The days of the Other are over in this age of excessive communication, information and consumption. What used to be the Other, be it as friend, as Eros or as hell, is now indistinguishable from the self in our society’s narcissistic desire to assimilate everything and everyone until there are no boundaries left. The result is a ‘terror of the Same’, lives in which we no longer pursue knowledge, insight and experience but are instead reduced to the echo chambers and illusory encounters offered by social media. In extreme cases, this feeling of disorientation and senselessness is compensated through self-harm, or even harming others through acts of terrorism.
In his new work, the renowned cultural theorist Byung-Chul Han builds on his previous critique of neoliberalism, arguing that our times are characterised not by external repression but by an internal depression, whereby the destructive pressure comes not from the Other but from the self. In his characteristically concise style, he traces this violence of the identical through phenomena like fear, globalization and terrorism. It is only by returning to a society of listeners and lovers, by acknowledging and desiring the Other, that we can seek to overcome the isolation and suffering caused by this crushing process of total assimilation.