WARNING • UNAUTHORIZED AND AMATEUR translation using deepl.
Will cancel it “on demand” and substitute as I find better translations. The pdf is also full of my personal chaotic inconsistent reactions and reminders while re-reading it.
I thought it was worth translating, also a way for me to ready slowly (as some readings need)
There is rhetorical metaphoric style I feel ( what is the political mind? and why the need to discover another horizon), reading it at first I thought it was a bit too sensational. Still…I read it with interest.
FRANCO RIFO BERARDI
ENGLISH DEEPL TRANSLATION
The Long Covid of the Social Mind
In the last pages of his book The Plague, Camus recounts the festive return to life of the city of Oran after the epidemic had died out. Today, in the autumn of 2021, there are no signs of an imminent celebration on the horizon. On the contrary, it seems that the signs of psychosocial unease are deepening, and if anyone dares to organise a rave party in the absence of meeting places, they risk being attacked as an unholy person.
At the beginning of the scourge, advertising cretinism said: we will come out better. The opposite is clearly true: generalised nervousness, rampant racism, predatory violence by large corporations, galloping inequality. The proprietary greed of Big Pharma has prevented the local production of vaccines and the result is Omicron. Old white men have injected themselves with the third doses that should have gone to others, but the virus is smarter and is preparing to kill a few million more, maybe even me.
But what interests me is not the persistence of the virus, but a kind of Long Covid of the social mind.
Long Covid is defined as the prolonged persistence of symptoms of various kinds after infection and recovery. A friend who suffered from it told me that her main symptom was constant exhaustion, loss of energy and even mental confusion. Indeed, exhaustion and mental confusion seem to dominate the contemporary scene. The chaos (economic, geopolitical and psychic) that the virus has produced seems to be continuing, indeed intensifying, beyond the positive effects of mass vaccination. The street protests, the resistance to vaccines, the rebellion against the Green Pass, whatever their motives, are fuelling a feeling of panic.
The virus has acted as a catalyst for opposing phantoms: paranoid phantoms of conspiracy and hypochondriac phantoms of fear that invade and paralyse subjectivity.
Public discourse is invaded by paradoxical alternatives and double binds. The health injunction provokes a reaction that manifests itself first as denial, then as phobia (attribution of evil powers to the vaccine, conspiracy obsessions). The reaction of governments and the majority of public opinion against the no-vaccine heretics takes on an authoritarian, paternalistic or aggressive character: dismissal, police charges, public stigmatisation, censorship. This produces mass victimisation, and in the long run the paranoid prophecy (the vaccine is a plot to impose a totalitarian form) ends up being self-fulfilling.
If we think that resistance to the vaccine is unreasonable (I neither affirm nor deny this, I do not intend to deal with matters that are outside my competence) we must interpret it as the symptom of a disorder, and it is absurd to criminalise the bearer of the symptom, just as it is useless to lecture him on responsibility. The symptom-bearer must be treated, but it is the whole of society that is pervaded by psychotic forms.
Who cures whom?
While imposing total obedience to the orders of the health-industrial complex, governments use the state of emergency as the perfect condition for a furious imposition of privatisation and precarisation policies. So the emergency must never end, and the media must continue forever the campaign of panic that has been flooding the collective discourse for almost two years. Every day we are fed hours of repetitive television images that have the sole function of terrorizing: nurses in green coats, masks and protective suits, running ambulances, and ampoules, vials, syringes, injections, dozens of injections, hundreds of injections.
The effect of this offensive that mobilises the entire media system in a campaign of terror is visible: the social body shrunken in a crisis of interminable hypochondria, as if it were afraid to give up fear. This paralysis of the imagination and this shrunkenness are not an effect of the virus, but the consequence of the prolonged impotence of society which is unable to stop the impoverishment, the devastation of the physical and mental environment: impotent rage is a highly pathogenic condition.
But therapeutic techniques that can cure a psychic epidemic generated by impotence, anger and loneliness can only be paradoxical.
I believe that the West is politically finished: not because of the horrors for which its rule is responsible, but because of its incompetence, incompetence and cowardice.
Marasmus and panic: Kabul airport a global metaphor
One thing made a particular impression on me in the American debacle that occupied the attention in the weeks of August: the marasmus.
Biden had said some time before: you will not witness the Saigon scenes, with embassy staff fleeing from the roof. In fact, the scenes of the Kabul airport evacuation, the terrified crowds, the violence, the bombing that the whole world witnessed were much worse than Saigon 1975.
