In Sophia’s words:
” […] Heroism was the number one moral value in ancient societies but this moral value is replaced in our modern societies by ‘The quest for ordinary life‘, as argued by Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor in his book ‘The sources of the Self: the making of the modern identity‘. Taylor views ‘ordinary life‘ as no less interesting and achieving than heroism on the battlefield. However, it is different from heroism in the sense that it is characterised by the rejection of suffering and the pursuit of happiness while at the same time focused at the personal development of the individual within and outside his community. Taylor views this personal development as necessarily oriented towards the Good inside ourselves and between Selves and Others. The quest for ordinary life becomes then the quest for the Good life and Taylor attributes to ‘Good‘ the same quality as Aristotle, the quality of reason, to which he adds the dimension of Faith, for people of Faith or the dimension of Hope for secular people; the idea is that we can always achieve more and better in this quest and that it is the orientation we give to our life that counts more than the stage to which we arrive in this quest.
The question that occupied my mind for quite a while after this visit was: how are we to conciliate, in the West, our shifting moral values from heroism on the battlefield to the quest for ordinary life? I wasn’t sure of the answer until my husband asked me the question differently: how come people are ready to suffer and die and sacrifice their life and renounce the ‘ordinary life’ and the pursuit of happiness? My initial conviction which I still hold is that this shifting in moral values is creating a tension and may be limiting or will be severely limiting some imperial projects that thrive on the lives of the many like the ones we are witnessing now in Iraq and Palestine.
After a week of traveling in Russia, a country which is still very much between war and peace, we came both to a common answer for our two questions: The quest for the good life couldn’t be achieved without fulfilling some basic requirements in a life. These requirements are quite simple, the security of a house, of a daily meal and of a loving person, freedom to move, to think and to express oneself, freedom to know, freedom to design, as individuals, our own path to happiness. Not the one that is imposed upon us by the new economy that pushes people to find happiness in excessive spending, not the one that is designed for us by ideologies, whatever they are, because we shouldn’t count on someone else for the directions we must take to our personal pursuit of the Good in ourselves and others.
I realised that we live today in a divided world where more and more people are lacking every day these basic requirements because of demographics, underdevelopment, exploitation, ignorance, wars, poverty, etc… In the absence of these requirements, people come to despair, they come to place their trust in exploitative ideologies and they come to be ready to suffer and die. Human life doesn’t mean a lot when you don’t have a secure house, a meal, a loving person, freedom to move, think and act. As the western world seems to be more and more exporting its wars outside its borders, I have come to think that the essential tension between heroism and the quest for ordinary life wouldn’t last because it does not concern the same people. There are those who live the ordinary life and those who die. Definitely we have chosen the ordinary life for ourselves and ‘heroism’ for others, a heroism we now call ‘terrorism’. And as the free world is more occupied by making wars in the name of Freedom and Democracy than helping development and spreading knowledge and good health in poor countries, I have come to think that the free global market and with it the ‘Free world’, as defined by the US and its allies, are becoming a killing ideology, no less than others we have witnessed in recent history.
As I am writing this post, I learn by Al-Jazeera that Israel had just invaded Lebanon. […]
We are living a western ideal, the quest for ordinary life and happiness while we are making nations and people, in more than half of this inhabited world, suffer and die, denying them the basics to be able to lead an ordinary and happy life like us. I don’t think that our ordinary life can still be called a life turned to the Good. I think that by doing this and accepting it, we are sabotaging and corrupting our own ‘ordinary’ life as understood from a moral point of view, a life lived without self-reproach.”
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PS: emphasis are mine