Michael Kuhn – Arguing about theories and political opinions

Corona 12 (English) Oddities of communal actions by citizen societies and their state against a virus

With the blogs so far, the most important things about Corona have actually been said. Nation states around the world judge this viral disease as a challenge to their sovereign rule over their people, and they respond to this threat with a state-controlled spread of the virus, controlled by their health systems, in order to use their political capacity to manage the pandemic as a tool for the political and economic struggles among states over the question that always surrounds states of which state is better at domesticating its people and using it economically and politically to contest states for their power in the world of states. However, the remarkable way in which citizen and state act as a community in the matter of corona fighting is worth taking another look at this kind of community.

Normally, states are not interested in the health affairs of their citizens. If they are ill, it is their business how they deal with it. What they do then is all politically arranged from a to z. They go to the doctor, get a sick note, the bill is paid by the health insurance company, which, with the permission of the state, has forcefully acquired the money from the people. Everything is regulated, everyone knows what they have to do and does it. In the case of Corona, the state has first of all declared this disease to be its own business, and with this alone a strange and yet again quite normal kind of community action by the state and citizens about how to deal with this disease takes its course – and says something about this strange community of both. Of course, this can be considered quite normal, but it is still strange. And even if everything is a bit different at Corona, basically everything is as crazy as ever in these citizen societies.

The way in which states and citizens take action against the virus with each other is so strange because the very fact that these states impose the citizens’ concern for their health on the citizens with the means of their monopoly on the use of force is considered completely normal by all sides. State measures for the health of citizens are state-imposed duties of citizens.  Even stranger than the fact that the political power on which all citizens rely for the realisation of their concerns and whose executors the citizens of these societies appoint in elections, is that these politicians appointed by the citizens all treat their citizens like uneducable children in their coercive political measures, and that no one, neither the citizens thus bullied nor the politicians thus bullying their citizens, find this surprising.  Everything is quite normal in these citizen societies and because it is so normal, it is worth taking a closer look at what is actually going on in these societies and their political community in their fight against the virus.

1. Citizens, their interests and what they think about them

Even before any encounter with the interests of other citizens, the handling of all matters of private life begins with the fact that each of one’s own concerns is defined by looking at one’s purse according to what it costs. It is this gaze that, with the question of what it costs, drives out any judgement of the usefulness one needs for it and, according to this yardstick, in which all interests are considered as if they were all just different amounts of money, finds out whether and which of one’s own interests are pursued at all or are immediately discarded. Already when considering all interests measured by this yardstick, which disregards all usefulness, what it costs, no matter what one wants, the usefulness of things for the pursuit of interests and thus these interests themselves as yardsticks of interests are already liquidated in the weighing with others of what is thus admitted as an interest or not.   

How one achieves what, every citizen knows, is not a question of being familiar with useful things, but is decided by one’s purse, or more precisely, by one’s skill in using it correctly.  Even here, even before every encounter with others, which every citizen needs in one way or another for the realisation of his concerns, the citizen has driven out thoughts about why he needs what for what and replaced them with a way of thinking about his affairs that masters the art of cutting down the needs whose realisation is dictated by the limited financial resources, and which credits this cutting down as cleverness, as elevated reasoning. Even why what works or what doesn’t work, such questions have been left behind by this kind of reasoning.  

In the matter of Corona, this kind of reasoning means referring to the matters of one’s own needs: Thinking about and finding out what Corona is and then thinking about what to do about it, that’s not the citizens’ thing, that’s not what they do at any time. Neither does the citizen who is experienced in this way of  reasoning, who knows how to domesticate his needs and who counts his renunciation as cleverness, ask himself why there is actually no effective medicine for this disease, nor does he want to know what one should do about it in this situation, nor who actually does what and why.  The few available means to protect oneself from the virus are not seen and treated for what they are, aids to protect oneself from infection, but are accepted as grudgingly accepted restrictions and practised when and where prescribed. Thus, the entire media landscape discusses all available means and measures that exist, not as the tools they are and that one has, but as annoying restrictions and discusses above all the question of how and when citizens can get rid of these annoying restrictions. No wonder, therefore, that everyone puts aside the use of these tools when an opportunity allows it. In order to help create such opportunities, the media then also interpret when and where one can do without all these protective means defined as a burden. 

What to do about the virus must be judged and decided by all those who are in political power and their experts. That these experts decide that one should avoid all contact but go to work as usual, as if the virus would stay outside the factory gate, that too belongs to things about which no questions are asked. The fact that all measures to restrict contacts in the private life departments of the citizens, such as pubs and parties, are disgraced by this decision, the citizen only takes from this that one cannot be so serious about the measures against the virus and that all considerations on how to protect oneself from this disease must join all the others on the necessities that cannot be debated as further restrictions and are then treated in this way. Corona becomes yet another accepted constraint among all the others that one has to deal with when weighed against all the other constraints that one looks at and deals with by looking at everything through the dictates of one’s wallet, where one has to deal with what one has to do. And what you have to do, at Corona and in general, is decided by the state with its experts anyway, like everywhere else.

