[ARENA] Entrevista com Paul Virilio
Quarta-Feira, 22 de Outubro de 2008 - 23:39:27 WEST
Olá a todos:
Segue junto a tradução para inglês de uma entrevista recente de Paul
Virilo, cortesia do nosso amigo Patrice Reims.
Apesar da habitual visão apocalíptica (e moralista), não deixa de ser
uma curiosa perspectiva sobre a actualidade ...
following interview by Gerard Courtois and Michel Guerrin.
original article (in French) in le Monde at: http://tinyurl.com/57a3hb
[Le krach actuel représente l'accident intégral par excellence]
For thirty years now, the philospher Paul Virilio analyses the
catastrophe as the unavoidable consequence of technological progress.
He sees in the current financial crisis the most accomplished example
of his theory, a catastrophe where the victims do not actually die,
but lose the roof above their heads by the thousands.
Gerard Courtois/Michel Guerrin: In 2002 you have produced an
exhibition at the Maison Cartier under the title "Ce qui
arrive" ('that what occurs' ['Unknown quantity', in its official
english title]); It was about the accident in contemporary history:
Tchernobyl, 9-11, the Tsunami... A statement by Hannah Arendt was the
marker of your demonstration: "progress and catastrophe are the two
faces of the same coin". Is this where we have come to with the
'crash of the stock exchange'?
Paul Virilio: Well, of course. In 1979, at the time of the mishap at
the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in the U.S., I did mention the
occurrence of an "original accident" - the kind of accident we bring
forth ourselves. I said that our technical prowess was pregnant of
catastrophic promises. In the past, accidents were local affairs.
With Tchernobyl, we have entered the era of global accidents, whose
consequences are in the realm of the long term. The current crash
represents the perfect 'integral accident'.
Its effect ripple far and wide, and it incorporates the
representation of all other accidents. For thirty years now, the
phenomenon of History accelerating has been negated, together with
the fact that this acceleration has been the prime mover of the
proliferation of major accidents. Freud said it, speaking of death:
"accumulation snuffs out the perception of contingency". Contingency
is the key word here. These accidents are not contigent occurences.
For the time being, the prevalent opinion is that researching the
crash of the stock exchange as a political and economic issue and in
terms of its social consequences is adequate enough. But it is
impossible to understand what is going on if one does not implement a
(policy based on the) political economy of speed, the speed that
technological progress engenders, and if one does not link (this
policy) to the 'accidental' character of History. Let's take just one
example: the dictum "time is money". I add to this, and the stock
exchange testify to it: "speed is power". We have moved from the
stage of the acceleration of History to that of the acceleration of
the Real. This is what 'the progress' is: a consensual sacrifice.
GC/MG: So accidents are too little researched?
PV: The dominant form of writing about History limits itself to the
study of facts as seen in the light of the long term. Contrarywise, I
advocate a study of History based exlusively on ruptures. (French)
Historian Francois Hartog calls the dominant paradigm "presentism".
We must go further. Our paradigm should be "instantaneism". In order
to study accidents, one of course must research them, but also
'expose' them. The accident is 'invented', it a work of creation. Who
could be more apt than artists to make feel the tragic dimention of
human development (progress)? That was the intent behind the "ce qui
arrive" exhibition - where, by the way, I did mention a stock
exchange crash. It stood for the museum, or the observatory, of major
accidents that I'd like to see coming about some day. Not in order to
instill fear, but to make us face up.
GC/MG: But then, how would you define the crash of the stock
exchange, over and beyond its surprise element?
PV: Like with any contemporary event, it is essential to take into
account the integration in synchronous time of various issues at the
world-level. A synchronisation has taken place of customs, habits,
mores, ways to react to things, and also, of emotions. We have left
the era of class-based communitarism for that of instant and
simultaneous globalisation of affects and fears - but not longer of
opinions. It was already the case with the attacks on the World Trade
Center and with the Tsunami. The same happens now with the financial
crash. After a short 'technical' phase - bank collapses, shares fall-
out - kicks in a phase of 'hystery-isation' of responses. There is
talk of "markets going mad", of "irrational" reactions, you'd almost
call it 'end of the world craze'. Terrorists have very well
understood this mechanism, and they make use of it.
