10. You shall overcome the technocratic paradigm
We can once more broaden our vision. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral
"The scientistic mentality has succeeded in leading many to think that if something is technically possible it is therefore morally admissible." (Encyclical Fides et Ratio 88, Saint John Paul II).
While valuing and relying on science, the Church's
Social Teaching criticises scientism for, as St. John Paul II quotes, this
mentality is intended to make us accept the idea that anything technically
achievable is in itself morally acceptable.
Pope Francis also addresses this question by alluding to the technocratic paradigm, that is, "it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm" (LS 106). This technocratic prototype appears as the dominant colonizer of minds, behaviours and culture to the point where it is very difficult to get out of it because it becomes "omnipresent" (LS 122). This paradigm conditions people's lives and the functioning of society; for this reason, the Pope insists, it is necessary to encourage and broaden "a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm" (LS 111).
Human intervention on nature has always existed but, for a long time, it had the characteristic of accompanying or supporting the possibilities offered by things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what natural reality allows itself to give, such as reaching out. Today, what matters is to extract all that is possible from things through the imposition of the human hand, which tends to ignore or forget the very reality of what lies before it. This is why humans and nature have stopped walking hand in hand, becoming contenders. From here, it is easy to move on to the idea that infinite or unlimited growth is possible, which leads to lying about the infinite availability of the planet's resources, leading to "squeezing it" to the limit and beyond. The false assumption is made that "there is an unlimited amount of energy and usable means, that their immediate regeneration is possible and that the negative effects of nature's manipulations can be easily absorbed".
Throughout the publication of the principles of the Decalogue, following the guide offered by Laudato Si', we have tried to reflect on the realities of environmental and social deterioration that we feel; and on the paths of correction that are offered to us from our humanity.
Pero no nos servirán de nada estas consideraciones y propósitos si no reconocemos la raíz humana de la crisis ecológica. "A certain way of understanding human life and activity has gone awry, to the serious detriment of the world around us" (LS 101).
Almost two years have passed since the beginning of the campaign "Care of the planet, fight poverty" and a bit longer since the publication of the encyclical Laudato Si', in which Pope Francis launched ""The urgent challenge to protect our common home...to seek a sustainable and integral development" (LS 13). He invited us to look not only at the symptoms but also at the deepest causes of the present situation (LS 14). He proposed "guidelines for human development to be found in the treasure of Christian spiritual experience" (LS 15) to overcome the new paradigm and forms of power that derive from technology. And, although it may seem very distant to us, the achievements made and the work done are still scarce. So, we must try to put aside the urgency of the times we live in and continue to reflect and work on this "urgent challenge" of which Pope Francis speaks to us.
Overcoming the technocratic paradigm means recovering or finding the value of the human being in itself as a person. A value that is not based on having, on science, technique or power; but on being. Acknowledging and assuming that the essential of the human being is alien to him, that it is a gift that has been given to him. His conscience, his intelligence, his capacities, - innate or acquired - his dependence, his capacity to be in solidarity, to share, to give himself to other people, which, in short, makes it possible for him to live; everything is a gift and as such does not belong to him. What we have do not cease to be tools that we have been acquiring and that, nevertheless, forgetting what we are, we are turning them into an extension of our being, losing sight of the fact that they are transitory and circumstantial, subject to change and evolution, to overcoming or disappearance.
Don, and not property, is also everything that surrounds us in nature, to be wisely administered and not to "lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them...the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology" (LS 106).
The mandate and the need to share do not refer only to material things, but also, and perhaps above all, to our capacities and to what we can obtain through them, in clear advantage over our brothers and sisters, who have not been able or have not been able to develop them.
Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of short-term responses to problems arising in relation to environmental degradation, depletion of natural resources or global pollution. It must be the sum of all this; it must offer a different outlook, a way of thinking, a policy, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality that address another way of living, one that is more austere and coherent in the face of unlimited consumption, in the face of the advance of the technocratic paradigm. Seeking only a technical remedy for each environmental problem that arises, means isolating things and do not forget that everything is connected and that it is necessary to face and give solutions to the real problems of the system. It is possible to broaden the view and direct the technique to the service of another type of progress, more sustainable and integral. In this way, when the technique is turned towards the concrete problems of the most needed, with the commitment of helping them to live with more dignity and less suffering, we place the technique at the service of human beings and their environment.
Voices that claim...
We start from the principle that the Earth is our mother, "Our Earth, Our Mother".
The earth is the food, it is the place where we live, it is the source of health, the protection of the territory is the struggle for survival, our protection comes from the Earth, health and everything that is in plants and trees.
Nowadays there are various technologies available, but it is necessary to think. It's not just about using technology, but about knowing how we're using it. These technological tools should help revitalize our thinking - that's part of our liberation.
It is very
strong, because our peoples fight so much, and' they want to take us out of our
land to send us to where? We have to live in this violence, and we ask
ourselves: Don't we belong to this land, and aren't we part of this country?
Why us? Why are we still suffering so much? And we answer, "Why are we in this fight? Because we still exist.
Geography Professor/University of Alcalá
Undoubtedly, the encyclical Laudato Si' has been one of the most widely read and controversial Vatican documents inside and outside the Church. Curiously, the most enthusiastic about the document have not always been the Catholics, but also others who are usually not very close to the Church. This is, in my opinion, one of the great merits of the Encyclical, since there is no doubt that dialogue with the contemporary world is a priority of Evangelization.
Among the criticisms made of the Encyclical - including Catholics - some have accused it of being against the modern world, criticising the economic system and technology, accusing it of being behind the current environmental crisis. Even some somewhat heated mind has compared the Encyclical to Pius IX's critique of modernism.
