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The COVID LONG of the social spirit

In the last pages of his book The Plague, Camus recounts the festive return to life of the city of Oran after the extinction of the epidemic.

Today, in the fall of 2021, there is no sign of an imminent celebration on the horizon.

On the contrary, it seems that the signs of psychosocial malaise are increasing, and if someone dares to organize a rave party in the absence of meeting places, he risks being attacked as a godless person.

At the beginning of the plague, advertising cretinism said: we will come out better. The opposite is clearly true: widespread nervousness, rampant racism, predatory corporate violence, rampant inequality.

Big Pharma's proprietary greed has prevented local production of vaccines and the result is Omicron. The old white men injected themselves with the third dose that should have gone to the 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 Covid Long of the social mind.

COVID LONG is the prolonged persistence of various types of symptoms 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 continue, even intensify, beyond the positive effects of mass vaccination. Street protests, resistance to vaccines, rebellion against Covid Check, whatever their motivations, feed a sense of panic.

The virus acted as a catalyst for opposing ghosts: the paranoid ghosts of conspiracy and the hypochondriacal ghosts of fear that invade and paralyse subjectivity.

The public discourse is invaded by paradoxical alternatives and double constraints. The health injunction provokes a reaction that manifests itself first in denial, then in phobia (attribution of evil powers to the vaccine, conspiratorial obsessions).

The reaction of governments and the majority of public opinion against non-vaccine heretics is authoritarian, paternalistic or aggressive: dismissal, police charges, public stigmatization, censorship.

This produces mass victimization and, in the long run, the paranoid prophecy (the vaccine is a conspiracy to impose a totalitarian form) becomes self-fulfilling.

If we think that the resistance to the vaccine is unreasonable (I neither affirm nor deny this, I do not intend to deal with issues that are not my competence), we must interpret it as a symptom of a disorder, and it is absurd to criminalize the bearer of the symptom, just as it is useless to lecture him about responsibility. The symptom bearer must be treated, but it is the whole society that is invaded by psychotic forms.

Who heals whom?

While imposing total obedience to the orders of the health industrial complex, governments use the state of emergency as the perfect condition to furiously impose policies of privatization and casualization. The emergency must therefore never end and the media must eternally continue the panic campaign that has flooded the collective discourse for almost two years. Every day we are bombarded with hours of repetitive television images whose only function is to terrorize: nurses in green coats, masks and protective suits, ambulances on the move, and ampoules, vials, syringes, injections, dozens of injections, hundreds of injections.

The effect of this offensive, which mobilizes the entire media system in a campaign of terror, is visible: the social body shrinks in a crisis of interminable hypochondria, as if it were afraid to give up fear.

This paralysis of the imagination and shrinkage is 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 state.

But the therapeutic techniques that can cure a psychic epidemic generated by powerlessness, anger and loneliness can only be paradoxical.

I believe that the West is politically finished: not because of the horrors for which its domination is responsible, but because of its incompetence, ineptitude and cowardice.

Marasmus and panic: Kabul airport, a global metaphor

One thing particularly stood out to me about the American debacle that occupied attention during the weeks of August: the slump.

Biden had said it some time before: you will not witness the scenes in Saigon, with embassy staff fleeing through the roof. In fact, the scenes of evacuation from the Kabul airport, the terrified crowds, the violence, the bombing that the world witnessed were far worse than those of Saigon 1975.

In 1975, the Americans had prepared the evacuation well in advance, only the embassy staff was trapped at the end when the Viet Cong entered the city. This time, nothing had been prepared, because the Americans thought they still had six months more or less of safety.

Instead, everything collapsed in a few days and tens of thousands of collaborators were left at the mercy of fate. They believed that the Westerners were all-powerful. They did not know that the West is a cowardly, cowardly and treacherous people.

This 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, its lack of knowledge and its cowardice.

In fact, it is not a question of incompetence, but of something deeper and more worrying: it is the marasmus, the mental chaos.

Marasmus is the word that designates the state of mental confusion in 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 talking nonsense. Marasmus: isn't this what is happening to the West in general?

Panic is the effect of exposure to unmanageable 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 behavioral manifestation of an organism overwhelmed by the flow of ungovernable events.

The origin of panic lies in the discrepancy between the capacity for conscious signal processing and the intensity and speed of info-nervous messages.

