Fragility and sense. A cultural reading of the Crown virus
I take it for granted that Byung-Chul Han knows well what he's talking about., because he moves himself between these two cultures. I also consider that there is something in your analysis of "excess positivity" that deserves to be taken into account. However, the conclusions with which the article ends. Conclusions that are aimed at contradicting those who believe that this virus could lead to a revolution. The reason Han gives for not believing in that possibility is that "The virus isolates and individualizes us.
I have a friend who always reminds me that everything is one and the same: courage and fear, kindness and evil, health and disease... anyway all those pairs of opposites that our binary thinking only conceives like that, Opposite. But maybe it's at times like the ones we're living in now, where our rationality takes a turn of the rudder and experiences otherwise as one thing comes out the other and everything moves at a time or in a fluid way.
The applause that the Spaniards dedicate many of these afternoons to those who are fighting the virus on the front line are a good example of how fragility in the face of the disease can become force, of how uncertainty is answered with the certainty that the one next door is with me, if only to share one's uncertainty, fear. Opposites become one in uncertain times even if they don't lose their character.
It seems irresistible to seek meaning in these circumstances that each day look more like a nightmare. Human beings always need it, but especially in the most difficult and desperate situations. Whoever finds a meaning in his life - even if it is a tragic one, as Unamuno reminded us - he can with everything, even be happy, just like the Sisyphus of Camus.
It's not about, However, just nice words, nor of phrases of comfort. It is true that we are dealing with a virus that has been able to stop the Ferris wheel of the world, and that is forcing us to deal at the same time with closeness – in confinement – and distances of all those that we can only see by screens. An invisible threat that we feel stalking us everywhere: not just to our body, but a whole lifestyle, to a way of relating to others. Hence the answer to this virus cannot be just medical. As Chilean epidemiologist Catterina Ferreccio points out, fighting the virus is a social issue, and it seems that's more true with the Crown than with other viruses.
In this line, the Korean philosopher, Resident in Germany, Byung-Chul Han, in an article published this Sunday, March 22 in El País entitled "Today's Virus, tomorrow's world" makes a comparison between the ways in which Asia and Europe have handled and are managing the pandemic. According to his interpretation, much of the Asian success in managing the pandemic - and not just in China, also in Japan, Hong Kong and especially in South Korea – it would have to do with its understanding of common life in which the sense of collectivity would prevail over individualism. In addition, the influence of Confucianism, always according to Han, would make them more receptive to accepting authority without answering it, being therefore more "obedient". All these social features, that way of sharing the world with others (or rather being with each other), is what, as Han describes, has contributed to Chinese citizens having no problem with a state that monitors and controls their movements, preferences and affections through mobiles. This control has also proved to be very effective in controlling the virus. Reading it is inevitable to remember the famous phrase "The Big Brother Watches You" and feel like in 1984 Orwell. In front of this Asian community, Han presents European individuality as disorderly and uncontrolled. Ironizes over a border closure that presents almost as an act of impotence as well as an idea of sovereignty more fictional than real.
I take it for granted that Byung-Chul Han knows well what he's talking about., because he moves himself between these two cultures. I also consider that there is something in your analysis of "excess positivity" that deserves to be taken into account. However, the conclusions with which the article ends. Conclusions that are aimed at contradicting those who believe that this virus could lead to a revolution. The reason Han gives for not believing in that possibility is that "The virus isolates and individualizes us. It doesn't generate any strong collective feelings. "And it appeals to a human revolution – not the virus – that gives account of our rational condition (and write REASON with capital letters!) to save the planet.
It's an amazing ending, in my opinion, where their two cultural experiences are mixed in a very peculiar way. On the one hand, your perception of the virus as an insulator and individualizer reminds us, more than Western individualism, to an Asian community that is not touched, saves distances and doesn't want to share the air you breathe with others. On the other hand, your call to use that 'capital' reason, puts it in one of the most proper European traditions, that of the so-called Enlightenment. Kant would no doubt applaud this appeal to make use of the very 'capital' reason that is believed capable of saving the planet. This ability simply comes from the fact that it is considered above and outside it, therefore it is our capital reason that you should direct and guide. Faced with a biological threat that attacks our nature, reason can finally be erected in a moral instance that puts us above any threat.
This sublime rationality certainly seems to be up to the night, at least in the experiences of some European countries where a staunch individualism is exercised but people often touch each other, embraces, kisses and shares more bodies and affections than big data. People living like the virus have exactly increased their sense of collectivity and who are managing the pandemic thanks to a feeling of solidarity and not obedience. Perhaps with little "sovereignty" but with a civic sense that commits to others and holds accountable to those other.
I don't really think it's very productive to make a list – probably prejudiced – of certain Asian countries versus certain European countries, but it is to reflect on this experience of individual and collective fragility that reminds us again of our limits, also those of our rationality. A bath of humility, Well, and an invitation to find a meaning again.