In my modest opinion, the harsh criticism that the Encyclical makes of the economic system and the technocentric mentality is not antimodern, but rather on the contrary, it is postmodern.
It is a critique made not from the mentality of something that has to be recovered from the past, but from something that has to be overcome from the present in order to project it to the future. The Pope is not recommending that we return to the caverns, because it would be absurd and because, incidentally, our Palaeolithic ancestors did not have an idyllic relationship with the environment either. What the Pope proposes is that the current system has many deficiencies that cannot be ignored and that are manifested in two parameters very deeply treated in the Encyclical. It leaves many people out of the "system" and destroys the environment, or, to simplify: it degrades both, Nature and the people who are part of it.
Technology is obviously an indispensable ally of the ethical change we need to face in order to change our relationship with the environment, but it can also be an ally of those who want to continue to maintain a model that only benefits a small part of the world's population. The technology itself is neutral, it can be used to cure tumours or to destroy entire cities, to communicate with people or to control them, to safeguard life or to manipulate it, making children, animals or plants "to the taste of the consumer". Respecting nature means to respect it just as it is, acknowledging that it is a result of a loving decision of the Creator - for those of us who believe in God - or a set of random mutations of millions of years. In any case, it is not for us to manipulate at our own will. The "you will be like God" of Genesis has a new echo here. A recent issue of the prestigious journal Nature talks about synthetic biology to identify the set of techniques that allow us to redesign living beings "for practical uses", says the journal. Practical for whom? Certainly not for the poorest and most vulnerable on Earth. All transhumanist thought dresses up in the current prestige of science to propose true ethical nonsense, which ultimately tries to create more "advanced" human beings than evolution - guided or not by God - has naturally generated. But, who decides what it is to be "advanced"? Who abrogates the role of artificial creator? Moreover, who evaluates the indirect impacts that these manipulations have?
So what does it mean to "overcome the technocratic paradigm"? In my eyes, recognising that technique is an ally, but it is not an ethical guide. Not everything that can be done should be done, because Nature, and people as part of it, have many dimensions and values that cannot be judged by criteria of human efficiency, short-term and for individual interest. It is necessary to overcome this paradigm, which the Pope takes in large part from the lucid critique of modernity made by Romano Guardini in the middle of the last century.
It should be stressed that, without ethical guidance, science and technology are not necessarily beneficial. To criticize the techno-economicist model is not to be against economics or technology, but to ask that both serve the interests of all human beings, not just a few, and that they ultimately ensure that the planet remains a habitable place, for us and for other species. That is why the solution to environmental problems does not only involve introducing technology that reduces air and water pollution, which are obviously necessary. It also involves solving the underlying attitude that causes this pollution; that of those who think that we live on a planet with no limits, made for us, and justify attacks on the environment as a means for a development that is still a very reduced version of what integral progress really implies. For this reason, it seems to me essential to situate the ecological conversion proposed by Laudato Si' in a much wider and deeper context, which concerns all our dimensions: corporal, rational and spiritual. Like any conversion, this implies a radical change of course, very well reflected in the words of Pope Francis: "Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources. There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm" (LS 111). It is up to us to bring about this change, at least in ourselves.
What can you do
(or stop doing)?
We live dominated by technology. In fact, it plays a fundamental role in our world. It is such a present element that it is difficult to imagine our existence without it. But, how does it condition our lives? It is not a question of ignoring the great benefits it brings us, nor of concluding that we should return to other eras, but of being aware of the consequences of its uncontrolled use. We are often "technodependent" and a serious reflection is needed to move towards another paradigm in which, without renouncing technical advances, we are capable of freer forms of life.
There's life beyond the screen. And, to prove it, we suggest you try the following "sacrifices":
1. Ecological questioning: are there ways of living that do not involve so much energy consumption? For example, a good part of the elements that we use in our leisure time is technological and, consequently, consumes energy. Think about this and consider doing the same things but with less use of technology. Look for alternatives that minimise their impact.
2. Human questioning: Along with our interest in the planet, we must also be aware of the human consequences that technology has, especially on the poorest people. For example, you can learn about the conditions involved in the extraction of coltan, or find out how many people are affected by the technological rubbish that we throw away.
Knowing these details will make us reduce
consumption and stop constantly looking for the latest technological updates.
3. Cultural questioning: can we live without needing so much technology? In the culture of virtual friendship, relate to your friends without a mobile phone, do it in person.
In order for the muscles to work a little better, we propose leaving our
cars behind and walk the distance. It is an exercise that helps us improve our
health and our planet's. Let's commit ourselves to use this means whenever we
Analyse the amount of time you spend on your phone and how much of it is actually essential. Live an analogue life and put your phone away at lunchtime, when you're walking or when you're with other people. Read on paper! Books have their own personality.
Above all, we have to discover other ways of having fun with our children,
even if they don't include the latest technologies. Be interested in more educational
and less technological games and materials.
In the footsteps of the prophet...
Today I can make present my hours of tiredness,
of fatigue, of embarrassment.
And to ask the Lord to awaken me to life.
With the certainty that, if I live as a watchman,
I will be able to perceive the approaching feet,
dancing to the rhythm of a music of peace and victory.
If I dare to place my feet in their footsteps,
I'll be able to see the Lord face to face,
looking at a baby
in the arms of a child-mother.
And I will be able to sing to her.
Together with all the broken people,
together with all the peoples,
along with all of creation.
If I pay attention,
the whole life can become song,
because life that doesn't become song
is a lost life.
(Julia Blázquez, aci)