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an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image

          Volume 18, Summer 2021, ISSN 1552-5112

 

 

The Metaphysics of COVID-19

Nick Ruiz, Ph.D

 

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As soon as it is seized by writing, the concept is cooked.[1]
(Dès qu’il est saisi par l’écriture, le concept est cuit.)

Jacques Derrida

 

Space and time were virtually turned by Newton into God's right hand (oddly enough, the position made vacant when he expelled the Son of God from there).[2]

Wolfgang Pauli to Carl Jung in 1947

 

What is happening today on a global scale is certainly the end of a world.[3]

(Ciò che sta oggi avvenendo su scala planetaria è certamente la fine di un mondo.)

Giorgio Agamben

 

We cannot project into the world more order or disorder than there is.[4]

(Nous ne pouvons projeter dans le monde plus de ordre ou désordre qu'il n'y en a.)

Jean Baudrillard

 

An excerpt from the forthcoming book, Baudrillard’s Castle: Notes from the Hinterland.

 

The metaphysics of COVID-19 was always going to be about the Code.

Not that of signs and so forth, but that of the program of life itself, its genetic information; the instructions, control, and where desirable, the virtual deviation of its substance:

­­

Source: Google feed from Twitter for the account of Joe Biden, 46th President of the United States. Retrieved on 9/11/2021.

The legal definition of racketeering is the extortion of advantage or capital by threat or by force.[5]

Forced or coercive hiding/masking of the face? Forced or coercive biochemical injections via threat of unemployment? Forced or coercive disclosure of private, protected patient records and medical test results?

Another akrasiatic realism, that of a ‘new’ reality, the structure of which Canetti advises, “one senses what the answer to that will be; but first let us consider what has become of that past reality.”[6] Well, in the past America assumed a legal posture regarding the structural ‘governance of ideas’ – an ambient phrase that points out something of interest to all: the administrative design of ideas as objects that may be aligned for purposes of equity, inclusion, diversity, justice and the like.

Alternatively, we may be treated instead to a reverse retrofitting of the social sphere. That is, to a time before civil rights, for example. Another time and place, no? Now, one wonders to whom the American Dream really applies? The People? The Congress? The President? While the Dream may apply equally to all three, the practice of forced or coerced biochemical injections (or hiding/masking of the face), may be more selective.[7]

In that regard, who would question that today COVID-19 is the most conspicuous object in the living room?

Only the most bovine would suggest that on balance, governmental, non-governmental, corporate and entertainment actors refrain from coordinate performances like a theater of objects according to a script. Citizen actors and the masses, radically objectified, then perform according to the same script. Such improprieties began with the system of consumer objects, long ago: Obscène aussi tout le gestuel de travail, aujourd'hui miniaturisé et abstrait dans le gestuel de contrôle. Théâtre de la cruauté et de la pulsion, le monde des objets anciens, en regard de la neutralité formelle, de la «blancheur» prophylactique et de la perfection des objets fonctionnels.[8] 

But the real never performs like a functional object according to a manipulable script, which places COVID-19 on notice: in time the real jettisons ruses without regard for players of the game. It is all obscene. However, perhaps the most charming of the obscenities is the endless positivity and false enthusiasm of functional object-actors, which being led around by the nose has in turn led to another chapter of America’s experimental place, so prophetically, where someone has suggested the ordered arrest of the maskless at the U.S. Capitol.[9] And elsewhere[10], while “hundreds of protestors gathered to march and burn masks in opposition to the mask mandates due to COVID-19 during the 'Million Maskless March' Lauderdale Beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.”[11] It may be that,

 

Et le pire dans cette obscénité, dans cette impudeur, c'est le partage forcé, c'est cette complicité automatique du spectateur, qui est l'effet d'un véritable chantage. C'est là l'objectif le plus clair de l'opération: la servilité des victimes, mais la servilité volontaire, celle des victimes jouisseuses du mal qu'on leur fait, de la honte qu'on leur impose. Le partage par toute une société de son mécanisme fondamental: l'exclusion interactive, c'est le comble![12]

 

Source: 'Million Maskless March' Lauderdale Beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Miami Herald[13]

 

Such a thing may only be an agony of power: the ‘will of the people’ become “hostages and accomplices of global power.”[14] But global citizen-objects through their representative bodies have not refused to dominate others, the world and reality; in turn, the real requires that these citizen-objects too, join the dominated object stream: another development of le système des objets.[15]

And so the diagnostic odyssey here is not clinical or even symptomatic, but is rather a continuation of this ongoing odyssey of prophylaxis. Already familiar with prophylaxis, we know full well how it functions in the agora, there is no need to cry epistemological or even operational foul, because the actors have already been cast, and as we said, they recite their lines with relative ease – knowledge or understanding is not required. This social prophylaxis mauls the real with prescriptions, treatments, regulations and judgments:

