L'Encyclopédie sur la mort

Risk, Limits and the Desire for Death

Natalia Fernández Díaz

Natalia Fernández Díaz, Ph.D. Linguistique et Philosophie de la Science, est professeur à l'université Autonome de Barcelone, Espagne. En tant que collaboratrice à l'Encyclopédie sur la mort, elle nous offre en anglais un texte inédit sur «Le risque, les limites et le désir de la mort». L'auteure est de plus en plus convaincue que la culture occidentale, fondée sur la maîtrise du risque dans tous les domaines, exerce son influence non seulement sur la décision de se donner la mort mais, plus souvent encore, sur des actes de violence manifeste que ce soit à l'égard de soi ou à l'égard d'autrui. L'univers commercial régi par le Compagnies des assurances a créé un espace symbolique où la fragilité humaine porte un nom patent: incertitude. L'incertitude, pour le meilleur ou pour le pire, a ses propres lois et sa propre rhétorique. Notre volonté, toujours en quête de certitudes, cherche à réaliser l'un des plus vieux rêves de l'humanité: celui d'être projetés dans le futur et de contrôler nos existences. Hélas, l'industrie du risque nous vend du futur, mais elle ne nous offre pas de certitude, mais plutôt la consolation ou le soulagement. Elle abolit la mémoire du passé et affaiblit le présent. C'est dans ce contexte idéologique de la société contemporaine que l'auteure situe la «vocation suicidaire» de ceux qui jouent aux frontières de la mort avec les limites et les limitations de leurs capacités humaines.
I am increasingly convinced that our western culture – based on the control of the risk* in all areas - has an influence not only in the decision of committing suicide but, more often, in behaviours of manifest violence (towards one self or even towards others). The business of the insurances colonize a symbolic space where human fragility has an obvious name: incertainty. Incertainty, for better or worse, has its own rules and rhetoric. The perimeter of its action and the strength of its scope, added to the possibility of submiting them to our human will –always looking for certitudes-, is one of the oldest human dreams: it allows us to be projected in the future, even to live comfortably installed in the future. The past is reduced to a memory that we can eliminate when it becomes embarrasing.

The succesful and suntuous industry of selling future and giving the incertainty a price, has created the fiction of having control over our existences; however the reality is, simply, that the coverage of the services related to risk industry offers relief instead of certitude. A change of concept, a malicious metaphorical game that we accept because it is better the lightest consolation than the total lost. But this powerful industry around risks policies shows with impunity our fragility. Every time that this industry actives a new product to reinforce our capacity of living in the future, we are weaker to afront the present. It’s a logical consequence. Let’s explain it with some detail.

Human beings are prepared to assume a certain degree of risk in their lives. Without it we would be condemned as specie. However, progress and technological improvement have caused that our survival depends more upon external factors than upon ourselves. The fragility begins when we need the others, when we need an organized, complex and sophisticated system to survive, in a literal or a figurative sense. One example: we expect from pharmaceutical industry to be the key for curing our bodies and our souls, to protect us against unhappiness or the idea of failure. In fact, we expect miracles. Lay miracles, it is true, but miracles anyway.

The real risks are confined to games – games that sometimes make difficult to discern the limit of fiction and reality -: the man who drives a car defying obstacles, speedness* and other human beings; the boy or girl who consums “pills of design” during the week end to feel above everything; the children who play to asphyxiate themselves to the extent of seeing their own deaths face to face. We could write a long inventory of good examples of behaviours closed to what we can call “suicidal vocation”. Something possible only in the context of a worrisome devalutation of life in general. Life is not so important as an instant of glory and probably it is not so important as a few seconds transformed in an image echoed on million screens. Traditionally, the risks in the games were different: you could assume to loose some money, even some dignity, but not your life. We accept risks in the games, because games have their own rules beyond the reality, and because it is a funny form of controlling random vital situations –always a disturbing element- Besides we can play with its trascendence in order to annihilate it, in the same way we can defeat our enemies.

The suicidal vocation able to “have a flirt” with our human limits and limitations. The Spanish brilliant philosopher, psychiatrist and writer Luis Martín Santos, who died in 1964 when he was not yet 40, affirmed that the most extrem risk was to defeat life near a blind hill on the road: an extrem application and conception of the probability theory. For him the situation was like a game. Once he arrived to the blind hill he decided to play with his life and his death by overtaking the vehicle preceding his car. He always succeed. But one cold day of February, going to the celebration of his own marriage in the Baque Country after leaving Madrid with his father, he played one more time with the erratic fortune dices. He died on the road and the bride became a widow without testing the honey or the bitterness of her marriage. Could we speak, with no error, about a vocational suicide? Despising life, ignoring the alarms, dangers and risks, does mean that we are automatically part of the heterodox group of suicidal people? Probably the only difference between them and the others is that “the others” expect a compensation –economic, moral- when a potential risk becomes a real danger. Luis Martín Santos dodged out of the barriers imposed by risk and common sense to conquer the unknown space which is the end of a tunnel. Life as a chance where you can win or loose. That’s it.

Raymond Russel, visionary poet, atypical musician whose death Leonardo Sciascia* describes in his suggestive and meticulous prose, died from an overdose. He wanted to explore the limits. And his lover, the following day, discovered that he went beyond the limits with a ticket with no return. He used to play with pills. And, like in a game, he consumed every night more pills: the morning after he was relaxed and alive. Again, the dices decided to be autonomous, to impose their own veredict. The game was over. Was it a game the calculated final ritual of Yukio Mishima*? Or just the sophisticated creation of a theater where the only value at stake was life, and his blood a question of special effects?

Being alive is to assume risks and being responsible for the decisions we make in front of them. The fascination for death, for the transgression of the limits imposed by common sense, has always existed. And that’s why certain suicide prevention programs, opposite to the seduction of the darkest side of the thoughts and the experience, and to the vertiginous feeling produced by aleatory elements, is pure ideology.

© Natalia Fernández Díaz
Date de création:-1-11-30 | Date de modification:-1-11-30

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