Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Early London Paranoia

I stand on the doorstep of Stein’s Berlin studying the menu. Lou is on the street filming me from below. A man leaves the café, sees me looking at the menu, his face fills with alarm and distaste. I don’t notice him but he’s on the footage – our own ‘cctv’ or ‘blow-up’ effect. The first moment I notice him is when he stands below me on the street and to one side. I’ve descended the steps and stop on the one just above his head. He explains in an unidentifiable accent - maybe Swiss or Austrian or Luxembourgian that he’s been hired as a photographer to take photos of a private event – in other words – the restaurant is closed. 
While he is explaining – I ask – what function. Lou asks his usual question: what sort of camera are you using – the photographer is holding it in the palm of his hand – maybe a Sony – Lou: very expensive. He: I don’t know (what function – maybe the camera too). They just asked me to take photos. His hair is slightly lopsided, as if it is a toupee, which has slipped. His jacket is an anonymous forgettable article of men’s fashion, designed to melt into the crowd or the room décor, the kind a spy might wear, maybe a blue shirt (I can’t list the designer labels like the hero of American Psycho). He praises the restaurant, ‘famous restaurant’, just to tell us we can’t enter. The place looks rather empty although it’s hard to tell, craning, straining one’s neck from the nether street regions towards the glittering reflections in the glass storefront – false beacons for the uninvited, the lowly gatecrasher. A sign warns “filming in progress, photography for social media” and I imagine a kind of Fassbinder film set where not much is happening, ennui and Bavarian decadence, someone wearing a horse costume. The restaurant serves mostly Bavarian cuisine and just seduces with the name ‘Berlin’. How could one trust the food served under such false pretences? I: Is there a branch in Berlin? He looks a little cagey, uncertain – stumped by this question, I thought. More suspiciousness. A big man in tight jeans – if he weren’t so big, one might call him a ‘rent boy’ bounds down the stairs, in my blind angle, he rushes off not before turning his torso and head (badger like in shape but monochrome black), hair glistening in the sun, flashes a smile over his shoulder and fist bumps with the photographer whose face flickers with the same secret smile… 
Later I think maybe the restaurant was open – not closed for a private function. They just use this trick to keep undesirables at bay and out of the joint. I continue to speculate in this vein – maybe he thinks I’m Jewish – a German restaurant next to the Goethe Institut excludes Jews from its premises with fake/bogus private functions. A wave of pariah-hood passes over me – new invisible public forms of social exclusion – urban bouncer clubs, cancel societies – incursions of social media friending and unfriending etc. into meat space. Forebodings of new degrees of banishment in Berlin etc. 
The photographer doesn’t look very patrician himself – hardly an aristo, more of an oik. He looks like a typical hired hand, minion, lowly retainer – a flunky or underfoootman type – the worst kind of snob. His eye wanders off sideways in search of some object to adore. Who could blame him – what do you expect? Ken Pal is just up the hill on the other side of the park above High Ken and Ken Gore . The half black Duchess attended a gala at the Natural History Museum right across the street. The royals seem to love that museum. A few days after the gala, the three closest heirs to the throne posed on the steps of the NHM – it’s their science palace and Darwin Church of the Species in tandem. The science of the wild is obviously royal prerogative. In older days the Duchess could have looked forward to being posthumously stuffed herself and exhibited in the Natural History Museum dressed in her favourite ball gown, a tiara and feathers in her hair.   That 's what the Habsburgs did to their court favourite Angelo Soliman the Moor (much to the displeasure of his daughter Josephine) - in Old Vienna. They dressed him though not in his court attire but as a savage in an African loincloth, ostrich feather crown and bead ornaments and displayed his stuffed body amidst exotic taxidermised animals.   

I am on the verge of calling the restaurant to ask under a weak pretext if they had really been closed on Friday. We were supposed to meet a friend there on Friday – I would say – the day of the private party – but the party prevented us from keeping our rendezvous. We’ve lost touch with our friend since that evening – and hope he isn’t blocking our calls thinking we stood him up. If he were there he would have seen that the restaurant was closed to the public and wouldn’t have held our absence against us. Was Stein’s Berlin really closed for a private event last Friday? If so then our friend would have realized we couldn’t wait for him. Confusing enough to sound credible. I go to Stein’s Berlin’s website to look up their telephone number, opening times etc – and find the notice – the restaurant is closed from 3pm on Friday March 29th for a private function. Even now – this still seems like a ruse. 

Thursday, 27 August 2020

For Blanchot and Forgetting (Post Scriptum)

“To read, to write, the way one lives under surveillance of the disaster: exposed to the passivity that is outside passion.  The heightening of forgetfulness.
It is not you who will speak; let the disaster speak in you, even if it be by your forgetfulness or silence.” (Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster)

I had wanted to write my previous posts It’s like Shooting Elephants Parts I-III under the star of Blanchot and The Writing of the Disaster – but I forgot.  That is also the essence of Blanchot and the disaster – “The disaster is related to forgetfulness – forgetful without memory, the motionless retreat of what has not been treated – the immemorial, perhaps.  To remember forgetfully: again, the outside.”  But not just forgetfulness – when the overwhelming force of the void which is biopolitics and physis (or maybe hypophysics - another name for philosophical eugenics) kidnaps thought or the collective intellect (mine included) – it possesses and gorges itself on the body and air of all thought and experience like the Leviathan itself.  And you don’t even notice it.
But as Proust writes – instinct or the unconscious is stronger than thought or intellect – that is where ‘safety’ or ‘immunity’ or conatus and especially art reside. “Everyday I set less store on intellect.” (Marcel Proust, Contre Saint-Beuve)   Occasionally in sudden moments of enlightenment after extravagant futile labours of the mind (post intellect) – one can experience one of those Proustian moments of ‘resurrection’.  A scribbled note unleashes an inner tremor in me – I open Blanchot’s  The Writing of the Disaster and find another marginalia “I already wrote – You, I and they the ‘rulers’ speak as the virus – the virus speaks through them – the rat dies and gasps its last breath in the Hofmannsthal narrator – one is the disaster’s gift to itself.  (22nd April 2020)”  More perplexity – what rat, which Hofmannsthal?  I have no recollection of having read anything by Hofmannsthal nor about a rat lately.  In A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari speak of their fondness for a certain rat in cinema – but that’s the only rat I can remember.  As a last resort I  google ‘Hofmannsthal rat’ — thank Google I can continue my Proustian epiphany.  I find the rat – in Hofmannsthal's Letter to Lord Chandos

Here is the passage in its entirety so as not to stifle its magic power:
“Recently, for instance, I had given the order for a copious supply of rat-poison to be scattered in the milk cellars of one of my dairy-farms. Towards evening I had gone off for a ride and, as you can imagine, thought no more about it. As I was trotting along over the freshly-ploughed land, nothing more alarming in sight than a scared covey of quail and, in the distance, the great sun sinking over the undulating fields, there suddenly loomed up before me the vision of that cellar, resounding with the death-struggle of a mob of rats. I felt everything within me: the cool, musty air of the cellar filled with the sweet and pungent reek of poison, and the yelling of the death cries breaking against the mouldering walls; the vain convulsions of those convoluted bodies as they tear about in confusion and despair; their frenzied search for escape, and the grimace of icy rage when a couple collide with one another at a blocked-up crevice. But why seek again for words which I have foresworn! You remember, my friend, the wonderful description in Livy of the hours preceding the destruction of Alba Longa: when the crowds stray aimlessly through the streets which they are to see no more . . . when they bid farewell to the stones beneath their feet. I assure you, my friend, I carried this vision within me, and the vision of burning Carthage, too; but there was more, something more divine, more bestial; and it was the Present, the fullest, most exalted Present. There was a mother, surrounded by her young in their agony of death; but her gaze was cast neither toward the dying nor upon the merciless walls of stone, but into the void, or through the void into Infinity, accompanying this gaze with a gnashing of teeth! A slave struck with helpless terror standing near the petrifying Niobe must have experienced what I experienced when, within me, the soul of this animal bared its teeth to its monstrous fate.” (Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Letter to Lord Chandos)

Although the whole associative train leading me to Hofmannsthal’s dying rats has vanished – the vision of their being poisoned and convulsing in their mass death in the cellar of the narrator’s dairy farm may have carried over in my unconscious. Like Proust’s memories resurrected from a tea soaked rusk – but in a more sinister key - my own forgotten desire to incorporate Blanchot’s  The Writing of the Disaster in my post It’s like Shooting Elephants … was submerged, embalmed and mummified in 2 unassuming objects -  2 photos, one of a dead rat the other of a drowning rat.  I had included them in my post without really knowing why.

The rat photos are the mausoleums of my forgotten, lost, near dead Blanchot-inspired sensations and perceptions …

The rat of course is the plague symbol and carrier par excellence – so some Freudian overdetermination is also at work.  But like in the Letter to Lord Chandos I speak from within the rat – or the rat speaks within me – is that not the same thing?

Friday, 21 August 2020

It’s Like Shooting Elephants - Fugue Impressions of Coronavirus Biopolitics... Part III

“Extreme urgency is the modality of obsession which is known but is not a knowing.” (Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence)

10.  The Melancholy of the Herd
bellum omnium contra omnes or the de facto state of contagion

The public health body – ‘the herd’ – or body of the public overrules, negates the private body.  The public Body is the One, Hen, the “plane of immanence” – the antithesis of multiplicity, multitude.  Despite the appearance of multiplicity and continuous mutation in Deleuze’s life topology – behind it all lurks the “plane of immanence” – a univocal unmoving backdrop of ‘becoming’.  “A plane of immanence or univocality opposed to analogy.  The One is said with a single meaning of all the multiple.  Being expresses in a single meaning all that differs.  What we are talking about is not the unity of substance but the infinity of the modifications that are part of one another on this unique plane of life.” (Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, Continuum London/New York, 2003., p. 280)

And yet, it is as if a ‘schizoid’ rupture periodically seizes hold of this Parmenidean One or Being in Deleuze and Guattari's text – and attempts to puncture, shatter and invade this abstract edifice also called ‘plane of consistency’ with the multiplicity or ‘anarchy’ of the pack and its contagions.  

