Life: the Center of our Existence
Life is the center of our existence. One would be tempted to affirm that above all we live. However, our existence does not seem to take place in that modality. The exacerbated materialism in which our existence takes place, displaces life from the center of the scene. Our society is organized around production, consumerism, exploitation, efficiency, trade and propaganda. In other words, our existence seems to have economy as the center of organization of our activities. The struggle of this beginning century is to put life at the center of our existence, and to put economy in its proper place, that is, at the service of life.
What does it mean to put life at the center of our existence? It means that all human activities must be guided and directed to guarantee the best living conditions. The objective must be to live well, or better yet, the good living, as South American indigenous peoples would say. This requires a radical change in the way of thinking and in the prevailing ideas in our society. The main of these ideas is that we all have the right to a good quality of life, and to the satisfaction of all the basic and important needs for the development of our existence and our potentialities. Perhaps the most prevalent idea that goes against the previous idea is the Malthusian concept of “struggle for existence”. This idea is so widespread and naturalized that it is considered an unquestionable truth. The idea that resources are scarce and insufficient to sustain society as a whole has become so widespread that we accept this idea as something natural, that is, as if it were inscribed in nature. And believing this has its consequences, and very severe indeed, since it creates a scenario for our existence in which reign “every man for himself”. It is essential to demolish this myth, because it is perhaps the nuclear and nodal idea that threatens our objective of putting life at the center of our existence. This idea is so dangerous because it puts life at the center of existence, but to put it at risk, in constant uncertainty, in an imminent threat, that is, ultimately, to introduce fear into life, and therefore, in our daily existence. To bring down this false idea would be to restore to life the power and confidence that it possesses by its own nature. This empowerment of life would bring with it countless changes and benefits. To begin with, each one would stop being so concerned with their own issues, and would start to think more collectively and communally, with the consequent generation of new types of spaces and organizations. These organizations would by nature be more horizontal, since verticality and social hierarchy are signs, symptoms of the necessary social control in a context of scarcity.
The second important question about putting life at the center of our existence is to rethink our relationship with nature and between human beings themselves. The basic relationship can no longer be that of appropriation and exploitation of natural and human resources. It will be necessary to understand that this implies a real attack on life, since it is present in all living beings and their environments. It will require a vision of nature in which the basic relationship is between subject and subject, rather than between subject and object, and which therefore is a relationship impregnated with deep respect and even veneration. See nature as the expression of life itself. Does this imply being against progress? On the contrary, it implies ensuring progress. It involves seeing that life itself carries with it its own progress. Man will have to be careful to ensure the continuity of the natural conditions and resources, establishing a more collaborative than extractivist relationship with nature. Man will have to see that he himself is part of nature and that he arises from it. This will allow him to relate in another way to nature, no longer through a relationship of opposition, confrontation and exploitation, but of complementarity, reciprocity and community. It is about seeing that we are all part of that current and principle that we call life.
In this manner, we see that putting life at the center of existence implies questioning and revising prevailing ideologies and worldviews. These ideologies are transplanted from one area of knowledge to another, spread widely and become part of the so-called common sense. But they are only points of view, ideas, which must simply be replaced by others, healthier and healing. Because ideas make man and nature sick. Then it becomes essential to put the concept of health in a place of fundamental importance. And not only the concept of individual health, but above all the concept of collective health, or better still, that of environmental health. In this new worldview, the development of healthy environments, which are those in which there are relationships of healthy cooperation, mutual aid, complementarity and collaboration, will have to be ensured and guaranteed, not only in human relationships but also in relationships between man and their environment. Under this concept, each subject of the system fulfills an important and irreplaceable role, with which the fundamental relationship between them will not be able to be that of exploitation and usufruct, but that of cooperation for the satisfaction of a need from which all will benefit. There are no ideas more unhealthy today than that resources are scarce and that, therefore, we are condemned to a “struggle for existence”, and that the fundamental relationship between man and nature is that of indiscriminate exploitation and usufruct. Both ideas go hand in hand and feed each other.
In short, science must make conscious and assume the ideological content of its own activity. Science is not an aseptic or neutral activity, but is immersed in the ideological field of the dominant culture, and its aims and objectives are ultimately directed by it. In recent years, the commodification of science and education has intensified enormously. This process has been largely justified with the reasoning that science must be useful and respond to social demands and needs. What was not made explicit in that reasoning is that what was intended was for science to respond to the demands and needs of capitalist society. A science that responds only to the parameters of the production of merchandise and consumer goods is a devitalized science, a science where life does not occupy the center of its activities. Science must respond to the demands and needs of society, but of a society that aspires to guarantee the quality of life for all of humanity, that aspires to find possible ways to achieve this goal. A science and a society in which the important parameters and values are not those of productivity, efficiency and performance, but those of equitable distribution, equality of possibilities and respect for life. This new science and this new society require a new mentality and a new consciousness. Individual consciousness will have to give way to a more collective consciousness, a consciousness that does not stop at individual ectodermal limits, but extends and embraces not only the entire humanity, but nature as a whole, and acquires a holistic worldview. A worldview in which humanity and nature form an indissoluble, integrated and absolutely complementary whole, in which each subject plays a fundamental role for the progress and prosperity of the system.
This holistic worldview will allow us to put life back at the center of our existence. It will give us the awareness that we are all, and everything, part of the same current that unites us and flows through us. A current that will lead us to a more dignified and healthy future, and to a more integral and systemic evolution and progress. Some might think that this is just a utopia, an unrealizable ideal, but history shows us that ideals finally realize and actualize as cases of a great universal teleological process. This process is nothing more than the evidence of the action of that exigency that we call life.
This article is a translation of the following academic paper:
Ostachuk, A. (2018). La vida: el centro de nuestra existencia. Ludus Vitalis. 26(50): 257–260. [ResearchGate]