 

Rédemption, expiation, blanchissement, prophylaxie, promotion et réhabilitation - on ne sait comment nommer toutes les nuances de cette pitié générale qui résulte d'une profonde indifférence et se double d'une stratégie féroce de récupération politique de toutes ces passions négatives. C'est du « politiquement correct » dans tous ces effets, entreprise de blanchissement et de prophylaxie mental, à commencer par celle du langage. Le Noir, le handicapé, l'aveugle et la prostituée deviennent ‘colour people,’ ‘disabled,’ des malvoyant et ‘sex worker’: il faut qu'il soit blanchis comme de l'argent sale. Il faut que tout destin négatif soit ravalé par un truquage plus obscène encore que ce qu'il veut cacher.

Le langage euphémisant, la lutte contre le harcèlement sexuel, toute cette mascarade protectrice et protectionniste est du même ordre que l'usage du préservatif. L'usage mental du préservatif bien sûr, c'est-à-dire l'usage prophylactique des idées et des concepts. On ne pensera bientôt plus que gainé de latex. Et la combinaison digitale de la Virtual Reality s'enfile déjà comme une condom.[16]

 

And so, let’s hope not that “soon we’ll think only when sheathed in latex.” But, all of this can only enact a reciprocity of mayhem. And it’s a strange love that exists between what amounts to roughly two groups of stage objects. One group gives pain, the other receives it; pain is returned to the sender, if only by resistance to the other’s hyperbolic decrees. In this way, ‘objective’ governance proceeds in agony, staged in stone-faced proceedings, received in empty stadiums by LED light. It’s reminiscent of the album cover for the 1987 release, Music for the Masses. There’s even a song on that record that’s timely and prescient regarding this strange love affair:

Music for the Masses - Wikipedia 

Source: Music for the Masses (1987), album by Depeche Mode; video single “Strangelove” on Youtube.

 

The creative work and variant sites of contestation reveal that the metaphysics of COVID-19 uncovers the lingering failure of the Logos to maintain its hypnosis upon the psyche of the human animal. No bedrock has been established after all: science, equal to a tool; the Logos, equal to another myth; and finally, another destiny, the strategy of the object and the script, “l'adhésion à un scénario, quel qu'il soit, politique, ou publicitaire.”[17] The ‘strange highs and lows’ of reality today reflect a fanatical imbalance that has to do with the livability of a world where pain is less shared or reciprocated where, like the song reminds, there will be pain. The pain of the vaccinated vs. the pain of the unvaccinated; the pain of the masked vs. the pain of the unmasked; the pain of the virtual vs. the pain of the real. Instead, pain has been delivered in a unilateral fashion and the social equilibrium of shared suffering has been lost.

Objects of royalty, objects of serfdom; unconvincing is the idea that the fast and loose civicism of corporate social responsibility and benevolent dictatorship may cozily administer the world cure.[18] Mutual restraint is advocated, but only one side appears to be restraining themselves; the other side relishes and indulges in an orgy of puissance. The social contract fails to bind all parties.

Hence there is a pressure, like that of terrestrial water storage upon the poles of the Earth caused by melting glaciers and anthropogenic groundwater depletion[19]: a parallel force or drive on human culture and intelligence. Where the Earth’s geospatial and magnetic poles may reach cataclysmic repositionings, humanity’s ethical principalities or poles too may be deviated to cataclysmic moral ends. The myelin sheath of culture is unraveling before our eyes.

As Elias Canetti once said, the old methods are not working any longer and news ones have not been put to use.[20] The concept of contagion passes easily through the formalities of disease into the theater of an arms race. The masses are hyperbolically and alternatively protected, threatened, saved and shunned by cool political prescriptions amidst a fray of media storms that pass like atmospheric disturbances each night and morning, overland and sea. But no one feels relief under the metaphysics of COVID-19; no patient may ever be, discharged.

No containment strategy may secure the dogs and pressures of enormity that stalk us now that the geospatial noose tightens around the globe, no pixel nor particle screen will shield us from the scale of stellar unrest. Motion pictures capture this tension, e.g., Greenland (2020) - but the premise is lost when ideas are consumed so easily. What literature may provoke though never capture is the future, prophecy notwithstanding, because even in that special case of forward perception, the phenomenology of space-time precludes it.

