Social space, …assumes the form of a collection of ghettos, for the elite, for the bourgeoisie, for the intellectuals, for foreign workers, etc. These ghettos are not simply juxtaposed, they are hierarchized in a way that represents spatially the economic and social hierarchy.
As recently as 1890, almost no country required its nationals to have appropriate documents to travel abroad, and only a few countries (such as Persia, Romania, Russia, and Serbia ) required foreigners to have passports to cross their borders. (ILUK).
Etymological sources show that the term “passport” is from a medieval document that was required to pass through the gate (or “porte”) of a city wall or to pass through a territory. In medieval Europe, such documents were issued to travelers by local authorities, and generally contained a list of towns and cities the document holder was permitted to enter or pass through. On the whole, documents were not required for travel to sea ports, which were considered open trading points, but documents were required to travel inland from sea ports. (WIkiP).
Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system.
The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman neatly summarised the paradox of our era as: “Never have we been so free. Never have we felt so powerless.” We are indeed freer than before, in the sense that we can criticise religion, take advantage of the new laissez-faire attitude to sex and support any political movement we like. We can do all these things because they no longer have any significance – freedom of this kind is prompted by indifference.
As it turns out, the history of philosophy is littered with attempts to solve the paradox, and even providing an overview of such papers on the subject would vastly exceed the space I have here. In a survey of the paradox, Smuts divides the traditional solutions into three types: 1. Deflation: Art is not painful. This type of solution agrees with the first premise of the paradox (that we avoid pain), but it denies the second premise (that we experience pain in relation to art). 2. Compensation: Pain is compensated for. This type of solution agrees with first two premises of the paradox (humans avoid pain and we experience genuine pain in relation to art), but proceeds to argue that art provides something positive that compensates for the pain. 3. A-hedonism: We do not always seek pleasure. This type of solution denies the first premise of the paradox by saying that humans are not simply pain-avoiding, pleasure-seeking creatures. This is an effective, if unusual, way of dissolving the paradox.
If we become interested only in how we are put together, in how our neurology works, and not in how we make meaning from our past, then Freud will have truly disappeared from our culture. But if we continue to consider the past important for giving meaning and direction to our lives, then it’s a good bet that we will continue to ask and try to respond to those annoying questions that require us to find new ways to tell our stories, to better work through who we are and what we want.