The insubordination of the real


By Marilia Pacheco Fiorillo*

A reality that was totally unknown a few months ago, totally unknown so far, requires some patience, including the concept.

Warning to the educated reader: the real here, in lowercase, is not the majestic confluence with the Rational, the Hegelian chimera of the last vibrato in the agonistic opera of the march of the world. It is not grandiose, superb or eschatological. It's just cruel. Of a cruelty of the size of the facts. Facts? There are those who, at the mention of them, raise their eyebrows. In the world of ideas, facts are a falsification. There are no bare facts, naivety of naiveties. They are appearance, mere belief, delirium of a doxa obstinate, or stuck stubborn. Despised and despised, they say that facts are nothing more than the mask of the mask of the mask of the Real Idea. Adhering to them – like this, as raw material to mull over – would be to agree with a paltry degree of knowledge, just a little better than wanting to understand life through art.


Could it be. But sometimes this stupefying and commonplace reality imposes itself with such violence, such a storm, that it turns scorched earth – for Platonists or Posts – the usual, far-fetched and delicious digressions. How to argue with a tsunami? This is the case with the coronavirus pandemic, and with some very respectable philosophers.

A reality that was totally unknown a few months ago, totally unknown so far, requires some patience, including the concept. It would be unfair, because premature, to expect reasonable explanations (from epidemiologists, sanitarians or doctors in the trivia) already and already. That is, ask them to clarify some reasoning that meets not only the hermeneutics, but above all the painfully real afflictions of those who suffer. Any ongoing hypothesis (of cure or collapse) will now need, in order not to ferment the reigning anti-intellectualism, to cling to such reality. The insurmountable reality of suffering, pain, cruelty, the moral dilemma to which those who decide about lives are subjected. To the tangible existence of individuals, bodies, each body.

Worse, for the class of trivia: there is no evasion. There is also not a eu that is the center of gravity of the narrative (I class, I gender, I status), nor the possibility of invoking the narrative as an escape from anguish.

The we – the limpid, universal description of indiscriminate pain – finally triumphed, for the worst of reasons. It imposed itself, and it wasn't because of the desired spread of tolerance (a very condescending word), much less because of the explosion of empathy (a word that has been much abused and misused). The virus is democratic, as its terror strikes everyone – of course, as in every democracy, some do better, others succumb.

Ironically, it, and the fear of it, is likely to lead to the creation of a “community of trust”, as paradoxical and eccentric as it sounds. As Richard Rorty puts it in a brief essay on justice as extended loyalty, sentiment and not a categorical imperative [Pragmatism and politics, Martins], “what Kant would describe as a result of the conflict between moral obligation and feeling, or between reason and feeling, is, in a non-Kantian explanation, a conflict between a set of loyalties and another set of loyalties. The idea of ​​a universal moral obligation to respect human dignity is replaced by the idea of ​​loyalty to a wider group – the human species (…and even) loyalty to all those who, like us, can experience pain”.

If moral dilemmas are not conflicts between should and want, but between wanting for ourselves, a small group, or a larger group, the fight between the alternative selves will lose fire (the family, the clan, the neighbors versus the outsiders). , strangers). Paying homage to the optimists, something common has emerged, and everyone shares the idea of ​​“having nothing to lose”, which used to be the prerogative of a class.

It is the terror of death that will unite the “us”, not goodwill. To recapitulate Rorty, it is not abstract principles that shape justice, but some circumstance in which "parochial loyalties" expand, and the problems of certain (close) people equal those of (almost) everyone. In the case of the pandemic, the dilemma took a turn: it ceased to be the classic saving food for one's own family in times of scarcity, instead of sharing it with homeless people, and became the mantra of everyone with everyone: find the vaccine, or medicine, for the planet's tribe.

Fear, not compassion, extinguished the dubious clash of civilizations (burka ou shorts, it makes no difference), the struggle between minority rights or human rights affects rich and poor, precariat and bourgeoisie, children and the elderly, whatever you want to call it.

Fear, who would have thought it, is the vector of the only common good in emergence, expanded loyalty.


It is up to philosophers, of course, to get rid of the crude empiricism and project flights with greater reach in time and greater consistency in amplitude. Many of them have dedicated themselves to discussing the pandemic from the perspective of the loss of individual freedoms, control, surveillance, the pretext that the State of Exception needed to indulge once and for all.

Take the case of the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben and the article published shortly before Italy became the epicenter of the coronavirus, a situation that was only mitigated when the decree of the lockdown, the inflexible confinement. Agamben, author of Holy man (UFMG) and State of Exception (Boitempo) is, undeniably, a philosopher who deserves the title, for creating powerful, original concepts, plugged into the contemporary world – unlike many of his peers who strive for new nomenclatures, as much more impenetrable as they are trivial.

Giorgio Agamben

For a quick introduction to Agamben's ideas. O Homo sapiens (Homo Sacer. Sovereign power and bare life, 1998) is inspired by a figure of Roman law, the one who committed a certain crime not foreseen in the law, but for which his status as “citizen” was revoked; thus, being outside the jurisdiction of the law, he cannot be punished; however, as he is also not protected by it, he can be murdered at will by anyone and at any time without the murder constituting a crime, (since the priest is beyond and short of legal provisions.)

Thus, because he is stripped of his civil rights, he is automatically stripped of his basic human rights. The concept is illuminating, as it corresponds in detail to the anatomy of the contemporary refugee, a theme par excellence of the XNUMXst century, and which will reappear as one of the most terrifying side effects of the pandemic. The resident of the refugee camps is the one who has been pushed, once and for all, to the status of “outlaw”.

