By definition, a corridor is a narrow room that leads to other rooms or connects them together. Corridor is therefore a 'non-place', a transitive space, leading from one place to another.
In this spatial experiment, I’m taking a closer look at slow transformations. How deceptive must be the dynamics of change that we can travel all the way from affiliation to exclusion. From tolerance to elimination. From a member to an enemy. From comfort zone to war zone. From freedom to slavery. What happens in between?
Get on all fours or turn back
The hypothesis is that even the most radical and corrupting change, if appropriately stretched in time and introduced in small steps, can pass by unnoticed, with our quiet consent. It is difficult to observe and admit because we rarely want to perceive ourselves as inert and apathetic. So instead we have traded apathy for wellness and contentment. We read the news, worry a little, perhaps sign an online petition and we move on back to our safe routine. Here we are. Participative democratic society at its finest. And while there is nothing wrong with living a peaceful life, it is crucial to recognise that it is a rare, yet comfortable by-product of peaceful times. Pursuing comfort zone while the very foundations of our value system are being questioned is exactly what pushes us into the free fall of degenerative transition. This invisible and linear event in time is like a journey through a corridor that gradually becomes narrower an narrower as we move forward.
The ‘Corridor’ gradually tapers towards the end which from the perspective of the person who has just entered is either completely or almost unnoticeable. After three or four steps, the bony labyrinth sends the first signal to the brain that something disturbing is happening. Halfway through, you have to lean in order not to hit the ceiling, and at the end you can only get out on all fours or turn back. The Corridor is a spatial model capturing the fundamental features of repression. In autocratic systems, the freedoms of certain social groups are restricted progressively with small, seemingly insignificant, and thus difficult to notice updates in the law. This pattern of exclusion is becoming common nowadays as it used to be in the years preceding the World War II. Usually, it is the weakest, the smallest groups that take the first blow: the ethnic, the political, the gender, the sexual and racial minorities and activists. The question is, how far can we go, how much freedom can we sacrifice to avoid confrontation?
Adapt & participate
Facing the tide of change, we must make use of one of our mightiest superpowers – the ability to adapt and confront the new challenges of our environment. It doesn’t mean we have to abandon our hygge zones completely. All we need to do is to enrich our weekly routine with going out to the streets, with active participation, with openness and curiosity. The outside – the systemic, the political world and the inside – the intimate, family world are interconnected vessels. You cannot simply shut the door and pretend nothing wrong is happening. This is exactly what makes us drift apart. Dispersed and atomised, we lay a fertile ground for autocratic regimes to arise. Edmund Burke wrote, that
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
His words are still as valid today as they were almost three hundred years ago. He also wrote:
[…] Whilst men are linked together, they easily and speedily communicate the alarm of any evil design. They are enabled to fathom it with common counsel, and to oppose it with united strength. Whereas, when they lie dispersed, without concert, order, or discipline, communication is uncertain, counsel difficult, and resistance impracticable. Where men are not acquainted with each other’s principles, nor experienced in each other’s talents, nor at all practised in their mutual habitudes and dispositions by joint efforts in business; no personal confidence, no friendship, no common interest, subsisting among them; it is evidently impossible that they can act a public part with uniformity, perseverance, or efficacy. In a connection, the most inconsiderable man, by adding to the weight of the whole, has his value, and his use; out of it, the greatest talents are wholly unserviceable to the public. No man, who is not inflamed by vain-glory into enthusiasm, can flatter himself that his single, unsupported, desultory, unsystematic endeavours, are of power to defeat the subtle designs and united cabals of ambitious citizens. When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle. *
The solution is simple – we must act. And we must act now.
Do not believe the hype. Question everything.
It is easy to believe in the unquestionable strength of democracy – after all, we all participate in it, it has moulded our moral standards, we are it. Hannah Arendt, in her extremely important work, The Origins of Totalitarianism written soon after the experiences of the World War II, reminds that this feeling of absolute is but an illusion. Only a small fraction of citizens actively participates in politics and understands the complex processes that shape the reality in which they live. Democracy is fragile. Radicalising, isolationist tendencies that are currently observed in many regions around the world can fill with fear and frustration as they cast a shadow on democracy as we know it. And rightly so, because these are real threats. However, we should not let this fear overwhelm us and paralyse the will to act. Instead, we should overcome it, let it be a warning and a catalyst of reason and peace. Let this fear make us wiser and stronger.
We are strong only until we argue and divide. A dispersed, atomised society is no longer a society. It is an unorganised mass prone to manipulation and inviting autocratic movements. If we do not understand this in time, the history is likely to repeat. I wish you, myself and all of us that we fathom it before it is too late. Let differences of opinion deepen the discourse, stimulate reason and critical observation. Be patient. Be open and understanding. Do not believe the hype. Question everything. Be strong. Act together.
I wish that the discomfort which you will come to face as you take part in this experiment, stay with you forever. Do not hurry. Focus on all your senses. Go to the other side.