A cult of death

I do not believe that a nation dies save by suicide. To the very last every problem is a problem of will; and if we will we can be whole.

(GK Chesterton)


It is not easy to comment on the period we are going through. While most translate it into the chronicles and health reports of a disease that has been circulating since the beginning of the year, some critical vanguards go as far as to denounce the errors with which the associated emergency would have been managed. However, it is now clear that the reactions and thoughts triggered by the viral pathology, on which the debate is also disciplined, highlight the plagues of a wider anthropological pathology from which the limits, if not perhaps even the end, of an entire anthropological model emerge and social.

To remain in the semantic domain that holds the bench, before evaluating the causes and remedies it is necessary to give a clear description of the symptoms. In point of fact, the suspension of social activities today imposed to stem the transmission of a virus is unprecedented in times of peace and perhaps even in war, now unloading the entire offensive and defensive potential of the State only on the civilian population. The combination of the measures in force created the conditions for an experiment, unprecedented in terms of radicality and capillarity, of controlled demolition of the social fabric that starts from its atoms to branch off towards the structure. At the base, individuals are affected: terrified of infection and sanctions, hunted in everyday life with a fury and a deployment of means that it is rare to find in the repression of the most heinous crimes, segregated within the home walls, away from loved ones, isolated in the sickness and death, instigated to the delation and terror – if not directly to hatred – of the neighbor, deprived of the comforts of religion, without education, forced to unemployment and to live on their savings pending a state alms, crammed like beasts in battery and reduced to inhabiting the world through the croaking holograms of a mobile phone. The very hope of liberation becomes a source of anguish for the uncertainty of the forecasts and the enormity of the credited messages announcing "remedies" until yesterday almost unspeakable for our legal and moral standards: from the digital tracking of citizens and their state of health, so far reserved only to wild species, to the allegedly forced administration of drugs that do not yet exist (if they will ever exist) or, alternatively, that have nothing to do with the pathology in question ; from the dematerialization of the closest human relationships to the forced withdrawal of the "sick" , to the wildest dreams of tattoos and digital certificates in order to lead a normal (so to speak) life.

On this disaggregated, disoriented and wounded basis, the building of everything that is social vacillates: production and consumption and therefore employment, businesses, wages, tax revenues, related services, public finances, etc. political participation and decision-making processes, volunteering, leisure, school, friendships and loves (and therefore also the formation of new families, reproduction), religious celebrations, cultural exchanges and, last but not least, health itself that he would like to save, besieged on the psychic side by isolation and deprivation and on the physical side by the difficulties of accessing health services. If for Aristotle man is a social animal, a humanity so deprived of its vital interactions only has the zest of a caged primate: uncivilized, inept, dependent on the master.


All this, as has been written, happens in the name of a health emergency triggered by the presence of a new disease. It is not useful to go into the debates that divide experts almost on everything from the mechanisms of transmission of the virus to the most effective therapies, from the nature of the pathogen to the best techniques for the prevention and management of infections, and more. It is enough to recognize that these are debates, all the more heated as their object is still unknown and recent, and that therefore the promise of politicians of all colors, to stick only to what " says science ", can only hide the deception of each technocratic promise to select in the vast and contradictory ocean of scientific opinions only those that lend themselves to supporting an already established objective, so as to make it appear inevitable and necessary, immune from the debate and therefore from the requirements of transparency and participation of the democratic method.

The suspicion that the event is being exploited is basically suggested by a simple observation already developed elsewhere : that the solutions advocated with more insistence to protect against contagion are more or less the same as those already imposed or proposed to deal with other emergencies of the past: the digitization of school, politics and work, mass surveillance and the compression of individual freedoms , the limitation of consumption and movements, electronic payments , the censorship of "false" information , the extension of vaccination obligations , the transfers of power to technicians, the ignition of new public and private debts, the acceleration of supranational integration processes etc. The fact that different emergencies correspond to always the same solutions should raise many doubts, if not on the authenticity of the alarm from time to time launched, at least on the sincerity of the "saviors" and their motives.

