20 YEARS LATER – “Unconscious Civilization”


Special introduction by John Ralston Saul president of International PEN,
for Macedonian published edition  “Unconscious Civilization” by POETICS –  Society of Arts in 2015.
Skopje, Macedonia



I am a snake not an apple.

The great flaw in the Abrahamic cultures remains what it has always been – a system built on the fear of understanding. The fear of speaking out. Of course, from that first garden of eden story on, many of us have struggled to defend the snake and to advance knowledge. Even the most interesting and ethical religious figures side with the snake. And evil people have not been able to block our way, even when they try. And continue to try. At least not in the long run.
But the fear of consciousness does lie deep in our culture. Even as I come to Ohrid to accept the World Humanism Prize, we are surrounded by events which remind us of that fear.
When this book first appeared 20 years ago, Western elites were swaggering with self-confidence; they were paragons of unconsciousness. And so they could not see the damage they were doing to a civil idea of society, to democracy, to an openness of spirit.
Now they have lost their self-confidence. They are deep in confusion and fear. And somehow they are even more removed from the idea of self-examination. What is the contemporary shape of their problem?
I write in this book of the rise of Mussolinian corporatism as the dominant social model after the end of World War Two. The rise of a civilization of form over content, which hollows out public language. The rise of a religion of managerialism which is mistaken for leadership.
And yet today, as in the past, there is always a way out. It is not easy or comfortable. It is about content over form. It is about embracing doubt.
Twenty years is nothing in the history of evolution or even of fashion. In many ways, the road from unjustified self-confidence to confusion is a form of progress. We must simply remain calm and seek the impossibility of equilibrium.

Ohrid, Macedonia
January, 2015
John Ralston Saul


Photos from the promotion of the book “Unconscious Civilization” by John Ralston Saul – President of International PEN in Skopje.


This post is also available in: Macedonian