Two important endorsements for this book are better read after the reader has absorbed the context of this book. We thank both Marc Dubrulle and Father Simon Pierre for their thoughtful contributions to this book.
Ex officio Member of the Club of Rome, President emeritus, The Club of Rome EU-Chapter
Bernard Lietaer saw far and deep. Perhaps too far and too deep. His thinking was audacious and bold. Questioning the mainstream assumptions from monetarists, financiers, bankers, economists and political leaders is disruptive. Moving on these grounds leads to dismissal or – worse – to ignorance and indifference.
I made Bernard’s acquaintance more than ten years ago in the Club of Rome (CoR) EU-Chapter. We were both Board members. When elected President, I started looking with more detail into his career, expertise and publications. We had most pleasant and stimulating conversations, often over a friendly private lunch or with a glass of Belgian Trappist beer after a meeting.
Sustainability was at the core of the Club’s concerns, but little attention had been paid to monetary issues. They were thought too highly technical, requiring solid financial expertise. However, at our Aurelio Peccei Lectures & Dialogues on 19 February 2009, Bernard was invited to present his views on systemic solutions for today’s world challenges. They obviously referred to money systems. We both felt there was room for a specific analysis of these systems and their possible alternatives. The first drafts of a manuscript were already available, with contributions from Christian Arnsperger, Sally Goerner and Stefan Brunnhuber.
In 2011, Finance Watch was founded as a European NGO in reaction to the last financial crisis, when policymakers realised that there was no counter-power to the finance lobby. Its first Secretary General, Thierry Philipponat, was invited with me for a lunch at Bernard’s flat. We discussed the project of a report from the CoR-EU to Finance Watch. The idea was to expose the systemic flaws in our money system and the wrong thinking underpinning it, leading to the financial catastrophes. The report would set out practical proposals for creating a money ’ecosystem’ with complementary currencies to support and stabilise the current money system.
Thierry Philipponat was enthused. The link between money and sustainability was established. Dennis Meadows, co-author of Limits to Growth, agreed to write a foreword which is very enlightening: ...We will never create sustainability while immersed in the present financial system. I used not to think this. Indeed, I did not think about the money system at all. I took it for granted as a neutral and inevitable aspect of human society. But... now I understand, as proven clearly in this text, that the prevailing financial system is incompatible with sustainability.
It is the undeniable merit of Bernard Lietaer to have revealed this crucial issue for all those who endeavour to make the planet and quality of life sustainable. The report Money and Sustainability: The Missing Link, was published in 2012 by Triarchy Press, UK, endorsed by the Board of the CoR-EU, presented to Finance Watch and the World Business Academy with a launch event at the University Foundation in Brussels on 30 May 2012.
Bernard’s world view obviously reached far beyond monetary affairs, his professional expertise. He had this holistic approach which is too often missing when addressing the many problems of today’s civilisation. He was a humanist in the most positive sense of the word, caring for more equity and justice. Above all he had a strong willpower, looking at the future with optimism. His latest book is a superb legacy to all of us and a challenge to review our obsolete models.
Father Simon Pierre is, perhaps, Bernard’s oldest friend. He is a Benedictine Monk from the monastery of Wavreumont Belgium, living in the monastic foundation in Perú since 1974 and more specifically, since 1992, in the midst of the indigenous Aymara people near Titicaca lake.
In Bernard's long list of friends, I must probably be one of the first, since we met in adolescence: I was 14, he must have been 18 or 19. We were, on the surface, at the opposite end of the spectrum: I wanted to become a Benedictine monk, which I ultimately did become, and he was already searching all over for the meaning of reality, visible and hidden, and how to approach it with intelligence and heart. Since then, however, our friendship has been forged through an uninterrupted Yin- Yang conversation between mysticism and utopia, a mysterious and silent contrivance that only death seemed to be able to suspend at its peak.
I would like to thank the authors of this book for allowing me to resume the conversation beyond the mystery of the invisible. They encourage me to resume, on the basis of the three paradigm shifts proposed here, an ever-open debate between the monk and the visionary, both researchers, on different paths, of the "indispensable impossible" that we call hope.
But I am not here to talk about "him and me," which belongs only to him and to me, but to reread with you the invitation of this book from where I am in my human and spiritual adventure. I will therefore allow myself to react to the paradigms proposed here from two points of view: culture and mysticism.
As every time we open a debate, I will allow myself to propose once again a fundamental objection to Bernard's hypotheses, not to deny their relevance, but to broaden their horizons.
Is the efficiency-resilience binomial not too narrow and will we not run the risk of consolidating, by making it more flexible, the system of Western civilization, which, obviously, dehumanizes the world in many respects? I have always admired, of course, the West's ability to adapt and correct itself so as not to fundamentally question its own dogmas of progress. No culture and no system have, like us, the ability to constantly recreate itself and never really question itself.
Is this not still the risk of this paradigm shift: reinventing in order not to change? Who, indeed, would not agree with Bernard's beautiful utopia? The future of the planet, but above all the continuity of the Western world view, depends on it. But is that the priority?TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE WORLD: 3 PARADIGM SHIFTS TO ACHIEVE
Having myself lived in the heart of the indigenous cultures of the Peruvian Andes for many years, I have learned to radically challenge my European dogmas about happiness, life and the world. There are really other ways of looking at man and in particular the relationship of differences between humans and the whole cosmos.
The first revolution is anthropological. Is the human being, conceived as an individual, really the center of the world? Is the West's exacerbated anthropocentrism good news for the world? In the traditional cultures of the Andes (and this is probably not the only case), the community exists before the individual; and the human being recognizes himself only in the relationship of reciprocity.
Thus, the patrifocal paradigm and the matrifocal paradigm are not two complementary points of view, but a unique movement of reciprocity. We can even go further and wonder, with these traditional cultures, if humans have a privileged function compared to the rest of the inhabitants of the universe. In non-Western cultures, very often harmony, preserved and constantly restored among all living beings, is the true goal of life in and the universe, not sustainability first and foremost. Efficiency and resilience are absolutely absent from this intuition.
This diversity of cosmovision, implicit anthropologies and utopias is always present in the collective unconscious. A people may well superficially adopt the categories of Western rationality; and even if corrected and softened, its deep being always continues to react and feel in tune with its roots.
It therefore seems essential to me to submit the new paradigms we are talking about here to the judgment and transformative melting pot of cultures in their specificity. It is certainly unthinkable today to exclude Western rationality, which has become the heritage of all humanity. But it can, and must, be rethought from top to bottom, based on other, healthier and more humane approaches. Universal violence, generated by the imposition of Western categories on the world, certainly has its origin, for the most part, in the forgetting of the wisdom embodied in the cultures of yesterday and today.
An increasingly absent dimension of Western rationality has much to do with symbolism and poetics. We have separated these spaces to such an extent that they no longer have any real interconnection. Everyone moves in their own universe.
In non-Western cultures, symbolism and poetics are intimately integrated. We are even talking about symbolic technology and the intrinsic rituality of human action. It is precisely in this field, symbolic and ritual, that the human community not only reappropriates all the information, as implied by the third shift of paradigms, but also reinterprets and re-enchants it, in some way.
Without this re-enchantment of the world, in the multiplicity of peoples' intuitions, the new paradigms will never be anything more than a change of clothes that are more flexible, more adapted but just as foreign to the body that wears them.
Even if resilience corrects blind efficiency, and patri- and matri-focal dynamics humanize in diversity, just as the reap- propriation of information allows critical discernment and decision making, it cannot be denied that recent developments in the West have largely removed the notion of ethics from decisions and choices.
Certainly, democratic humanism imposes a series of normative conditions and limits on the blind voracity of the market. But this is hardly the case in the vast majority of countries in the world, including the United States. The universal economic dogma of profit seems infallible and above the ethical requirements of States and multinational communities.
It seems very insulting, even absurd, to speak of mysticism in this context. And yet, the unpredictable whims of reality, even the market, seem to tell us that there is a dimension of mystery in the world that must be taken into account and that has to do with the unpredictability of the human being. Is there not a massive form of arrogance in the very notion of sustainability, as if we could finally foresee and manage everything?
As monks, we claim to be witnesses of this mystery, of this unpredictability of reality, of the beyond of all our achievements in the invisible. Madness necessary for a world that breathes beyond its forecasts and readjustments, even brilliant ones.
I mentioned above the absence of ethical criteria in most of our political and economic decisions. Eventually we ask ourselves the question a posteriori. Ethics, as a consequence of mysticism, is, on the contrary, a necessary a priori, a condition for any decision and any discernment.
For a long time, I have advocated the creation of an ethical United Nations, where all the world's wisdoms would share their spiritual and ethical foundations, to manage the political, economic and social world. This was the meaning, I believe, of President Mitterrand's creation of his famous multi-philosophical ethics committee. But it seems to have been a long time coming.
These are some of the follies of an atypical monk, who looks at his friend Bernard's utopias, as we have always done, from the friend's heart, but with the distance that any true friendship always allows.
I can already hear his silent response from the absolute mystery where he now lives, and I await this reply with impa- tience and joy. But it will be done in another space.
Forgive me for this shared nonsense. But I know that Bernard was essentially a mystic and that he has known, since our beginnings in adolescence, this particular song scratched on a mysterious guitar of silence.
Thank you, Bernard.