The last certainty we have left is that we’re living in uncertain times, says sociologist Zygmund Bauman, once all the old values and ideas we considered as true and immovable in past times have liquefied into the lightness of modernity. Now most of us wander with no path, lost in the doubt, without nothing solid to lean on. And in his book ‘Liquid love: on the frailty of human bonds‘ that I’ve been reading lately, he states that the same has happened with human relationships.
Among other things, in this book he makes a sharp criticism of the vision of human being that consumer culture is spreading, and that presents people as essentialy selfish individuals whose only aim is to pursue their own happiness and wellbeing above all, even above others, and this ends with the world becoming a jungle, where the law of the strongest prevales. The author explains that this vision is for example shown in modern reality shows like the well known ‘Big Brother’ or game shows like ‘The weakest link”, throwing the message that people who aren’t enough aggressive and try to be considerate and fair with others, end up being destroyed by the rest. These ideas are also justified from the point of view of the positivist psychology (this is a concept of my own, but I’ll provide further explanation on following lines) so popular today. This kind of thinking is the one that states that ‘the most important thing in life is oneself’, that ‘we must search our own happiness’, ‘we can’t let ourselves to depend much on others’, and ‘we must love ourselves above all’, all of them typical phrases a lot of people publish to their facebook wall, giving the impression that we must live in an emotional isolation, within our own bubble, seeking for an hypothetical wellbeing, and things like loyalty, duty, accepting help or depending on others become terrible, almost an humiliation. We just must treat the others around us like if they were objects to get some kind of personal satisfaction, and relationships lasts as long as they give us pleasure, if they bring some problem, even a little one, we can always leave them behind and find new ones, what is in line with the consumer culture ideas of buying, using and throwing away. Nevermind the inner value of a person as an unique and irreplaceable being. Regarding relationships, quality does no longer matter, just quantity, the important is being ‘connected’ with anyone and have an extend network of these contacts, but not the content of that communication.
Obviously, Bauman defends that all these is just a wrong view, product of the confusion of modernity and the mentality of consumerism. The law of the jungle belongs to the animal world, and human being is supposed to have leave that world behind. So, he tries to show that positive psychology is false starting from one of its main imperatives, that all of us has surely seen once or twice in our Facebook wall: ‘To be loved, you must first love yourself’. With his argumentation, Bauman proves this imperative false. First of all, he starts wondering what it means ‘to love oneself’. From the modern point of view, it’d consist on what we’ve mentioned before, to care about our own wellbeing above all. But, simplifying this, we can find it’s just an expression of the animal instict of self-preservation, it’s but another way of hold on to life and try to make it last. Animals do this all the time and we don’t consider that they love themselves. So then, it must mean something different.
For Bauman, loving oneself consists on loving the parts of our personality that are lovable by others, on recognizing that there’re things within ourselves worthy of love and respect and then seek those. And how can we be sure about that inside ourselves such things exist? Because around us there are people that love and respect us. And how can we get people to do so? The answer is so easy: by loving them first. So, it’s not that we must love ourselves first to get the respect of others, at the contrary, we must first love the others to be able to love ourselves. All of these lead us to the well known imperative ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’, an assertion that is as old as humanity, because in it is precisely where all humanity was born. Once we were able to forget about ourselves and care for others, human being became different from animals, leaving behind the world of selfish instincts.
I found this argumentation so beautiful and perfect that I really felt like sharing it with all of you. The next time you read a positivist phrase posted on Facebook, you’ll know what to answer.