Lessons about the Self and its other from the Corona Moment of Humanity

The communication revolution that we are all living through has allowed us to reproduce the ordinary indefinitely. Anyone who has a  mobile can now upload a selfie or video.  We have come a long way to enjoy the externalization of ourselves to the point that we get glued to television shows that do the laughing for us.   Although this is weird, we gladly indulge in it and literarily feel relieved after the machine does the laughing for us.  This means we have come to enjoy fragmented pieces of ourselves.  This fragmentation, of course, enables us to reproduce our image indefinitely.  This is possible because the new technology enables us to mark a line of the distance between the self and its larvae images which then lets us identify ourselves with our larvae images to the point that the self begins to enjoy its many larvae.  This suggests that the old self that has a unique unchanging core is dying quickly because of the opportunities opened for the larvae selves in networks set up by the new communication technology.  The self of the network is a multi-split self or a larvae self.  The self of the networks is not simply a larvae self but is a dynamically performative self that is performing what may be described by using a religious symbol with deep respect to its adherents, a dancing Shiva, the original Nat Raj of our Indian tradition. 

The fragmentation of the self has given a death blow to the Cartesian transcendent self and the self has become one that is fully dissolved into the possibilities of distantiations that it can afford on the wings of the new networks of wireless communications.  The core of the self seems to be emptied of its essence and the larvae of the self immerse into several of its fragments.   This means the self seems to have become an empty master signifier, a quilting point at which all its floating larvae pieces unify and are structured.  This self that divides itself into several of its images has gained more reinforcement under the lockdown enforced by the Governments to fight Coronavirus.  Today the self is not just narcissistic but has become cannibalistic that feeds on its own larvae images.   Maybe it is because of this multi-splitting self that enjoys chewing its own images, we have to critically understand what lockdown and the resources of the internet and various platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube,  Whatsapp, etc are doing to us.  It seems that dancing Nat Raj will be consumed by its own dance as we get ready to enter the narsi-capitalism of Post-covid world.  

Our ego has become a balloon that we inflate with the images of ourselves and live by the logic of the market.  We invest our libido into narcissistic self-immolation into its pieces through it’s larvae images.  We are become children of narcissism and capitalism.  This kind of capitalism survives on the heightening of the decimals of our persistent discontent with our borderless society and trigger anxiety. The self that is multi-splitting is then an anxious self that is always afraid of the theft of its several enjoyments.  Its constant compulsions to enjoy and enter the ever-multiplying zones of Eros brings it closer to the fear of a loss of enjoyment.  The self of the networks thus becomes subject to the prospect of always running into the forces of Thanathos ( death). This is why maybe we have to understand the super-egoic imperative ‘ to enjoy ‘ that is animating the self that is feeding on the pieces of its own images. Clearly, this enjoyment is not accessible to all.  The poor are yet to fully migrate into the sojourns and adventures of the multi-splitting self.  But the one who can own a mobile phone is already moving with a split self that already identifies with a ridiculously abstract number which has become an image of the self.  This then steadily extends to selfies, pictures, videos and more. 

 Narci-capitalism commands us to live to the maximum.  The spirit of our time has metamorphosed. We are moving towards the zeitgeist that puts all things at the service of ‘his majesty, the ego’ and its narcissistic extensions.  What is really happening to us?  The multi-splitting self or the dancing Nat Raj is only establishing relations with images, platforms, and objects that are its ego-extensions.  All larvae images are simply ego-extensions. The self is truly under lockdown and is faithfully maintaining the social distance that has become compulsive to us today due to the coronavirus.  The other of the self is dying in a narci-capitalist scenario and the present condition where the other is suspected as the vector of the lethal virus becomes the seeds that will germinate to declare the death of the other of the self.  Terror had already demonised the neighbour, but coronavirus has radicalised the other as the bearer of Thanatos/ death. Without being cynical we have considered the state of the other of the self in the post-covid-19 world.  The cannibal self that feeds on its own self-images will also eat and devour its other if narci-capitalism sees the day in a post-covid-19 world. 

The vulnerable condition of the self in the present situation is preparing the advent of  narci-capitalism.  In the name of protection of the self from the lethal virus, the self will have to give up some freedoms. Maybe the narcissistic self will readily prefer self-protection over other enjoyments.  This condition will further imprison the self and  it may prefer the virtual networks and the world of the images to the real physical world. The virtual world can simulate the physical world and hence thinkers like Jean Baudrillard think that most of us have already stepped into this hype- reality.  The issue is not just about the self-dissolving into the enjoyment of several simulations, but the concern is what is it doing to the question of our neighbour, the other of the self.  Will the’ will to enjoy’  that animates the self annihilate the other of the self?  Can self ever have its image that it enjoys almost neurotically without relation to its other?  Can objects of consumption replace the other?  Objects certainly cannot substitute the other but the real worry is that the other will be simply reduced to a state of an object of consumption.  The other of flesh and blood will exist but he/ she will become the object of news, rivalry, and even love. As long as the other becomes an object of consumption of the cannibal self, the other may have space otherwise the other will be ignored and left to rot. This is why we need to deliberately cultivate profound compassion and sensitivity lest we devour the other while we are busy consuming the images of our self.  


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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao