The prophets of the global crisis

I don’t know how to see the entire Pacific Ocean, but we can see quite a bit, knowing that where the horizon of our vision ends, a much more immense sea begins, open to exploration and reflection


Trying to understand our times is a huge issue. The perspectives are multiple. Alexandre Havard’s proposal (7 prophets. An analysis of the global crisis EUNSA, 2023) is simple and takes a position. His essay does not claim to be exhaustive. It is a bird’s eye view, enough to give notice of his approach that has a humanist and transcendent imprint, where God counts. Some of his emphasis may be disproportionate, but they do not detract from the clarity of his speech. It is a thought-provoking essay. Each reader can create their reflections.

Descartes (1596-1650), Rousseau (1778-1778), and Nietzsche (1844-1900) are the notaries and designers of the lines of force that shape modernity, whose backpack greatly weighs down their achievements. On the other hand, are thinkers critical of the directions it has taken. They illuminate beacons of the spaces left in darkness and invite us to recover the human and divine spaces lost by modernity. There are Pascal (1623-1662), Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) and Soloviev (1853-1900). Seven prophets, all of them old acquaintances.

Descartes’ analytical clarity is paradigmatic. The rationality with which he thinks about reality undoes the rubble that is usually found in human complexity. The problem is that the human is not exhausted by the cogito. It is also necessary to take into account the spirit of finesse that Pascal referred to, since the spirit of geometry alone does not know how to explain the reasons of the heart. This is not a black box, nor is it a nest of vipers that must be confined in the basement of life. Searching for the integrity of the person, where head and heart intertwine, is a task for which Pascal in his Thoughts of Him offers sharp observations – kind and demanding, at the same time – for the good life.

To the dry rationalism of modernity, Rousseau adds the affective dimension of the human condition, but not before criticizing Enlightenment rationalism. Rather, theirs is to exalt feelings, with a high share of “goodish”, presenting an angelic version of the human being: man is good by nature, society corrupts him. No original sin, no malicious tendencies, just a limpid flow of emotions, feelings and passions; perfectly compatible with the rational functionalism of society that Alasdair MacIntyre has so accurately described. This libertarian emotivism, to which Rousseau’s sentimentalism leads, from time to time frees the individual – oppressed by the legal chains of the Hobbesian state Leviathan – from the norms and legal bonds assumed as a citizen, to once again be the noble individualist savage (express divorce, pro-choice abortion…).

In counterpoint to Rousseau’s sentimentalism is Kierkegaard’s authentic existence. He is aware of the rationalist reductionism of his time (Hegel) and, also, of the sentimental or aesthetic reductionism that give a limited image of human existence. The authenticity of the human being is much more. It has the depth of the ethical state, where good and evil, duties, the sense of responsibility are determining categories of existence. Likewise, it has the height of the religious state, for which the knight of faith – without sufficient intellectual security – is capable of hoping against all hope. To live, according to Kierkegaard, says Havard, is to avoid dissolving into anonymity, rejecting all forms of totalitarianism and making conscious, free and resolute decisions.

Nietzsche is pure rebellion against everything that wants to surpass man. Prometheus and Dionysus fall short of the superman’s claims. He sweeps away God, Christianity and any value inspired by them with a stroke of the pen. His voluntarism is overwhelming. His life has a lot of tragedy and his thinking reaches nihilism. Although Nietzsche repeatedly mentions Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment – Havard notes -, Raskolnikov and the superman are very different natures, they are almost at the antipodes of each other (…). Nietzsche’s superman is not Raskolnikov, but Pyotr Verkhovensky from The Demons (1872), who preaches the man-god. This one has no doubts or regrets. He has the power to do anything, even the unimaginable. The Zarathustra, in which Nietzsche elaborates the figure of the superman, has the traits with which Dostoyevsky characterizes the man-god (cf. p. 154). In contrast to Nietzsche’s outbursts of dizzying grandeur and dissolving nihilism, there is the passion for the human being, in his fragility and dignity, who continues to be the image and likeness of God, as we find him in the dense pages of Dostoyevsky.

Havard finishes his essay with Soloviev. He knew his Brief Account of the Antichrist and little else. A fascinating thinker in whom work and life merge. A continuous seeker of unity, of incarnate truths, of those that bite flesh. Of deep mysticism and original thought, for whom “the essence of Christianity is the transformation of the world and humanity in the spirit of Christ. This transformation is a slow and complex process. The Kingdom of God is a tree that grows, a fruit that ripens, a mass that swells” (p. 185). “To live according to Soloviev is to practice the unity of life, to divinize all aspects of human existence, to sanctify the world by imbuing it with the Christian spirit, to build the Kingdom of God in the very heart of society” (p. 188).

Havard’s essay is like standing at one of the viewpoints on the Costa Verde of Miraflores: I don’t know how to see the entire Pacific Ocean, but we can see quite a bit, knowing that where the horizon of our view ends, a much more immense open sea begins to exploration and reflection.