Zygmunt Bauman warned us about the risks of what he defined “liquid modernity”, far before we could see its concrete effects.
Since the 17th century, our society followed the path of an increasingly pervasive, neat and solid scheme. Earning security and capacity of foreseeing, but losing autonomy and freedom. In the last decades, though, starting from the post-war period, we changed direction. Our main characteristic became an increased liquidity, made up of fleeting choices and new horizons. Without being tied by a definitive status, everything can change any time. Certainty leaves the floor to uncertainty, to everything demanded now, to a fast evolving of thoughts that once were much slower, if not still. Everything turns into something lighter, pushed by inevitable nihilisms.
The outcome we are just starting to notice on the verge of that time is a nameless present, made of different factors: the crisis of the State before the pressures of globalisation, the following crisis of ideologies and traditional parties, and the remote presence of a community to comfort the individual.
Globalisation enhanced this tendency, tearing down every possible walls. Spaces become larger, indefinite, coloured and dynamic. Today’s youth will be the main actor of the transition towards a new balance, inevitably different from the past. However, according to Bauman, they should deal with the challenge of uncertainty and give up the illusion that life could be a long road of fleeting pleasures, to build up new solid ground.
The age of disorientation and chaos should give in to a new orientation and a new kosmos, the word the ancient Greeks used to contrast chaos.
This is a solidity made of flexible horizons and a larger common space. In this, ambitions to follow and desires to pursue, dreams and reality find their place. And so do even freedom and happiness.
Gently and humbly, Bauman inspired his personal journey as a man following the famous Goethe’s motto: happiness consists of overcoming, day after day, unhappiness.
We are going to miss his acumen and intuition, but it is up to those who remain to bring up the vision of those who came before us.