‘The human being, conceived as an electronic, cybernetic machine, makes a perfect home for viruses and viral illnesses, just as computers provide an ideal terrain for electronic viruses…
‘He who lives by the same will die by the same. The impossibility of exchange, or reciprocity, of alterity secretes that other invisible, diabolic, elusive alterity, that absolute Other, the virus, itself made up of simple elements and of recurrence to infinity.
‘In a world cleansed of its old infections, in an ‘ideal’ clinical world, an intangible, implacable pathology unfurls, a pathology born of disinfection itself.
‘…viruses are concerns not just for the police, medicine, science and the experts, but for the entire collective imagination. This is because there is more to them than mere episodic events in an irrational world. They embody the entire logic of our system, and are merely, so to speak, the points at which that logic crystallizes spectacularly. Their power is a power of irradiation and their effect, through the media, within the imagination, is itself a viral one.’
The French philosopher, Jean Baudrillard wrote the above in 2002. He was referring to AIDS, terrorism and computer viruses, but his words prophetically encapsulate Covid 19 and its effects. Suddenly every human being is potentially Other. And the speed of transmission of Otherness in a globalised, electronic world is extraordinary. This is postmodernism taken to the extremes of alienation. Diversity must self-isolate. Gathering is cancelled.
But it is also another element of the climate crisis world and hopefully the wakeup call, if we can connect the two. Tomatoes, as well as viruses have to stop flying around the world. Cruise ships are ridiculous. Tourism of the selfie sort is a parody. Some borders are necessary. We need to quieten down and work on our back yard.
I was talking to a shuttle passenger my own age and we started with the sensible idea of permaculture and moved on to childhood days when clothes and shoes were locally made and socks and jerseys were darned and shoes resoled and you could buy a new element for the toaster or electric jug. That would bring down the world economy, we realised.
Oh well, so be it.