[NetBehaviour] Fw: <nettime> What the Virus Said

Max Herman maxnmherman at hotmail.com
Thu Mar 19 20:03:34 CET 2020

Interesting post from nettime.

Please let me know if cross-posting like this is to be avoided.

From: nettime-l-bounces at mail.kein.org <nettime-l-bounces at mail.kein.org> on behalf of sebastian at rolux.org <sebastian at rolux.org>
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2020 12:58 PM
To: Nettime-l
Subject: <nettime> What the Virus Said


“I’ve come to shut down the machine whose emergency brake you couldn’t find.”

paru dans lundimatin#, le 19 mars 2020

You’d do well, dear humans, to stop your ridiculous calls for war. Lower the
vengeful looks you’re aiming at me. Extinguish the halo of terror in which
you’ve enveloped my name. Since the bacterial genesis of the world, we viruses
are the true continuum of life on Earth. Without us, you would never have seen
the light of day, any more than the first cell would have come to exist.

We are your ancestors, just like the rocks and the seaweed, and much more than
the apes. We are wherever you are and also where you aren’t. Too bad for you if
you only see in the universe what is to your liking ! But above all, quit
saying that it is I who am killing you. You will not die from my action upon
your tissues but from the lack of care of your fellow humans. If you had not
been just as rapacious amongst yourselves as you were with all that lives on
this planet, you would still have enough beds, nurses, and respirators to
survive the damage I do in your lungs. If you didn’t pack your old people into
nursing homes and your able-bodied into concrete hutches, you wouldn’t be in
this predicament. If you hadn’t changed the whole expanse of the world, or
worlds rather, that just yesterday were still luxuriant, chaotic, infinitely
inhabited, into a vast desert for the monoculture of the Same and the More, I
wouldn’t have been able to launch myself into the global conquest of your
throats. If nearly all of you had not become, over the last century, redundant
copies of a single, untenable form of life, you would not be preparing to die
like flies abandoned in the water of your sugary civilization. If you had not
made your environments so empty, so transparent, so abstract, you can be sure
that I wouldn’t be moving at the speed of an aircraft. I only come to carry out
the punishment that you have long pronounced against yourselves. Forgive me,
but it’s you, after all, who invented the name “Anthropocene”. You have awarded
yourselves the whole honor of the disaster ; now that it is unfolding, it’s too
late to decline it. The most honest among you know this very well : I have no
other accomplice than your social organization, your folly of the “grand scale”
and its economy, your fanatical belief in systems. Only systems are
“vulnerable”. Everything else lives and dies. There’s no “vulnerability” except
for what aims at control, at its extension and its improvement. Look at me
closely : I am just the flip side of the prevailing Death.

So stop blaming me, accusing me, stalking me. Working yourselves into an
anti-viral paralysis. All of that is childish. Let me propose a different
perspective : there is an intelligence that is immanent to life. One doesn’t
need to be a subject to make use of a memory and a strategy. One doesn’t have
to be a sovereign to decide. Bacteria and viruses can also call the shots. See
me, therefore, as your savior instead of your gravedigger. You’re free not to
believe me, but I have come to shut down the machine whose emergency brake you
couldn’t find. I have come in order to suspend the operation that held you
hostage. I have come in order to demonstrate the aberration that “normality”
constitutes. “Delegating to others our nutrition, our protection, our ability
to care for our way of life was a madness”…“There is no budgetary limit, health
has no price” : see how I redirect the language and spirit of your governing
authorities ! See how I bring them down for you to their real standing as
miserable racketeers, and arrogant to boot ! See how they suddenly denounce
themselves not just as being superfluous, but as being harmful ! For them
you’re nothing but supports for the reproduction of their system – that is,
less than slaves. Even the plankton are treated better than you.

But don’t waste your time reproaching them, pointing out their deficiencies.
Accusing them of negligence is still to give them more credit than they
deserve. Ask yourselves rather how you could find it so comfortable to let
yourselves be governed. Praising the merits of the Chinese option compared to
the British option, of the imperial-legist solution as against the
Darwinist-liberal method is to understand nothing about the one or the other,
the horror of one and the horror of the other. Since Quesnay, the “liberals”
have always looked with envy at the Chinese empire ; and they still do. They
are Siamese twins. The fact that one of them confines you in its interest and
the other in the interest of “society” always amounts to suppressing the only
non-nihilist conduct : taking care of oneself, of those one loves and of what
one loves in those one doesn’t know. Don’t let those who’ve led you to the
abyss claim to be saving you from it : they will prepare for you a more perfect
hell, an even deeper grave. Someday when they’ll able, they’ll send the army to
patrol the afterlife.