In 1975, the Americans had prepared the evacuation well in advance, only the embassy staff were trapped at the end when the Vietcong entered the city. This time nothing had been prepared, because the Americans thought they still had six more or less secure months. Instead, everything collapsed in a few days and tens of thousands of collaborators were left at the mercy of fate. They believed that Westerners were all-powerful. They did not know that Westerners are cowards, bunglers and traitors.
That is why I believe that the West is politically finished: not because of the horrors for which its rule is responsible, but because of its incompetence, lack of knowledge and cowardice. In fact, it is not incompetence, but something deeper and more disturbing: it is marasmus, mental chaos.
Marasmus is the word for the state of mental confusion into which a person falls, unable to govern the events of his life.
When I saw poor Biden’s speech after the attack that killed two hundred Afghans, thirteen American soldiers and three British citizens, I had the impression that he was babbling nonsense. Marasmus: isn’t that what is happening to the West in general?
Panic is the effect of exposure to an unprocessable complexity, a succession of alternatives that can no longer be decided: chaos.
The speed, complexity and proliferation of social, military and health processes (the proliferation of viruses and their mutations) render the collective mind incapable of processing and governing the world around it.
Panic is the psychic and behavioural manifestation of an organism overwhelmed by the flow of ungovernable events. The origin of panic lies in a gap between the capacity for conscious processing of stimuli and the intensity and speed of the info-nervous stimuli.
We are approaching a situation in which degradation of the environment, multiplication of conflicts, and acceleration of info-neural stimuli make it impossible to know comprehensively and thus to decide rationally. We are entering a situation where the more we know the less we know, because the more information we receive the more difficult it is to make a choice.
Is there a political cure for panic? I’m afraid not, because panic deactivates the political mind. Is there a psychoanalytic cure for collective panic? This is the only question that matters at present. Everything else is marasmus.
The Kabul airport is a metaphor for the global condition that reappeared on an enormously larger scale three months later in Glasgow, where the panic of those who realise that time is up was staged. The marasmus of the white race is overwhelming the planet and civilisation itself. Extinction is not the only prospect left to us, but it is the least terrifying.
While the virus is playing hide and seek, disappearing and reappearing in various ways, signs are emerging of an economic crisis that has little to do with those of the past century. Disruption of the production and supply cycle: lack of electronic components and the consequent blockage of the car and computer cycle, lack of petrol caused by a shortage of lorry drivers in Great Britain, ships crowding into ports with enormous delays in the disposal of goods traffic, countless points of disconnection breaking the supply chain almost everywhere. Energy shortages in early winter.
This picture does not resemble the overproduction crises of the last century, nor the financial crises (on the contrary, the stock markets are showing a triumphant upward trend). What is it then? It is an effect of the chaos that is spreading in the chain of productive automatisms, and in the daily life of populations bombarded by an insistent campaign of panic. It is an overload chaos, which is first and foremost an effect of the pandemic, but also an effect of the nationalisms that are asserting themselves on the economic level, causing globalisation to crumble.
Chaos is king in the pandemic world: the technical automaton that controlled the flow of goods is going haywire, and the coordination of production functions is paralysed. On the other hand, we know that the more integrated and complex a system is, the more complex are the effects of discontinuity, and the more difficult it is to rebuild the automatisms.
In the coming winter, we will see how deep and far-reaching the consequences of the great supply chain disruption (reapeted in braketts in English in the original) are: simple localised disruptions, large-scale famines, entire regions without heating, large-scale collapse of civil life? We cannot know, because the complexity of the system being disrupted does not allow for realistic predictions.
Part of this great disruption (English in the original) is the energy shock brought about inter alia by timid decarbonisation measures. As winter approaches, people in some parts of the world have to choose between giving up heating or reopening coal mines that had been shut down to comply with the Paris climate accords. Of course coal mines are being reopened.
Technically there is no longer any way out of the cycle of devastation.
At the mercy of the winds
The catastrophic scenario that follows global warming has unexpectedly reopened the colonial question: the countries that have suffered European violence over the last two centuries (first and foremost China and India) have made it clear that for them industrial development remains the priority over temperature control.
The volume of pollution produced by Western countries over the last two centuries is far greater than that produced by the dominated countries. So let the West pay the price of damage reduction. But the West has no intention of paying it. So it is time to face up to it: the climate apocalypse that is now underway is destined to precipitate. Warming has already passed the point of no return, whole areas of the planet are becoming uninhabitable, migrations are inevitable and everywhere they provoke war and Nazism, because the white colonialists do not tolerate the colonised coming to soil their garden.
In Glasgow, the trumpeters of politics repeated the usual promises: in 2050 everything will be fine. At this rate, in 2050 there will be no one to check on it.
The 1.5 limit on temperature increase is no longer realistic. And India has announced that the zero-emission target is postponed until 2070.
