At the time of its release, in 1983, I remember seeing it three or four nights in a row in the same downtown cinema in Liege. Each time with the same enthusiasm tinged with terror and dejection when leaving the screening room. KOYAANISKATSI(1) is, in my opinion, one of those films, if not THE film, that is the best that has been done in the radical criticism of the industrial society, ours. And, just like certain texts (Illich, Debord, Ellül, from which Godfrey Reggio drew his inspiration), the images — and the extraordinary music of Philip Glass — of this terrible indictment have not finished haunting some brains, including mine. And, thirty years later, it appears that not only has the implacable observation not aged a bit but, on the contrary, it is still and always of a topicality that nothing, until today, has come to deny.
The crisisThis word, which is constantly seasoned in a thousand ways, is what these images say it is: the inevitable collapse of a project that was already in place at the dawn of industrial civilization and that appropriated the famous words of a raging and imbecile god who gave us the mission and the claim to submit Nature to us and to enjoy it as we please. To which, collectively and increasingly, we have been quick to respond, to our own misfortune. Of course, yes, we can appreciate and rejoice in some appreciable progress in the most diverse fields, such as, for example, medicine and other related specialties (we are better off at the dentist’s today than in the Middle Ages, all the same), and the communication tools that have radically transformed our ways of exchanging and processing information in all its forms. Besides this and some other amenities, the main mark that characterizes the most modern societies is the one that is shown in this film in terrifying shortcuts and that we experience in a perfectly practical way every day that passes. What dominates is this kind of haggard amazement, mixed with a diffuse fear and a monumental boredom that the men of this time carry on their shoulders and that can be read on their faces. As if what was supposed to free them from such and such constraints went hand in hand with what, more and more, subjugates them. In a way and to say it brutally, the small pleasures which we enjoy are without common measure with the diffuse oppression sensitive everywhere, the first ones being only the miserable and futile way to try to forget the second one.
We know that the organization of leisure activities of all kinds, often colored with vaguely cultural ambitions, sometimes with the best intentions in the world, are only there to distract us from what is going on in the spheres of all powers. Seen from this angle, art is superfluous, said Ben Vautier. In the same way, the sacrosanct consumerism has been able to create an illusion and give the happy inhabitants of our hemisphere the chance to enjoy an extraordinary freedom that continues to be presented as the one that overshadows all others. Those times are over, we see it, we feel it, we experience it every day. We are at a turning point, that is perfectly obvious. A gigantic machinery, in the heart of which it is more and more impossible to know by what and by whom it is actually operated, inexorably advances its innumerable cogs and secret mechanisms that sow the same desolation everywhere. One thing is certain: behind all this, small groups of men, less and less numerous and always better organized and efficient, are at work, and their only objective, their ultimate goal is to appropriate the whole world and its wealth. Whether a part of humanity is too much for their ambitions, in one way or another we will simply ignore it, in the strict sense of the word. Whether it is by famine, disease or, why not, war, the odious system will come to an end if it so desires; we must expect ANYTHING from those who, strictly speaking, pull the strings with the help of a political-media system whose infamy is growing day by day.
The only question now is whether things will continue to go as they are or whether, by chance or major accident, they will take a radically different turn. Some signs are there, flushed out by those who have broken with the orthodoxy of the dominant thinking and which, little by little, are beginning to be taken into consideration (cf. Paul Jorion’s speech at the French National Assembly on March 26 about tax havens and in the midst of the Cypriot crisis) by some media and circles more or less linked to political decision-makers Whether they are fully heard and, consequently, their theses taken into account, we are far, in any case, from what would be a true revolution. And so, the most likely outcome is that the banking community and mafias of all kinds — both of which are increasingly linked — will continue the game at which they excel and which makes them overpowered. At the risk, more and more evident with each passing day, of a real general collapse of the financial system with the terrible and unpredictable consequences and chain events that this would inevitably lead to everywhere. The fact that we should not be too happy about such possible circumstances does not mean that we cannot learn from them in advance.
Since it seems that the system refuses to question the order — including the moral order — of its activity, and that the cries of alarm are still not heard, this sudden collapse of everything that holds the unjust and ferocious edifice in place could and even would require, on the part of the political sphere in the broadest sense, the setting up of new norms, constraints and control institutions that could lead to a new universal monetary order(2). From there, it should be possible to organize a world symposium that would bring together political and economic leaders, but also moral authorities (philosophers, scientists, poets, artists…) whose purpose would be to draft a new universal declaration of human rights taking into account the exceptional conditions in which humanity finds itself. Whether it is the meaning and the goals to be given to work, the redefinition of private property, the terrible environmental and climatic challenges, a more equitable sharing of resources and wealth and other issues, this unprecedented assembly would be in charge of creating new rights in the form of laws that would be valid everywhere and for everyone without distinction, and consequently, a new and audacious perspective would open up that would lead to the implementation of a thousand new ways of using life. Let’s dream a little…
Jean-Pierre Léon Collignon
- Se trouve en DVD et sur you tube en version intégrale.
- Sur toutes les questions relatives à ce sujet, voir le blog de Paul Jorion, en particulier «Le temps qu’il fait» du 28 mars dernier.