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A contribution by Elisabeth von Samsonow, Professor for Philosophical and Historic Anthropology of Arts, Institute for Art Theory and Cultural Studies.

Puplished in Identities: Journal for Politics, Gender and Culture on 06.04.2020


The Dissident Goddesses’ Network comments on this moment from the perspective of a - not new - radical claim for socio-ecological change and reorientation. The current crisis is a crisis of life. During this time of deep exhale the condition and fragility of planetary existence becomes manifest. And it is the time of Gaia’s epiphany. This paper addresses all of us, the survivors, the “people of Gaia” (Bruno Latour and Gilles Deleuze/ Félix Guattari), dedicated to those who passed away and will pass away during this pandemy.

1. This crisis uncovers the best and most beautiful side of the humans: their love for life. They cling to life, they are passionate for it, and they protect it. At any rate life is desired and favored. To this end, means are taken to a degree which had been unthinkable beforehand, during the socalled “normal times.” The crisis demonstrates the deep appreciation of life pervading all social and political spaces. It’s the first time that economy steps back in favor of life. In favor of life the economy risks a shutdown. It is definitively something unique and singular living on this planet. Why is it so good here? Why is it desirable to dwell on this planet? Why should we want to live here so much? Which kind of experience does the planet offer us? This crisis affects the whole world, humans on earth. The shock unleashes a philosophical potential. We are becoming the solidary citizens of this planet, but what or who is this unknown star? Comment: Before the crisis, it was evident that the ecological disbalance tended to its maximum on earth, but there was almost no re-acting, far from enough (look at the poor response to the climate change movement). Is it possible to favor human life and continue neglecting the terrestrian conditions of life as a whole? The crisis opens a path to coming-to-the-world, to meeting the earth, to being-in-earth.

2. People are forcedly taking a pause, the same applies to nature: nature has to take in much less harmful and toxic substances, needs to digest less waste. The economy of the anthropocene had reached at a catastrophic level of destruction and erasion. The dying of species is ongoing. Now the effect of this unforeseen pause or human inactivity is visible everywhere: the air gets better, water is cleansing itself from pollution, the animals return. This is the epihany of Gaia, the earth (see James Lovelock’s and Lynn Margulis’ Gaia Hypothesis). After ten days she recovers a bit, after one month she starts to radiate, after three months she is back in her reign. The humans feel this change, they will take note of this quality of the earth in epiphany they were missing. To encounter this earth is what is needed and desired now. Happiness is being-in-the-world (this is love for life). The new earth is luxurious, abundant, as ever. Modifying and reducing consuming makes definitely evident that there is enough for all. Dignity of humans rises to the same degree the earth becomes subject. Well-being is grounded as well in exchange and communication between humans as in interspecies contact (Donna Haraway). Comment: This new relationship, which is brought forth during the time of suspension paralleling the epiphany of Gaia, is erotic. Gaia is ecstatic, in plenitude. The machinery of desire fueled with the energy of ever unaccomplished wishes is re-engineered (this in Anti-Lacanian proposition). Civilizational systematic oblivion of earth is over, the geo trauma (Robin Mackay) enters the space of consciousness.

3. The crisis does not only put humans under the order of a shutdown but offers them a creative break for re-orientation. People have worked and run at a maximum rate. The alternation of work and regeneration must be reset. It is good and desirable to live but what is the content of life? Make us operate continuously at the edge of burnout? Why life is beautiful? Because we may consume and buy endlessly? Which kind of dignity can humans claim from their role within the living system of the earth? From where do they draw their greedy claims? The shock is waking up, is awakening, sadly enough is through shock. Peope get aware of what they knew before: that is impossible to return to the status ante quem. The lack of self-awareness and self-reflexion, as well as a lack of recognition of others, is dimmed down in this moment of privation and calmness. People get creative, as they are challenged, and they reinvent themselves. They discover their manifold abilities, talents, potentials they will contribute to social, economic, political, scientific, and cultural life with. This i why this pause is needed, even if it was imposed. Many people continue to work hard, for the other’s sake, in food production and trade, in health care and energy industry. The crisis allows to look at the need, which ones of all enterprises serve for the basics, and which ones don’t. It applies mostly to those who produce and supply food and support life’s daily routine. The post-metaphysical age does not offer any sense or meaning to the moment. It can only be drawn bottom-up from life itself. The event itself is meaningful (this is a Spinozist argument). Comment: There is no reason to seriously worry for this great amount of sensitive and thoughtful beings. But there is a reason to worry in case things will not change in the future, will return to business as usual. Within two years economy will fully recover. But it should be a type of economy that is less colonial, ecologically destructive, and exploitive. The relationsship between technology, science, and art must be reinvented. And there must be a turn in the use of energy - a switch from colonializing and wasting use of energy to the “climacteric mode” (Jeremy Rifkin, who adresses issues of entropy saying that the whole living system enters another mode). It should be an economy that does not ensure one’s wealth by the poverty of the others. This is possible. Up to now this disbalance between the north and the south has governed and made possible the economy we had – which was widely resistant to analysis, accusation and suggestion.

