Homo sapiens sapiens, the wise man, has been questioning from the very beginning. Since our first encounter with death, through various challenges and dangers of nature, we have tried to control our own existence. On this path, the first and most important tool we had in this unjust fight was the mind. With the mind, we separated from the natural world; the fruit of "the perception of good and evil" led us on the path of knowledge but also responsibility. The expulsion from paradise (often mentioned by Fromm in his texts) symbolically represents a divorce from the natural, instinctual dimensions of human existence. We cannot return to that. Paradise is forever lost, guarded by an angel with a flaming sword in hand. Returning to instinct is not possible. Thus, human evolution has separated from the natural world and entered the cultural one. Gehlen also notes (1940) that culture is a substitute for the long-lost instinct. Through this culture, we began to ask questions that were not inherent to any other being in the world.

We created communities, societies, and civilizations, and within them (whether collectively or individually), we based our development on the question of how. How do we make the environment more favourable, i.e., how do we create conditions for a better existence? The mind was focused on saving ourselves from the cruel forces of nature. This does not mean that other questions did not exist, but the initial question of how to ensure survival for all other civilizational questions. Likewise, the question of how occupied the individual world, while other questions such as what, who, and why are defined by culture. For example, it was up to the individual to organize their existence in predetermined patterns. Thus, with previously determined traits of identity, it was up to the person to adapt and succeed in organizing their existence. Religious, ethnic, class, and even class identities were fixed and defined in the person at their core, and the only thing a person could do was decide how to exist based on the "given."

Such a type of existence did not guarantee happiness; it was not focused on freedom in the individual sense but provided patterns of security, even when security meant suffering. The world was fixed for the everyday individual; community and social solidarity existed outside the individual, and it was up to the person to uncritically accept society, values, and norms as they were. There were few deviations, and the world, in terms of meaning, was taken for granted. We did not question it, but we navigated based on it.

But in the second half of the 20th century, we entered a new stage of human history. Through modernity, problematic as it was (e.g., the wars of the 20th century, which were a direct product of modernity—Baumann, 2017), conditions were created in which man (at least in certain civilizations, especially Western ones) no longer needed to worry about the relationship with nature. The natural world, once cruel, was largely conquered. Electricity, transport, communications, science—these are just some of the phenomena that allowed us to relate to nature not with awe but pragmatically. The democratization of consumption in the form of consumerism made everything within reach. Although limiting mechanisms still existed, we began to function based on desires, not needs. How was no longer the basic question that troubled the contemporary, postmodern man? It was important insofar as it became just a strategy for achieving the new fundamental question of who I am. In the spirit of privilege, cultural questions (of the 1970s) rose above the economic ones. Now the question of meaning has become key. If I have the basics, the time has come to realize myself in new ways. A new culture also emerged, more organized around questions of identity than questions of survival. All this led to the individual, in their world, starting to perceive certain aspects of collective identities as something unnecessary to them. The world, in terms of meaning, stopped being taken for granted (see Berger, 2014). Now the question of how could not be answered before we individually create a world that makes sense. Religion, family, marriage, relationship with nature, diet, lifestyle, fashion, music genre—all this had to be chosen and determined in order to answer how to live.

We were offered the freedom of choice (which is not synonymous with freedom in the full sense of the word), but it has grown into the tyranny of choice (an interesting book of the same name by Renata Salecl, The Tyranny of Choice), in which we are not sure what to choose. We lose ourselves in a sea of identities and reflexive relationships towards various patterns of collectives. Therefore, who we are becomes a burden from which we flee into various fixed identities that nevertheless differ from those of the past. This time we choose fixedness, which means that commitment to ideals is no longer a matter of convention but of individual devotion. No one wants to admit that they have chosen wrongly or poorly in the sea of choices. Therefore, we uncritically accept every aspect of that accepted identity, thereby preventing communication and development both of ourselves and of those with opposing viewpoints.

In contemporary society of identity choices, we slide into totalitarianism of thought, where the other represents a threat to our self-actualization and realization. Every different opinion is a potential proof of our inadequacy, so we must reject it from the start. Regardless of the amount of choice, opinions, or identities, when a path is chosen, it is blindly followed, subordinated to something Fromm called authoritarian ethics—an ethic that, once fully accepted, imposes a picture of good or evil. Our contemplation and reflexivity are no longer important because they were a source of neuroticism. It is also important that such dogmatism could easily be recognized by any of the ideological and value sides of each other (opposing types of thinking), but without awareness that their thinking is equally dogmatic. Here we refer to the standard divisions of conservatism and progressivism/liberalism. Each side could characterize the opposite as something that stems from authoritarian ethics—something dogmatic and exclusive. Rational reasons would be found for why that thinking is not sustainable. However, if each side can say the same for the other, then we can say that neither is wrong. Both of them belong to this way of approaching reality. Each approach tries to regain security and meaning. Conservative options, with their attempts to preserve certain traditional ideals and values, or liberal and progressive options, with their emphasis on political and social correctness and deconstruction of past ideals, do not ultimately function on ideals and true goals but on treating the insecurity of members of these ideals. As long as such a function is fulfilled, cohesion remains intact and polarization continues. Authoritarian ethics are present in both cases, and authoritarian ethics are fed by individual (but also collective) narcissism.

But can such a type of relationship with who we are help us realise the individual in their fullness? Authoritarian ethics do not exist for the individual but for the domination and control of the same. Therefore, although the world is defined by the question of who it is, it has become paradoxical. In our attempts to answer this question at all costs, we lose the real answer. In the pre-modern world, it was assumed that we were somebody, but today's dogmatic dedication of ourselves to certain ideals, without a clear view of the future and without the possibility of communicative action towards the different (no matter how extreme it may seem to us), makes us nobody. Nobody in the sense of not having the potential for disalienation in an unhealthy, alienated society.

This assessment may seem pessimistic, but it is important to emphasize that the battle is never lost. Sociology, in collaboration with philosophy and psychology, is an emancipatory science that can contribute to understanding both sociality and the social impact on ourselves. In the process of considering our own and others' actions as deeply narcissistic (ultimately due to the culture of narcissism), we make the first step towards a humanistic ethic that does not determine ideals but enables the fulfilment and development of a person in fullness. Such a person can then realize themselves not in the "left" liberal or "right" conservative light, but in a humane, human light. Ideologies become irrelevant in the critical contemplation of reality. In humanistic ethics, I am who I am (which also has some sympathetic biblical connotations).