What does the concept of liquid evil signify? I would argue that liquid evil, contrary to what we could term solid evil, the latter being based on white-and-black social optic and the resilience of evil easily identifiable in our social and political reality, assumes the appearance of good and love. More than that, it parades as seemingly neutral and impartial acceleration of life – the unprecedented speed of life and social change implying the loss of memory and moral amnesia; in addition, liquid evil walks in disguise as the absence and the impossibility of alternatives. A citizen becomes a consumer, and value neutrality hides the fact of disengagement.
No alternatives are allowed. Privatization of utopia signifies the arrival of the new condition under which no society is deemed to be good and just: only individual life stories can be success stories. As such, they tend to become our new utopian dreams in a utopia-free, or dystopia-ridden, world. TINA, or the acronym for There Is No Alternative (first forged by Margaret Thatcher), allows a point of departure when dealing with this uniquely new and unprecedented phenomenon – namely, one’s ultimate belief in social determinism and market-based fatalism, the major difference before earlier decades and our time being the fact that whereas Sigmund Freud’s dictum informed us that biology is destiny, our dictum could be that the economy is destiny.
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George Orwell clearly saw that the new forms of evil tend to walk in the guise of good and love. Thou shalt love Big Brother. To the contrary of the predecessors of Oceania’s Party, Jacobins, Bolsheviks, and Nazis alike, no martyrdom is allowed. Your life will go unnoticed, and nobody will know anything about your existence. Or you will be swiftly and silently reformed to force you to assume and adopt the vocabulary that you had long denied passionately and consistently. Evil is not obvious and self-evident anymore. Low intensity political oppression and human rights violation as well as low intensity military conflicts obfuscate and obliterate the dividing line between war and peace. War is peace, and peace is war. Neither good news nor bad news remain un-ambivalent and clear nowadays: even if there is no war or any other calamity going on, it becomes impossible to discuss it without scaremongering and fear industry. Good news is no news. Bad news is the news by definition.
Therefore, by liquidity of evil, I assume that we live in a deterministic, pessimistic, fatalistic, fear-and-panic-ridden society, which still tends to cherish its time-honoured, albeit out of date and misleading, liberal-democratic credentials. The absence of dreams, alternatives and utopias is exactly what I would take as a significant aspect of the liquidity of evil. The liquidity of evil signifies the divorce of the principle of imagination and the principle of reality, the final say being conferred for the latter.
The seductive powers of evil are coupled here with disengagement. For centuries, as we know, the very symbol and embodiment of evil was the Devil, whether making his appearance as Mephistopheles in the legend of Faust ranging from medieval tales to Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of the Life and death of Doctor Faustus and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, or as Woland in Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. This was the old news, though. The old “good” Devil represented solid evil with its symbolic logic of the quest for human souls and active engagement in human and earthly matters. He simply pursued his goal trying to reverse and delegitimize the established social and moral order.
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This is why I assume that the real symbol of liquid evil is a kind of Big Mr Anonymous, or collective Don Juan. Don Juan, in Zygmunt Bauman’s eyes, is modernity’s real hero. Don Juan is the face of modernity whose power lies in constant and incessant change. At the same time, his is the power of self-concealment and retreat for the sake of an asymmetry of power. Solid modernity was about the conquest of territories and their utilization for the sake of the state of any other power structure. Liquid modernity is about a hide-and-seek power game, be it a military strike followed by retreat or any other destabilizing action.
Therefore, liquid evil, in terms of military campaigns, tends to disrupt economy and life in certain territories or societies by bringing there as much chaos, fear, uncertainty, unsafety, and insecurity as possible, instead of assuming responsibility and burden for remaking or transforming them. At this point, terrorism appears as a pure expression of liquid evil. Imperialism is about solid power games, yet terrorism is always about the liquidity of evil – even its sinister logic of speaking up in favour of society coupled with disdain for a concrete society that is sacrificed for individualized power games should not deceive us.The seducer, who retreats by leaving the void, disenchantment, or death, is a hero of liquid evil.
We have already seen all this, have we? If it went unnoticed right before our noses, it would be a big loss for humanity. One more Ukrainian lesson to cure our self-inflicted moral blindness.