Guillermo Sullings, humanist economist, writer and conference speaker, will participate in different moments of the European Humanist Forum 2018, which will take place in Madrid from 11 to 13 May. His book “At the Crossroads of Humanity’s Future: the steps towards the Universal Human Nation” has been translated into different languages and is the inspiration behind the formation of the Network of Universal Human Nation Builders (UHN). In this book, Sullings makes an assessment of the current situation and makes a proposal for what should be done and how, in order to move us towards this new world.
EHF2018: Without a doubt, in order to talk about solutions we need to know the starting point. Could you give us a brief analysis of the current situation?
GS: It is not easy what you ask of me, not only because of the complexity of the various situations that the world is going through, but also because we cannot even have complete information about what is being plotted in the shadows by the immense powers that operate in it. But if we speak of trends, surely the processes that Silo anticipated 25 years ago in his Letters to My Friends are very much in force and advanced. I recall that in his Second Letter, referring to the saturation stage of neoliberal capitalism, he said that when recession and unemployment will also affect the richest countries, then policies of control, coercion and emergency would begin.
Well then, everything seems to indicate that we are now entering this stage, and formal democracies are beginning to tighten their policies, as they can no longer provide a welfare state within their borders. It seems that the panacea of economic globalization was exhausted by the crisis of 2008, and as expected the only winner was international financial power. Now everyone seeks to defend their own interests and trade wars begin on the outside, and social disciplining on the inside. Conflict in the international arena will continue to increase, spurred on as always by the business of the military industrial complex, but also by the need for some governments to coerce their populations under the pretext of external enemies.
In any case, conflict within countries will also increase, and this will open up possibilities for social mobilization; the challenge will be the direction these processes may take, so as not to become diluted in spontaneity. And in this regard, we can also recall what was said in the Tenth Letter in 1993, with regard to the tendency towards destructuring at all levels, ideological syncretisms and the loss of references; this has also happened and makes it difficult for populations to come together to rebel and take their destiny into their own hands. But this vacuum of references will at some point be filled, and we will have to be careful not to let authoritarianism do it; in this sense I trust in the sensibility of the new generations, who, although they are the ones who suffer the most from the lack of references and nihilism, I believe they will know how to better detect the media manipulation, the lies of politicians and the temptation of authoritarianism, and reject them. The challenge will be to build other options and make them visible, like turning on a lighthouse on a stormy night to give you some point of reference to trust.
It sounds strange to hear about the Universal Human Nation, at a time when it seems that everything is destructuring. Does it respond to a pure compensatory dream of the current situation or do you base yourself on indicators that give rise to the belief that it is possible to construct another paradigm and, therefore, another world?
Possibly I am not free of compensatory reveries, and if I were, they would not be bad as palliatives against the depressive tendencies that reality usually generates. But as I often say in some of the book’s presentations, we all have our optimistic days and our pessimistic days, and I chose to write only on the optimistic days. At that time I found some indicators that allowed me to believe in the possibility of building another world. It is good to put things into perspective, to study history, seeing how many realities of today were the utopias of the past. Until two centuries ago, slavery was an institution accepted by the majority. The achievement of civil rights for minorities, women’s rights, labour rights, is all quite recent. And we could continue to list historical indicators of an evolutionary path on which there is still a long way to go, but historical processes must be weighed not by circumstances but by longer-term trends.
In this respect, I believe that the trend towards planetarization will continue to deepen, despite recent reactions to the contrary. Human beings are increasingly feeling themselves to be citizens of the world; new generations are communicating and tuning in to common interests that have little to do with their geographical location. Of course this phenomenon is not uniform, but the trend is there, and that is why thinking of a planetary civilization, a Universal Human Nation, or whatever name we want to give to this future without borders, is in tune with this trend. Of course, for this to be possible, a certain organization will be necessary, which seems to be hindered by the tendency towards destructuring that you mention. And also for this planetarization to bear the sign of humanization, it will be necessary to overcome the violence, manipulation and concentration of power that today seem to lead the world in the opposite direction. I never said it would be easy. There are tendencies that favour, and others that hinder, it will be necessary to see which path human beings take, but history shows that they have overcome very complex situations in their evolutionary path. Now the complexity of planetarization is added, and that is the challenge, because if the crossroads is global, the response must be global.
The theme of the European Humanist Forum 2018 is “What unites us towards the Universal Human Nation”. We know that relying on what unites us is one of the keys to achieving the objective, but what do you think unites us or what elements capable of uniting us should we prioritize?