For Deleuze multiplicity is simply the multiple body of the pack – his Ur-cell – he doesn’t really extend the collective body beyond the pack to the herd – his multiplicity is more a sect like construct, a secret society of animal-men, less than a herd, certainly not a mass body. “All we are saying is that animals are packs, and that packs form, develop and are transformed by contagion.” ( A Thousand Plateaus, ibid, p. 267)  But does a pack really progress/metamorphose, proliferate or multiply by contagion?  Canetti defines a pack (Meute) as that form of multiplicity, which cannot increase in size – as much it would like to.
A pack retains its form despite an unnatural desire to increase.  Not all animals can form a pack, ants for instance build colonies or swarms.  A pack is more of a conspiracy than a contagion.  Each member of the pack is its own microcosm like a guerilla fighter – able to perform solo and in concert with his/her fellows. The pack, says Canetti, is a “unit of action” – when the pack sits around the fire each member’s back is exposed to the wilderness.  It makes up for lack of density with its overwhelming intensity.  The old French word for pack ‘meute’ like the German ‘Meute’ comes from the middle Latin ‘movita’ meaning movement – in old French ‘meute’ means both the hunt – which is the Ur-action of the pack – and revolt.  Both meanings are preserved in the German for pack: ‘Meute’ and ‘Meuterei’ or ‘mutiny’.
A pack is a horde of few – “ten or twenty men who wander about (…) the form of mutual excitement which one can meet everywhere.” (Elias Canetti, Masse und Macht, Frankfurt, 1980 p. 101)
Perhaps a pack is contagious only in its potential to spawn new equally restrictive packs?

Herds are aggregates with a weak conatus – they require a caretaker like a shepherd, a cowherd who drives or herds them.  They don’t have their own ‘mind’.  They don’t rush; they drift (more like clouds than a virus) – unless they are struck by panic – and as a herd race over a cliff.  
Each singular body of the one public (health) body is a mere extension or particle of the Leviathan’s over-body.  Each particle of which is potentially destined for imminent ‘profane’ sacrifice – not in a ritual of sacrifice – but in the sense of Agamben’s ‘homo sacer’ – he can be killed with impunity but not sacrificed: he lives a life in suspension. His life is permanently ‘on call’.  On the original frontispiece of Hobbes’ Leviathan the ‘monster’s’ torso is made up of hundreds of Arcimboldoesque faces turned inward, bodies inserted in bodies – the Leviathan’s ingested/devoured subjects piled on top of one another gasping for air.  The Leviathan is a ‘deus mortalis’ - it can forfeit many of its subject bodies of which it is made and still survive – but not all of them.
Agamben echoes Hobbes in his definition of sovereignty – Hobbes sees the ‘common’ among men in a state of nature or ‘freedom’ as their equal potential for killing and being killed.  They agree to sacrifice this freedom or natural right and transfer it to the sovereign to assure their security from one another.  The sovereign is alone in possessing the right to kill – this is the perverse ‘immunity’ which sovereignty bestows upon the ‘commonwealth’.  
In the time of the virus – he who decides on the exception is sovereign, as a consequence he decides on ‘making live and letting die’ – called in the new Coronavirus emergency powers act – “death management”.
 [See Foucault’s Society must be Defended; Agamben’s Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life; Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus on “becoming-animal” “becoming bat” – the virus fever is the transformed bat heat – for bats extreme body heat is normal.]   

Race thinking, eugenics belong to the same family as biopolitics, cruder precursors with other sorts of exclusions – for all of these biological régimes though zoe or bare life of the singular is negated by the One/’plane of immanence’ of the collective Body whether Leviathan, Race, Nation or Class. The opposite of zoe (the most negligible quantity of living matter) is bios: superior qualified life.  The superior ‘singular’ life for the biopolitical template is the life, which most perfectly mimics the ultra-normative race, nation or class body.  All three sorts of bodies are mostly determined at birth via being born.  Like evolutionary change/descent – these bodies are ‘transmitted’ through filiations not contagion (as Deleuze would say).  They are natal genetic products, hence mainly unalterable, irrevocable life or breeding conditions.  
Typically for biopolitics - life and body are interchangeable – there is no life beyond the body – not to be mistaken/confused with the notion of finitude, the innate sense of one’s own mortality. Nor is the ‘body’ as captured by government related to the  ‘great reason’ of the body (Leib), which is Self, the true Subject of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra – the body of biopolitics (as per Foucault) is an ‘experimental’ unit/object subjugated to governmental disciplinary, medical and administrative heteronomy.  

The melancholy of the herd is the way the singular flesh mourns the herd’s inescapable biological political ensnarement and bondage. 

self isolation

Passive or semi-reactive biopolitics of the ordinary kind at its extreme glides into a form of situational or opportunistic ‘thanatopolitics’ or politics of death when ‘herd control’ or the greater ‘herd immunity’ is at stake.  Such are the frank disclosures of the medical authorities such as Chisholm of BMA’s ‘ethics’ committee – he advised the public what they can expect if the clinicians decide it isn’t worthwhile in light of scarce resources to ‘make them live’ but rather to ‘let them die’.  “Looking ahead to the coming weeks, if hard choices are required, we know they will be contested.  There will be anger and pain.  People who, in normal circumstances, would receive intensive treatment may instead be given palliation – pain relief without a cure – in order to favour those with greater likelihood of benefiting.  (…) Guidance can indicate how to proceed.  It cannot stop the choices being brutal (…) but if resources are overwhelmed, they will have to be made.” (John Chisholm, Guardian, 1 April 2020)
The choice then is not inherently medical or clinical – the discarded/deselected patients could have been saved – but logistics as in lack of equipment (ventilators, PPE, staff, beds etc) determines who will live and who will die.  According to some reports even if after ‘selection’ or ‘triage’ you were one of the chosen ones – the mortality rate on/in the intensive care ward/unit is 51%.  
It seems though that many patients have decided for themselves in advance by boycotting/avoiding emergency services – preferring to die at home rather than submit to the ‘hard choices’ of a clinician.  A and E doctors are quite alarmed that they are seeing 30% less ‘ordinary’ emergencies such as heart attack, stroke, appendicitis etc in the hospital.  The Oxford Professor Carl Heneghan refers to this phenomenon as yet another casualty of the lockdown – “The second issue of lockdown is that it’s making the public scared to engage with healthcare.  People are avoiding going to GPs and hospitals (…) That’s really damaging.” (Emily Cleary, Yahoo!News, April 20,2o2o)  He attributes their reluctance to the fear of infection in the hospital – but the fear has a more direct source. Official NHS online guidelines warn patients not to go to their GPs or to the hospital, not even to call the emergency line 111.
“To protect others, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Stay at home.
Use the 111 online Coronavirus service to find out what to do. Only call 111 if you cannot get help online.”

Obviously the NHS pulled up the drawbridge early in the Coronavirus pandemic.
Patients are just obeying NHS orders – risking/endangering their own lives, staying invisible to ‘protect the NHS’.  (see Samuel Earle, “Boris Johnson: The hollow priest of the NHS” in Aljazeera, April 21, 2020) 

The active missionary thanatopolitics of the Nazi regime is at the far end on the scale of thanatopolitics.  Its form of government has been called the most perfect ‘biocracy’ in history. The Nazi state’s quintessential most characteristic form was Auschwitz, death camp and vast economic enterprise in one. As Esposito emphasizes, in its huge network of death camps spread across Europe, the German NS state administered mass death as a pharmakon or therapeutic medical purging and immunizing, of the national German racial body.

In one most essential aspect neoliberal biopolitics and Nazi thanatopolitics resemble one another.  Both are grounded in the indefinite ‘state of exception’.  Agamben almost equates/identifies biopolitics with the state of exception – indeed the Nazi singularity did not invent it – the state of exception was inherited from the previous failed German states, what Schmitt calls “the crisis of parliamentary democracy” - especially after the First World War. The state of exception is the legal instrument with which the biopolitical state penetrates ever deeper into the biological life of its citizens. As Agamben writes – the state of exception is that paradoxical juridical limbo – by which law is needed to suspend law – law is in force but insignificant. The law is suspended and preserved (otherwise the state of exception would be an-archic).
In this process the status and rights of the citizen gradually melt away. What’s left is just ‘bare life’ or what Agamben calls ‘homo sacer’ - fully exposed to the whims and ‘experiments’ of sovereign power.  Homo sacer or bare life is outside of the law – but he is not an outlaw.  He is rather like the petitioner at the gate of law in Kafka’s story Before the Law – who after many years of waiting in vain to enter – breathes his last breath in front of the guard at the gate, who tells him while he can still hear – that the gate had been set up just for him – and now the guard would close it.
The permanent state of exception immunizes sovereign power against any residual legitimate/legal claims of the population – so that eventually the state of exception becomes the government’s own zone of autoimmunity.

