Commentary. A 5-year-old boy dies after being hit by a Lamborghini driven by YouTubers. Hundreds of children drown at sea. Can we really think that these deaths aren’t affecting our perception of life?

Overcoming death for profit through life-giving refuge

A 5-year-old boy dies after being hit by a Lamborghini driven by YouTubers who were making a video to get more likes on their channel and make more money by creating voyeuristic entertainment.

The result is that the press is talking about it, sociologists are discussing it, public opinion is asking questions about it, while their videos are being clicked and big advertising companies are earning more through the ads shown alongside the views.

At the same time, hundreds of children are dying drowned at sea, nameless, at least to us, faceless, without debate, without questioning our collective responsibility.

It’s just “another Cutro,” soon to be forgotten: no profit, no publicity, no likes for them. But they are likewise worth more dead than alive.

This phenomenon is explained to us by the philosopher Foucault, who, in his famous definition of biopolitics, that is, the surplus value that can be derived directly from bodies, gives us a new definition of sovereign power: whereas in older, pre-modern times, the ultimate power was to “take life or let live,” today it is the power to “foster life or disallow it to the point of death.”

The corollary is obvious, and we see it manifested daily, as in the parallel stories of the child who died in the spectacular and spectacularized accident and the children drowned at sea: in the first case, the child is worth more dead than alive: he makes money, there is a great surplus value to be gained, both economic and also – a sad truth – cultural. He will soon be forgotten; perhaps the youngsters who caused his death will get some kind of punishment, but the idea that you can make easy money with just a camera and a willingness to take some risks will be further ingrained in the minds of many other youngsters.

On the other hand, it’s for the same reason that the drowned dead must remain in the sea. They convey another message, just as dramatic and culpable: we don’t give a damn about you, you can go off and die, we won’t help you; for our spectacle, you too are worth more dead than alive.

But is this really the truth?

Is the cynicism of contemporary society, this focus on money as an end-all, regardless of how it’s made, only manifested at the level of public ethics, or does it do more, digging a deep chasm and draining everyone’s vital energy day after day – whether they’re involved or not, indifferent or taking part – advancing like a desert among what was once human creativity, spreading like a poison to what used to be the basic species solidarity which, though conflicted, had never quite sunk to the level of indifference we now flaunt towards our fellow human beings.

And, again, can we really think that these deaths aren’t affecting our perception of life? That turning the other way, letting the base politics of rejections rule our consciences, can somehow save us from the soul decay that is looming?

There are certainly a number of secondary causes to the demographic winter, with the problems of job insecurity, the pace of living, the impossibility of getting a home and so on and so forth. But if we are fully honest, if we go beyond such “reassuring” external explanations, we discover that what is missing is a will to live and therefore to give life.

It’s once again true that if we had welcomed those children whom we have let die, that would have meant returning to life – because life is lived with risk, with the unpredictability of its own future.

And who else than those who are risking their lives to affirm life, as migrants do, would be able to convey to us such a bright optimism that sweeps away the darkness of existential sadness, the weight of the soul burdened by consumer objects, freeing the gaze blinded by corporate logos?

Let us give ourselves an opportunity to come back to life, by giving life to those who have shown that they want to continue the human adventure.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!