On The World and Ourselves


On The World and Ourselves
By Zygmunt Bauman & Stanislaw Obirek
Polity – £15.99

To refer to the opening paragraph of this highly analytical book as either revelatory or revealing, could, amid a number of academic circles, be considered as something of a wry and flippant under appreciation so far as this second series of conversations between Zygmunt Bauman and Stanislaw Obirek is concerned.

But for a book to open with such an audacious illusion as: ”Under malum – whence evil? That is the question that plagued our human brethren and sisters since Eve, seduced by the serpent, the grandmaster of spin, tempted Adam (about whose appetite for spin we know next to nothing), to taste the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and thus to begin the history of humanity.,” really is quite something.

Something in as much as one immediately knows one is in for an appreciable ride of high-octane, social analysis, within that of the most perplexing parameters of whatever the biggest picture happens to be. Depending on point of view of course – or should that read read: point of curse?

Even On The World and Ourselves first chapter (of three) is entitled ‘Reveries of Solitary Walkers,’ which in itself, invites the curious to be ever more curious. Ever more introspective. More contemplative. Just more.

More than that which we, as a fundamentally redundant society, have unfortunately morphed into.

As such, this can surely, only be a good thing?

These 185 pages of relative sound judgement are, as already mentioned, the second in a series of didactic yet highly diaphanous conversations between Zygmunt Bauman (who is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Leeds University) and Stanislaw Obirek (a former Jesuit and Priest, who is now Professor of Theology at the University of Lodz in Poland).

Together, they traverse, discuss and bequeath many a philosophical prognosis such as: ”Wordy evasions, ploys and ruses are as common as they are useless: they can beguile our listeners (especially since we tend to surround ourselves with like-minded, sympathetic interlocutors who are not only willing but also grateful to be thus beguiled) but not the police constable within us. So we need something more. Philosophers, for instance, or scholarly and auratic sages, or demagogues with charisma.”

Responsibility could be construed as a burden that weighs heavily on our collective shoulders; but we do nevertheless, have a choice. A choice to ultimately avoid the (beguiling) temptation to hand said responsibility over to someone other. To someone else. Whether they’re a ”damagogue with charisma,’ a trusted sibling, Simon Cowell or a scientific sage who will invariably claim to trace all things back to our genes.

Choice is indeed, a temptation – in and of itself.

Just like the supposed/smokescreen paradise, from which a lot of humanity has been relieved of all moral responsibility – be it an uneducated scum-bag who feels the need to throw acid into the face of someone they disagree with, or a menagerie of brainwashed losers who openly subscribe to the Islamic State.

As Messrs. Bauman and Obirek make clear throughout this more than enigmatic and profoundly compelling book: ”people may be naïve or corrupt, but not morality.”

On the World and Ourselves – read it. I’d like to think you won’t be disappointed.

David Marx


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