Melancholy of the Herd

11.  “The end of an old biological régime” (Fernand Braudel)

 Population undermines the traditional notion of sovereignty

Biopolitics dispenses with sovereignty in its pure Hobbesian form. Such traditional sovereignty is no longer a value in itself as an antidote to the murderous homo homini lupus est state of nature.  The subject and object of sovereignty with which it fuses or becomes indistinguishable is the new ‘biopower’ of population.  This is Foucault’s point of departure for his studies and investigations of biopolitics.  The concept of population as a distinct recognizable value whose welfare becomes the function/object of government is established in the 18th century.  The historical empirical background of the emergence of population as constituting the wealth of a nation in itself coincides with what Braudel calls the end of “the biological ancien régime” – until which time births and deaths were more or less balanced; population was static with little general demographic growth.  It is only in the 18th century that ‘life wins over death’ though with many setbacks from famines and epidemics. (Fernand Braudel, Capitalism and Material Life 1400-1800, Fontana, 1977) Although the biological ancien régime is long gone – the dynamics of contagion don’t seem to have changed much since then.
 “(…) China, India and Europe were enormous reservoirs of diseases, active or dormant and quick to spread.” (ibid.)

Population became a power or resource in itself (and object of scientific scrutiny and control - Malthus etc) when births began to exceed deaths. This newly discovered population-mass displaced sovereignty as the absolute centre, which self-preserves itself above all – rather the state becomes the main regulatory and disciplinary body for/of the population;  its raison d’état – the power of and over life.  Power over life transcends/surpasses the old rights of patria potestas to let live or take life of ancient Roman law – with no direct intervention in the quality or form of that life.  The power over life of the new biopolitical governance complements a similar power which the nascent capitalist world economy or world system of that epoch establishes over labour power.  The waning raison d’état is propped up by the more immediate biopolitics of the production process.  Population is the source of the new precious commodity  - labour power.
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak alluded to this intimate historical connection between the population and the economy as twin subjects of governance – when he repeated the truism in one of his briefings: we must first guarantee the health of our people then of the economy: “The single most important thing we can do for the economy is to protect the health of our people.” “There is no ‘trade-off’ between public health and the economy”. (Briefing from 14th April 2020)

Capitalism (of the masses) is per se  a biopolitical regime – or one could say that classical political economy is dormant or latent biopolitics.  Unlike feudal economies of tribute/the tithe, the capitalist production process immediately employs or appropriates the body of the worker– the worker’s ‘bare life’ enters the production process with only the slight remainder needed for him to ‘reproduce’ himself.  The Nazi ‘production process’ carried out in their various camps or in the deployment of forced/slave labour throughout the entire civilian and military economy illuminates the relation of capitalist production to ‘bare life’ through their peculiar homicidal/genocidal prism.
They dubbed their species of faux autarchic production using slave labour or the labour of Jews destined ultimately for extermination ‘Vernichtung durch Arbeit’ – or destruction (of the labourer) through work.  

If classical political economy or liberalism is largely ‘biological’ and material  – the economy of a population in its territory; neoliberalism is territorial biopolitics plus the non-biological and immaterial economy of unregulated yet government protected financial instruments/finance capital in constant movement across the planet but located nowhere.  
But how could sovereignty and all its ancient rights merely disappear just because the population has grown or even in the aftermath of the French revolution – when sovereignty was at least formally transferred to the ‘people’? Sovereign power is not organic, it does not evolve/is not evolutionary nor does it simply surrender or succumb to inertia. It is a historical construct or a fictive contract (as in the Leviathan) emerging from some form of war or civil war. It establishes rights and privileges based on victorious notions of virtue or justice among an elite (as in Plato’s Republic).  Like all historical entities – in a certain way they never die, they continue to haunt the present as figments of afterlife, archaisms or convertible salvage.

Biopower seems to derive its momentum from life itself – circumventing or overwhelming the juridical contractual historical sphere.
Foucault enunciates the antinomy of sovereign power and biopower in numerous utterances – in particular regarding the dual or dialectical nature of biopolitics and its dark twin ‘thanatopolitics’ or the politics of death.  Is thanatopolitics the residual presence of the ancient sovereign prerogatives of taking life or a necessary symbiosis between biopolitics and sovereign power? Power as one learns from Nietzsche is not a fixed aggregate – it can only preserve itself (conatus) – Erhaltung – by accelerating and augmenting its ‘powers’ – Steigerung.  
Not just because of the innate drive of state/sovereign power or economic power aka capital  (so closely related) to increase their sphere of domination – but because it must overcome naturally occurring resistance.  Each incremental growth of power is reflected or accompanied by an increase in the quantity and quality of resistance it must neutralize or adapt.  Etc.  The exchange of power and resistance is a constant state of disequilibrium or asymmetry.  If it were to reach a homeostasis – the system would collapse.     
Caught inextricably in his theoretical dilemma of which form of power is ascendant in the age of ‘biopower’– sovereignty or biopolitics and how they relate to one another Foucault envisions a moment of critical imbalance almost like our current pandemic:  
“At the opposite extreme, you no longer have a sovereign right that is in excess of biopower, but a biopower that is in excess of sovereign right.  This excess of biopower appears when it becomes technologically and politically possible for man not only to manage life but to make it proliferate, to create living matter, to build the monster, and ultimately to build viruses that cannot be controlled and that are universally destructive.  This formidable extension of biopower, unlike what I was just saying about atomic power, will put it (biopower) beyond all human sovereignty.” (Michel Foucault, “Society must be Defended” Lectures at the Collège de France 1975-76, translated by David Macey, New York 2003, p. 253-4)

12.  Virus Immortality

What is the conatus or drive of the virus in the sense of Spinoza’s maxim from Ethics, part III prop. 6: “each thing as far as it lies in itself strives to persevere in its being (…) and is opposed to everything which could take its existence away.”
The virus seeks more than simple persevering – it strives for immortality or perhaps that is the meaning for it of persevering.  
Virus ‘ergon’ or ‘energeia’ connotes its exponential speed and spread – both are constituents of the ‘work’ of being a virus.  Is that an elemental force in the universe – a sort of bio-energy – like the speed of light?  The transmission rate is a species of biological acceleration – an atelic charge of viral life.
The world human population has been expropriated or appropriated (depending on your perspective on ‘becoming-animal’) by the virus for the purposes of its own immortality.  
In Aristotelian terms natality and contagion are different modes of ‘generation’.  Deleuze attributes far more ‘biopower’ to contagion as a means of peopling or populating the world than natality or genetics – in his words ‘filiation’ or ‘heredity’.  Contagion is an action involving heterogeneous elements – naturally occurring ‘assemblages’  - the virus or pathogen and any random set of objects like doorknobs, cutlery, packaging, human bodies, the ‘community’, the ‘herd’, trains, tubes, digital screens, etc are incorporated/interwoven/braided into the one supreme act of transmission occurring countless times per second simultaneously all over the world.   Contagion moves by touch not by insemination (natality).  Mere genetic transmission via birth is a far slower form of transmission and proliferation.  Hence for Deleuze the viral form of life is the major source of bio-energy in the universe The alien interspace traveller covid-19 has been moving towards us since the beginning of the world – and we natally arising humans cannot keep up. We are temporally outclassed.  Natality pertains only to relations of filiation (in animals and plants). Contagion is a transmission - neither a birth when it arrives nor a death when it passes.  Similarly the virus is non-racial, non-hereditary, and asexual – it cannot transmit either filial or racial characteristics when it enters a host body.  The pathogen is opportunistic – it uses whatever it finds like any good improviser.  
Touch is both its means of kinesis and the way it reproduces itself. The host body must touch another body to whom it transmits the virus either remotely via surfaces, the air/aerosols or directly via handshakes and other tactility.  Remote touching is still touch – the infected host touches the surface, which is then touched by another.  Or the potential host body touches an infected surface then himself.  In the same way that contagion is far more prolific than natality, humans touch more and faster than they inseminate – so trying to avoid touch is almost like trying to avoid breathing – which in the pandemic is just another way of touching the virus. 

Lighthouse Laboratories

To be immortal or remain so the virus cannot stop moving from host body to host body – or from human mass to human mass.  In a sense contagion is its viral form of insemination.  It can transmit on almost any surface but to thrive or replicate itself it must enter a living animal or human organism. This is the virus’ supreme commandment – its survival mandate: it must infect an indefinite number of mortal bodies – each of which partakes of the immortal body or immortality of the virus.  Some of those mortal bodies die soon after becoming a ‘host’ for the virus.  Others hardly know it was/is in their body – so-called asymptomatics.  But the only ‘purpose’ of the living organism of the virus is to sustain itself immortally – which it can only do by perpetually replicating itself inside a mortal host body.  
Considering that the virus comes to us in our present state from antediluvian times – it is older than the human race – it is to say the least a microorganism of the langue durée.  Contagion beats natality.  In this sense the virus or viral life and its means of propagation – contagion - beat racism and anti-racism.
Can we speak so sanguinely of natality now that we live under the diktat/whip of contagion?  The universe, writes Deleuze, does not function by filiation.
“When werewolves die they turn into vampires.” (Deleuze)  The bite/touch of the vampire is its contagion.  Each bite kills and resurrects at once – the mortal body dies, the immortal vampire rises.  
Deleuze stylizes his ‘becoming animal’ as an alluring metamorphosis associated with shamanic powers – but for the dwellers of the pandemic ‘becoming animal’ merely confirms the real biopolitical juristic degrading of one’s ‘person’.  One becomes painfully aware of the historical privilege of personhood as at least some of it is retracted.  One reverts to the (dying) animal whose death must be ‘managed’ for the sake of the herd – and whose life is no longer an absolute right – the right to life belongs only to the herd.

