We all imagine the end of the world sometime: in those dystopias, nuclear warheads, Martians, global warming or bacteriological wars responded, each in his own way, to a will, if not to a conspiracy to destroy humanity . And we always imagined it as the nefarious legacy that we would leave to the next generations.
It was not always so. After the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 that killed nearly a hundred thousand people, Voltaire rebuked the reprehensible action of the divine Architect: “Will you say: ‘It is the effect of the eternal laws that, of a free and good God, need the decision ? ‘ Will you say, when you see that pile of victims: ‘Has God taken revenge; does his death pay for his crimes?’ ”
In our secular times, when the end of the world has not yet come, Lisbon can be every city, every tiny corner of the globe. That is disturbing. The uncertainty, the viral challenge to the mathematical laws that accustomed us to living with a certain comfort: thanks to them, we know that bodies fall and that heat expands bodies. Faced with the pandemic, unforeseen and unpredictable, we lost all our certainties.
Our idiosyncrasy does not help. In
A country outside the law
, published in 1992, Carlos Nino pointed out illegality as part of the DNA of the vast majority of Argentines, a lack of respect for the rules that leads to “silly anomie”, that is, a transgression of the rules in which we are all harmed. The great challenge of Argentine society is to overcome this silly anomie: ideally, a State in which we do not even need the control of the authorities and where we are guided by self-control. Minimum: comply with quarantine.
In an anomic society, quarantine involves obeying the law. And when life itself is at stake, the transgression of the law is an irrational act or it produces guilt (do we avoid direct contact with the supermarket cart? Do we wash our hands during the time it takes to sing and repeat happy birthday? ? Do we touch our faces?). It is no longer a God who rewards and punishes, an unconscious act is enough to generate guilt.
Jean-Paul Sartre said in one of his works that “hell is the others”, while the human being lives subject to the gaze of the other, which may be of approval, but also of censorship. But with the pandemic, hell is no longer the gaze of the other but the contagious body of the others, anonymous, most of the times impossible to identify.
But once again, paradoxically, the others are salvation, because the others save us from isolation, from that condition where we face our own ghosts. The body, the same that can be infected, abandons itself to that prosthesis that is the cell phone, to converse with those who cannot be present, or with the computer, to travel with Voyager of Google Earth that world that we cannot see. And locked within the walls, we are even afraid of losing the notion of the horizon, that horizon blurred by the looming threat.
In the family sphere, the different family formats are put to the test in their encounter with others, in their bare life exposed to death, without all the artifices and ornaments of everyday life. Confinement is a stressful phenomenon in itself: couples living with violence or dysfunctional families with demanding children can reach unmanageable situations. If we become aware of everything that is at risk, perhaps a peaceful coexistence is possible if we organize a routine, we regulate the times and we respect the spaces, being more attentive to the other. Needless to say, material conditions relativize all discourse: small merchants, self-employed and self-employed, health personnel, all of them and for different reasons, wonder about their survival. As the same States, both the poor and the powerful, are also asking.
Our future largely depends on our present choices. And they depend on what values prevail in our society. We can skirt the abysmal savagery. But we can also be supportive. Probably, the greater the responsibility, compliance and commitment to others, the better the scenario of the bonds that will shape our future.
“There is no hope without fear, nor fear without hope,” said Spinoza in the ever-present
. The hope we keep is to save ourselves from the virus, the fear is not to do it. But the pandemic can also be a source of discoveries. And even an opportunity to see the full glass, like someone who, surprised, confessed: “Yesterday I spoke to my husband. It was more pleasant than I thought.”