Only Spirituality and Young People Can Save Our Consumer Society

The opinion of famous Czech political scientist Petr Drulak.

From the Editorial Office

During the last five years, the subject of the financial crisis has occasionally appeared in our editorials and those of other publications. However, if in 2008 this crisis was considered to be the world’s economic crisis, a few years later the situation has changed. Today, more and more bright minds are inclined to believe that we are facing something much bigger and more important than just an economic problem.

The crisis has penetrated into people’s heads, manifesting itself at the psychological level and influencing the foundations of the prevailing worldviews and paradigms. Of course, at this point, it is difficult to determine exactly to what extent humanity has been affected and in which direction it will go. Such global findings will likely appear first in history books. But, already today, we should begin comprehending the ongoing processes.

Therefore, Youth Time has asked one of the most famous Czech political scientists, the director of the Institute of International Relations, Peter Drulak to elaborate on this subject. In this article, he gives his opinion on the causes and manifestations of the crisis and also offers suggestions on how to overcome it.

I see the solution to today’s problems in the international field in three main concepts: liberty, equality and fellowship. In fact, if we speak about one of these concepts, we must always keep the other two in mind. We can’t take one of them and consider it as being more important than the others, or forget them altogether.

This is exactly what is happening now. If we’re talking about freedom, we must understand that freedom is related to a society in which there are certainties that we call fellowship. At the same time, freedom is always associated with equality; otherwise, we are talking about freedom for only one person, and not about everyone’s freedom.

I would say that the most important thing is that, when we are talking about modern Western European society, these three concepts should be understood as being interrelated and interdependent. When one of them is taken out of context, serious problems arise. For example, fellowship is not being considered as a social value. However, this concept is actually very important, as it creates a community out of a group of individuals. As for freedom, it is often interpreted incorrectly.

Many think that if the government leaves us alone, we will be able to do whatever we want. But this is only one aspect. Freedom makes sense only when you have the ability and the resources to realize your plans. Equality implies decency, meaning that there is no preference for a particular group. Of course, in every society there is a group of people who are better off than others are. However, it is very important that this group remains open, so that people can, both, become part of it or cease being part of it.
Unfortunately, today we are seeing that these concepts are being distorted and manipulated. Why is all this happening to us? I think that, both, capitalism and its market have always been our kind servants, but, lately, they have become evil hosts. The crisis, which everyone loves to talk about, is, in fact, not primarily in the economy but in people’s heads. Therefore, I think that, today, we are living through a period in time, when people are waiting for some prophetic words. We are living through a time, when there is a need for a person who will be able to create a new social construct and who will show a new path, which will lead us out of the current insanity and crisis.
I am convinced that these changes won’t come from the offices of politicians, at least not from those of Czech or Western European politicians. I doubt that the government is capable of internal changes. Perhaps it will be able to change something, but only under tremendous public pressure. I think that, in this respect, nongovernmental society and youth movements have an advantage. They can come up with something new. When I looked at the website of your Youth Time movement and at your goals, I got interested in the concept of spirituality. I think that this is very important in order to recover. The recovery can only be possible through spirituality. It is not a coincidence that Martin Luther King was a pastor. The closest politician we had to this prototype was our former president Vaclav Havel. He also talked about these issues, but was not successful, as he wasn’t able to clearly articulate all the ideas that he had in mind. I think that a non-governmental transnational movement is a movement that could become the carrier of necessary ideas for a certain recovery. It would bring to life the fading hope for a new future.
I am convinced that in modern conditions, social and even youth movements have the necessary resources for fundamental reforms. First of all, all NGOs are state institutions. This means that they can pressure the government in a number of ways. Their main resource is based on the fact that they can mobilize public opinion by organizing public events, demonstrations and Internet propaganda. This, of course, is a confrontational approach, but it is closer to young people, rather than negotiations. I think that this spontaneity, without unnecessary negotiations with politicians and bureaucrats, is the right way to do it. Movements have another resource which is based on their ability to influence their supporters. Such organizations can change people’s identity and unveil certain abilities and attitudes that society can’t. The biggest problem of today’s societies is that they often expose the worst in people. They are built on competition and everything is translated into money and rewards. At that point, they force people to be selfish. The environment of a movement can develop other qualities in people, such as altruism and friendship. Thus, it creates a certain group of people who understand that the current way of functioning is not the only way a society can function. And that’s important.
For me, a dream society would be able to cope with the market and with consumerism. I would like it if both capitalism and its market could become our kind servants once again. And I can see only one way to do it, by reviving the concept of fellowship through spiritual rebirth. I think that there is a certain European reality represented by youth movements, which will be open to cooperation with like-minded groups from outside of Europe.

Petr Drulak is a political scientist and the director of the Institute of International Relations. The Institute was established by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but is now an independent institution. Mr. Drulak is engaged in both academic and social activities. He actively communicates with the media and is in charge of the Institute’s public library, where an exceptional collection of books and documents in the field of international relations is kept. As part of his research, Petr Drulak deals with issues related to Czech foreign policy, and research theory and methodology. Lately, he has taken an interest in Chinese politics, as well as in the Chinese way of thinking concerning politics.

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