Deleuze’s euphoric mantra  ‘becoming animal’ turns into a dysphoric ‘becoming dead animal’ – in the shadow of becoming the carrier (as if with virus child) of the bat pathogen – the virus fever is the bat heat licking you from inside your brains and lungs.  Bats don’t mind extreme heat.  
When they fly their metabolic rate increases raising their body temperature daily to fever levels.  This is one of their immunitary secrets – how they can host the worst viruses unharmed – besides flying itself.   The bat body is an archive of doom for the human race not for itself.
(see O’Shea TJ, Cryan M, Cunningham AA, Bat Flight and Zoonotic Viruses, Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2014; 20(5) 741-745, doi: 10.3201, eid 2005. 130539)

You hear his squeaks and screeches and metallic gurgling in your coughing – that is you speaking bat language.  Two British estate managers, who became ‘super spreaders’ reported how they became-animal in the cough - their coughs sounded like the bark of deer or foxes – a sound they might know well from the estate.  Bats and foxes are not so distantly related, at least in the ‘zoologie fantastique’ both are nocturnal with pointy furry faces - one bat variety is called a ‘grey headed’ flying fox’, another ‘black flying fox’, a whole group sounding like a circus trapeze act is called ‘Australian flying foxes’.  The disease pulls you back into the rungs of evolution – back to the zoonotic source of the pathogen.  Likewise the potential cure or vaccine may be derived from a modified cold virus affecting/extracted from chimpanzees.
The virus transforms each human body into its means of survival – you become an organ of its quasi-reproductive system.  You ‘inherit’ the disease by osmotic contagion – directly as the transmission ‘in the community’ The common promiscuous faux ‘ancestor’ of the human race for the purposes of the contagion is the bat – zoonosis is your fate.  

“How can we conceive of a peopling, a propagation, a becoming that is without filiation or hereditary production?  A multiplicity without the unity of an  ancestor?  It is quite simple; everybody knows it, but it is discussed only in secret.  We oppose epidemic to filiation, contagion to heredity, peopling by contagion to sexual reproduction, sexual production.  Bands, human or animal, proliferate by contagion, epidemics, battlefields, and catastrophes.  (…) Unnatural participations or nuptials are the true Nature spanning the kingdoms of nature. Propagation by epidemic, by contagion, has nothing to do with filiation by heredity, even if the two themes intermingle and require each other.  The vampire does not filiate, it infects.  The difference is that contagion, epidemic involves terms that are entirely heterogeneous: for example, a human being, an animal, and a bacterium, a virus, a molecule, a microorganism. (…) These combinations are neither genetic nor structural; they are interkingdoms, unnatural participations.  That is the only way Nature operates – against itself.   This is a far cry from filiative production or hereditary reproduction, in which the only differences retained are a simple duality between sexes within the same species, and small modifications across generations.  For us, there are as many sexes as there are terms in symbiosis, as many differences as elements contributing to the process of contagion. (…) The Universe does not function by filiation.  All we are saying is that animals are packs, and that packs form, develop, and are transformed by contagion.” (Deleuze, A Thousand Plateaus, ibid. pp. 266-67)

 “Natality is the origin of all desire” says Reiner Schürmann – not so for the virus which thrives on that other means of reproduction or generation – contagion.  

One wonders how the an-archic dynamic of contagion – so indispensable for Deleuze’s thinking - escaped Schürmann - himself a victim of the Aids contagion/epidemic.  Aids certainly broke the principle or hegemony of filiation – of natality.

12 a. Literary Models

Metamorphosis –not the singular Gregor Samsa has turned into a cockroach confined to his bed or floor – waiting for the inevitable – the whole world has turned into a cockroach – or a pestilent (protoplasmic) thing – a lethal circulatory system – where Gregor Samsa may be the only human left in such a world.  

And once in social distancing or self-isolation mode - a new drama begins – Sartre’s “No Exit” – “hell is the other”.  All those ethical constructs based on ‘face to face’ with the Other and his/her/their systemic apriori claims and demands, as one can see now, presuppose an indefinite unlimited space (mental/physical) between the one and the other.  When one’s immediate physical surrounding becomes a fragile enclosure guarding against looming potential death in the space outside one’s confinement in other words the space of the Other – what happens to the immanent ethical demand of that Other?  When one’s duty to the Other conflicts with conatus – one’s ‘duty’ of self-preservation?

Negative Anthropology – in an uncanny foreshadowing of life on our planet now, Helmuth Plessner describes in The Limits of Community the immunizing techniques of ‘the democratic game’ as such:  “In a world in which individuals who are naturally at risk confront one another in a competition whose stakes are power and prestige, the only way to avoid a catastrophic outcome is to institute among them sufficient distance so as to immunize each from everyone else.  Against every communitarian temptation, the public sphere is where men and women enter into relation in the form of their disassociation.  From here the need arises for strategies and control apparatuses to allow men and women to live next to one another without touching, and therefore to enlarge the sphere of individual self-sufficiency by using ‘masks’ or ‘armor’ that defend them from undesired and insidious contact with the other.” (Roberto Esposito, “Immunitary Democracy” in Terms of the Political, ibid. p. 40)

Are we as players of the ‘democratic game’ already uniquely prepared, even predestined for the new rules of engagement in the covid-19 social arena/era?

13.  Research Notes (?): Master-Builder

The builder neighbour, rat-eyed, brutish and shaved head, has found his vocation for the lockdown – repeat building the whole side of his house.  A huge scaffolding stands between us.  Right next to our window.  Like a (Piranesi) siege tower.  We have to keep the blinds shut for the indefinite/unforeseeable future. When we do look out we see the street and light filtered through the patterns of bars – adding to our prison neo-realism. He towers over the pavement like some skydiver (without a chute) – making me peculiarly aware that wherever there is height there is also the potential of a drop or fall.  The potential of height is its negation – to find its lowest level.  What goes up must come down etc.  It’s a law of physics.  The plot of Ibsen’s’ Master Builder is precisely that law plus guilt plus romantic delusion.  The master builder’s fear of heights and his fascination for an erotic stranger are the impetus for unleashing this potential. The mysterious diabolical young lady poses an erotic challenge forcing the master builder to scale a tower from which the only way down is the ultimate sacrifice.  If one would carry the Ibsen logic forward to the builder next door, the plot would involve his son (he doesn’t look like him at all).  The mother is Sicilian with black hair down to her waist.  She raises the boy like Little Lord Fauntleroy.  The father tries to make a ‘man’ out of him.  His last attempt was to give him boxing lessons on a big black oblong sand sack.
When the father isn’t looking the boy boxes it a little then hugs the sand sack, pressing his feminine cheek to its cold black skin.
Out of sheer boredom the son would sneak up the scaffolding ladder obeying an irresistible urge to look down on the world and prove to his father he is a man (not some incipient gay-trans snake in the nest as his father might fear) – then gets scared – afraid to climb back down the ladder – father goes to the rescue – it starts to rain, thunder and lightning – the son acts as a human lightning rod – falls burnt to the ground like Icarus – the father plunges – Empedocles like - after him.  This would be the crude (naturalistic) fulfilment of ‘Chekhov’s law’ – that if you erect a scaffolding in the first act – someone(s) has to fall off it in the third.  The usual example is a gun – but a weapon by any name.

The neighbors are out clapping for the NHS again, banging their pots and pans – prisoners rattling on their bars.

Nightingale Hospital

14.  Reiner Schürmann’s graveyard biopolitics

Does Reiner Schürmann’s secret incipient biopolitics shadow Foucault?  Are the scattered muted undertones or theoretical intimations covert ways of emulating Foucault without excessive fanfare?  In the essay “On Constituting Oneself an Anarchistic Subject” he dissects and adopts a Foucauldian idea of transgression and its contribution to anarchic subjectivization. But beyond that their affinity to Nietzsche unites them on a higher plane. Nietzsche’s genealogies – of morals, of the life and death of God/ideas, birth of tragedy like the birth of biopolitics or the prison - structure much of Foucault’s work and Schürmann’s On being and Acting From Principles to Anarchy (Le principe d’anarchie, Heidegger et la question de l’agir).  What Schürmann calls hegemonies or hegemonic phantasms – describe a quasi-biological trajectory of birth, decay and death.  Following Nietzsche both Foucault and Schürmann view reason in the sense of cogito as a lesser force than the body or that which has reasons of which reason knows nothing to paraphrase Pascal.  In the words of Zarathustra … the body (Leib) is the greater reason – spirit (Geist) is a weaker subsidiary of the body – the small reason.  Those who have contempt for the body do so at their peril – even this contempt comes to them from their body.  The body is the self – which is interchangeable with I – it dwells in the body and is together with self a kind of bodily trinity.  The self is that which wills and is a ‘powerful commander’ (mächtiger Gebieter in Also Sprach Zarathustra, Von den Verächtern des Leibes).
Why does Foucault chance upon biopower in the first place – not just as a term of politics or governance but as the vital element of philosophy, a kind of universal vitalism.   Although in the concept of biopolitics – this ‘powerful commander’ of self has been humbled beyond all recognition.  For Schürmann the power of life expresses itself in the ‘ultimates of experience’ natality and mortality – reigning over all epochs and their hegemonies.  Hegemonies come and go but this ‘biopolitical’ double bind (similar to biopolitics and thanatopolitics) is forever.

Life, biopower, ultimates, the greater reason of the body would be empty or inert without the other Nietzschean impetus – the will to power.  It is as if Schürmann and Foucault have divided this Nietzschean legacy between them – Foucault taking ‘power’ and Schürmann the ‘will to’ (his emphasis on the an-archic act, being as event and his analysis of the demise of the ‘regime of consciousness’).

Another fragment of Schürmann’s biopolitical thought comes from Agamben who like Schürmann draws heavily on Heidegger – the fusion or near-identity of biopolitics and the state of exception.  Far from diminishing sovereignty (a contention of Negri and to a lesser degree Foucault) – the biopolitical regime apparently of necessity grants it absolute powers.  Schürmann transposes the biopolitical suspension of law to the realm of metaphysics and its undead state.

