real changes in future.

The leaders in Communist Russia were moving in a similar direction as the American corporate bosses who starting with early 50s were encouraging the unlimited development of entertainment industries. The Soviet elite also started from 60s to develop mass entertainment with the hope of distracting the Russians from a growing discontent because the economic prosperity promised by Soviet leaders was not fully delivered. The Soviet industrial muscles were exhausted by the arms race. But for the commercially oriented American entertainment industry to finance entertainment was not a difficult thing to do since the return on investment was immediate and super-generous. And the socio-cultural price for this success – abysmal fall of aesthetic taste, infantilization of the perception of life and obsession with immediate gratification were considered as non-economic factors, as a kind of “natural” socialization of cost that is not important in a country where privatization of profit is the main goal.

Unexpectedly, the ruling financial elite figured it out that the degradation of human adulthood is actually good for business – it helps to keep control over the population. It is easier to rule over little children than over intelligent adults – the way to pedagogical success is a combination of cookie and whip (while cookie is the main strategy the whip is the subordinate tool activated only if somebody develops a perversion of not liking the obviously tasty cookie of entertainment and instead expects from media real information and from culture in general genuine education).

What can Americans do in this situation? They are caught between the feeling that they are better than everyone else (availability of cheap bad foods and processed entertaining and “us”-glorifying images and ideas helps to sustain this illusion) that coincides with the release of a great pleasure, and, on the other hand, feeling burdened by the consciousness that it is necessary to study hard and work and risk to make things better in future. It is hardly necessary to mention which way they’ll choose – to continue to “feel great” or to live in the real world.

The idea of progress is alive, and progress is continuing, but now it is not a humanistic progress anymore (that is concerned about people’s real needs and interests), it is a technical progress – first of all, a mighty tool in the hands of the decision makers, an instrument of power and profit, and of control over the world.