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Updated: Mar 11, 2020

by Vasco Santos

If I remember correctly, Karl Kraus, a contemporary, said that "the state in which we live is the real apocalypse the stable apocalypse".

The epidemic of coronavirus – an opportunistic epidemic originating in the season and of television – leads us back to a demotic nocturne, sending us back to the medieval experience of the Plague, linked to the notion of moral pollution. Now, much as in the past, a counterphobic object that is unrelated to the affected communities is sought.

We are, as in a nightmare of repetition, on the 25th of May 1720, when the ship Grand Saint Antoine, coming from Syria, docked in Marseilles. Seven sick crew members were quarantined but this did not prevent the pulmonary furor and 100,000 deaths.

Wilhelm Reich, a psychoanalyst, wrote: "there is a deadly organic energy. It is in the atmosphere." This atmosphere is hyperbaric, as Rimbaud's voice made manifest:

"The air and the world no longer demanded. Life."

And this was long before the big airports, the planes, the tragic speed.

The thesis I share is that of Paulo Varela Gomes (1981), who, on this subject, proposes to put biology aside.

"It is clear that the center of the issue lies not in the biological factors of the Plague, but in the human social organisms that contract it, spread it (and protect it?). It is then necessary not to seek in the infrastructure of economic and social formations the direct insertion of the disease; the Plague is, in fact, an ideological and political phenomenon, that is, it belongs to the State and its Apparatus."

What is said is that the Plague, both in the Middle Ages and in the Old Regime, was a disease of the forms of class domination, of the state apparatus and the ideologies.

As in the past, the coronavirus, a virus which is after all modest and timid, serves to impose order, to sanitize body and city and to relativize the social contract.

It allows one to control, watch and punish.

The coronavirus intensifies biopolitics and nihilism, mask and asepsis.

It is a virus, or rather a hygienist strategy, which is antipsychoanalytical due to the marked decrease in empathy, the legitimization of social distance and the loss of the poetry of the reality of daily life.

This spectacular policy accentuates the ideology of health (by failure of the idea of salvation) and has forcluded death, this extremely excellent taboo of the present age.

We magically disinfect our hands because we are against death.

Susan Sontag, in her magnificent essay "Disease as a Metaphor", said:

"Disease is the dark side of life, a kind of more costly citizenship. All living people have a dual citizenship, one in the realm of health and the other in the realm of disease. Although everyone prefers to use only the good passport, sooner or later all of us will be obliged, at least for a short while, to identify ourselves as citizens of the other country."

Yes. Last word "yes".

With the advancement of medical disciplines, vaccination, medicines, we thought that the Plague was over.

And, as soon as the worry of a flood lifted, it came back.

And Paulo returned, because "every time the existence of a system and its cementing ideological rationalities is called into question, the "Plague" reemerges. In the uncontrollability, in the gestural exuberance, in the noise, in the furor. The Plague, the music, the dance, the booze, the drugs, the violence without reason."

And it still and always is Kraus: for all that was not destroyed by the plague will be so by the press.


Vasco Santos, Psychoanalyst and Editor of VS.

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