Then from ‘broken hegemonies’ to ‘broken life’…  The other mediating figure for Schürmann’s crypto-biopolitics is Heidegger – whose Contributions to Philosophy from 1936-38 according to Schürmann reflects his confusion and disenchantment with the Nazi biopolitical/thanatopolitical turn of German history and identity.  Heidegger is consumed says Schürmann with lacerating self-doubt after he ‘wakes up’ from his passion for the ‘uprising of 1933’, the ’new German will’ and its Führer Hitler – especially since he had seen this ‘uprising’ as an ‘event’ (Ereignis) heralding a new epoch in being:
“Heidegger was only partly mistaken when, for a few months in the 1930s, he expected a new beginning of the West responding to Homer and Solon.” (Reiner Schürmann, Broken Hegemonies, ibid., p.526)
Schürmann elevates and monumentalizes Heidegger’s ‘error’ into the historical objective form of diremption – a violent necessary rupture in history.  

The Heidegger text Contributions to Philosophy which Schürmann chooses to scrutinize in Broken Hegemonies is one whose language is “saturated in emergency, drunk on apocalypse” (Richard Polt, The Emergency of Being: On Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy, Ithaca, 2006).  In this text says Schürmann Heidegger ‘painfully thinks through his greatest blunder’. Emergency in Heidegger’s text appears as being’s ‘Not’ (neediness/hour of need) suggesting that the only mode in which being ever emerges is in the emergency.  The ontological ontic emergency of the Nazi movement and state took the para-legal form of a ‘state of exception’. This meant the legal obstruction/commandeering of daily life with immediate effect, placing all of life in indefinite unlimited brackets.  Life falls under a ban, is made to stand still, put ‘on hold’.  Life becomes urgent at the same moment that the means to face this urgency are expropriated or severely curtailed.  Even when eventually those brackets are removed – the experience/memory of this standstill is indelibly burned onto the vegetative/autonomic nervous system of the population.  In a similar sense an Italian acquaintance told me - "Fascism was a dead time."
Being’s emergency is a rupture, which launches a new topology in the world – simultaneously establishing its own ‘black hole’ or ultimate barrier reef/moat against the emergency of other being than itself.   In what Foucault calls the “ontology of actuality”, a specific historical event (emergency) becomes a template of being or existence – not just or no longer merely historical rather transhistorical, quasi-transcendental – a new hegemonic phantasm?
As such emergent being in an emergency is just as much a closing of possibilities as it is their ‘freeing up’ in ‘the open’.
Emergency abbreviates the state of exception – or rather emergency is the trigger for the ‘state of emergency/exception’, which Schürmann sees enigmatically as ongoing, not yet ended – “the monstrous site to which ‘we’ are still riveted.
Schürmann’s obsessive thinking of Heidegger’s repressed lifelong dwelling on the emergency of the ‘failed Nazi uprising of 1933’ resounds throughout his own Broken Hegemonies – which contains as such a kind of encrypted unmarked grave for the aborted Nazi biopolitical state of exception.  
Significantly this ‘thinking’ (both Heidegger’s and Schürmann’s) is not of action (Lenin’s “what is to be done?”) – it meditates on the failure of action and its denial. Failure is more than error – ‘Heidegger’s greatest blunder’.  Unlike “the symphony that Schubert never finished” in failure something comes to an end or dies - or does it?  Schürmann’s unasked and Heidegger’s unanswered question is of course – how would the successful uprising have looked?  Or - is contagion action?

15.  Scottish Exception or the Eternal Return of Herd Immunity

A brand new plan from researchers at Edinburgh University sounds exactly like the old chimera of ‘herd immunity’ by another name.  The study is as yet untried and un-peer reviewed but it would entail indefinite isolation of ‘over 70s’ while the ‘young’ meaning anyone under 70 would go out and get infected.
The over 70s prison scheme dies hard.   An indefinite quarantine for ‘over 70s’ for their own good and salvation seems to be the only condition for allowing nature in the guise of herd immunity to take its course.  That’s why it is so beloved of the epidemiologists looking for a cheap shortcut.  Naturally they don’t really know if it’s possible to become immune to this virus and in this way.
Strangely – the Scottish health bosses weren’t going to tell the over 70s to stay at home when this discriminatory measure first emerged/surfaced in the pre-lockdown period. Happily with this refusal they confirmed my private ‘Scottish exception’ - feeling as I did that they are more intelligent than the English.  At least they produced one philosopher of enough distinction – David Hume - of whom Kant could write he had interrupted his “dogmatic slumber” giving his “investigations in the field of speculative philosophy a completely different direction.”   Reading Hume compelled Kant to refute Hume’s idée fixes/ideas on causality – that notions of causality like all human understanding arise solely from experience.  But what is experience/understanding for Hume other than ‘custom’ or even less habit?  Custom or habit leads human understanding to its notion of cause and effect – the “necessary connexion”.  Custom or habit though is merely the repetition of certain perceptions based in sensations/sense data, that bluntest of instruments, and engraved in memory.  Memory then dictates the conviction that what has happened before will happen again.
Yet the idea of necessary connection of cause and effect itself cannot be experienced.  Hume says it is a feeling in the mind – but why this feeling and not some other?  The necessity of the feeling of the necessary connection is neither in the mind nor in experience.  So where is it? What is it?

Kant will say this ‘feeling’ is an apriori category of human reason without which experience in the sense of a synthetic judgement (not just a derivative ‘analytic’ one) is not possible.  
The English, on the other hand, as Nietzsche remarked “are not a philosophical race.”  Kant rose up against Hume (who for these purposes Nietzsche anglicized) revolted against him.  Schelling could say  “je méprise Locke” and both Hegel and Schopenhauer although almost fratricidally opposed in their thinking were united in their war against the “English- mechanistic world-doltishness”.  The “half-actor” over-passionate/zealous Carlyle recognized that what the English lack is a certain intellectual power and depth of perception.  They make up/compensate says Nietzsche for their crudeness of thought with a cloying surplus of Christian piety, a peculiar English ‘tartufferie’ – which typically one can only express with a borrowed French term.

The Scottish exception sadly starts to wither (withering heights). Somehow the English-British backwardness – slowness behind most other countries in extricating the nation out of the fangs and talons of the virus seems to hinge on these philosophical lacks/voids.  Their researchers demonstrate with their ‘new’ version of herd immunity that ‘science’ (not just the Scottish presumably) is no further than it was at the beginning of the pandemic.  How do they prove the ‘necessary connection’ between isolating over 70s and causing herd immunity?

Buried in ‘group think’, they don’t/can’t even notice when the eternal return of their specious theories kicks in.  But is ‘herd immunity’ really a scientific ‘hypothesis’, conjecture.  Isn’t it rather an outpost of English religion like its precursor “natural selection”?  Both signify the eternal return of the state of nature as a state of grace or redemption.  ‘Herd immunity’ is a blind appeal to nature to heal the herd with its own harsh medicine.  And like the pattern of Christian redemption and salvation it is based on human/animal sacrifice translated into the prosaic business terms of ‘risk’ or ‘costs and benefits’.  Longed for herd immunity is the preventive absolution from the original sin/guilt/debt (Schuld) of community.  The older you are the more guilt or debt you have accumulated beyond the initial sovereign debt of being born.  Hence the riper you are for sacrifice. “You’ve had your innings.”
As Derrida notes in “Faith and Knowledge: The Two Sources of Religion at the Limits of Reason Alone”: “The same movement that renders indissociable religion and tele-technoscientific reason in its most critical aspect reacts inevitably to itself.  It secretes its own antidote but also its own power of auto-immunity.  We are here in a space where all self-protection of the unscathed, of the safe and sound, of the sacred (heilig, holy) must protect itself against its own protection, its own police, its own power of rejection, in short against its own, which is to say, against its own immunity. It is this terrifying but fatal logic of the auto-immunity of the unscathed that will always associate Science and Religion.” (in Acts of Religion, New York/London 2002, pp. 80-81)
These are the blind cycles of eternal return.  It shows only that a huge part of science is fiction, superstition and outdated tenets.    Perhaps that is the deeper meaning of Nietzsche’s vision, Derrida’s insights.  Science or whatever goes by that name is locked/stuck in the eternal return of religion.

16.  ‘Corona Charlies’ – “between modern science and eugenics”

In our age of the universal virus, ‘life’ has been darkened - infiltrated/cheapened/polluted by new concepts governing daily life.  Concepts such as total triage or frailty scores - affect individual chances of survival and self-preservation reminiscent of the era of Nazi thanatopolitics.  Roberto Esposito’s observations/remarks on “Nazism and Us” no longer seem quite so outlandish:  “Contrary to what certain common-sense speech declares, we are operating no longer within the reverse side (rovescio) of communism but within that of Nazism.  This is our question, the monster that stalks us not only from behind but also from our future.” (Terms of the Political, ibid. p. 80) In the same vein Rudolf Hess’ boast that: “National Socialism is biology applied” (echoing Ernst Haeckel’s “politics is applied biology) sounds uncannily like Boris Johnson et al insisting that in all their decisions they are “guided by the best scientific advice”. Haeckel in his turn popularized Darwin’s theories of evolution in Germany and Central Europe and their offspring ‘scientific racism’ and ‘social Darwinism’ - once again demonstrating how English biological thought and National Socialism and its antecedents naturally tended to crossbreed.

