Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00

MIRACLES AND TRAUMAS OF COMMUNICATION 2

The French psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche, who has dedicated great attention to trauma, has introduced a very interesting concept, that regarding implantation, invasion of the unconscious in another person. The unconscious is therefore not a motivated autonomous subject, but something that comes from outside. In fact, according to Laplanche, children do not have unconscious. Obviously, this does not mean that there is an occult complicity between persecutors and victims, but that both are part of the same world that is held by the <<impossible, but real>>. In other words, the traumatized are not only those who suffer from violence, but even those who practice it.
       The fact is that the major collective traumas are referred to, during the period of the end of the II World War, only marginal countries compared to the so-called ”first world”, this does not have to fool us. The media traumatism shows solidarity with media miracles. The media feed themselves with miracles and trauma. The spectators of the television news broadcasts  are always waiting for a traumatic event that do not regard them personally. This distant place, site of unimaginable atrocities, plays the same role that Australia has played for the 11lish from 1787 to 1868, the last date the prisoners were sent over. However, after the 11th September  2001 in New York,  on the 11th  March 2004 in Madrid, on the 7th July 2005 in London, on the  11th  December 2007 in Algiers, danger has approached the Euro-American spectators, making them shout out: <<Impossible, but real>>.
        The specific feature of the trauma is similar to the miracle; they have in common the fact that they have come away from a rational explanation. So much into the miracle, as into the  trauma, we found ourselves not only in front of a fact that it is difficult to understand, but in front of a message that calls us up for an explanation. They contain a message that cannot be said in words, which therefore remains essentially enigmatic: in miracles and in trauma it is clearly intended to transfer something to us personally, but we do not know what. They are like a letter that is addressed to us, but of which it is impossible to open the envelope. The rational tales of a private or collective story have at the center individual subject or the historic one (the nation, the class, the people ...), instead, the trauma throws back into the game the way the subject has been constituted. According to Laplanche, what happened had occurred from the beginning through the installation of the others’ unconscious, then the new traumatic event destroys an identity that was built up with difficulty abinitio through an external intervention.
       In traditional societies these problems do not exist because the repetition of the past patterns was obvious: the new era was the remake of the old, and in any case, the innovation was never opposed to conservation. Whilst, in the decay of the modern world, caused  by the fact that the place of individual action has been taken by the communication, whose motto is just the exclamation:  <<impossible, but real>>!
         This deep change, which occurred during the nineteen sixties, was already felt in the fifties by the German philosopher Hannah Arendt, for which the consumer society marks the end of active  life. This was articulated in three different dimensions: the work, which is subordinated to satisfying the needs of life, to make, that creates a world of objects the most prominent of which are works of art, and finally to act, regarding political life understood as a public domain  that relates human beings on an equality point of view. These three dimensions of active life are impossible in a society of consumers, that is, of workers without jobs, which is defined by Arendt as <<the fool`s paradise>>. Moreover, how can you describe it otherwise, a way of being  in which miracles and trauma are alternated up to the point of being indistinguishable amongst themselves?
      An impressive testimony to the futility of the action was in fact already provided by André Malraux, the French writer, who so much in life as in his works, attributed to action the maximum importance. The three dimensions of excellence, politics, the seductive and the artistic-literary, were prosecuted by him with all his energy, since he was young in the Twenties, whilst aware of their uselessness. <<A time that does no longer find its sense in men’s  soul finds it in their action. For what he can.>>  We are, he said,  a civilization << subject to the proof of the action, and therefore promised to the most bloody fate>>. The actions of his characters are therefore directed not  from the rationality of history, but of its absurdity. Not surprisingly, at the end of the twentieth century, the French philosopher Francois Lyotard occupied the last years of his life writing two books on Malraux, he would have understood, much earlier than others, that the ideal modern man of action abandoned the West. What remains are the works. But the works are deaf rooms, that in the noise that was created  from the miracles and from the trauma they are unable to let their voice be heard.