The concept of crisis as an opportunity not to be "wasted" ( Philip Mirowski ) or a deliberate tool to impose political upheavals on peoples under "shock" ( Naomi Klein ) that would otherwise be unacceptable in conditions of equilibrium has often been recalled, for example by our Mario Monti in a famous interview on the "serious crises" necessary to build the European nation. The application of the concept to health, already suggested in the works of Michel Foucault on the "biopower" and Irving Kenneth Zola on the "therapeutic state", leads in our century to the apocalyptic re-evaluation of a large number of infections according to the terrorist paradigm of the « Biosecurity » described by Patrick Zylberman . Since "humanity evolves significantly only when it is truly afraid" Jacques Attali argued in 2009 , "a pandemic … could trigger one of these structuring fears" and would therefore allow "much faster than economic reason alone, to lay the basis of an authentic world government ».


Whatever the intentions and credibility of those who hold the reins of this experiment, the certainly not obvious acceptance of its subjects should be registered. To answer the question of how and why the general population is agreeing to pay such a high price to face a single risk, an analytical tool introduced by Vladimiro Giacchè helps us in The Fake Factory . There the scholar coined the figure of the "false synecdoche" to present a fortunate technique of manipulation of public opinion that leverages the administration not already of false information, but of selected details which, keeping the rest silent, arise in the perception of the recipients to represent the entirety of the data. In this way, for example, hatred for a hostile government can be unleashed by exposing its few crimes and omitting its many merits. Or delegitimize a peaceful demonstration of many thousands of people by telling only the feats of some troublemakers. Since reality is always contradictory and plural, the risk of false synecdoche is inherent in every narrative sorting. Although frequently used with malice, its mechanism rests on an objective limit of human cognition which becomes insidious when the abundance of information creates in the subjects the illusion of being able to really draw on the knowledge of the totality. In fact, however, the scarcity of neural resources allows the processing of a finite part of the data and projects it on the surrounding information gaps, according to a process of analogy and synthesis in which prejudices and desires also intervene.

More than many recent events, that of the "coronavirus" seems to stand as a monument to the false synecdoche, a case of school where the abusive extension of the fragment to the whole has become a system at every possible level. Already starting from the numerical base of the infections, whose recorded cases would represent not only a small part of the actual , but also the most unbalanced towards symptomatic and severe outcomes, because they are more easily known to the health authorities. The exclusion of the largest part of cases without symptoms and mild increases the perception of the danger and lethality of the disease towards everyone . Like many other pathologies, even the one that would justify the imprisonment of all today is gravely serious only on a part of the population, that is, the oldest and most debilitated. 95% of the deaths affected people over the age of 60 and 85% over the age of 70, with an average age of the deceased of 80 years, one year less than the average male life expectancy in Italy. If among those under 20 the mortality rate for Covid-19 is 0.000019% (two cases), those who are less than 30 are more likely to end up drowned, who less than 40 accidentally falling, who less than 50 in a traffic accident (latest data available, ISTAT 2017). But even on these numbers lies the boulder of the false synecdoche, if it is true that only four patients who died out of a hundred were not already undergoing serious or fatal diseases, while some experts suspect that the virus to which the deaths are attributed has in some cases played an accessory part, if not irrelevant in the entire fatal course, or that in any case the criteria for recording the causes of death were not rigorous , different or vitiated by incomprehensible omissions . Among the last to speak on the topic, the coroner and president of the order of doctors of Liguria Alessandro Bonsignore noted that inserting among the cases of death from Coronavirus «all those who have been discovered positive either during life or even in the post mortem … we are practically eliminating mortality from any natural pathology that would have occurred even in the absence of the virus ». With the result, for example, that "deaths from non-Covid diseases practically disappeared at the municipal morgue in Genoa". Last but not least, the danger in whose name the whole country got stuck has actually seriously affected only a part of it : the regions of the north west and especially Lombardy, which despite hosting 16% of the national population has expressed 37% of the cases and even 54% of deaths, with abnormal mortality peaks in some provinces on which it would be wise to investigate. Other large areas of the country, for example the whole of the South and the islands, have been only marginally affected by the problem and have not recorded anomalous variations in mortality.