We are approaching a situation in which the degradation of the environment, the multiplication of conflicts and the acceleration of info-neurological stimuli make it impossible to have global knowledge and therefore a rational decision. 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 fear not, because panic disables the political mind.

Is there a psychoanalytic cure for collective panic?

That is the only issue that matters right now. Everything else is a slump.

The Kabul airport is a metaphor for the world condition that reappeared on a much larger scale three months later in Glasgow, where the panic of those who realize that time is running out was staged. The slump of the white race is overwhelming the planet and civilization itself. Extinction is not the only prospect left, but it is the least terrifying.

Disruption of the integrated business cycle

While the virus plays hide and seek, disappearing and reappearing in various forms, signs are emerging of an economic crisis that bears little resemblance to those of the last century. Disruption of the production and supply cycle: shortage of electronic components and consequent blockage of the automotive and computer cycle, shortage of gasoline caused by a shortage of truck drivers in Great Britain, ships piling up in ports with huge delays in the flow of cargo traffic, countless disconnection points 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, stock markets are on a triumphant upward trend).

What is it then? It is an effect of the chaos that spreads in the chain of productive automatisms, and in the daily life of the populations bombarded by an insistent campaign of panic. It is a chaos of overload, which is first of all an effect of the pandemic, but also an effect of the nationalisms that are asserting themselves on the economic level, making globalization collapse.

Chaos reigns in the world of the pandemic: the technical automaton that controlled the flow of goods goes haywire, and the coordination of production functions is paralyzed.

On the other hand, we know that the more integrated and complex a system is, the more complex the effects of discontinuity are, and the more difficult it is to reconstruct the automatisms.

Next winter, we will see how deep and widespread are the consequences of the great disruption of the supply chain: simple localized disruptions, large-scale famines, entire regions without heating, large-scale collapse of civil life?

We cannot know, because the complexity of the disturbed system does not allow for realistic predictions. 

Part of the reason for this great upheaval is the energy shock caused by, among other things, half-hearted decarbonization measures. As winter approaches, people in some parts of the world must choose between giving up heating or reopening coal mines that had been closed to meet the Paris climate accords.

Of course, the coal mines will be reopened.

Technically, there is no way out of the cycle of devastation.

At the mercy of the winds

The catastrophic scenario resulting from global warming has unexpectedly reopened the colonial question: the countries that have been subjected to European violence over the past two centuries (primarily China and India) have made it clear that, for them, industrial development remains a priority over temperature control.

The amount 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 control.

But the West has no intention of paying for it. It is therefore time to face the facts: the climatic apocalypse that is underway is destined to be precipitated. Global warming has already passed the point of no return, entire areas of the planet are becoming uninhabitable, migrations are inevitable and everywhere they provoke war and Nazism, because the white colonialists cannot stand the fact that the colonized come to soil their garden.

In Glasgow, the political trumpeters repeated the usual promises: by 2050, everything will be fine. At this rate, by 2050, there will be no one left to control it.

The 1.5 limit for temperature increase is no longer realistic. And India has announced that the zero emissions target is being pushed back to 2070.

Politics is unable to go beyond proclamations because politicians are in the pay of polluters, but above all because politics does not have the power to decide and to act effectively against the irreversible, and because the political brain is clearly in a state of marasmus.

The only thing that politicians can do is to unload the burden of growing misery on the weakest, which they do with diligence and alacrity.

In Italy, the Draghi government (with the support of the Five Star Party and the PD) has avoided legislating on the plastic tax for the fourth consecutive year.

Everyone knows that the unnecessary consumption of plastic is choking the waters of the planet, but the economy comes first, so the production of plastic is not affected: it is not a decision of politicians, it is an automatism that society cannot get rid of.

Technically, there is no longer any way out of the cycle of devastation, since the planet's inhabitants continue to grow in number (despite a providential drop in male fertility in the north of the world), while habitable spaces are shrinking at a great rate and the great migrations that follow provoke wars, nationalism and violence.

After Glasgow, the debate is over and we would do well to take note.

Catastrophic phenomena will multiply, let's get used to them until they kill us.

But among the catastrophic phenomena that are multiplying, there is one that seems to me to contain the conditions for the conceivability of an alternative strategy to those we have followed so far without success.

