If the cultural climate of a moment, if the vision of a majority or hegemonic fraction were fertile ground, we would witness a botanical prodigy: that all the seeds that are sown there would give birth to the same plant. If they were a score, the events would perform the theme with each timbre, but always faithful to the part. There is a perfect symmetry between the illusion that facts shape civilizations and reality, that it is instead civilizations that produce facts and that they digest and tell them, invoke them and even fabricate them to dress their own visions. That, in short, events are "momentous" if they fulfill the expectations of an era.
I wrote here , here and more generally also here that the object of these months, a disease that would change the world, has itself become the change, the metaphor to which the world relies to tell itself about the direction taken, pretend it is necessary and thus avoid the fear of unmasking the dangers. With the words of medicine he writes his own refounding myth and does it in real time, without giving himself the time to distinguish the allegory from the thing.
"Social distancing" is at the same time one of the most radical, apparently unprecedented and revealing precepts of this sanitary transfiguration. The expression is already curious in its proposition as a rare example of an inverse synecdoche , where the whole indicates a part. If in practice one intends to prescribe a small physical distance between people to avoid the transmission of a microbe, it is not clear how the relations of a society whose members already normally act among themselves must therefore be separated from faraway places and only in particular cases visu . The rhetorical license would be difficult to explain if not, in fact, assuming the will to bring the objectives of these measures from the domain of physiology to that of the organization of social relations.
To get rid of the misunderstanding, it must first be noted that physical proximity is not a part or a special way of relating, but is always its underlying matrix. Written, telephone or internet communications always allude to the entirety of the communicators and reproduce a part or function of them so that the recipient can imagine their entire presence by completing the missing representations with the imagination. So, for example, we guess the mimicry of the interlocutor on the phone, we reproduce with the mind the cadence of the writer, we get excited in front of people seen on a monitor, we imagine the scents and laughter of the partner in a chat.
The apparently modern idea that the conceived part can instead not only remain intact, but even more ennoble if emancipated from its sarcophagus ( σήμα ) of flesh ( σῶμα ), echoes the Platonic wound that has tempted the West for centuries and is perpetuated in the Gnostic promise of a soul that can and must shake off the chains of corrupt materiality. In its current declination it flows into the rituals of videoconferencing, remote teaching, smart work and, therefore, into the general norm of "social distancing" which is welded in perfect continuity with the previous precept of "dematerialization". Together, they boldly wage war on the demiurge Yaldabaoth of the sensitive world and its latest effigy in chronological order, a pneumonia virus. The parable traced – from the solid to the imponderable, from the real to the imagined, from the visible to the invisible – tends to its only possible goal: the progressive elimination of the human envelope and therefore of the human tout court , to pursue the dream of a pure intelligence free from the passions and decay of the limbs. Hence, from these ancient visions, the modern fairy tale of an " artificial intelligence " that claims to live without and despite its creators.
The annoyance of individual bodies produces the plural annoyance of the masses and from there, by short analogy, the annoyance of class. The poor crowd into the suburbs and hovels, the middle class in offices, on the beaches and in supermarkets. Only the very rich, rare nantes in vast gurgitis , preserve themselves and others by dispersing themselves in the healthy spaciousness of their mansions. The idea put forward by some governors, of translating virus positives into protected structures by public force, would apply only to those who do not have homes large enough to put them in isolation: that is, the poor. In decidedly more explicit terms, in the Corriere della Sera of 28 July last, a columnist shuddered at the thought of the "crowds ( sic ) of young people" who "from the unlivable suburbs, from the remote sleeping quarters, from the badly lit streets that end up in nothing" in the central streets of the movida almost moved, no less, than by the «murky intention of sowing contagion, of infecting the" good "society together with the places it inhabits. To destroy what they cannot have ». As in Phaedrus's fairy tale, the contagion goes up the stream from the basements to the attics: never in the opposite direction, never among the optimates themselves. In the few images that leaked from their meetings we saw a Maria Elena Boschi embraced to friends off the coast of Ischia without protection, or even a reception in the estate of a television journalist whose illustrious guests – including that same regional president who cursed the greasers of the spritz – crowded free from the mask. The only, macroscopic exception: the waiters, on whose faces he stood out like a caste mark.