This overlapping of extensions of the detail on the whole has meant that the worst case became the norm, first in the general sentiment and then in the jurisprudence, making mash of the criteria of proportionality and circumscription to which a good administration should follow. In practice, each Italian has seen himself as an elderly cardiopath residing in the province of Bergamo and as such has been treated by the authorities, without distinctions and therefore without even devoting special attention to the most risky situations. The so-called "technical" and original distortion has opened the underworld of indiscrimination. If health is good, a virus, however aggressive, is only a single part of everything that threatens it, from the hundreds of thousands of pathogens in circulation to the thousands of diseases diagnosed every day, of which the most dangerous and widespread – those cardiovascular and oncological, responsible for almost two thirds of the deaths in Italy – they are not infectious. The diseases themselves then only partially contribute to defining the broader concept of health, which for the World Health Organization is a "state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not simply the absence of disease or infirmity " ( Constitution of the WHO , my italics). The notion that stress, material and affective deprivation, marginalization, fear and other forms of "mental and social" malaise have a direct impact on physical health is well established. Last but not least, health properly understood in every articulation is yes protected by law, but in turn it is part of a whole set of rights, all equally incompressible, which complement and reinforce each other to achieve the society imagined by architects constitutional.


The false synecdoche is a cognitive failure that distorts reality by depleting it and altering its proportions. If applied to the practice, it is especially dangerous because it creates the illusion of a hierarchy where an obsessively fixed instance cannibalizes the others and claims their enslavement and sacrifice, to the point of canceling them. The "emergency" method that has addressed the sentiments and the most important decisions of our century draws its blood from this paralogism in the measure in which it imposes from time to time irreproachable and exclusive alarms to the attention of the public and decision-makers, wraps them with each new tour in the war rhetoric of the "unprecedented attack" and thus makes the holocaust of any other value acceptable, even the most sacred, which is considered to be an obstacle on the way to victory. From terrorism to "spread", from migrations to exanthematic diseases, from corruption to "fascisms", from "China" that pushes us into the vast world to the virus that locks us between the kitchen and the bathroom, dragged by an exception to the the other the social body flattens and divests itself of its dialectics, of the plots and connective tissues which keep its complexity in balance. Crushed by the unique danger, it curls up in the single thought and in the single word, diverts its best energies into the irrelevance of the theoretical fans and becomes an elementary toy, docile to the operator.

However, an organ cannot live without an organism, therefore the former cannot be cured by suppressing the latter. In practice, the claim to avoid a risk, in the latter version of the sanitary type, amazes, producing an avalanche of incalculably worse risks, even of the same type . If the disease feared today affects a part of the population with serious outcomes in a part of the cases, the anthropological devastation with which we would like to curb it affects everyone : in psychic health undermined by terror, in subsistence, in access to services and in the scar of the most basic human functions that, full of horror, is experienced starting from the bodies and minds of the younger ones . Flying over the wholesomeness of closing in at home or breathing the discharges of one's lungs, it amazes that, for example, the president of the Italian Society of Cardiology has not foreseen, that deaths from heart attacks and other pathologies since the beginning of the epidemic of the heart – leading causes of death in Italy – would have tripled due to the reduction of hospitalizations and delays in interventions "for fear of contagion". Or that more than two thirds of Italians would have renounced carrying out investigations and specialist visits for fear of going out ( Demopolis ). Or again, that in a few weeks the number of those who turn to diocesan Caritas to ask for food and subsidies would more than double . Or more briefly, that soon "the consequences of the Coronavirus will kill more people than the pandemic itself" due to the effects of the recession on the poorest, as Caritas Internazionale warns . These are but timid reconnaissance in the running, but very little is needed to imagine which human ruins will carry with them the failures in the thousands and the unemployment in the millions and, in the background, the aggression to the roots of the dignity and the right that protect us do not only from need, but more deeply from embarrassment, war and chaos.