Resign en masse

Inexplicably (at least to economists), since the start of the pandemic, four and a half million American workers have left or never returned to their jobs.

Is this the biggest strike of all time? In an article entitled The Revolt of the American Worker, Paul Krugman writes that American workers have realized that it is not worth wasting their time for such low wages and such a miserable condition as they live in this horrible country where vacations are an unacceptable luxury.

Companies are struggling to find workers, not because unemployment has disappeared, but because a growing number of humans have decided that working is suicide, a renunciation of life, a perpetual humiliation. In the face of stagnant wages and precarious existence, refusing to work is the only entirely rational choice. At the same time, the breaking points in the production cycle and the global supply chain are multiplying: "Great Supply Chain Disruption & Great Resignation".

Two sides of the same phenomenon: the dissolution of the physical, psychological and linguistic conditions of the energy that drives capital.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the concept of psycho-deflation has served me to understand this fall of energy, this rupture of the social order and this propagation of chaos. Far from seeing it as a disease, I propose to see it as a lever to destroy the capitalist automaton, to finally get out of the infected corpse of Capital.

In an article in the Washington Post, Ishaan Tharoor and Claire Parker write the ". Great Resignation' goes global.

When I read the word " resignation ", something clicked in my mind: this word, in English, means both "resignation from one's job" and "resignation". I would like to add another possible interpretation of this word: re-signification. Resignation is a restructuring of the imaginary field, it reveals perspectives that remained hidden by inherited cultural expectations.

Moreover, resignation makes it possible to release the tension that generates panic, and to finally prepare for the future without any more pathogenic hope.

Humans decide to abandon the game, or rather games. Is this a problem? In my opinion, it is the solution.

Signs of resignation are multiplying: 75% of respondents say they are afraid of the future, and 39%, in a recent survey of an international sample, say they do not want to have children.

A kind of resignation to extinction is emerging, almost a strategy of self-extinction that, paradoxically, may turn out to be the only way out of extinction: the providential mass repulsion of procreation, work, consumption and participation. Humans decide to abandon the game, or rather games.

Is this a problem? In my opinion, it is the solution.

In many countries, the electorate no longer participates in elections. We are finally resigned to the impotence of representative democracy.

Resigning oneself to the end of growth is, on the other hand, the only way to reduce energy consumption: detoxify oneself from the anguish of consumption, educate oneself to frugality. It is the only way to escape the stress and blackmail that force us to accept slave labor.

Finally, resignation is the only way to reduce the demographic pressure that produces overpopulation, violence and war.

A resignation strategy consists of four principles:

One: not to participate in the democratic fiction that by electing someone else, the irreversible can become reversible.

Two: not to work. Work is more and more 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's break all relations with the economy.

Three: stop consuming everything that is not produced by 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 increasing.

In this quadruple act of retraction, there is a principle of autonomy: the emancipation of the Squid Game. The resignation from work is not a simple resignation; on the contrary, it is an act of self-assertion by thinking individuals who abandon the corpse of capitalism.

The CAOS is destined to grow, only autonomous operational communities for survival can enable us to survive and perhaps even live in the times to come.

Paradoxical therapy

What appears to be a collective Covid Long can therefore be interpreted as an effect of psycho-deflation, which has forced us, or rather allowed us, to reduce the pace until we realize that there is no longer any reason to accelerate the pace, to accumulate capital, to develop consumption.

Psycho-deflation can manifest itself as fatigue and depression until one realizes that it is the only therapeutic response to panic, to violence, to fascism and to self-destruction.

For Christians, resignation to the will of God 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 only a surrender, but also a new meaning, 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 take away all energy from the machine of accumulation. It is illusory to think that in a post-pandemic future a revolution, a democratic uprising of any kind, could 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 the social energy, we abandon work and consumption. Mass defeatism, desertion and sabotage. Let these be our weapons in the times 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 a fool who deserves to be betrayed, since betraying is the only activity that the left is capable of performing with competence.

Movements have been liquefied by a panic-depressive psychosis. Subjectivity is at the mercy of psychosis, socially fractured.

The only possibility left is a paradoxical strategy that transforms psycho-deflation into a wave of slowing down, blocking, silencing, and shutting down the machine.

So that life can return.

1 December 2021

Franco "Bifo" Berardi is a writer, a philosopher and a cultural agitator.

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