- "I Live in Dystopia"1
[practicing social-distancing in Florida]: How are you, my friend?
[practicing social-distancing in Northern Italy]: I live in dystopia!
Don't forget, even utopias are dystopias. How are you and Ben?
We are fine. It's only that everything is crazy, and I watch the news with all those bulletins spasmodically, as if they could keep us away from the virus. I hope my mother won't get it. We are extremely careful, but this is a freaky bug, extremely contagious. At the beginning, mostly the elderly had serious problems, but now it's people in their 40s and younger. And besides projections from data, nobody knows, really: nobody knows even for how long after they recover, people are still carriers of the bug. And on top of that, once this thing is over, we won't have healthcare anymore, because we'll be completely bankrupt!
Did Agamben shit the bed on all this?2 That's what the academic-hive thinks. Some piece of short writing of his came to light and all the anti-Agamben people came out to cancel him.
Yes. You cannot think metaphorically and politically right now. It was the beginning of the epidemics. Same thing happened to Wu Ming [the Italian collective of writers], who were trying to ignite a political reading of the meaning of the curfew, of social containment, of the endless machine of control that this pandemic prepares.
Italians have also scapegoated him, too?
Yes. But except for a few disingenuous comments, what was regularly criticized is the exhaustion of the paradigm of the state of exception that he [End Page 29] has been sort of using as a formula. This, together with the contingencies of this epidemics, that he was skeptical about, made of him an easy scapegoat. I think that over again, whenever something scientifically hard hits the soft side of our lives, the default conceptual paradigm is realism/ontology (ontology of numbers, ontology of the virus, ontology of the prophylaxis, now we have an ontology of containment). And I am saying this not finding Agamben's point particularly well taken, this time.
The point is that "we're in a state of exception." Duh, what new? [Links to Foucault, Agamben, Nancy, Esposito, Benvenuto, Dwivedi, Mohan, Ronchi, and de Carolis 2020].
So, right now in Italy we have the military, with their sad display of columns of trucks carrying all those coffins from Bergamo to dispatch them to the crematoria. Then we have the military forcing back inside people still apparantly hanging out outside. Then we have the governors from the different regions announcing they are going to track people through their cellphones…This condition—the condition instituted by this endless machine of fear, social fear, and social control—is something that we need to have a discussion about, sooner or later. This, of course was evoked by Agamben in his point about how the pandemics offers the pretext for extraordinary, "exceptional" concentration of power and sovereignty that run against the state of law, becoming increasingly normalized, or even paradigmatic of forms of control ever more intrusive, and surreptitiously permanent.
The objection is "too soon for theory"?
There are several ways of using the military. There are also different kinds of semantics to address the epidemics and the current state of events. Yet, it's always about "war" against, rather than—for instance—outsmarting a virus, assimilating, engaging with, relating to that we will have to coexist with.
Meanwhile the Professors are just the Aloe Vera part of Hand Sanitizer? Write poems. Good ones. Not about the coronavirus.
No. I think—at least from what I have read—that the point was rather that Agamben was way too much into an exclusively bio-political reading of power, so much that, that paradoxically he forgot both the "bio"-viral component of the phenomenon and its (again paradoxically) bio-political consequences, those very consequences we are currently witnessing: the collapse of the public healthcare infrastructure unable to care for all the prospective...