The people-mass-disease connection is activated almost spontaneously in recalling the stereotypes of ancient plagues, third world slums and semi-bestial promiscuity. Writing about the "contempt of the people" ( Le mépris du peuple , Éditions Les Liens qui libèrent, 2015) which would allign more and more openly among contemporary political leaders, the French journalist Jack Dion commented already in 2015 that "this sick democracy has the people in quarantine ”, without imagining that soon he would do so literally. For the Canadian political scientist Francis Dupuis-Déri , the "fear of the people" of the Western elites ( La peur du peuple: Agoraphobie et agoraphilie politiques , Lux, 2016) would be a form of "agoraphobia", that is precisely "the fear and contempt of people gathered ( assemblé ) "in the agora to cultivate common interests. This last intuition reveals better than any other the political planning that becomes the screen of the sanitary and dematerial allegory.
Under any regime, politics is a collective activity because its object is collective. Alongside the institutional colleges there is the freedom of ordinary citizens to meet and associate (Const., Articles 17 and 18), a freedom whose compression is always the signal of an imbalance in an authoritarian sense and of a conflict that cannot otherwise be managed. between the base and the vertices. Historically, the union and emancipation of less represented citizens has matured precisely in the places that today we want to sterilize from "gatherings": factories, offices, squares, clubs, universities. And the concentration of one's own bodies, from ( secessio plebis ) or towards the space of the opposing order, was the last instrument of political struggle for those who did not have armies and assets. With a view to social control, it is therefore easy to apply the ancient maxim of the diviser pour régner to the expedient of the physical dispersion of a discontented and restless citizenry , all the more effective if it is inculcated in the recipients by educating them to the mutual disgust of their pestilential limbs. A disgust of oneself where everyone is given the thrill of standing up as an aristocrat – if not for wealth, at least for intelligence and civility – on the underlying rabble of the "irresponsible".
It is almost certain that even today such an extreme deconstruction of the civil agglomeration would not be tolerable without the anesthetic of a surrogate and immaterial relationality, such as that reproduced by modern remote communication technologies. This would explain, among other things, the obsessiveness with which they are promoted even where they obviously do not bring any advantage. Because this substitution, while offering a symbolic and mutilated relief valve with one hand, with the other reinforces the control device until it is total. A square in turmoil, a small group or a meeting behind closed doors do not go out with a click. Instead, it can be done with a website, a blog, a social network, an account or even the entire internet network, indeed it is already done, there is already the Chinese " great wall of fire " that would like to be replicated in Europe too. . Alternatively or in addition, the contents that travel on the network can be censored, repositioned or magnified, so as to set up in the virtual the script of a realistic public space but deformable as needed, to orient the actors. In all cases, the reductio ad digitum of each individual interaction or condition – activities, conversations, travel, purchases , income, tastes, affections, votes , health, etc. – it neatly stores the contents in a single jar to make them available for consultation by those who control the infrastructures, closes any glimmer of secrecy and transforms individuals into data flows to be subjected to the governance of algorithms, that is, of those who program them. Big data becomes imago hominum and men promise to dissolve mystery and arbitrariness by reducing them to the panoptic discipline of a database and the transparency of automata. To (re) discover the obvious: that without freedom there is no sin, without life there is no death.
However serious, the effects of repression and disintegration of distancing on social life – or, if you prefer, its being functional to the acceleration of these processes – is however only the signal of deeper repercussions on the interior and biological life of individuals. . The historical precedents of segregated and artificially connected societies such as the one we want to experience today are missing, but not the clues of their atrocity. Confirming a case already described in the thirteenth century. by Salimbene de Adam , the Austrian psychologist René Spitz in the 1950s followed a group of infants from an orphanage who, although adequately fed and cared for, developed weight loss, lethargy and mental retardation if deprived of the affectionate physical contact of their guardians. The "hunger for contact" suffered by the little orphans was so strong that over a third of them ended up dying within two years ( The First Year of Life , 1965). As I write this, a reader and medical director of RSA tells me that during and after the lockdown, several patients in his and other facilities would have begun to refuse food and in some cases to wish for death for the penalty of not being able to receive visits. of their relatives. Similar situations, the readers tell me, would affect more and more frail and elderly people hospitalized in isolation in hospitals.
