Addiction and Liquidity
Addiction and Liquidity
Today in America, mutualism is threatened by the significant alienation that modernity features. According to Zygmunt Bauman, in Liquid Modernity, modernity is marked by futility and fleeting relationships. He calls this phenomenon the “melting of solids,” caused by a change in values in which current consumption standards play a determining role. Indeed, in today’s mild capitalism, a state of uncertainty has been established as to where one wants to get to, with multiple possibilities and opportunities to be explored. However, for opportunities and possibilities to be infinite, they must also be easily replaceable by others, which leads to relativism.
This dynamic applies to both material goods and relationships, and therefore it is impossible to develop lasting bonds: things and people have become disposable. This “freedom” keeps the personality open, unfinished, incomplete, and liquid. The recipients of this vast range of possibilities are consumers, who are challenged to set priorities and make the most of everything in the smartest and most efficient way. The untiring search for references and options then becomes a purpose in itself, and it is no longer known what the concrete objective beyond this search is. Lewis Carroll warned of this risk in Alice in Wonderland, when the Dodo orders Alice to run in circles non-stop because the important thing is to keep running, as cited by Bauman.1
This way of relating to production and other individuals directly impacts the way people search for pleasure and comfort. People tend to choose the easier paths and are always looking for ways to minimize their sufferings and frustrations, trying to escape from them instead of facing them in a responsible and reasonable way. It is more comfortable to be led by the easy paths because the rules of the game are dictated by pleasure, to the detriment of reality, which has an intimate relationship with the exacerbated individualism that occurs today.
Drug addiction is probably the saddest consequence of this situation. Many people who suffer from personal or family health problems, financial issues, among others, find in drugs a consolation – a temporary relief from the pains and uncertainties of life. I have recently read the book “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” by Stephen King, and I noticed many events that illustrate this tendency. The author describes the degrading life of prisoners in a supermax prison in New England, and part of their routine is to try to find distractions and occupations in order to survive mentally. A few resorted to crafting, reading, writing. The vast majority found consolation on drugs and alcohol.2
This book was published in 1982, and it portrays life in prison from the 50s to the 70s. However, the problems related to drug addiction are more up to date than ever. Currently, people have their first contact with drugs earlier than in the past and use it as a relief not only in externally challenging situations – such as imprisonment, disease – but also as a way to alleviate mental distress. Mental distress can result from many different factors, and it impacts people from a massive range of ages: children and adults are subject to it and, in this way, are also prey to addiction (be it related to drugs, alcohol, or even work).
For me, the Internet has a central role in this process. Not the Internet itself, but the way people use it. With technology, people’s mentality has come to be governed by a growing immediacy, present in all social realities, in which things, in general, are not made to last but to be thrown away, in a cycle of constant improvement. Technological development replaced the era of hardware with the age of software, overcoming spatial and temporal limits. Space and size have begun to be devalued; that is, the smaller, the better, creating the mentality of less effort.
In the current mentality, transience equates to progress, so that stable commitment is an obstacle to future possibilities for advancement. Social relations are no longer based on sacrifice to last, but rather on the satisfaction they can provide. This being the case, relationships last for as long as satisfaction lasts. According to Bauman, “bonds and partnerships tend to be viewed and treated as things meant to be consumed, not produced; they are subject to the same criteria of evaluation as all other objects of consumption”.3 This way of thinking makes the world an aggregate of products for immediate consumption, making it increasingly difficult to establish lasting relationships because consumption takes place individually, without any kind of cooperation.
For this reason, people try to find in drugs the warmth, care, and comfort that are lacking in their relationships. The main practical consequence is that, like a literally vicious cycle, individuals become more and more sick and isolated, unable to communicate and share their feelings. For me, communication is a critical tool for the resumption of connection between citizens and for combating the individualism and lack of mutualism in our society. Communication is responsible for translating and sharing thoughts, ensuring the freedom of the people involved. Also, it has the power to make people aware of their needs and, in this way, encourage them to search for proper help. Through a serious effort from traditional and social media, it is possible to awaken people regarding the risks of addiction and foster a culture of dialogue.
Bauman, Zygmunt. Modernidade Líquida [Liquid Modernity]. Translated by Plínio Dentzien. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2001.
King, Stephen. Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. New York: Scribner, 2020.