jueves, 11 de octubre de 2012

Looking forward: what we can learn from Lance Armstrong's landing

Lance Armstrong's doping affair becomes emblematic within the fin de siècle. It marks the decline of the American myth. A myth about the natural relation between freedom and fairness. There was a time where this was an ethical belief rather than a policy belief. Once written in a paper it started to be unwritten in the heart. Freedom and fairness where attached by the unifying field of conscience. But not any more. They were to take very different paths. A very similar fate is shared by democracy. It is the fetishism of the written law.

Classical economics states that there is no such dichotomy between the ethics and the law. In the characteristic optimism of the enlightened era they embarked on an axiomatic program for economy. Although we cannot neglect many of the successes of such approach, economy was far to be a tractable system. Within enlightenment coexists many conflicting beliefs, notably that between pragmatism and the rule of law, between empirical evidence and axiomatics. Within a tractable system —paradigm of classical economy— there is no conflict between empirical observations and the written laws pretending to describe them. Hence, from this classic perspective, empirical reality doesn't depends on the medium which pretends to reproduce it, whether is culture or law. This paradigm has proven to be insufficient. Evidence is build not only in economic history but also in the wider realm of physics. The often misinterpreted quote from McLuhan might be suitable to describe our actual state of affairs: "The medium is the message." We should not expect from a liberal law the same outcome that from a liberal culture. Policy should be framed as to allow for a liberal culture but should not pretend to replace the liberal culture.

 Beyond the challenges of implementing a complex expression of ethical liberalism we need to reinterpret liberalism in itself. We need to go beyond liberalism as a belief. The lessons from the first half of the XXth century are not to be interpreted as the proof of the success of liberalism, they are to prove the failure of the combined policies from the corresponding historical projects. Liberalism has its own accumulated failures. Both lessons should be taken as an invitation to deconstruct history rather than avoided. To go beyond liberalism as a belief means to question the position of the individual as the absolute reference of history. This is not just some abstract demand, it is a realistic assessment as the power of humanity takes dimensions way beyond the realm of human affairs. Human civilisation has become one of the major (anti)ecologic forces. It is not just the responsibility of humanity to preserve others types of life, it is also about the development of humanity beyond the idea that human civilisation should not cross the dessert but become a casino half the road.

Coming back to our sporting heroes what we see in the doping affairs is the fear and incapacity of liberalism to imagine a world where the human expression no longer corresponds to the liberal individual. I am not justifying Armstrong but I want to show how symptomatic is his case to our times. What to do when humans want and indeed be more than humans? Is not just cheating,  Armstrong is not the only high profile athlete involved. Moreover, is not sophisticated doping an almost canonic practice in modern economy? Where to rule the difference between fair advantage and unfair? Should we rule it according to which structural and/or pragmatic units? Technology has destroy the temple of liberalism, the individual. The skin is no longer a di facto defence. And as doping (as any other corporal extension) deconstructs the physical individual, other forms of technology deconstruct the individual as an ethical, economic or legal unit. As the skin becomes the more superficial, we need to keep asking ourselves, if an ethics where the individual is the starting point has not become an ethics where the individual is the ending point.