Matters can change states – they can go from being solids to liquids and gases with increasing heat. Maybe the matter most familiar to us is ice melting to become water, which in turn becomes steam when heated on a hot and humid summer day.
The change in states is reversible – if cooled, gases return to being liquids, then to solids with further cooling. Maybe this reverse change in state most familiar to us is vapour in the air condensing to become dewdrops, then freezing to become frosts on a bright but cold winter day.
Now, maybe it is much less familiar, but there is suggestion that it is not just matters that change states. For example, Polish sociologist Z.B., who had just passed away yesterday, argued that fear has undergone a change in states from solid to liquid in post-modernity, driven by a heat-up in uncertainties and insecurities. If I understand him correctly, fear has become much more difficult to grasp because the objects of fear have gone from being clear and present “solid” dangers to being anticipated but unpredictable “liquid” disasters.
Well, maybe we can take his argument a step further as we enter post-post-modern times… maybe fear has become gaseous, especially with a flare-up of social media around the world? We can no longer visualize the flow of fear, because it diffuses in the air to anywhere and everywhere in no time with as little as a single tweet to cause a shift in the global atmosphere.
Maybe I fear that, in a society of oversaturated cultural diversity today, even a tiny stimulation from what we consider to be unfamiliar can instigate a cascade of rapid changes in states. I think I have already seen some glimpses of such reactions in the West last year, where nations have made decisions many onlookers (and nearly half their own people) never expected.
But maybe while I fear, I still remain optimistic that states can change for the better. For one, changes in states are reversible – maybe if we can cool down heightened tension and heated disputes, vapourous fear will condense to liquid, and even be frozen solid someday. And for another, fear cannot be the only non-matter that can change states – maybe so can hope and enlightenment, becoming gaseous and spreading acceptance and understanding even faster and more pervasively than fear.
And maybe I am most optimistic about changes in the state of our minds… to not feel threatened by the unfamiliar and regress to force to protect individual interests, but to be thrilled by the unknown and evolve to cooperate to promote the interests of mankind as a whole.
Maybe if we could all agree to liquidate fear this way, it would please Z.B. who had continuously warned us of the risks of changing states caused by “liquid fear,” and let him rest a little more peacefully…