What if everything we knew about how the world works was dispensable? I’m not talking here about escaping reality by presenting an alternative world but about thinking the unthinkable, doing the undoable. This is what characterizes the commonplace heroes of our stories: an unlikely act that redeems them from the banality of their everyday lives. These are by no means fantastic stories but extremely realistic one: It takes reality ones step forward by pushing its boundaries. The title of this book first came to me in Spanish: Los inverosímiles, which should have been literarily translated into: The not verisimilar ones. The word in Latin is vērīsimilis ; from vērī, genitive singular of vērum : truth, and similis : like. So what I really had in mind was : The ones unlike truth, but I ended up settling for : The unlikely ones, which already conveys the meaning.
Ewa the IMF leader and Charles the journalist
Back in 2030 Ewa was the managing director of the IMF and Charles was a journalist for the BBC. Since then many things have changed; the world is a much better place. No one really acknowledged their revolutionary act during a conference about globalization´s challenges, because the real heroes are never remembered. History extols the Hitlers and Gandhis but there is no place in history books for the joint work of the mass. It is too obvious to say that Hitler would’ve probably died of boredom if he’d been born in any other country at that time and that Gandhi wouldn’t have stood a chance were it not for the Indian independence movement. Also few people give real credit to the masterminds behind it all: Intellectuals such as Nietzsche in the case of Germany and Tagore in the case of India. Specially in the case of Nietzsche, no one wants to blame him for having written such horrible books, fruit of an ill Western mind. He wanted to be the Antichrist but he became the Antihumanity. But again, historians would blame it all on circumstances. They’d plunge us in a marsh of socio-economic and religio-political facts to rationalize the works of these intellectuals, as if we were mere pawns in the game of history. Now, I believe the opposite. I think that intellectuals are independent from their circumstances and that’s actually the point. I believe a Nietzsche would’ve been as horrible in the Tibet as it was in Germany and a Tagore would’ve written such enlightening works even in the depth of the Congo.
But in 2030 the world was radically different from the twentieth century. No one paid any heed to intellectuals anymore; they wrote to no one, since most people believed that the truth wasn’t fun but rather limiting. Political correctness and tolerance were at the order of the day. Nietzsche would be rolling over in his grave if he saw it. The only good point he’d made in his books: to be true to yourself, had been trampled by the nonsense of living in a world where everyone wielded their individual, pragmatic truth. On the other hand, he had been the one who said: “Something is not intrinsically good but it is only good if it is good for you,” so he couldn’t technically complain about the situation, since it was he who had gone around destroying truth with a hammer.
In this mad world, Charles was a journalist for the BBC, so a free thinker who, however, needed to comply with the policies and agenda of the corporation. Ewa was an economist who didn’t miss a chance of saying she’d read Stiglitz but who’d missed many chances of admitting she’d avidly read Marx. Circumstances and ambition had brought her to the head of the most powerful financial institution: The International Monetary Fund. I won’t tell the details of her life because, honestly speaking, I don’t know them. She must have had a husband, a mansion and a couple of dogs in some neighborhood of the U.S where the poverty of the world was properly cushioned. Maybe she also had a couple of summer houses in paradisiacal places; maybe she even owned her own island. The only thing I know about her is her heroic act during the conference. But I need to start by introducing the person whose bravery made this heroic act possible: Charles. Charles was an Englishman, but please don’t hold this against him; he was a good man nevertheless. His ideals had drawn him towards journalism, because he believed that the truth must be told out loud. He hadn’t compromised, but rather accommodated to the situation. He wanted to be in the hot spots of society and he couldn’t do it by being intransigent. Let’s just say he’d temporized till he could at last do something in which he really believed.
So here was his first chance in years. He’d been given only one question for the current Lord of all the Rings: Ewa Strażnik, the IMF managing director. He knew the drill of these conferences so he was aware of the role he played in the whole affair: He was one of the logs which fed the fire of capitalism. But he decided to become a bucket of wet sand when, in his turn, he asked Ewa the following question: “Do you really believe that infinite economic growth, as tacitly preached by the IMF, is sustainable at all?” The whole conference room held still for the answer. They had all understood the aim of the question: It was rhetorical and it actually meant to trigger some pang of conscience in the standard bearer of capitalism. Ewa gathered her thoughts for a little longer than decorous for such a sphere. After all, the IMF had always exalted efficiency and doubts or even too much pondering were discouraged. But she took her time this time instead of blurting out one of the amoral, inhumanly technocratic remarks she had spent years learning by heart.
She answered: “It’s my personal and humble opinion that growth is the product of resources and work, and that only by working infinitely can we grow infinitely. Now, I also believe that the IMF is pushing the envelope when it advocates for development in all countries. Development is only possible with hard work, and there are no magic formulas. Also, continuous development is only achievable with continuous work, and our speech, as you mentioned, has misguided some developed countries into believing that they have already reached a status from which they can’t fall down. What is really still happening is the exploitation of developing countries by more developed ones, which only in this way can live up to the high expectations we burden them with. We, the IMF, have become a prescriptive economic plan based on an illusion already denounced by Marx: infinite growth. Not only do we not see reality but we turn our eyes away when it hits us on the face. So my honest answer to your question is: No, I don’t really believe we’re doing the best for the world and sometimes I even doubt that we’re doing any good at all.”
I just let you imagine what such a speech from such a person could have provoked. Imagine simply a world where there are no different currencies struggling against one another, where we work as much as we want to work, always having the power to decide whether material stuff is more relevant than free time. Imagine also a perhaps a little more far-fetched situation in which art is not commercialized but it exists purely as a means of expression and ethic and aesthetic development. And now that currency is not an issue, frontiers don’t make any sense either so you choose your own conditions. If you choose a pleasant life in a temperate climate you won’t get as much profit as you would in extreme conditions such as in desert or arctic climates. No one hoards lands or money since the field has been leveled and our conditions are fairer, so no one needs a head start. People don’t even believe in passing down wealth to their children, since wealth is also a burden nowadays and the dearest commodity is freedom. Now, this would sound science fictional were it not real, and believe me, it is real now, or, from your point of view, in the future.
to be continued…
by Juan Martin Sanchez