Spyros Manouselis Σπύρος Μανουσέλης
Translated by Eve Harguindey
All health practices against the pandemic to date, this set of biomedical measures and practices designed to protect human societies against the new infectious agent, were not based on rigorous knowledge and research, but on widespread propaganda about a “war” against an invisible enemy, summed up in terrorist slogans broadcast daily by the media, such as “Stay home” during the first phase of the pandemic and “Stay safe” during the second phase.
During the current pandemic (but probably afterwards) it has become clear that citizens no longer have the natural right to health that they enjoyed until yesterday, and that they are therefore legally obliged to ensure public health by all means and thus to contribute to global “biosecurity”, i.e. to respect a series of measures and new biomedical practices that are supposed to ensure the protection of human societies against any biological threat.
In reality, as we shall see, biosafety was invented to give an illusion of security through artificial health protection, which only results in gradually depriving human beings of their social life, relying exclusively on the biomedical guarantee of their survival. Do the most recent public and individual health protection practices adopted to combat the new coronavirus justify the prospect of universal “biosafety”?
When “health” is imposed on us as a biopolitical imperative
From the beginning of April to the end of May, more than half of the world’s population was placed under house arrest to limit the spread of the new coronavirus. Of course, this is neither the first nor the last time in human history that certain populations have been forced to confine themselves to protect themselves from a deadly epidemic.
What is most astounding about the current Covid-19 pandemic is the speed at which it has spread across the globe, and the fact that about 3.9 billion people were quarantined almost simultaneously. This automatically makes this pandemic an unprecedented psychological and anthropological experience.
It is indeed a completely new historical event, whose consequences, both psychological at the individual level and social at the collective level, have not yet been studied, although they have affected and still affect almost everyone. The upheaval in the daily social life of so many people, without being able to predict the end, is most certainly creating fear, anxiety, depressive syndromes, and other traumas not yet visible.
In more recent history, similar but localized phenomena of social containment due to a viral epidemic have been studied in the case of SARS in China and Canada, and the Ebola epidemic in some African countries. Similarly, the psychological consequences of the lockdown of human beings under extreme conditions have been studied in cosmonauts orbiting the Earth.
However, the case of cosmonauts, although extreme, is nonetheless the result of a conscious decision taken freely. It is a carefully prepared lockdown experiment, with consequences and end date known in advance, which nevertheless remains traumatic for the cosmonauts.
What is the attitude of people terrified of the new coronavirus, faced with the “health” need to radically disrupt their daily activities and postpone the satisfaction of some of their basic biological and social needs indefinitely? Some are eager to return to their normal pre-viral lives, while most approach their return to their former lives with a mixture of fear, anxiety or even panic as long as the coronavirus circulates freely.
However, avoiding social and physical contact with our friends and loved ones, never shaking hands and kissing them is contrary to our propensity as social animals, while prolonged deprivation of physical contact and intimate relationships with others is considered a major cause of psychosomatic disorders and depression in most people.
Lockdown for reasons of… health
Indeed, numerous psychological studies – both before and during the pandemic – confirm that prolonged confinement and forced loneliness are the most common problems of modern humans, manifesting themselves in permanent feelings of anxiety, intense discomfort and depression that affect their physical and mental health.
If to these pre-existing psychological problems, which are widespread in modern societies, one adds, on the one hand, the constant and ubiquitous threat of infection by the new coronavirus and, on the other hand, the economic effects of prolonged quarantine, then feelings of intense anxiety and persistent insecurity intensify and have a devastating effect on the health and life expectancy of people, especially those belonging to the most vulnerable groups (the elderly, the sick).
It is an unbearable state of chronic anxiety which, despite the decrease in the number of cases and mortality due to the pandemic, creates in hypochondriac individuals a paranoid reaction of permanent repression of their desire to leave home, return to work and meet friends, who are automatically classified as threatening “carriers” responsible for the transmission of the coronavirus.
In this way, however, interpersonal relationships are shaped and regulated by a culture of “universal suspicion”. This, as we know, by the suffocating and therefore unnatural rules it imposes, creates only inhuman and dehumanizing relationships.
A typical example of this are the new dematerialized – i.e. exclusively virtual – contacts and relationships on the Internet which, during the last pandemic, doubled because they offered a safe substitute for real but potentially infectious relationships between people confined to their homes.