You ought to thank me, rather. Without me, for how much longer would those
unquestionable things that are suddenly suspended have gone on being presented
as necessary ? Globalization, competitive exams, air traffic, budgetary limits,
elections, sports spectacles, Disneyland, fitness gyms, most businesses, the
National Assembly, school barracking, mass gatherings, most office jobs, all
that automatic sociability that is nothing but the reverse of the anxious
solitude of the metropolitan monads : all of that was rendered unnecessary,
once the state of necessity asserted its presence. Thank me for the truth test
of the coming weeks ; you’re finally going to inhabit your own life, without
the thousand escapes that, good year bad year, hold the untenable together.
Without your realizing it, you had never taken up residence in your own
existence. You were there among your boxes, and you didn’t know it. Now you
will live with your kindreds. You will be at home. You will cease to be in
transit towards death. Perhaps you will hate your husband. Maybe your children
won’t be able to stand you. Maybe you will feel like blowing up the décor of
your everyday life. The truth is that you were no longer in the world, in those
metropolises of separation. Your world was no longer livable in any of its
guises unless you were constantly fleeing. One had to make do with movement and
distractions in the face of the hideousness that had taken hold. And the
spectral that reigned between beings. Everything had become so efficient that
nothing made any sense any longer. Thank me for all that, and welcome back to
earth !

Thanks to me, for an indefinite time you will no longer work, your kids won’t
go to school, and yet it will be the opposite of a vacation. Vacations are that
space that must be filled up at all costs while waiting for the obligatory
return to work. But now what is opening up in front of you, thanks to me, is
not a delimited space but a gaping emptiness. I render you idle. There’s no
guarantee that yesterday’s non-world will reappear. All of that profitable
absurdity may cease. Not being paid oneself, what would be more natural than to
stop paying one’s rent ? Why would a person unable to work go on depositing
their mortgage payments at the bank ? Isn’t it suicidal, when you come down to
it, to live where you can’t even cultivate a garden ? Someone who doesn’t have
any money left doesn’t stop eating as a consequence, and who has the iron has
the bread. Thank me : I place you in front of the bifurcation that was tacitly
structuring your existences : the economy or life. It’s your move, your turn to
play. The stakes are historical. Either the governing authorities impose their
state of exception on you, or you invent your own. Either you go with the
truths that are coming to light, or you put your head on the chopping block.
Either you use the time I’m giving you to envision the world of the aftermath
in light of what you’ve learned from the collapse that’s underway, or the
latter will go extreme. The disaster ends when the economy ends. The economy is
the devastation. That was a theory before last month. Now it is a fact. No one
can fail to sense what it will take in the way of police, propaganda,
surveillance, logistics, and remote working to keep that fact under control.

As you deal with me, don’t succumb to panic or denial. Don’t give in to the
biopolitical hysterias. The coming weeks will be terrible, oppressive, cruel.
The gates of death will be wide open. I am the most devastating production of
the devastation of production. I come to reduce the nihilists to nothingness.
The injustice of this world will never be more outrageous. It’s a civilization,
not you, that I come to bury. Those who desire to live will have to construct
new habits, ones that are suitable for them. Avoiding me will be the occasion
for this reinvention, this new art of distances. The art of greeting one
another, which some were short-sighted enough to see as the very form of the
institution, will soon not obey any etiquette. It will sign beings. Don’t do it
“for the others”, for “the population” or for “society”, do it for your people.
Take care of your friends and those you love. Rethink along with them,
decisively, what a just form of life would be. Organize clusters of right
living, expand them, and I won’t be able to do anything against you. I am
calling for a massive return, not of discipline, but of attention. Not for the
end of insouciance, but the end of all carelessness. What other way remained
for me to remind you that salvation is in each gesture ? That everything is in
the tiniest thing.

I’ve had to face the facts : humanity only asks itself the questions it can no
longer keep from asking.


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