All of us who work to bring about some positive change, to gain greater rights for human beings in whatever field, for that reason alone we already have something in common. If we go back to the origins of humanity, history has been a concatenation and sequence of acts in which human intentionality has prevailed over the conditioning of reality to positively transform it. In this sense, the history we have in common should unite us with those who today seek this evolutionary continuity. If, instead of looking to the past, we look to the future, we will find that this aspiration for a world of solidarity, without war and violence, with justice and equity, with sustainable balance, with equal rights, responds to an image of the world that most of us carry within us as an aspiration. Therefore, that also unites us. We are united by our past and our aspiration for the future. That’s for starters.
But of course, sometimes we don’t have such a broad perspective, we focus on the specificities of each person, group or organization, and it seems that they have little in common; those who work for the protection of the environment, those who deal with labour rights, those who fight for disarmament, or those who demand another type of political and economic organization, another education, and so on. However, we could say that this world to which we aspire is like a diamond, of which everyone sees a different facet, but it is the same. If we understand that, we will see that we have a great project in common, even if everyone sees only one part. But the most important thing is that we understand that this is a structure in which it will be very difficult to transform one particularity without transforming the rest. How can we stop the ecological disaster without modifying the consumer-productivist matrix, how can we modify this matrix without changing the economic system, how can we change the economic system without changing politics? How can we change politics without changing culture, and thus we could continue giving examples of how everything is linked together, and that is why partial and isolated attempts are too weak in the face of the concentrated power that pulls the planet’s strings. We must understand that we also have our weakness in common, and that from our unity will come the strength to transform things and to transform ourselves as a species. I believe, then, that many things unite us, but if we rely on a great future image that contains the aspirations of all, that multifaceted diamond that I mentioned, in the face of this perhaps utopian, but luminous image of a Universal Human Nation, if we are united by this immense project, worthy of human beings and their history, we will surely understand the small differences that we may have as the richness of diversity and not as obstacles to unity.
In your book “At the Crossroads of Humanity’s Future”, you talk about 120 steps. Could you synthesize them based on themes or on the most important moments or steps to take into account?
These steps are not intended to be an exhaustive recipe, but rather indicative proposals of where one should go if one wants to advance towards a Universal Human Nation. It is only an attempt to approach more concrete images that allow us to turn utopia into a project; but the definitive paths must be built with the contribution of millions of volunteers and specialists who share this objective and this sensitivity for the future of human beings. The steps outlined are a kind of propositional synthesis emerging from the previous analysis of a wide variety of thematic areas, such as disarmament, the role of the United Nations, the financial system, ecology, migration, democracy, culture, and so on. In that sense we cannot say that one topic is more important than another, therefore no step is more relevant than another, because everything works in structure and it is very difficult to change only one part.
I believe that the most important thing is precisely this concept, that we must learn to work inter-disciplinarily, generating synergies that allow us to reach the necessary potential to produce the transformations. Because many of the steps set out in the book have to do with proposals that should be implemented by governments; but today governments are part of the problem and not part of the solution; so such steps must be considered as mobilizing images of objectives to be achieved, as we organize ourselves. But the priority is to take the steps that have to do with the construction of a social organization that leads to a real democracy, to a profound cultural change, because that is what will allow us to accumulate the strength to be able to make the other steps concrete. So everything that has to do with the issues of cultural change, social organization and real democracy is of the utmost importance.
As a result of your book “At the Crossroads of Humanity’s Future: The steps towards the Universal Human Nation” a Network of UHN Builders is being organized in different countries. What does this Network consist of?
We were just talking about the priority of generating organizational forms around common objectives that will allow us at some point to accumulate enough strength to take the steps in the different areas. Well, among the many people who share this need and are in tune with the image of the future, the proposal has arisen to form a network in which all those who share these objectives can join forces. But we also know that even if this need to unite and join forces inter-disciplinarily and internationally is perceived, it will be difficult to achieve if it is done from personal ambitions, from hegemonic leaderships, or from manipulation. You can’t tell people to get together… get behind us! Because that organizational morphology is precisely part of a world we no longer want, in which the concentration of power is the main disease. The idea of a network aims to achieve a certain level of organization that allows us to accumulate forces and work together, exercising the same real democracy that we propose for societies. Convergence must be achieved in one direction, minimising differences because what unites us is much bigger, and in that convergence we will organise ourselves.
The NHU Builders’ Network intends to give impetus to this convergence, generating the environments to facilitate it. The protagonists will be all the volunteers, organizations and institutions that will come together. Friends from several countries in America and Europe have already joined the network, and we have started to work in recent months. At the moment we are developing a website with a wealth of material and a platform that will serve as a virtual environment for this convergence, and from there forums, campaigns and projects will be generated with increasing continuity. Surely the upcoming Humanist Forum in Madrid will be a suitable place to make more details known.