Friday, August 29, 2008

Filmjölk mornings

Back in Sweden with all its signifiers. Mesophilic fermented milk definitely sounds worse than it is. Remembering German friends in Stockholm who thought they had deciphered the system as they poured “filmjölk”, believing it to be “Vollmilch” (milk with 3% fat), into their coffee.

Later, on the train, I took a break in my work to watch one of the last episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. There, towards the end of the seventh and final season, the ethical complexity increases as the Federation finds itself fighting through a moral grey zone in the 24th century equivalent of the South Ossetia conflict.

In a way, the realism is failing, humans will most likely not advance into a space-faring civilization unless we also improve our moral sensitivity and reflexive capacity beyond the present. In the past I always said that only institutional progress was possible and that our moral capacities were constant. Thinking further about it however, I figured how misanthropic such a view was. For certain, it makes a difference for children to grow up in freedom and peace. It makes a difference for children to have shelter from the elements, access to schooling and professional healthcare. Meaning, that in a bright future, where more and more people will come to live in democratic societies, enjoying greater personal freedom and emancipation from parochial cultural practices, we can also expect an ethical improvement in human behaviour. This is not to say that we will not feel mistrust to each other, be unfaithful or commit petty crimes. But maybe we will evolve beyond *institutional* violence as we acknowledge our shared responsibility for the future of humanity.

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