         It seems that the huge enterprise of modernity, which consisted in giving to private and collective life a rational mentality and behavior based on a clear perception of the relationship between cause and effect, even if only a parenthesis of several centuries. However, the miracle and the trauma that characterize our time, there is something very different from superstition and fear, that constitute normal aspects of the pre-modern mentality, and were considered essential conditions of human existence. We perceive the miraculous and traumatic experiences, not as something that is unpredictable, the randomness and contingency of life, but as something that is abnormal and disturbing. However, for how long will this impression last? Until we shall say <<impossible, but real (true)>>? Its probable that we are addicted to wonders and horrors released progressively from Nineteen Sixty-eight till our days in an impressive growing of intensity and destruction makes them feel as ordinary and trivial facts: in fact, their communicative impact is consumed quickly and in order to achieve the same effect requires a surplus of exceptionality and shock.  
        If the work of historians, in the years after the Sixties, seem still disappointing and inadequate, so unable to go beyond the chronicle, so afraid to give a new key for the understanding of unprecedented events, so concerned to separate from philosophy, so subordinated to the data that are purely quantitative, so submissive to worn ideological schemes, thus deprived of self-criticism, it is because with the Sixties of the Twentieth-Century we entered into a new regime of historicity: the communication has taken the place of action. Communication creates a product that occupies an intermediate space between truth and false: defined as an image, spectacle and simulacrum, it results to be more comprehensible through the categories of the art, of psychoanalysis and religion that through politics and economics and students of warfare. These have not ceased to dominate the world, as it naively seemed  to those who are recognized under the banner of nihilism or even of pataphysics, but it has been withdrawn in a dark  side and inaccessible so much to outsiders, as much as to scholars, constituting a kind of  political, military and financial <<dome >>, formed by the victors of the II World War and the global organizations that these emanate. Not so bad then, because today in order to run over the <<dome>> means throwing the world into chaos and spreading of  absolute barbarity. However, it remains to see until when this <<dome>> will support it: until when will they be able to make people believe that Comunication is “action”? Until the wars, massacres, genocides of the last forty years seem historic actions not very different from the <<real>> ones of which the <<dome>> was formed?
         The ancients used to distinguish three kinds of stories: as well as factual (praktikè), and the false (pseudè) they identified a third type of story that dealt with events considered <<as true>> and defined it with the term plasmata, which means things that are modeled, molded, pictures and figures. At first glance the communication seems to belong in fact to this third kind of story, which is, as to say, beyond what is true and what is false, because it produces real effects, without belonging to the category of historical actions themselves, of the res gestae. To the ancients this third regime of historicity was reserved for the theatre, art and shows, which in ancient Greece used to give a deep and long lasting influence to the audience.
However, already in the Roman Empire  the plasmata used to leave  the audience quite unhappy, that used to need something a bit stronger, something that was much more real, more facts that would permit them to be emotionally involved: the gladiatorial shows just responded to this need,  making explicit the death on scene. In the Roman circus there is not a simulation of actors who pretend to die, as in the Greek tragedy, but <<true (real)>> death of men who fight for fun. We have passed from the art to communication, from a show to little stories, from porn to snuff. In other words, communication is something artificial that in order to be believed needs of an excess of reality. The communication, therefore, goes beyond the plasma, and starts another regime of historicity: it is as if the stories of the gladiators take the place of the emperor’s action, who were  then forced to behave like gladiators! At this point the Roman emperors were not able to be poets and actors like Nero, limiting the plasma.
Communication sums up in itself the  three previous types of history: let’s say  that it is  true, because it puts before a fact: false, because it adopts techniques of exaggeration, manipulation and deception,  fake, because the fantastic and imaginative aspect plays an essential role.