As ‘mere life’ in the face of the medical profession you are subject to their appraisal of your fitness. Until now most of these assessments have been discreet and confidential and a reflection of a patient’s individual needs.  The pandemic has changed all of that.   You are first of all a potential  'spreader' of the virus, a liability for the system. Preserving or ‘protecting’ the resources of the NHS has priority over any one patient.  Every patient is now dispensable until proven otherwise.  That is what hides behind the omnipresent term ‘triage’ colloquially decried as ‘death panels’ in the US anti Obamacare press.  The protagonists of this healthcare policy denied that such panels exist.  In the UK, triage is considered normal procedure (see John Chisholm on selection).   GPs and hospital doctors must regularly rate and select which ‘bare life’ is worthy of being saved or offered essential treatment and which less so - using frailty or co-morbidity or fitness tables.
Triage starts in the ambulance when paramedics are required to rate the patient on a scale up to 20 to determine if they should be taken to hospital.  Normally the patient must score at least 5.  In the first month of the lockdown in London (beginning of March) the score was increased to 7.  So frequently care home patients did not qualify for hospital admission. The priority as per the government slogans – was above all ‘protect the NHS’.
This ‘rationing’ is taking place despite the public apparently abstaining from using the health service.  Some indications/signs of this mutual retreat are the anomalous situations that attendance at the A and E stations/wards since the outbreak of the pandemic is dangerously low. GP surgeries practically closed to the public the moment the pandemic fired up and the newly built Nightingale Hospitals are more or less empty. 

Even before the lockdown the NHS advised GPs to move to ‘total triage’ for patients, which meant – patients were to be preempted from face to face attendance at surgeries. Consultations if any were to be made remotely per phone, online or other digital means.
The receptionists at my local surgery have received the grand title of ‘patient navigators’ - and a recorded message advises you beforehand on the phone that the “patient navigator may ask you further questions to assist the triage process.”  That's new.  Even if triage weren’t - before the pandemic any triage would have been kept strictly behind the scenes. In the pre-covid 19 era triage would hardly have been something which one would have announced so brazenly on the naked telephone.  
Certainly the receptionist cum patient navigator would not have been allowed on her own authority (and interrogation) to weed out the deserving from the less deserving patient demands. Somehow it is a perverse expectation - that patients should 'assist' in their own de-selection...
It seems like being asked to dig your own grave.  At least the 5th Amendment to the United States constitution or the privilege against self-incrimination in England and Wales gives the defendant the right not to testify against him/herself at trial.

Notably the NHS advice on ‘total triage’ came the day after the testing program in the community had been abandoned on 12th March: “As of 13th March 32,771 people have been tested in the UK, of which 31,973 were confirmed negative and 798 were confirmed as positive. 10 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.”  (see  Costanza Pearce, “NHS advises ‘total triage’ as GP groups look to limit patient demand” on ‘Pulse’ a GP website “at the heart of general practice since 1960, 13th March 2020.)

In a revealing comment section of that same article – GPs exchanged their rather unflattering heartless view of patients’ demands:  

“carfentanyl: GP Partner/Principal 13 Mar 2020 6:13 pm
There must come soon some civil action against wilful spreaders/attendees, as Corona Charlies replace Typhoid Marys in history; we may prepare a leaflet along the lines of “you have it, your shouldn’t be here, go home and may your God go With You.
Moniker: Doctor in Training 13 Mar 2020 7:40 pm
‘Corona Charlies’ – LOL! Unfortunately for them there will be too many for these individuals to achieve the same notoriety/immortality as Typhoid Mary.”

‘Typhoid Mary’ was an emigrant Irish cook in the US who was also an asymptomatic carrier of typhus.  She transmitted the disease to a large number of her wealthy employers – finally ending up in a lifetime quarantine-incarceration.  Is that what the GP/NHS collective unconscious has in store for all of us ‘Corona Charlies’?

The NHS was not overwhelmed– says the government, commending itself - whatever that means in light of the highest fatality toll in Europe (as of writing) of over 30,000 covid 19 deaths (revised/amended: now more than 60,000 fatalities and still mounting often by figures over hundred daily).  In the new Nightingale Hospital in London as a sign of medical progress - there is a separate ward especially reserved for triage.  Biopolitical ‘selection’ has obviously become a fact of life and our biomedical future.

Like “herd immunity”, - triage and its consequences for the population show that “pseudo-biology” and “the essential continuity” Heidegger observed in Nazi Germany between “modern science and eugenics” is still alive - and as such also the continuity between neo-liberal biopolitics and Nazi thanatopolitics.

Corona Charlies

16a. The Man in Black

Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.

The three inscrutable ambiguous slogans, were supposed to envelope, encompass our initial pandemic desperation.  All expressed in the language of command and salvation – requiring blind obedience although open to wide interpretation.  Save lives implies that the population is required to save its own life – and at the same time protect the NHS.  The roles seem to be reversed – instead of the NHS saving lives and protecting the population – it’s the population’s duty to save the NHS’ life – in other words – protect it from the public.  NHS is the only subject of these demands – the only individual body.  One saves lives and protects the NHS through the one act of staying home – staying away from the NHS.  This message has become too successful as one can interpret in the pleas of some voices in the NHS now – not to stay home – but to engage with them and save life – yours.  Lives are indistinct, amorphous, generic – whose life?  Only ‘life worth living’ – life which treatments ‘benefit’.  Although there are different classes of life – presiding over these lives is one supra life which must be protected – the NHS.  

Is “Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.”a tripartite causal sequence – or is each demand/command/imperative a goal in itself?  If so they are not of the same linguistic ‘pathology’.  Stay Home seems direct, strong, straightforward – simple to grasp – not a complex act (on the surface).  Save Lives – obviously but how, just by staying home? Protect the NHS – in this context it would seem that staying home is part of the protection. But if everyone stayed home maybe many would die because they’re not bothering the NHS – they’re protecting the NHS.   So Save Lives could just as easily read Sacrifice Lives – protect the NHS.  That is how a great section of the population understood Save Lives – stay home, protect the NHS with your life.  NHS members have also died – the implication is in the act of ‘saving Lives’.  Still the fatalities continue to mount.  NHS members like anyone else could have contracted the disease anywhere (the tube on the way to work like any other key worker) – their deaths are as tragic as any other deaths – no more, no less.  
But on the other side of this ‘contract’ of salvation or sacrifice between the NHS and the population – is something called NICE – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – and their guidelines. The intensive care consultant Dr Matt Morgan, dressed in black scrubs personally delivered an open letter to all the frail, vulnerable, disabled and elderly and those with serious underlying health conditions (all cancer patients and persons with diabetes for a start) liable to fall into the category of those excluded by triage from certain kinds of life saving treatments.
Standing on the lawn in front of the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff – he condescended to them saying we’ll do everything for you which will work but nothing which will not work. He addresses this diverse group as ‘you’ as in “you know who you are” you – “as this virus continues to impact on the world we will meet many more of ‘you’” … while the camera seems obsessed with the large collection of shiny warts on his face making you wonder if they aren’t possibly squamous cell cancers/carcinoma.

What ‘not working’ means was left in the fog except they “would not use machines which can cause harm” nor “press on your chest should your heart stop beating because these things won’t work” – alerting this unfortunate group collectively in advance that whatever happens and whoever they are and in whichever condition they exist/present they would all be automatically apriori destined for (condemned to?) DNR – do not resuscitate.  Who would ever want to go to hospital with those prospects?
“We will only do what will work…” is an NHS manifesto of unworking or inoperativity – what will work is de facto the unworking of saving life – omitting procedures, singling out groups of patients for whom, according to NHS/NICE eugenicist guidelines ‘working’ is ‘unworking’.  But despite our declaration of inoperativity – we – the NHS – “although we will change our focus from cure” “we will be there for you” – no longer fixed on saving your life – instead “we’ll hold your hand” – “we’ll still care”.   “We have not forgotten about you. Signed the doctors, the nurses, the cooks, the cleaners, the managers, the lab staff, the intensive care unit and all of the NHS”. (see Channel Four News, 16 March 2020) He thought his letter and ‘honesty’ would console the exposed group about the inevitable, but it rather struck terror in their deepest fibred being as reactions from the disabled community testify (see John Ping, “Coronavirus: Activists’ shock at intensive care doctor’s resuscitation warning” Disability News Service, 19th March 2020).

We'll hold your hand

17.   Caligula’s Horse

The pandemic is not a tsunami – or a purely natural disaster.  It’s a semi man-made unnatural contingent disaster.  Whatever order of disaster – it takes place at a historical moment, at the same time it is an extreme rupture in the quasi continuum of ‘known’ and ‘knowable’ history –the epidemic is both actual and ontological – an event which creates an irreparable fissure between before and after, with a calendar/temporality of its own, where the whole fabric of life is broken and a new inchoate one emerges.  One of these new forms is the direct fusion of state, military and biology - ruling directly over bodies without the mediation of society. The image of soldiers in fatigues administering Coronavirus tests to civilians on obscure sites/car parks is symptomatic of this new hybrid.  One wonders how well trained they are, how accurate the tests…  Boris Johnson supposedly discovered whilst ill with the virus – that there is such a thing as society - exactly at the moment when society is dying.   
The pandemic exposes social, political, medical-scientific structures, in all their frailty and bluff.  The more power the government grants itself under its emergency laws churned out at high speed – the less powerful they seem - dwarfed by all the circumstances racing beyond/out of their control.  Simon Jenkins of the Guardian suspected while Boris Johnson was convalescing that ‘no one is in charge’ – even now since he’s back – this impression/suspicion remains.   Even Caligula’s horse would turn down the offer to be prime minister/monster of the United Kingdom now.

Areas, which are usually secret, private, confidential have lost their ‘immunity’ - for instance the ‘normal’ relation between doctor and patient.  