The terror of signs was the last gasp of the crowds, now reigns the terror of the Code: viral terror, masking terror, biochemical injection terror, all amidst solar terror, sea-rise terror and the terror of race, division and anthropological ineptitude, but “one has to lie down among the animals to be redeemed.”[21] 

Souls have and will continue to be sold:

…documents were obtained and released by The Intercept on Tuesday after it launched an FOIA lawsuit…Richard Ebright, board of governors professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University and laboratory director at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology, told Newsweek these documents show "unequivocally" that NIH grants were used to fund controversial gain-of-function (GOF) research at the Wuhan Insitute of Virology in China—something U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has denied….Ebright said these sections of the documents show that NIH grants supported the construction of mutant SARS-related coronaviruses that involved blending different types together. The result was a lab-generated virus that could infect human cells, he said, adding that at least three of the lab-generated viruses "exhibited >10x to >100x higher viral loads in humanized mice."[22]

 

Little retort for having been abandoned or censored by history and happy only to be of service as the dull, but exuberant executors of world fashion virulence.[23]  In the future, the cultural and aesthetic fields change – but the bridle reigns the same. For now, it is viral and environmental pageantry as we imagine that “the current rapid movement of the magnetic North Pole, has increased speculation that a field reversal may be imminent,” where “major environmental changes, extinction events, and transformation” will result.[24] 

A bleak prognosis for a future of disappearance.

However, it is the remainder of the crowds that may rejoice at the end of each succession, honored by vulgate testament to their good fortune, management, compliance, vitality, wisdom and overall entitlement to whatever the spoils of debasement in degeneracy.

We are left without a veil, and but a mask.

It is now remembrance and omen: we can never go back. For this is seduction in reverse, today’s signal process of forgetting what preceded it: faceless, sexless, a hysterectomy of history and historical conscience. The last euphemism, the last unmasked face, the last unmasked sex, the last biochemical injection… well, perhaps this is the world’s Terracina, Italy moment:

A Terracina, furono le ultime fragole della mia vita, perché erano ‘vere fragole’; ce le portava la padrona della casa ogni mattina, in grande quantità. Era il 1976: una crepa nell'anima, una nascita non carnale, una morte, e quelle fragole. Questo è nuovo, di questa fine di secolo, dire le ‘ultime’ fragole, le ultime vere, le ultime non avvelenate, non radioattive. È nata così una nuova popolazione di ricordi; questo, per me, è legato a Terracina, e senza le fragole il ricordo di Terracina sarebbe molto meno vivo, adesso. A rifletterci, sono ricordi di condannato a vita: fu quella l'ultima volta che... Dopo le fragole, le muraglie, le porte blindate...[25]

 

At the last a veil, now a mask – at the last once unveiled, unmasked, seduction was a forward move, an advance. Today we recede into repression, and endless regression: a masked seduction without discretion and priceless no matter the status, no matter what lies beneath: femininity, masculinity, childhood, adulthood, health, sickness or immunity, non-immunity, natural immunity – all inconsequential, all detached from reference or exchange, all without progress, a developmental delay of our world spectrum.

Only masking without referent is of value in this place.

Such an image represents a reversal of seduction as commonly understood:

 

If Jean Baudrillard is right when he concludes that seduction occurs outside vision, then the veil, since it simultaneously hides and reveals, is the appropriate motif for producing the effects of mystery and temptation. He writes, “The fury to unveil the truth, to get at the naked truth, the one which haunts all discourses of interpretation, the obscene rage to uncover the secret, is proportionate to the impossibility of ever achieving this…But this rage, this fury, only bears witness to the eternity of seduction and to the impossibility of mastering it.” The desire to know what is behind the veil, according to Baudrillard, stages an elaborate but impossible seduction. The veil then, is a device of masochistic pleasure for the viewer: the need to see behind it is perpetually thwarted.[26]

 

Seductive masochism in terms of seeing and not seeing, veiling and unveiling, masking and unmasking, revealing and not revealing the face, the flesh – characterizes the veil which is now passé. In its place today, to mask in perpetuity characterizes instead ‘no fury to unveil the truth’ or to ‘uncover the secret’, and rather the reverse: to veil truth and to cover the secret. The fury today is to hide the masses away, forever: to never see, unveil, unmask, or reveal themselves: like ancient constellations that may be seen by human eyes; stars that have emerged over millenia, only to obsolesce in just the same manner, until finally they disappear, which put another way may be to say “the politics of the pandemic expose a deeper ethical, social and even metaphysical erosion.”[27]

Nurses practiced social distancing while protesting for better working conditions following the coronavirus pandemic in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo square, in June.

Source: “Nurses practiced social distancing while protesting for better working conditions following the coronavirus pandemic in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo square, in June (2020).”[28] Photo Credit...Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

 

There is something in the air.