Finally, it amazes that among those who play with the sophisms of the great economy, almost no one has yet been touched by the doubt that a community in which one does not work and whose freshest and most productive forces must senselessly embrace idleness, where they are forever sent to waste. entire sectors of business and there is a vote for welfare, well that such a community does not even have it anymore, an economy. Boneless and bled, it will fall under the blows of any public emergency and therefore also of the one it claims to win today. And it would be enough to stop here. If yesterday the public sector was crying misery, from tomorrow, with the drying up of tax revenues, who will pay the salaries of the hero-doctors? And the intensive care units? What about first aid? And all public health? And if young people who can work without running great dangers have to abstain for the sake of the old (except then rejecting them on the threshold of the hospital because … the beds are missing), who will pay to the latter do not say the care, but also the pensions that has anyone already insinuated to be at risk ? And it's not, mind you, a question of money. Without the wealth created by work, money is waste paper or debts to be repaid by liquidating the last living tranches of the common heritage , according to the clearest and most forbidden third world parable.


There is no need to insist further on the inconsistencies of this insane mutilation, which from many others of the recent past is distinguished only by the macroscopy of its effects. If the false synecdoche photographs the hallucination of a civilization believed to be guided by reasoning and the naked law of "data", it says nothing of the drives that shake the officiants of what is presented in all its parts as a cult, with the priests -experts, the taboos, the mitzvòt that regulate every minute daily gesture, the azure niqāb and the liturgical furnishings in plexiglass, the sinner-strollers, the skeptical unbelievers, the false prophets of plasmapheresis, the conscience of an omnipresent and invisible enemy who possession of the bodies and the messianic expectation of the vaccine Eucharist. Above all stands the sacrificial dimension that admits no limits to its offerings and pushes the prayers to strip themselves of everything, from the materiality of possessions and physical integrity to the immateriality of constitutional, natural and moral laws. The instincts at the base can therefore only be those of self-destruction, of a nihilistic impetus in which perhaps the Easter chimera of our contemporaries hatches to zero the failure of an era by sacrificing itself with it, only to be reborn purified by pain in a world where "nothing will be as before".

Paolo Becchi , among the few with Giorgio Agamben to have dared a philosophical criticism of the story, very appropriately recalls the Aristotelian distinction between bíos (life lived as an experience of the world and of oneself, as a project) and zoé (the bare biological life) for denounce the paradox we are now witnessing: to die for fear of death. If the limitation of movements and contacts can reduce the transmission of microbes, the ban on mating would eliminate venereal diseases, the marking of HIV-positive people, the closure of roads, accidents, the ban on alcohol, cirrhosis, the end of livestock breeding the abigeato, the eradication of trees the galaverna, the prohibition of knives the stabbings, the abolition of the families the mistreatment of the offspring, the suppression of the property the theft. By renunciation by renunciation, from one short circuit to another, we are discovering in short that the only "always fatal disease" is life itself (Italo Svevo) and that we cannot eradicate the weeds of evil without destroying the good wheat, if not in a time which is not that of men (Mt 13, 29-30). We are recovering in a vulgar way the Gnostic pessimism that in the corruptible matter – and therefore also in our flesh – sees the birth of an evil demiurge and finds strength today in the isolation and sterilization of bodies, in the dematerialisation of their social functions and in the scientific religion , already Gnostic and sapiential in the etymology, among which the first edicts could not miss the ban on celebrating the scandal (1 Cor 1:23) of the divinity incarnated in unleavened bread. The one with raisins or with sesame can instead be taken from the hands of a shop assistant, nihil obstat .

Then emerges the ultimate and spiritual dimension of the problem and its being the result of an eclipse of the transcendent who has locked the moderns in the short and partial horizon of their earthly adventure, forcing them like pigs with their faces in the mud. If not in the divine, what transcends and substantiates our whole human being together is in the moral, intellectual and political works that go beyond generations. So it has been rightly observed that while we celebrate those who sacrificed their lives yesterday in order not to lose their freedom, we are reducing ourselves today to the ignominy of sacrificing freedom in order not to lose – perhaps, you never know, but only in the worst case – life. With the result – this yes, an important lesson – of losing both.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Il Pedante at the URL http://ilpedante.org/post/un-culto-di-morte on Tue, 12 May 2020 13:45:05 PDT.