These clues should sound a strong alarm when we read, for example, that according to a very hospitable veterinarian, "grandparents and grandchildren will not be able to be together as before". Or that we should hug each other (but "the safest thing is certainly to avoid" doing so) by looking away, at knee or shoulder height, holding your breath ( sic ) and "no tears", as recommended by a Corriere special of last July . Or rather, says the vice president of the National Association of Psychologists and Psychotherapists Giulia Maffioli in an interview with Messaggero , «being able to replace that sign with something else. By listening, by looking, by being present even at a distance and by speaking ». Or that someone has taken these advice to the extreme by forbidding a mother to hug her child again after months of being away, and that above all the public authority has lent itself to the company by fining the woman , in application of a law now all antithesis of the natural one.
These clues should not be underestimated – if one's own, elementary humanity were not enough – when the President of the Province of Trento Maurizio Fugatti asks for new powers to remove "positive" subjects from their cohabitants and lock them up indefinitely in "hotels" sanitary ". Or when the Sardinian council establishes two structures for the hospitalization of asymptomatic and "cured" people without explaining how it intends to convince perfectly healthy people to abandon their families and their daily lives to isolate themselves, and for how long. Or when we learn that in Tuscany that obligation of internment is already in force with an ordinance in which the guarantees of the already drastic compulsory medical treatment of the Basaglia law are skipped. After eight centuries of habeas corpus and in the indifference of a State that still dares to call itself a law, the unheard-of juridical imprisonment without crime and without trial, of arrest without validation and without defense, comes true and, at the same time, one more turns the wedge of distancing into the heart of family affections, into the natural and prestatual root of being in community.
The damage caused by the deprivation of the presence and physical contact of loved ones are so recognized by the proponents of distancing, but, in accepting them in the name of prudence and hygiene, they incur a dangerous euphemism. If it is demonstrated that the forced suspension of those interactions for prolonged or in any case indefinite times can kill the most fragile subjects, it is logical to expect that in anyone else it will at least produce destabilization, trauma and pathologies. In a clear and heartfelt appeal released online by hundreds of Italian psychologists and psychiatrists on the effects of the lockdown, it is noted that "isolation has always been associated with consequences on the psychic and somatic level that involve a fall in the possibility of resilience (up to functional type) and the correct functioning of the immune system ". Why (bold mine)
human nature is intrinsically relational and our brain develops only thanks to relationships of a certain nature. Family relationships as well as social ones, in order to be able to structure and evolve, need to be able to rely continuously on a physical presence and to be able to be lived with trust, and not with suspicion or fear … Instilling in people, and even more so in children , the fear of an "invisible enemy" of which the neighbor can be the bearer, is equivalent to impoverishing or annihilating every possibility of growth, exchange, enrichment; it basically amounts to canceling any possibility of an intense and happy life.
Electronic devices as an obligatory alternative to relationality in presence do not help, on the contrary. If on the one hand "every technological surrogate in this sense will always be deficient", on the other "it is dangerous to ride the contingent period for an indiscriminate enhancement" of technology, which "cannot be associated with the evolution of the individual and of society; in several cases it can compromise normal cognitive abilities and emotional regulation ».
Physical distancing, which has also become social distancing in the lexicon, reaches the inferior level of distancing from oneself , from one's singularity as a subject shaped by relationships and a member of a species that evolves thanks to relationships. The experiment of normalizing the splitting of the material bonds of the social isotope – already so unstable for many other reasons – has the destructive and deadly effects of a detonation, even literally nuclear, because it springs from the deep core of being human as it is among men. However you think about the infection that is frightening the world, the imbalance between the health risk that can affect a part of the population and the certainty of inflicting very serious or irreparable existential damage on everyone , is so macroscopic that it does not deserve a discussion. Without going into the merits of the " absurd numbers and criteria , but today we think this way " with which they are determined, the basics of set theory would be enough to affirm that one cannot be saved by condemning everyone.