This may be a temporary “solution” to our inherent need for communication and social contact, but in the long term it may lead to many problems – particularly for young Internet users – such as confusing the real with the virtual, and gradually diminishing their vital need for face-to-face physical relations and communication. Thus, in the aftermath of the pandemic, there is a serious risk that many people will “choose” to remain isolated at home, “living” exclusively in the reassuring but virtual reality offered by the Internet.
“Healthy living” as terrorism
It is enough to be attentive to the daily declarations of governments, the forecasts of terrorist attacks and the plans of international financial organisations for the years to come, to realise that what is at stake today is not the salvation of people from the coronavirus, but the panoptic and totalitarian management, through recurrent health crises, not only of the physical health but also of the socio-economic and psychological life of a plethoric human population.
This is a new planetary hygiene that is creating social, economic and humanitarian problems that are already visibly very acute, and of which no one can guarantee that it will be less destructive to human life than the current coronavirus pandemic. For it should now be clear that the disaster now affecting us is not purely viral in nature, but is, to a very large extent … caused by man.
Thus, during the period of the pandemic, but also afterwards, citizens no longer automatically have the full right to health safety but are also obliged by law to take care of public health and biosecurity. The term biosecurity describes a range of new biomedical measures and practices designed to protect societies from any infectious agent and biological threat.
A typical example of these mass “biosecurity” terrorist strategies is the recent global quarantine, which has turned the right to health of every individual into an obligation to protect themselves and others from the threat of infection.
Needless to say, the extreme health practices that have been practised to date in the name of biosecurity are not based on rigorous scientific knowledge and research, but on the widespread propaganda of “war” against an invisible enemy (the new virus), which is most effectively summed up in the terrorist slogans “Stay home” of the first phase and “Stay safe” of the second phase of the pandemic, which are broadcast daily in the media.
To the new biopolitical practices of bl”aming individuals and, at the same time, of massive marginalization of the most “at risk” human groups, practices that have been widely accepted as supposed to guarantee the security and protection of people, we must oppose our active solidarity with the victims of Covid-19 and resist by all means this manifest attempt to dehumanize our lives in the name of an unrealistic biosecurity.
“Biosecurity” scenarios in a zombie society
According to the dominant political discourse, most people have shown great restraint and discipline in the face of the new pandemic and have behaved with a “high sense of responsibility” to society. For those who, like the author of this article, are not convinced by this “flattering” assessment, the widespread acceptance and unanimous application of very unusual health safety rules against coronavirus is a very serious problem.
This problem is not essentially scientific but above all biopolitical, in the sense that it concretely affects the forms of social management of the health and life of the entire present population.
The impressive readiness and speed with which most people have been willing to sacrifice their personal social needs and their deepest biological predispositions to protect their health should rather be attributed to the global misinformation and health terror generated around the immediate mortal danger and perhaps the uncontrolled spread of the new epidemic to themselves and their loved ones.
In this sense, the dominant problem for those who decide to confront and manage this pandemic is to achieve the greatest possible “biosecurity”.
“Biosecurity” as health terrorism
The first explicit formulation of the concept of “biosafety” as a central policy option to manage citizens’ health in order to arbitrarily guarantee immunity against certain dangerous infectious diseases can be found in French historian Patrick Zylberman’s book ‘Tempêtes microbiennes’ (Microbial Storms) (Gallimard, 2013)l
In this important book, unfortunately not translated into Greek, Zylberman, following the method of the archaeology of concepts of his professor Michel Foucault, reconstructs in detail and in a very convincing way the most recent version, historically, of the concept of “health safety” as a dominant tool, which is elaborated and exercised, according to the historical circumstances, through two alternative but complementary scenarios: the best possible scenario and the worst possible scenario for the implementation and management of a health crisis.
As everything shows, in the current pandemic is applied exactly what Patrick Zylberman described seven years ago: it is the worst possible scenario that applies to the global health crisis.
If the most inhumane and dehumanizing biosafety scenario is indeed implemented to manage the current viral crisis, then we are entitled to doubt the near future of human relations. After all, by definition, incorporeal and impersonal biosafety is only suitable for zombie societies. But we’ll say more about this in our next article.