Politics is unable to go beyond proclamations because politicians are on the polluters’ payroll, but more importantly because politics does not have the power to decide and act effectively against the irreversible, and because the political brain is clearly in a state of marasmus. The only thing that the political decision-makers can do, therefore, is to offload the burden of growing misery onto the weakest, and this they do with diligence and alacrity.
In Italy, the Draghi government (with the support of the Five Star and the PD) has avoided legislating a plastic tax for the fourth year running. Everyone knows that the unnecessary consumption of plastic is choking the planet’s waters, but the economy comes first, so plastic production cannot be touched: it is not a decision of politicians, it is an automatism from which society cannot get out.
Technically, there is no longer any way out of the cycle of devastation, as the planet’s inhabitants continue to grow in number (despite a providential drop in male fertility in the north), while the habitable spaces are shrinking at a rapid pace, and the great migrations that follow cause wars, nationalism and violence.
After Glasgow, the debate is over and we would do well to take note. Catastrophic phenomena will multiply, let us get used to them until they kill us. But among the multiplying catastrophic phenomena there is one that seems to me to contain the conditions of conceivability for an alternative strategy to those we have followed so far without success.
The signs of resignation are multiplying: 75% of those surveyed say they are afraid of the future, and 39% in a recent survey of an international sample said they do not want to have children.
A sort of resignation to extinction is emerging, almost a strategy of self-extinction that paradoxically could prove to be the only way out of extinction: providential mass repulsion from procreation, work, consumption and participation. Humans are deciding to abandon the game, or rather the games.
Is this a problem? In my opinion it is the solution.
The electorate in many countries no longer participates in elections. We are finally resigning ourselves to the impotence of representative democracy.
Resigning ourselves to the end of growth is, on the other hand, the only way to reduce energy consumption: detoxifying ourselves from the anxiety of consumption, educating ourselves to frugality. It is the only way to escape the stress and blackmail that forces us to accept slave labour.
Finally, resignation is the only way to reduce the demographic pressure that produces overcrowding, violence and war.
A strategy of resignation consists of four principles:
One: do not participate in the democratic fiction that leads one to believe that, by electing someone else, the irreversible can become reversible.
Two: do not work. Work is increasingly underpaid, less and less guaranteed, more and more exploited, more and more useless for the production of what is necessary. Let us devote our energies to care, to the transmission of knowledge, to research, to food self-sufficiency. Let us break every relationship with the economy.
Three: no longer consume anything that is not produced by the self-production communities, boycott the circulation of goods.
Four: Do not procreate. Procreation is a selfish and irresponsible act when the chances of a happy life are reduced to almost zero. It is a dangerous act because the habitable areas of the planet are shrinking and the population is growing.
In this quadruple act of retraction there is a principle of autonomy: emancipation from the Squid Game. Resignation from work is not just resignation, on the contrary, it is an act of self-assertion of thinking individuals abandoning the corpse of capitalism.
CAOS is set to grow, only Autonomous Operating Communities for Survival can allow us to survive and perhaps even live in the time to come.
What appears as a collective Long Covid can therefore be interpreted as an effect of psychodeflation that has forced us, or rather allowed us, to reduce the pace until we realise that there is no longer any reason to speed up the pace, to accumulate capital, to expand consumption.
Psychodeflation can manifest itself as fatigue and depression until one realises that it is the only therapeutic response against panic, against violence, against fascism and against self-destruction.
For Christians, resignation to God’s will is a virtue. I do not think that resignation is a virtue, but a therapy and a redefinition of the field of worldly expectations: the discovery of another horizon. *
Resignation is not just a surrender, it is also a re-signification, because it gives new meaning to the signs of which social life is composed. A movement of abandonment (of work, of consumption, of dependence) would remove all energy from the accumulation machine. It is illusory to think that in the post-pandemic future a revolution, a democratic uprising of some kind, can take place. The collective organism is physically and psychically weakened, depression is rampant.
But weakness can be an invincible weapon for those who know how to use it strategically and transform it into mass consciousness. We reset social energy, we abandon work and consumption. Mass defeatism, desertion and sabotage. Let these be our weapons in the time to come.
There is no political way out of the apocalypse. The left has been the main political instrument of the ultracapitalist offensive for thirty years, anyone who invests his hopes in the left is an imbecile who deserves to be betrayed, since betraying is the only activity the left is capable of competently performing.
The movements have been liquefied by panic-depressive psychosis. Subjectivity is at the mercy of psychosis, socially fractured.
The only possibility left to us is a paradoxical strategy that transforms psychodeflation into a wave of slowing down, of blocking, of silencing, of switching off the machine.
For life to return. *