If there is no malice in this program, there is at least one well-sighted blindness that carefully selects its goals. For example, it should not be overlooked that physical intimacy not only serves to lead "an intense and happy life" or a life tout court , but even before that it is the condition for producing that life originally, it is the act that replicates it and perpetual, confusing one's members to become "one flesh" (Gen 2:24; Mk 10,8) and to fulfill the commandment of creation: "be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth" (Gen 1:28).
Like family affects, of which it is the generative presupposition, sexuality also ends up under the lens of hygienist scrutiny. Virologists enter the alcoves to remind lovers that the pain of all looms over their private pleasures and that a little healthy fear must be seasoned to the amusement. What emerges from the guidelines on sex in times of Covid, the ones that the notes of the New York City Health Department have then found willing megaphones all over the world, is precisely relational and procreative eroticism. In fact, masturbation is to be preferred over all the options: "it is you – write the American experts – your safest sexual partner". The most die-hard can practice it in company, as long as they equip themselves as in the operating room: washing their hands before and after the act, staying far away, covering their faces and avoiding kissing. Alternatively, he helps the omnipresent technological remedy , thanks to which everyone can comfortably touch each other at home, with their underwear lowered under the table and enjoying the partner's ectoplasm from behind a screen. The lonely vice becomes a public virtue to be spread by showing off the example of brave pioneers. Like the journalist Veronica Mazza , who from the pages of the Cosmopolitan makes it known that she masturbated daily for a month , sometimes even reluctantly but finally coming out of it "happy and more mentally stable". And he reassures the readers: her clitoris "is as before, indeed now that we have made so much friendship, I think our relationship will be more and more intense and better".
Couple relationships are allowed in second choice, but only between people who already live together. If applied extensively or worse, mandatory, the recommendation would put a stop to the problems – not only and not mainly health – of indiscriminate crap, but on the other hand it would make it impossible to experiment between lovers who will meet to form a couple, or between the same spouses who will get together for the first time under a common roof. Without new couples there would be no new conception and pregnancies, and therefore no new people. Within a few decades, extinction would be reached due to the obsolescence of families and peoples, if not the species itself.
In this crucial passage, from the sterilization of pathogens to the sterility of the guests, the representation underlying the paradoxes of the health crusade is savored more than anywhere else. Here we see the reflection of a civilization that speaks of the microbe to talk about itself, which in the disease projects its own believed pathology of existing and inhabiting the world as a dirty, aggressive, teeming and lethal colony. The virus and its carriers are confused and identified in a process of translation where the former loses its biological singularity but is strengthened in the abstract, as an allegory of the latter. It is not the virus that spreads in unpredictable and distressing ways, but it is the distressing unpredictability of men who spread, reproduce and meet without discipline. It is not the virus that kills the bodies to satisfy an irrational hunger for life, but it is the irrational desire of men to live, work and enjoy in a free and worthy way.
In short, the virus-mask seems to represent the fallen man who "was afraid, because I am naked, and I hid" (Gen 3:10) and in being ashamed of his own naked flesh, of his own naked essence, he rejects it as unbearable and obscene. Therefore, it is not the virus to be contained, but men: localized, gagged, hunted, disinfected and imprisoned, surrounded by a crescendo of conditions and prohibitions that from everyday life have pushed themselves into the tabernacle of meaning, mutual care and the generation of their lives. That is, until the eradication, the extreme fulfillment of the viral metaphor. Without all disguise, it is perhaps this rejection of existing and this microbiomorphic inversion of our being made in the likeness of Heaven (Gen 1:26), or even more secularly worthy to inhabit the earth without attacking the laws of our nature, the pathology of which we should take care.
This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Il Pedante at the URL http://ilpedante.org/post/non-e-bene-che-l-uomo-sia-solo on Mon, 21 Sep 2020 13:47:13 PDT.