Something “has made itself felt not just in Italy but in all Western societies in recent months, perhaps in the United States most of all.”[29]

Something like the metaphysics of COVID-19, where the substance of the real itself is forced into a parodic semblance of itself: where matter cannot be properly counted, due to the ventriloquism of dark matter; where the voice of the few is thrown, to become the voice of the many; where the good is mystified, so evil is clarified again:

 

Et quand la puissance du négatif se perd, quand les interdits, les contrôles, les inégalités, les différences disparaissent un à un, pour mieux s'intérioriser dans la sphère mentale, c'est alors que le Mal, interdit de séjour, devient ventriloque.[30]

 

 

         

an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image

Volume 18, Summer 2021, ISSN 1552-5112

 

Notes



[1] Bennington, Geoffrey, and Jacques Derrida. Jacques Derrida. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993. Print., fourth cover page

[2] Pauli, Wolfgang, C. A. Meier, Charles P. Enz, Markus Fierz, David Roscoe, and C. G. Jung. Atom and Archetype: The Pauli/Jung Letters, 1932-1958. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001., p. 32

[3] Agamben, Giorgio, and Valeria Dani. Where Are We Now? The Epidemic as Politics. Rowman & Littlefield, 2021., p. 96

[4] Baudrillard, Jean. Le crime parfait. Galilee. (1995), p.25

[5] “Racketeering: Legal Definition.” Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/legal/racketeering. 

[6] Canetti, Elias. The Conscience of Words. Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1979., p. 55

[7] Roche, Darragh. “Members of Congress and Their Staff Are Exempt From Biden's Vaccine Mandate” Newsweek, Sept. 10, 2021, https://www.newsweek.com/members-congress-staff-exempt-biden-covid-vaccine-mandate-1627859

[8] Baudrillard, Jean. Le système des objets. Gallimard. (1968), p. 77-78

[9] Lillis, Mike. “Capitol Police Asked to Arrest the Maskless.” The Hill, 29 July 2021, thehill.com/homenews/house/565450-capitol-police-asked-to-arrest-the-maskless. Accessed June 29, 2021 at 12:59 pm EST.

[10] Marr, Madeleine. “He refused to wear a mask at this Florida store — and told cops to cuff him. They did.” Miami Herald. May 13, 2021. Accessed August 3, 2021 at 10:00 am EST.

[11] Varela, Daniel.” 'Million Maskless March' takes place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.” Miami Herald. April 11, 2021. Accessed August 3, 2021 at 10:00 am EST.

[12] Baudrillard, Jean. "L'Elevage de Poussière," Libération, May 29, 2001

[13] Ibid.

[14] Baudrillard, Jean, et al. “The Agony of Power.” The MIT Press. (2010), mitpress.mit.edu/books/agony-power.

[15] Ibid., Le système des objets.

[16] Ibid., Le crime parfait, p.191-192

[17] Baudrillard, Jean. Amérique. Bernard Grasset, Paris. (1986), p. 216

[18] Ruiz, Ph.D, Nick. America in Absentia. Intertheory Press, New Smyrna Beach. (2008), p. 64

[19] Deng, S., et al. “Polar Drift in the 1990s Explained by Terrestrial Water Storage Changes.” Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 48, no. 7, 2021, doi:10.1029/2020gl092114.

[20] Canetti, Elias. The Human Province. Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1986., p. 26

[21] Canetti, Elias. The Conscience of Words. p. 117

[22] Browne, Ed. “Fauci Was 'Untruthful' to Congress About Wuhan Lab Research, New Documents Appear To Show.” Newsweek, Sept. 9, 2021, https://www.newsweek.com/fauci-untruthful-congress-wuhan-lab-research-documents-show-gain-function-1627351

[23] Canetti and Baudrillard were kindred souls. See for example, Coulter, Gerry. From Achilles to Zarathustra: Jean Baudrillard on Theorists, Artists, Intellectuals and Others. Intertheory Press, New Smyrna Beach. (2016), p. 52

[24] Cooper, Alan, et al. “A Global Environmental CRISIS 42,000 Years Ago.” Science, AAAS, 19 Feb. 2021, science.sciencemag.org/content/371/6531/811.

[25] Ceronetti, Guido. Pensieri del Tè. Adelphi, Milano, 1987., p. 77

[26] Kessler, Marni Reva. Sheer Presence: The Veil in Manet's Paris. University of Minnesota Press, 2006., p. 54

    [27] Caldwell, Christopher. “Meet the Philosopher Who Is Trying to Explain the Pandemic.” The New York Times, 21 Aug. 2020. Accessed August 3, 2021 at 11:00 pm EST.

    [28] Ibid.

    [29] Ibid.

              [30] Baudrillard, Jean. Carnaval et cannibale. Cahiers de L'Herne (2008), p. 60