26 December 2023

Raging Standstill and Moral Ambition: The Year 2024

Together we will make hope flourish

It almost feels inappropriate to wish each other a healthy and happy 2024. At the turn of the year, humanity is torn apart by pain and sorrow, the war in Ukraine, the unfathomable suffering in Gaza and Israel, displacement due to extreme drought or flooding, and politically shifting concerns. It’s hard to imagine it can get better.

Yet it can.

Raging Standstill

According to the German sociologist Hartmut Rosa (NRC, December 21, 2023), we have now entered a state of what he calls ‘raging standstill’. In today’s society, we are driven forward in our pursuit of growth, we must constantly produce and innovate. “We don’t give ourselves time to reflect on the things around us.” The consequence of going along with this rapid attitude is “that the citizen has developed an aggressive basic attitude towards the world. Every year people have to achieve more for each other. The consequences of this can be seen at three levels. We are aggressive towards nature with our industries and resources that we extract from the earth. But we are also aggressive towards other people. The political culture is changing everywhere: the other is no longer seen as a conversation partner, but as an idiot or as an enemy who must be silenced. Think of pro- versus anti-vaxxers, of ‘Brexiteers’ versus ‘Remainers’. This aggression can also be found at the micro level, in the way we treat ourselves. Our to-do lists are overflowing, resulting in burnout. So there is aggression against nature, against others, against ourselves.”

We will have to step out of that aggressive mode. Look for and create places where we do nothing, which offer that silent space, because they remind us that a different attitude towards the world is possible. An attitude that makes you no longer busy with things you want to achieve or control. That make us realize that there is a relationship between the great, comprehensive reality, the cosmos, and our inner selves, our destiny.

Democracy also does not work in the aggression mode. Politics is not so much about who has the power but about shaping the world we live in. Everyone can participate in our democracy. That is at least the intention. This requires that everyone has a voice and that everyone also has ears to hear the voices of others. And even a listening heart.”
“We need to develop that ability to address us again. It is what I call a republican view of democracy: that you do not see each other as opponents, but as citizens who have something to say to each other. I want to listen to you, but also be sure that I am heard. Only then is a real transformation possible. This also means that we dare to be vulnerable. And that is risky in a society based on competition and the pursuit of growth.”

Moral Ambition

But how do we use that newly developed ability to let ourselves be addressed? Develop moral ambition, says writer Rutger Bregman (FD, December 19, 2023). Although he focuses on the two thousand weeks that our career lasts all together and asks us to consider carefully what we want to roll up our sleeves for, you can safely expand that moral ambition to other domains. Political and social. We don’t have to go along with the ambition of ease and comfort. Each of us can devote our talents to things that matter. Take the time, he says, to stand still and consider where you want to spend your time.

I wish you and your loved ones a morally ambitious, inspiring, healthy and happy 2024.
Together we will make hope flourish.