GC/MG Do you, like some people do, believe that capitalism is nearing
PV: I rather believe that the end is nearing capitalism. My field is
urban studies. This crisis shows that the Earth is not large enough
for progress, for the speed of History (as we have it). Hence
repetitive accidents. We were living in the belief that we had both a
past and a future. But 'the past does not pass', it has become a
monster, so much so that we do not mention it anymore. And as far as
the future is concerned, it is severely questioned by the issue of
the environment, and the end of natural resources like oil. So the
only place left for us to inhabit is the present. But the writer
Octavio Paz said it before: "you cannot live in the present moment,
just as you cannot live in the future". It is exactly what all of us
are now going through, and that includes the bankers.
GC/MG: But did not the financial world bring about (invent) a virtual
PV: Since speed earns money, the financial sphere has attempted to
enforce the value of time above the value of space. But the virtual
is also part and parcel of reality. And to be frank with you, this so-
called virtual world, in which one can also include tax-heavens, is a
form of exotism, which I tend to equate with colonialism. It is the
(recurrent) myth of another livable planet.
GC/MG: As opposed to other accidents, the crash of the stock exchange
remains something of an enigma to the public at large. Is this bad?
PV: Well, one does not understand the fine points, but one can guess,
and that is enough. One must guess (about) what occurs. Not being
able to understand naturally reinforces fear. But, at the same time,
we do not longer have the time left to experience fear. What is
really disturbing is the rise of a 'civil deterrence' of sorts, which
is individual and intimate, and which permeates all aspects of life.
We are being deterred to do this or that as individuals. Ever since
9-11 we have been affected by a 'civil fear', and the
industrialisation of the accident is its root cause. So, in order to
study the impact of collisions, car makers stage 'test crashes'. The
crash of the stock exchange is such a test crash - but at the real
level. Even the break-up of relationships has been industrialised.
One could even introduce some mechanism of quotes for divorces,
risking hereby to show that the traditional couple and family has
become an illusion.
GC/MG: Could one also speak of a morality of the stock exchange
crash, in the sence that also those who were making fortunes get
PV: I am not a vigilante. I do empathise with critics who say that
some people have made obscene profits. I do not deny the damage
caused by the accumulation of riches in a few hands. But to merely
criticise this acceleration of profits and History, this "galloping
avarice", as Eugene Sue called it, while remaining in the materialist
framework of profit, is a deficient, reductionist analysis. What is
happening is much more complex, and profoundly disturbing. We have
gone into someting of a different nature. This economy of wealth has
become an economy of speed. By the way, this is the problem the Left
is currently facing. The Left is stuck in its old framework, states
that capitalism is dead, and now thinks that more social justice is
to come about. This is a bit hasty a deduction. We do really have a
major problem on our plates... If the state does not take stock of
this 'futurism of the moment', we might well see instead a capitalism
running riot without bounds whatsoever.
GC/MG: You wrote once "By designing a 800 passengers plane, the firm
Airbus has simultaneously created 800 potential casualties". But till
now, the crash of the stock exchange did not kill anyone...
PV: The crash is not the Black Death, there haven't been millions of
victims, and it's not the 11th of September either. We are not
talking death here, save maybe a few suicides. The victims are
somewhere else to be found. Where did the current crisis stem from?
the answer is: subprime mortgages; housing credit that proved
unsustainable; land. The victims are the hundred of thousands of
people who are going to lose their homes. The whole concept of
sedentarism had already been challenged by immigrants, exiles,
deportations, refugees - and the delocalisation of economic
activities. This phenomenon is bound to increase. Till 2040, one
billion people will have to move out from their residence. Those are
the victims. We are in the realm of "stop/eject". People are
arrested, get expelled.
GC/MG: You believe in chaos?
PV: Having destabilized the financial system, the stock exchange
crash might well destabilise the state, which is the guarantor of
last resort of collective life. For the time being, the state tries
te be reassuring. But if the bourses keep on heading south, it will
be state itself that will go in receivership, and that will plunge
nations into chaos. This is not me embracing catastrophism. I do not
believe in the unavoidability of the worst possible, I do not believe
in chaos, that is an untenable position, intellectual arrogance. But
that does not mean that one should be prevented from thinking about
it. Faced with absolute fear, I counter with hope absolute. Churchill
said once that an optimist is somebody who sees opportunity hiding
behind every calamity.
Translated by patrice riemens with thanks to apo33 in Nantes for
Distributed as CC by-nc-nd
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