So if historians have not been able to tell the story of the Sixties to our present day in a  plausible way, in order to give a comprehension of what had occurred, organizing under the form of a coherent whole, finding an internal connection among the facts, creating a hierarchy of meanings and identifying the culminating events that mark the beginning and end of each period, it is because they found themselves facing a completely new situation. A gap was created between historic materials (that Humboldt used to call Begebenheiten) and the history itself (Geschichte selbst), so great as to make impossible the intelligibility of the present. From the Nineteenth-Century onwards there is no history without identification of the inner understanding of the events and the conscious choice of a narrative model. But this possibility failed with the regime of historicity that was inaugurated by communication, built on the alternation (and even the equivalence) between miracles and trauma.
         Of course, even in the Nineteenth century and first half of the Twentieth-Century some have expressed their doubts on the rationality of history. Already the German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder in the second half of the eighteenth century had undersigned the non-identity of the historic era  and the discontinuity of  becoming.
         A century after, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had made of  the criticism  to historicism, its strong point, reproaching him for having transformed the naked admiration for the success of idolatry of the  fact and opposing the outdated and untimely character of  every real creative activity, which must act against its era in favour of a future time. A little later, another German philosopher, Walter Benjamin, charged the homogeneous conception of the historical process: as to his view, the experience of the oppressed always aspires to break the continuum time. He found particularly significant that the rebles shot the clocks of the Paris Commune of 1871! Even the father of nineteenth-century scientific historiography, Leopold von Ranke, recognized that the connection of the universal things, achieved by the historian, could never be complete, recognizing that a part remained obscure and directly connected to the inscrutable intervention of God. The  maximum theoretician of war, Carl von Clausewitz, had in any case  shown how some purely random factors had affected the outcome of  battles
        We know how much, up to the advent of a rational mind, that human beings have been victims of  the pretensions of future telling, omens and various sorceries. The faith in the intervention of the transcendent in the world was based on the fact that there was no clear perception of the difference between the possible and the impossible. Everyone’s daily experience shows how much – as the French artist Ben says - << le hazard est partout>>: the disaster for everyone is always around the corner. In this extreme experience of the uncertainty, which is an essential aspect of human existence, religions have tempted to give a remedy with the internalization of the contingency (as in Buddhism) or the concept of providence (as in the monotheistic religions).
        However, the historical regimes introduced by communication, articled on the miracle and on trauma, is very different from this experience, let’s say natural and traditional, the instability and impermanence of all things. It introduces a surreptitious element of artificiality and artificialness and of counterfeiting, which subverts the rational conception of individual life and of historical process, without giving the possibility to turn back to the way of life of the past. In other words, the miracles and the trauma of the world of communication has nothing to do with happy endings and tragedies of the past, in which the human being or historical subject - as favored by luck or dogged by misfortune, remained always, in some measure author of his own destiny. Literature and philosophy of modern time, starting from great thinkers of the italian Renaissance, Niccolò Machiavelli and Francesco Guicciardini, have explored the horizon of action in all its dimensions and occurrences, with extreme finesse and perspicacity. There is no aspect of political action, seductive and artistic-literary that has not been studied and represented in all its developments and all its issues. Now we have the impression that all this knowledge is completely inadequate to understand the world of communication, started in the Sixties of the Twentieth-century, which does no longer work as to actions and reactions, but as to miracles and trauma, no longer by doing and sustain, but as to devices of which we are all hostages.
           As known, the so-called << historiographical revolution>> of the twentieth century, promoted primarily (but not only) by the French magazine <<Annales>>, founded in 1929 by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre, is constituted in order to reduce the importance of single historical facts considering them as superficial expression an historical becoming that has its roots in long-term structural processes of economic, geographic, demographic, cultural, material…In this perspective, the task of the historian is to overlook the events focusing their attention on ways of thinking and listening, everyday life, collective and anonymous entities, which  are the real key towards the understanding of the human affair. The finishing line of this research is a story with no facts and no names, finally free from the prejudices that have affected the historical work in the  Nineteenth-century: the  political, the individual and the timeline.  In other words, it deals with finding the rationality of the historical process not in the actions of individual and collective subjects, but in the processes that run as deep karst currents beneath the surface of events.
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