The confidentiality of this relation if not the relation itself is not just suspended, it's annulled.  Even the myth of confidentiality has vanished.  It’s as if it (and the Hippocratic Oath) never existed. One could say it has been betrayed or sacrificed – but its elimination is more profound.  The relation has become an impediment – it stands in the way of quelling the epidemic, subduing the virus.  The patient loses (temporarily?)  his/her patient status – and becomes only a hideout, a colony or a transmitter, a potential habitat of the virus, its ‘human shield’.  The patient’s movements must be tracked because they are movements of the virus (and his privacy suspended – the epidemic doesn’t recognize any privacy or ‘propre’ of the individual).  If infected, he removes himself from circulation and his contacts must do so too. What about their contacts – and the contacts of the contacts?  The tracking system imitates the exponential patterns of virus transmission turning into its mirror image – a negative contagion.
As long as the virus is afoot and abroad - the patient forfeits his/her rights over his/her body.  Confidentiality and all other relations with an Other are replaced by state bio-surveillance which is as contagious as a pokémon game.
The fatal switch – already implicit in the institutions of liberalism – is when under the pressure of preservation of life – individual ‘freedom’ is sacrificed not for the preservation of individual life (as in Hobbes) but in the interests of the preservation of the species – or the herd.  

18.  Neo-Liberal vs. Nazi Bio-Thanatopolitics

The pandemic though did not ‘invent’ this seeming mutation of the doctor-patient relation.  The state of exception or emergency laws have merely laid bare a non-relation (that of patient and doctor) which is always there like the dark side of the moon: the biopolitical state is itself the depository of this relation and its secrets. The state defines, controls, rations this relation and is its mediator.  Confidentiality adheres to the relation between the medical professions or doctors and the state health authority – the doctor is a public functionary whose first remit is to treat and advise patients in the interests of public health and its disciplines and secondarily in the interests of the individual patient.  The NHS doctor or any other neo-liberal health official is not your ‘friend’ – he/she is a functionary of the state, which is where his/her/their allegiance and loyalty lies.  Long before any Coronavirus tracker app keeps you tailed – the frontline of bio-surveillance is your GP.  The GP is situated in the shadowy under-zone of the law - which Foucault calls in Discipline and Punish - The Birth of the Prison, after Bentham's ideal prison - panopticisms - alternatively the 'disciplines' or 'counter-law' (echoing Reiner Schürmann - or was it the other way around?).  These are the capillaries of 'micro-power'  through which actual biopolitical coercion courses through the circulatory system of society.

In the Nazi biopolitical regime – individual health interests/concerns as such disappeared completely – what counted was the racial health and immunity of the German racial body – or as was the phrase in the Nuremberg laws on citizenship – “the protection of the blood and honour of the German people.” (see Roberto Esposito, Bios, translated by Timothy Campbell, Minneapolis, London 2008, p. 139)  The Nazi doctors were the immediate  guardians of German blood.  Their status and power swelled with the biological predisposition of the Nazi state – but the medical caste (Ärtzestand) had already been nationalised in 1891 by the Wilhelminian German State.
In Nazi Germany, doctors enjoyed shamanistic, almost god-like prestige. Already before the active extermination of mass euthanasia and the death camps - they were often asked to participate in court selection commissions comprised of two doctors and a judge deciding on sterilization of deviants and the racially inferior – eugenics on the wing.
Echoes of NHS GPs attempting such a god-like selection filtered/trickled through the press when the NHS was bracing itself for an overload/’tsunami’ of cases: a mother of an 11 year old child with a rare cancer condition but otherwise living a normal life was asked to sign a ‘do not resuscitate’ form in case of the child’s hospitalization.  Another mother whose son has asthma and the connective tissue disorder Ehlers-Danlos was also asked by her GP to agree to this document.  
She refused – her son “is about to sit his A-levels.  How can his life be worth nothing? He thinks the Government wants him dead.” (quoted in Samantha Lock, “Devastated Mum told to sign ‘Do Not Resuscitate” Order in Case Cancer-Stricken Son, 11 Gets Coronavirus, The Sun, 12 April 2020)

Uncanny that in her protest against this attempted act of triage, which calculates each patient’s ‘frailty score’ – the Yorkshire mother should reveal/uncover the crux of the biopolitical state – to determine which life is worthy of living and which is not. (See Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche Permitting the Destruction of Unworthy Life,/Die Freigabe  der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens,  Leipzig, F. Meiner, 1920)
Karl Binding was a distinguished expert in penal law and Alfred Hoche a professor of medicine and a psychiatrist specializing in the ethics of his profession during the Weimar Republic.
The juridical-medical/ethical question the authors considered was when (not if) the state is justified in annihilating “life unworthy of living”.  
“ (…) the concept that here makes its first appearance on the European juridical scene: life that does nor deserve to be lived (or to live, as the German expression lebensunwerten Leben also quite literally suggests), along with its implicit and more familiar correlate - life that deserves to be lived (or to live). The fundamental biopolitical structure of modernity - the decision on the value (or nonvalue) of life as such - therefore finds its first juridical articulation in a well­ intentioned pamphlet in favor of euthanasia.” (Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer, Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford, California, 1998, p. 137)

sauve qui peut

19.  A Dictatorship without a Dictator - Or the Double Bind of Herd Immunity and the Immunity Passport
“As the months go by because the virus isn’t going to suddenly go away we’ve all got to learn to treat it with the respect it deserves, and then we’ll be able to live with it in order to try and keep the number of deaths down.” (Dr David Nabarro, World Health Organisation Covid-19 special envoy for Europe)

Akin to what Marx calls the automatic subject of capital – the non-human subject driving the perpetuum mobile of capital’s self-valorisation and accumulation through its many phases and metamorphoses (commodity, money, profit, rent, interest – or money ‘pregnant’ with money as Marx calls it – and the endless deferment of debt) – the virus and its pandemic have created an automatic dictatorship without a dictator.  Or as the Guardian columnist Marina Hyde has similarly observed:
“On the one hand, they keep stressing absolutely everything is proceeding in accordance with a plan laid out by the prime minister (…). On the other, they want to avoid going too far on that front, or risk casting the UK as the driverless car of governance, a largely automated enterprise where the role of prime minister is essentially meaningless. A bit like that of regimental goat, or England football captain.”  (See “Hancock’s channelling James Blunt…” in the Guardian, 17th April 2020)

The disaster désœuvré of our ex-world is the unworking of the pandemic.  The pandemic unravels or unworks itself in the halting of a wide variety of human action, warping much of the human condition(s).  The virus’ ‘progress’ through the world population is at the same time an unravelling or unworking of its work – it is its work of decreation.  Paradoxically we experience the powerful world energy of contagion and its assemblages (Deleuze), the actual state of contagion, as one of dormancy and unlimited contraction – life squeezed through the keyhole.  Or the undoubted irresistible energy of viral transmission vacuums up/vampirizes the counter energy of human species life.  We are permanently installed in the zone of ‘negative anthropology’.
Our utmost utopia – to return to the dystopia we inhabited before the advent of covid-19.

The worldwide society of the spectacle watches the macabre spoof of an imploding UK government and a tarnished, compromised, broken UK science and medicine limping behind the voracious pace of the virus and most other countries’ management of it. 

The UK virus fatality toll (45,000 - 60,000 depending on who’s counting and when) is the highest in Europe, 2nd highest in the world – “today your love, tomorrow the world” (The Ramones). Home grown second and third waves of ‘non-covid’ deaths due to the neglect of regular treatments are already  ‘breaking over the NHS’: “Reorienting the NHS to focus on the Covid-19 emergency was essential but indirect deaths are mounting fast and now threaten to eclipse the carnage wreaked by the virus itself. (…) The “second wave” is already breaking.  It is made up of non-Coronavirus patients not able or willing to access healthcare because of the crisis.” Already in April these deaths were estimated as “running at around 2000 a week”.  The implicit threat – if the NHS can’t find ways to resume normal service “the NHS may be forced to institute a formal regime of rationing”. Their ‘informal’ regime of rationing began the moment the epidemic arrived in the UK – this rationing led directly or indirectly to the waves of ‘excess deaths’ – so to alleviate these waves – the NHS intends to ‘ramp up’ their rationing to even more deadly levels?  Another spin-off of the Coronavirus plague most likely to become permanent is the tendency to eliminate face-to-face appointments with GPs or consultants – keeping the ‘corona-charlies’ at digital arm’s length…for the unforeseeable future.  No vet would diagnose or treat an animal without seeing it in meat-space…nowadays for the clinicians of the NHS human animals are lower than animal animals. (See Paul Nuki, “Two new waves of deaths are about to break over the NHS, new analysis warns” in The Telegraph, 25 April 2020; Allessio Dellanna and AP, “‘Don’t leave non-Covid conditions untreated’, UK authorities warn amid ‘empty’ hospital wards” in euronews. 26 April 2020)
Ironically, the more incompetent Boris Johnson and his ministers prove to be, exacerbated by Johnson’s much maligned ‘laziness’ and absenteeism – the closer they collectively approximate the ancient Gnostic notion of deus otiosus or the idle inoperative god.   The relation of such a god to world is tenuous and indifferent (like Kafka’s officials in the ‘angelical’ bureaucracy of The Castle). His ‘empty throne’ is the rarefied truth of all power – its anarchic groundlessness.  The empty throne – hetoimasia tou thronou - as a liturgical iconographical symbol – signifies that no matter how flawed its fleeting occupants – the only ‘work’ of an inoperative glory is its own adoration.
“Glory precedes the creation of the world and survives its end.  The throne is empty not only because glory, though coinciding with the divine essence is not identified with it, but also because it is in its innermost self-inoperativity and sabbatism.  The void is the sovereign figure of glory.” (Giorgio Agamben, The Kingdom and the Glory, translated by Lorenzo Chiesa, Stanford, 2011, p. 245)
Inoperativity in the UK governance of the virus is theologically equivalent to the empty inoperative throne – the pure sphere of glory.


