In many ways 2014 has been a somehow ‘extraordinary’ year – most of all in the negative sense. Yet, was there really something new or different?
Maybe in 2014 you have sometimes experienced the same as me, moments that gave you a feeling of not really being awake, a sensation of having a bad nightmare from which you can’t wake up? While millions and billions of dollars flow into aid and development, the poor get poorer while the rich ever more powerful and wealthy. In 2014 millions of people were forced to leave their home country, thousands of them dying on the way, whereas many of those who survived needed to undergo inhumane treatments in the places they arrived. When even planes disappear out of the blue sky while innocent citizens are shot dead in public only because of their ethnicity (or in other words ‘having the wrong skin colour’), then we can arguably question the integrity of our society’s moral. For me it seems that in 2014 everything has changed for worse and one’s indeed right to ask ‘what’s wrong’?
Digging a bit deeper into the question I came to the conclusion that 2014 was however not really that much of a change. From my viewpoint the only innovation is that politics have definitely proved to be dead. What our governments call politics has evolved into a farce that is worse than any reality TV. Proud of our oh-so-democratic political systems, we Westerners have tended to condemn dictatorships of autocrats such as Putin, Erdogan and Co, but what has become of our own systems? Is it the right way forward to set cars afire and smash shop windows in an attempt to ‘reclaim the streets’ as they do in Zurich? Is it democratic to denunciate corruption in developing economies while supporting highly corrupt soccer (FIFA) and Formula1 tournaments week for week? Is it the right strategy to have hundreds of ignorant politicians flying around the globe to meet once a year and talk about climate change, while the planet is getting ever warmer without anyone taking even the slightest action? As a taxpayer I only feel that paying taxes is all but a bad investment and somehow I start to understand those trying to evade paying them.
‘People do wrong whenever they think they can, so they act morally only if they’re forced to, because they regard morality as something which isn’t good for one personally. The point is that everyone thinks the rewards of immorality far outweigh those of morality – and they’re right.’
So, when I think clearly, then 2014 was just a prolongation of the post, namely the consequences of inaction. I have praised her works before and I still believe that Hannah Arendt is who best described this phenomenon which is so subtle yet so destructive. What Arendt described in ‘Banality of Evil’ is usually only discussed by ethicists, for whom the term omissions covers all inactions. In contrast, the general public prefers to limit itself to judging actions, namely to talk bad about what we see. The fatality of our modern society are not our actions, it’s the omissions. We prefer to look away from the things that nobody addresses explicitly and instead focus on the irrelevant. In that sense we are just the same as today’s politicians.
The point however is that history will repeat itself until the majority of us understands that ‘not doing anything’ can be more harmful than ‘doing things’. Likewise the chances for a better world diminish with every day that we accept injustice. A happy New Year 2015 to all of you!
 Plato: Republic. Translated by Robin Waterfield (Oxford University Press)