4. Women are very actively involved in this crisis, charged as moderators, social managers of the reduced “private” space. Their contribution to social wellbeing during the crisis is unmeasurable. Woman again give proof of their social expertise. This is why the future must be prepared as preferably guided and directed by women. “Women’s expertise” is equivalent to the highest social and emotional reponsability. Comment: There is a need for a completey new politics. The matriarchal model is recommended. Matriarchal societies are symbolically centered around the mother, they base and focus on motherly values. These societies are egalitarian. Social prestige is drawn from motherly values, as there are: care, support, enhancement, recognition and love.

5. The virus unites the people though they must keep distance. The sanitary system performs at maximum. The aggressor is not human, not somebody who declares war to others, but a non-living hacker identiy, a gene without being. In the light of this new solidarity people can feel, war must be looked at: why there is so much physical pain and disaster made by people for people? How does human-made war look like in the time of the virus? There must be a way to put an end to the war. In the face of a health system that is too much challenged, the brutal atavism of war - driven by economic interest - gets evident. Comment: Why is it less problematic and it does not cause total shutdown when humans attack humans? The crisis offers the chance to revise and rethink guiding values, expecially when it is time to reevalue life. Up to now there was only one person to give the perfect evaluation for life, namely, the mother.

6. The New Ecology: this is not just a well put set of rules and laws like recycling, limitation of pollution and regionalism in food production. It is based on the epiphany of the Goddess, Gaia, namely on Life as the quality and function of the biosphere. The earth carries life, she is life, she provides the life we desire. This is why the New Ecology cherishes the Goddess, Vita, Gaia, the living matter, the interspecies concerto of this living planet. Her cult is the Zen of the very simple things. Comment: Ecology consisting in a canon of laws is object to eco-dictatorship, which is imminent. Possible, that politics would try to continue the Corona crisis state of emergency in order to deeply change the democratic style of politics into a forced governemental state of leadership and control. This would set forth the alientaion from earth, Gaia. The New Ecology and a politics appropriate to it will have to put Gaia into the center of the economy of desire. For this reason, Gaia must be considered a subject, not an object, geology is turned into geosophy. Hypersubjects of the scale of Gaia hitherto were considered under the notion of “god.” Gaia is the planetary condition of existence, the hypersubject of the biosphere under the notion of the Goddess.

7. People are shaken by the crisis, destabilized. They get aware of the fragility of life, how precious it is to them. People are not alone in the world. Any virus may adjust itself to changing conditions, to the most preferable ones from ist perspective. The imminent “victory over the corona-virus” (through treatment and ongoing immunization, likely there will be a medical treatment as there was in the case of HIV virology) does not imply that people return to their business as if nothing has happened. This will be a lesson in the collective field. The virus is a symbol of undercover infection and “malware” which could affect humans to the most catastrophic degree. The narratives of self-extinction are left far behind by this type of “software” attack. Comment: The virus is the perfect symptom for info-society. It is a coded infostrip invading the host undercover. Paralleling the corona crisis, the world wide informational systems are technogically tuned by the massive installtion of satellites - in order to secure info-structure at land, sea and in air without putting an end to any holes or infoshadow. What can this infoattack mean? The digital avantgarde of the third millenium experiences a viral attack at its bioware, on the living body.

8. Immunity: what is it? It is a complex structure. It is not evident when an immune reaction is strong, and at what condition it is missing. Not everybody is ill at the same time. Immunity in its medical meaning is important, but there is also something like psychic immunity. Both levels cooperate. Psychic “immunity” may support the medical one. Immunity is a multi-level process. Social systems organize immunity by building inner zones against the outside (they can also be based on racist and totalitarian ideas, as we saw in the past, so we need to be careful with the allegorical sense in biology). Yet, the symbol of immunization is social stability, grounding in the element of the socius (Gilles Deleuze). This idea is actually under pressure from the supposition that anyone can be a virus carrier. So the virus re-organizes the social system, dominating social evidence and its effects of social immunization. We have to reconsider and rethink immunization in relationsship to the integrity of the indivdual person and social structure. There is a clear difference between affect and infect. Comment: “I am immune against this.” What does this mean? I am not open to this offer, to this seduction, to this object of desire. It is evident that the subject in captalist times is put as the seducable, the open, the modifiable, the manipulable, the future consumer, the non-immune. Which form of porosity is the status quo of the postmodern subject (Ian Hacking)? How can it be protected? The difference between affection and infection must become clear.