People keep saying that the greatest danger comes from those who are left behind by fluidity. The fear is that they will get too desperate and turn to fascism, violence, etc. What we are forgetting, however, is that the price paid for fluidity by those who aim to be part of exterritorial elites is much higher than the price paid by those who refuse.
An embrace of fluidity leads to loneliness, fear, confusion and a sense of meaninglessness. What is the goal of a person who chases fluidity? He abandons every attachment, changes himself over and over again, dissolves every stable marker of identity, picks up and leaves and then leaves and leaves and leaves again, adapts to every new circumstance, empties himself of all content – and all for what? To be able to buy more stuff?
Since there is nothing that fluidity can offer people, it positions itself as being the actual reward in itself. You are not supposed to ask what the goal of all this dissolution of self is. The “freedom” to dissolve is supposed to be your most cherished entitlement. Plus, of course, the expanded list of shit one should buy in order to manifest this crucial entitlement to the world.
But not even the most shallow of human beings can truly feel fulfilled by such a life. The phenomenon is new but just wait until the poor fluid freaks catch on to the enormous joke that has been played on them. Once they figure out that all they get in return for swallowing the bitter pill of fluidity is the right to swallow a lot more of it, that’s when we will see some really unhappy and confused people.
16 thoughts on “The Costs of Fluidity”
I love these posts. Could you collect your fluidity/nation-state posts under a specific tab or even a separate page (like you have with quizzes and photos above), so they are easy to find? Thanks!
LikeLiked by 1 person
That’s a great idea! I’m glad that people are liking them.
This is very insightful. It reminds me of the divide I see in the corporation that I work in. There are those at the bottom, stubborn people who resist change as much as they can and mistrust the managers, and there are the managers themselves, who embrace every new bullshit that the higher level managers throw at them. I think the latter are unhappier. They have to mistrust each other and everyone because their surrounding is changing constantly. All they can do is adapt again and again, throw the mantras of last month out the window and preach the opposite. They believe in nothing, cling to nothing except money and status. I think the lowly workers are somewhat happier, because at least they do not pretend to believe the new idiocies of the month, and they have friendships and loyalty among themselves. Also they experience far less change than the higher ups. In the end everyone is unhappy though. I am not sure how we got here, it is deeply dysfunctional and I know it is like that in many companies.
“They have to mistrust each other and everyone because their surrounding is changing constantly. All they can do is adapt again and again, throw the mantras of last month out the window and preach the opposite. They believe in nothing, cling to nothing except money and status. ”
\ the price paid for fluidity by those who aim to be part of exterritorial elites is much higher than the price paid by those who refuse.
But you chose to embrace fluidity, and supposedly got something different from “loneliness, fear, confusion and a sense of meaninglessness.”
When I mentioned (Israeli) patriotism, I got the impression that you view such approach to life as (intellectually) inferior and probably worthy of contempt.
How do you explain the contradiction? Is fluidity something that only a few selected people can enjoy? Does your choice of career lead to costs of fluidity being outweighed by its benefits because of the nature of academic career?
I have these 3 friends that I really love. I always feel so good around them. But I never get to see them any more. One lives in Seattle, one in Montreal, and one in Toronto. I will never have this kind of friendship with anybody else because I’m getting too old for that.
I get to see my sister once a year. My niece just turned seven and I wasn’t there at her birthday party. I wasn’t at a single one of her parties. I have only seen my nephew once. A single time. And he’s turning a year old next month.
My very close friend has inoperable stage 3 cancer. And all I can do is say hi on Facebook. I can’t go to her chemo with her. I can’t come over and make tea or support her in any way that matters.
But hey, I get to teach all the Spanish 101 I will possibly ever want in exchange for all that. Yippee.
Screw patriotism. I’m surrounded by strangers. They are nice, kind, but they are strangers. And I can’t deal with getting attached to anybody again only to have to leave and never see them any more.
That’s the price I’m paying.
Oh man, you really hit a nerve for me with this comment. I often think how I could drop dead today and none of my colleagues would really care. I see that people retire and within days it’s like they never existed. My primary family and old friends have pretty much completely forgotten me (I still send happy birthday emails, but other than my parents and my husband/kids nobody wishes me one). But, as you say, I get the job I love and a standard of living I could never have back home. The price is not feeling at home, but at least my kids do.
I keep joking, but not really, that we should move the family to Australia or Canada or somewhere in Western Europe, not because it will be better but because why the hell not? It’s not like I have roots here, my little family is my world, so maybe we should just live different places and see the world if we don’t belong anywhere.
Emigrating is tough. My BFF from childhood died at age 31 (she had a heart condition, probably should have had a pacemaker if healthcare back home didn’t suck); I had just landed this faculty job and moved to where I am now with my son (DH stayed back to work on his degree). I could not go to my BFF’s funeral because I had no money at all after moving, had no one to leave the kid with, and was between statuses (changing from student to H1-B), so I couldn’t leave the country. Her family never forgave me, and they were like my own when I was growing up.
Looking back, once you are displaced, honestly, it’s all the same where you live. Even though I have “made it” as they say, not having roots sucks, even when it comes with seeing the world and having a high standard of living.
I don’t even want to become close to anyone around here because there’s always a chance we will leave and I don’t think I can get over losing yet another friend. And that’s not easy because it’s very isolating.
Sigh…. this hits a nerve for me too. I’ve moved from place to place to place and now live far from all of my family and all of my childhood and young adult friends. I’ve missed more birthdays, weddings, and holidays than I can count and slowly drifted away from people I used to be close to. I missed my grandmother’s funeral, the funerals of two aunts, and the funerals of several elderly neighbors who cared for me as a child. I haven’t been there when people have been sick. I haven’t been there when babies were born.
And the “reward” is living in a place that’s OK (but really not as nice as several of my stops on the way here), where I have just a handful of people that I really care about, doing a job that’s OK most of the time (but honestly not all that great either), that pays OK (but honestly, not all that great compared to other things I could have done with my life).
LikeLiked by 2 people
Thanks so much for these enlightening posts!! Are there any writers/theorists who explore these topics other than Bobbitt or Bauman that you might be able to recommend?
You are always welcome.
Jurgen Habermas talks about it in Post-national Constellation. Ulrich Beck in The Metamorphosis of the World.
It seems like people cling to the nation-state, at least in some part, less because it is necessarily a better form to live in than a market-state but rather because they are terrified of any change at all. This transition away from the nation-state is occurring at the same time as a massive increase in global living standards. Though this is probably redundant to you.
“It seems like people cling to the nation-state, at least in some part, less because it is necessarily a better form to live in than a market-state but rather because they are terrified of any change at all. This transition away from the nation-state is occurring at the same time as a massive increase in global living standards.”
Perhaps it is because of being young and naive, but I’m not scared or pessimistic about the market-state. The nation-state after all was associated with the worst kinds of nationalism and inter-country inequality. Obviously the future constitutional order will have drawbacks but it seems as if on the whole the world is changing for the better–after all, in any period of time before the 1990’s I would not be able to pursue the opportunities that I am able to today. Although I have deeply meaningful connections to my own imagined communities, I can feel and have felt comfortable in very foreign environments 🙂
I said a version of this (era-appropriate, of course) in my dissertation which I filed in 1987, and people thought it was naive.