It only has bare life (Zoe), the body. Guantanamo prisoners, detained without formal charge, were deprived of their human rights precisely because they had been stripped of their status as citizens, since they were “enemy-combatant prisoners”, not prisoners of war, as defined by the conventions of Geneva. All that was left for them to do was resist with their bare lives, the hunger strike. To this extent, the priest is the specular opposite of Basileus, or sovereign, who, by embodying the law in his person, can suspend or alter it.

The sovereign is also an "outlaw", but advantageously, as he hovers above it. O Leader he is the sovereign who operates outside the law, but from within it, as if it emanated from his person. Among his prerogatives is that of enacting the State of exception, in which (and here is the navel of the concept) the law does not need to be revoked, but only suspended indefinitely.

For Agamben, this is how most so-called Western democracies act. See the Rumsfeld/Bush “Patriotic Act”, which legalized torture by redefining it as anything goes, as long as it did not irreversibly harm any vital organ. Agamben was inspired by the work of Nazi ideologue and jurist (later sidelined) Carl Schmitt, adviser to Hermann Göring. Life under the State of Exception is included in the legal system in reverse: because of its condition of exceptionality, of threat, veiled or not, of exclusion of rights.

The annihilation of these civil and human rights, for Agamben, is something that has become commonplace in the contemporary world: concentration camps (the Uighurs in China), immigrant detention centers (Libya, Greece and others), refugee camps, losing by sight.


On February 26, Agamben published “Lo stato d'eccezione provocato da un'emergenza immotivata: Coronavirus. La paura dell'epidemia offre sfogo al panico, e in nome della sicurezza si accettano misure che seriously limiting la liberatà giustificando lo stato d'eccezioneeste” [The state of exception provoked by an unprovoked emergency: the coronavirus. Fear of the epidemic offers an escape from panic, and in the name of security, measures are accepted that seriously restrict freedom, justifying the state of exception].

The text appeared in the newspaper The poster (Italy's number one patient had been admitted on the 19th, still without a precise diagnosis). Here are some excerpts:

“Faced with the frantic, irrational and completely unmotivated emergency measures aimed at an alleged epidemic due to the corona virus, let's start from the official declaration of the National Research Council (CNS), according to which “there is no Sars-CoV2 epidemic in Italy”. More: the infection, according to the epidemiological data available today on tens of thousands of cases, causes mild/moderate symptoms (a kind of flu) in 80/90% of cases. In 10/15%, it can progress to pneumonia, which evolution is, however, benign in its absolute majority. It is estimated that only 4% of patients will need intensive care. If this is the real situation, why are the media and authorities dedicated to spreading panic? (...). Two factors can compete to explain such an exaggerated behavior. First of all, there is again a growing tendency to use the state of exception as the normal model of government. The decree-law quickly approved by the government “for reasons of hygiene and public safety” implies, in fact, a true militarization of municipalities and areas where there is at least one person for whom the source of transmission is unknown (… ). One would say that, once terrorism has been exhausted as a motivation for exceptional measures, the invention of an epidemic would offer the ideal alibi to expand them beyond all limits”.

For Agamben, then, “frantic, irrational and totally unmotivated” were the measures that “would provoke a true and proper State of exception. His central question: what is a society that has no value other than survival?

Invented epidemic, alibi to establish the State of exception once and for all, normalization of the emergency. agamben dixit. Survival may not be the most sublime of society's ideals, but, let's face it, it is the capital real condition for all of them.

Jean-Luc Nancy, also a French philosopher, responded with the sarcastic article “Viral Exception”. Agreeing with Agamben's warning that governments are always looking for pretexts to stretch States of exception, he recalled, however, that the difference in lethality between a simple flu and Covid is enormous. “There is a kind of viral exception – biological, information technology, cultural – that makes us pandemic. Governments are nothing but sad executors of it and taking it back on them is more a diversionary maneuver than a political reflection”. And he finished: “Giorgio is an old friend. Almost 30 years ago doctors decided I should have a heart transplant. Giorgio was one of the few who told me not to listen to them. If I had taken his advice, he would probably be dead.”

So it is. The real did not submit to the refined, precise, original, worthy of all praise, Agamben's clumsily allocated concepts.


Against the admirable Agamben: Jacinda Ardern. The prosaic, young, magnetic, delicate Prime Minister of New Zealand. The one who took her newborn baby to the office, and who was shocked by it. The one who showed respect and solidarity with the Muslim victims of the Christchurch mosque attack, remembering to cover her head, in conversation with the victims' families. The one who broadcast her daily Covid bulletins on T-shirts and sweatshirt. The one that spoke not of “war against the virus” but of kindness and unity of the “team of 5 million”. The one who went so far as to make a speech about the importance of Santa Claus.

But what a clumsy tyrant! New Zealand won the battle against the coronavirus, after five weeks of lockdown drastic. He acted quickly, with draconian and surgical measures. O lockdown was decreed at the first signs that the pandemic was coming. We only have 102 cases, the prime minister said at the time, "but that's how Italy started".


Against Rorty, with all admiration: "Beautiful souls, saying no, breaking ranks, and hearing the voice of consciousness in dark times” [Beauty at the core: saying no, acting alone and raising the voice of conscience in dark times] (Farrar, Strauss and Giorux, New York). The author, the historian Eyal Press, tells four stories of unknown people with little conceit, relaxed people who defied the group to which they belonged, disobeyed the law and the norm, invented tricks to save lives, even risking their own, and who, different, it only has the imprint of immense and unconditional loyalty to the human tribe, in the singular. It is read to be believed.

*Marilia Pacheco Fiorillo is a retired professor at the USP School of Communications and Arts (ECA-USP).


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