Similarly, Reiner Schürmann’s  ‘ontological anarchism’ refers to an insidious ungovernability - the  ‘ungovernable’ that dwells in government and by mimetic contamination in one’s self.  Law self-contaminates, manifested in the double bind of legislation and transgression/law and counter-law.   The same congenital unity of law and counter-law is what Schürmann also refers to as ‘legislative diremption’. (Diremption is a term traceable to Hegel meaning forcible separation, an originary breaking apart of the Absolute, which is the impetus for philosophy).  Legislative diremption contaminates our most intimate sphere of control “where we are singularized to ‘death’” – modern self-consciousness or Kant’s transcendental subject.
“To say yes to the legislative diremption will be to rehabilitate the singular under common nouns, to affirm the pathein that singularizes us “to death,” to understand all figures of the arché as figures punitively {passiblement} turned against themselves, and in this, as anarchic figures.” (Broken Hegemonies, ibid. p. 349)

One recognizes in the archic/an-archic figure the recurring patterns of Schürmann’s phenomenological economies of double-binds. Their perception is contingent on the ability to think from two sides or amphinoein – a kind of hermaphroditic vision showing that identity is a never ceasing intermittency. Schürmann takes this term from Sophocles’ play Antigone – she begins her tragedy defending the oikos founded on birth and ends it by turning on this order – being against (anti genos) birth itself - in favour of the polis.  Double bind might be defined as precisely this dialectic of arche and an-arche – arche is never truly dead or over nor is it truly arche – but is constantly undermined and ‘completed’ by its imminent an-archic reversal.  The archic is the an-archic – just as legislation arises from transgression - true an-archy resides in the heart of legislation – which is itself transgression...

The transgressive couple legislation-transgression is an example of double bind – not only in its double aspect of law and counter-law but also as a double headed figure of an archic-an-archic being or a principle which is at the same time an un-principle.  The double bind is Schürmann’s favoured passage or bridge to that monstrous hybrid – seeing/thinking from two sides. Without this endemic double vision he would be forced to contemplate an-archy as something pure and arche as something impure.

Following Foucault  ‘that phenomenologist of ultimates’ Schürmann quotes –
“This is also what Michel Foucault said: “Only a fiction can make us believe that laws are made to be respected. . . . Illegalism constitutes an absolutely positive element in social functioning, whose role the general strategy of society includes in advance.”  It is an illegalism upon which the singular lives—under the law and outside the law simultaneously.” (Broken Hegemonies, ibid.,  p. 620)
The originary legislative-transgressive double bind is binding - for the governmentality of ungovernables and for the singular who lives both in and out of law.

Schürmann poises his  ‘ontological anarchism’ somewhere between Agamben and Foucault.  Agamben’s pole is that of the law and its suspension, the state of exception – the realm of broken hegemonies comparable to the inoperativity of government.  Foucault’s legacy is the transgressive anarchist subject fluidly complicit with the legality of illegality and the illegality of legality.  

Meanwhile Life for the negligible herd fractal stuck indoors has shrunk to the dimensions of his/her household, body and dubious uncertain immune system.  Now even one’s immune system has been seized upon by this powerless sovereignless power as the last imperial colony it would force to succumb to its broken hegemonic will.  
Social distancing, hand washing, lockdown all aim to quell the transmission of the virus – to break the contagion – so you stay uninfected. (stay alert, control the virus, save lives)  Herd immunity is the exact opposite.  One should become infected to create immunity for oneself – as a herd microcosm – and - as a particle of the whole - for the herd.  Herd immunity is in a ‘zone of indistinction’ between the whole and its parts  - where the sum or herd is always greater than any part.  Still – if 60% have had the disease – are the other 40% naturally exempt from this obligation, do they get a ‘free ride’? It would appear not.  If you wish to ‘return to normal life’ you may have to qualify for an ‘immunity passport’.  To obtain this passport you should forget all the good advice about ‘staying safe’ and do everything you can to acquire the disease.  Stop washing your hands, don’t wear a mask, don’t wear gloves, don’t disinfect any surfaces, touch them all especially the pumps at a petrol station, throw yourself in the midst of a tube or pub crowd and take a deep drag of the aerosol, go to numerous beach and garden parties with more than 50 people, stand in a Primark, Zara or Ikea queue, join a riot if you can, sneak into an illegal rave in some London estuary, get yourself locked-in in a hospital in the North somewhere (Leicester, Bradford etc) or a care home anywhere, hope for the best.
If you are lucky enough to become infected – which is more difficult the lower the transmission rate R sinks – you may be able to produce enough antibodies – to be detectable for a set of either non-existent or unreliable untested antibody tests – and if reliable most likely reserved/ring fenced for the NHS and key workers.  If you can despite everything fulfil all these conditions you may have acquired not just ‘herd immunity’ but even better your very own autonomous immunity.  You would transfer to the higher/upper caste of society, being in possession of a rare singular immunity – in Esposito’s original sense of the term.  Immunitas is the ‘dialectical’ opposite of communitas – it protects its owner from the obligations, restrictions, burdens, risks or ‘munus’, - the collective fate of communitas.  The ‘immunity passport’ is your ticket to escape the herd.  Sir Patrick Vallance has nobly warned against creating a “2 tier society” – especially since the very notion of immunity from Coronavirus is unproven and untested.  Unfortunately a SAGE meeting in July chaired by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern alias Whitty and Vallance has overturned all of Sir Patrick’s scientific doubt.  We owe his volte-face to one speedily compiled research paper from two Imperial College scientists Wendy Barclay and Peter Openshaw – based on animal experiments and research into previous forms of Coronavirus.  They consider it “likely that people who have previously been infected with Covid-19 are much less likely to be reinfected (…)” (see Hugo Gye, “Recovered Coronavirus patient should be exempt from quarantine rules if they develop symptoms, Sage experts tell ministers” in i, August 3, 2020)  But alas policy decisions allowing  reinfected persons to circulate in society even when they are symptomatic must wait for those elusive reliable mass reproducible tests for antibodies.  “(…) but the government is hoping to roll out the best tests more widely in the coming months.” (ibid.)  Back in the prehistoric times of May – another study conducted over 35 years by Dutch scientists in Amsterdam warned that covid-19 immunity could last just six months – advising against antibody certificates.  “However, as protective immunity may be lost by six months post-infection, the prospect of reaching functional herd immunity by natural infection seems very unlikely.” (“Coronavirus: Study suggests Covid-19 immunity could last just six months, May 24, 2020 sky news)

The government was on the verge of rolling out their antibody tests in May too – the big pharma companies Roche and Abbott panting in the wings with highly lucrative contracts.  

The immunity passport and herd immunity are distinct if not quite opposed – but both definitely undermine or contradict all the lockdown/quarantine/ self-isolating measures which aim – as one would naively suppose and expect – to prevent the disease from spreading.  This is the double bind – one should simultaneously catch the disease and avoid catching the disease.  You should protect the NHS – the supreme command above all others – (in the meantime the slogan has been withdrawn but has morphed in the collective memory to “save the NHS”) by not exposing yourself to infection and at the same time build herd immunity and private own immunity by embracing infection – possibly becoming a ‘burden’ to the NHS should you ‘god forbid’ need their care.  What should one do?
London has done its bit, says Hancock, the health minister.  17% have had it including the minister and of course Boris Johnson’s big bit. Even the ‘disgraced’ Imperial College scientific advisor Neil Ferguson has paid his dues to the virus. Dominic Cummings did his bit by catching the virus but the NHS doctor Dominic Pimenta said ‘he didn’t do his bit’ by breaking the lockdown with all his day trips. If even a medical doctor and one of the NHS’ own is confused about what ‘doing one’s bit’ is – how should the rest of us figure out what’s right.  Quo vadis? Towards the quarantine and staying safe or towards infection and freedom?

Winter is Coming

Obviously there is a stark dichotomy between doing your bit for the lockdown and doing your bit for herd immunity. The rest of the regions are far behind London with only 5% post-virus elect.  The others should now do their bit – what else can that mean other than catch the virus – and possibly die from it? Hancock has since told the nation in yet another change of key – that it is their ‘civic duty’ to ‘do their bit’ by self-isolating for 14 days when a ‘test and trace’ tracker tells them they’ve been over 15 minutes within 2 meters of a virus carrier.   And if people don’t obey voluntarily – he threatened: “we can quickly make it mandatory if that’s what it takes.”
Using almost Heideggerian language of “the call of conscience” (der Ruf des Gewissens) he said: “And in return for following those instructions, you’ll have the knowledge that when the call came you did your bit, at a time when it really mattered.”  But what if a tracker call comes again – just after you’ve finished your 14 days self-isolation … Will there be a limit to the number of times you can be fingered?  Or is the ‘test and trace” program a euphemism for what could potentially be a lifelong intermittent Coronavirus house arrest?

Every alleged new exposure could lead to another 14 days of self-isolating – for as the long as the virus is alive and circulating in the herd.  Theoretically everyone can expect at best a life of intermittent confinement.

Compounding this double bind chaos – the vaccine researchers in Oxford are worried the virus is disappearing so fast in the population they won’t have enough time and candidates to test their vaccine.  So how will the immunity passport work?  If you can’t catch the disease because it died out on its own – your immune system will never be able to produce the antibodies you require for your immunity passport.  Such unfortunate persons will languish indefinitely in lockdown until the ‘2nd wave’ may give them a chance to become infected and potentially – if they survive – apply for the passport to ‘normal’ life.  The immunity passport would give you back property of yourself (in the Lockean sense of self).   As the owner of your own immunity you will become certified ‘bios’ and you cease to be merely ‘bare life’, a self-isolating homo sacer or just an anonymous unqualified quantum of the herd’s immunity.
End of Part 3