2. The interaction of citizens in the pursuit of their interests and how they see others.

In the encounter with other people, from whom one wants to get what one needs, with the exchange of all useful things for money, the things no longer confront each other in their usefulness neither for the one nor the other, but in their indifference to any usefulness they are concerned with, as quantities of money. From the harmless need of another for something useful to him, in this exchange of money in this encounter as a buyer, this usefulness becomes completely objectless and a mere, exchangeable quantity of these titles of wealth, and with the exchange of money, the need for anything, with the exchange of money, the need for something that one needs from another becomes a mutual access to the lever of the other that one needs for the pursuit of every interest, so that in this way of pursuing one’s interests, this priced usefulness becomes for both sides an encroachment on the freedom of disposition of the access titles of the other. Thus, in the most everyday life, the pursuit of every interest through its settlement as an exchange of quantities of money becomes a very everyday act of ruthlessness towards the interest of the other, of disinterest in the other’s interest, and thus for all sides an attack on their own interests, and this even before any money-grubbing businessman or stingy employer has stepped onto the stage.  

Even the most normal meeting of citizens, who can only pursue their interests by exchanging money for anything and everything they want, is transformed by this transaction of their interests as an exchange of money, whether they like it or not, into acts of mutual inconsideration and even hostility.  Because each side in this as exchange of money not only treats the needs of the other as indifference to the needs of the other, but thanks to the limited means of money, the pursuit of the interests of the other, executed in monetary terms, becomes a restrictive interference in the freedom of pursuit of the interests of both sides, the quite normal coexistence of citizens is a strange mixture of mutual dependence and inconsideration of the interests of the other.  

In matters of Corona, such citizens, who thus see in every other interest an encroachment on their decision-making options in dealing with their needs, take this view of the other so much for granted that for them the idea that a mask protects oneself because it protects others is a real head-scratcher. Because citizens translate every interest as the interest in money, and in this translation, because the realisation of every interest depends on this translation into money, it can also fail, not because the interest is extinguished, but because its translated into money, and only socially recognised in this way, is quantified, if one’s interest is quantified in money quantities and money does not permit this realisation, every interest of every other person translated into money quantities is always regarded only as the questioning of one’s own interest, which is why the thought that the interest of another could realise one’s own interest demands an unusual thought operation from this kind of pursuit of interest. 

The fact that masks protect the mask wearer because they protect the other mask wearer is a real head-scratcher for priced utilitarian thinkers.  So, in all seriousness, the professional thinkers of these societies, their professional scientists, set out to find out whether what cannot be can be, that one protects oneself by protecting others, and find out to their own surprise: the masks do work! (How they prove it is another matter).     

The mind trained in this kind of citizen encounter is therefore always very sure in matters of Corona that all other citizens are a risk of infection and that he must therefore take care that others do not infect him. Although it is exactly the same thing, that he himself could infect others, that is very difficult to imagine for a mind that is used to always seeing an attack on itself in everyone else, and that it should then also be the one that protects it, that is already a lot to ask. 

That the esteemed fellow citizen is always up to something and is on the move with some evil intentions, this mistrust in the intentions of all others is a matter of course for all citizens, as is a certain cleverness in denying one’s own evil intentions and a hard-nosed ability to see through others, because one knows that from oneself. Because every pursuit of interests via this money relationship is a mutual attack on the interests of all sides, every pursuit of interests is a dispute.

3. citizens in association with their political authority against the virus and how they see their common concerns.

One might think that in these encounters of quite normal citizens, charged with all kinds of ruthlessness, the political authority of these citizen societies has not yet appeared at all. It hasn’t, but the fact that this way of confronting each other as citizens in the pursuit of every interest exists at all and that it works as described is something that no one but the political power of these citizen societies has set up in exactly this way and it is this political power that also ensures that everyone does it this way and not otherwise. That any pursuit of any interest in the encounter with other interests is carried out as an exchange of money and therefore brings with it the kind of ruthlessness and hostility that this political power has established as the only permissible form of pursuing any interest and it is this political power that punishes any deviation from this principle of pursuing interests with money with nothing less than a violation of the constitutional order, usually with the withdrawal of these means of access to everything, i.e. the restriction of the freedom of action with this money. 

And with the conflicts between the citizens guaranteed in their money encounters, the political instance of this citizen society, its state, once again enters the stage as the instance on which all citizens rely in all disputes, i.e. whenever their interests are at stake, because they themselves are not allowed to decide anything and it is this political instance and only this instance that forbids them all decisions in the case of conflict, i.e. whenever it matters, and decides on everything itself.   

On the other hand, this political authority decides on everything, but does nothing that would serve any interest. The political authority of these citizen societies determines how their citizens pursue their interests; everything the citizens want, the citizens have to do themselves, and not only that, they also do what the state wants. Their state supervises everything, produces or even provides what citizens need for their interests, that is not the business of politics. Everything that has to be done, the citizens do. Even what the politicians want, the citizens have to do and that is why the state, just as the citizens rely on it for decision-making power, relies on the citizens to do what the state wants done. 

So also in the matter of Corona, the state calls its war against the virus, the warriors are its citizens on whose commitment it relies, just as they rely on their state in their affairs.

If their state wants something from the citizens, nothing would be more absurd for this political decision-making power of citizen society than to justify to the citizens on whom it relies for the implementation of its pandemic programme why they should do what. This political authority not only decides what the citizens do, it presents what the citizens must do by forbidding the citizens to do anything. The laws with which it communicates its will to the citizens are regulations that tell the citizens what they are forbidden to do.  And with this always negative conception of its concerns as 

And with this always negative conception of its concerns as prohibitions, this political authority of citizen society succeeds in putting an end to even the last bit of sense that the citizens retain in their clever reason. 

Nothing is more absurd than asking why something is banned, since the message of every ban is first and foremost the message that whatever the addressee of these bans thinks, nothing will change in a decision enforced as a ban, and that it is the one who presents such decisions as bans who thereby excludes any other decision, It is the one who presents such decisions as prohibitions, who excludes any other decision, who does not want them, who puts other decisions of the citizens under sanctions, i.e. makes it clear that he does not want them, that the citizens are not thinking about what is decided by prohibition – but are doing what they are ordered to do – and, if they want to, they can complain, i.e. they can complain without any practical consequences of what they think. So one can already reflect on the decision presented by prohibitions, but this reflection is a pointless exercise with the prohibition to decide differently than has been decided, because this reflection may only end in finding this decision good or in grumbling anyway. 

You might as well leave it at that, and that’s what most people do because of it. At best, the banned citizens inquire about what is banned and what is not; most of the time they just do what they usually do and grumble a bit about what they would have decided differently if they had something to decide. But they don’t.  

This kind of intervention by means of a ban by the decision-making monopolist ensures that the citizens can finally dispense with all further reflection, in this case also about Corona and what one does better or leaves better. Their state has told them that it thinks for them and decides for them. This is the end of all thinking or deciding what to do for the citizens.

These people, who have nothing to say nor are supposed to think about anything, these are then the citizens who these political institutions of citizen societies are thus preparing to be the people on whom politics relies for the implementation of its decisions, people who do not need to know anything and have nothing to say. 

And these “mature” citizens are so “mature” and know their political power very well and know from their experience of a citizen’s life that they have nothing to say and therefore have nothing to think about and therefore also know that political decisions of the decision-making monopolists, on the other hand, practically only mean as much as the citizens adhere to them or not and therefore master the skill of putting them together in such a way that they can somehow get along with them, given everything else they have to do. After all, they have other worries than Corona, earning money and going to work, bringing up children, etc., etc., all of which are, in fact, still required. Working for the economy, that is above all and without that nothing works. Their politics has dictated this to them as well. Every citizen can see what is at the top of the list of priorities for the state by the fact that there seem to be no viruses for their state, and thus no contact or other bans: the state itself, because it has to carry out its sovereign tasks as undisturbed as possible, and the economy, which has to earn money. In this way, one also notices why all matters of citizens are made into matters where everything is measured in terms of money.     

Because what matters in this society is clear to every citizen and where Corona is on the list of priorities, they arrange all the bans on Corona according to their priorities, so that the bans on Corona are not really their business, but the business of politics.  What they themselves are concerned about is practising the art of interpreting the measures enforced by the bans in matters of their special interests in such a way that they make no real sense to you, but always to others – that is, to no one.  

To the Corona Virus, all these strange communal actions of citizens and how they make sense of their world, communal actions and ways of seeing that these citizen societies and their politics cultivate not only with Corona, but just as much with everything and everyone, must have 

– their peculiar wallet-led rationality towards their own needs, 

– their inconsideration of each other and their inability to come to a common interest with all the other citizens, who engage in all sorts of hostilities and recriminations,  

– and then, on top of all that, their only common authority, their political power, with its prohibitions on decision-making and thinking, makes it impossible for the citizens to take any common, shared action on anything, including Corona, and instead drives them into opposition with each other and with their common political authority,  

All this must be taken by these viruses as an invitation to let off steam in these societies where everyone somehow behaves as if they were children in a big kindergarten.






2 responses to “Corona 12 (English) Oddities of communal actions by citizen societies and their state against a virus”

  1. António Pedro Dores Avatar
    António Pedro Dores

    You describe wonderfully the prison where we, the citizens, are doing time as usual, since the memory can remember, and specially under the Corona rule. It is comic-dramatic this description. Thank you.

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