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The gift of absence: paradox of the social crisis

The global crisis that humanity is going through has impacted the repetitiveness of our daily lives, catapulting us into an unprecedented social crisis. A sudden stop of sociality which made it possible to build a new law of coexistence. The gift has always been considered as the foundation of direct social relationships but, to date, the only true gift possible is that of our mutual absence, a paradox that overlaps with that of the care of distance for the safeguard of world health.

We have always tried to understand the foundation of social relationships, what pushes human beings to bond with each other. What do a family, a working company and a group of friends have in common? What drives them to “join”? What disruptive force does the primacy of force that bind human beings claim? Around what sun does humanity gravitate to define itself “united”? It is never easy to trace the origin of something, because it would be necessary to get out of the ganglia of history in order to place yourself in a “before” so far as to have to be in a first-of-all. In the case of social relations, this first-of-all is forgotten, almost engulfed by bureaucratic, scientific and technological “structures” that obscure the essential, the “primitive” of the relationships maintained by human communities. These structures burst into social everyday life, moving away from that principle, sometimes forgotten, which inextricably links a courtesy dialogue with the supermarket cashier to the imperative conversation of an employer with his subordinate, the educated “good morning” to the elderly who lives on our landing at the loving kiss of a parent’s good night to their child before tucking in their blankets [1]. If we tried to remove this oppressive and contingent veil of structured everyday life, which inscribes us in roles and frames, subject both to time and to the situation and individuals, perhaps the essentiality of human relationships would come to light. And, alas, the world crisis currently underway is the exemplary social earthquake by which the constructed repetitiveness of the daily, the routine, is momentarily (hopefully!) Buried under the rubble of coercion that aims to protect public health. The being-relationship of humanity, which is consumed with otherness, sentient or otherwise, has been forced, from day to night, in a straitjacket that reduces its daily life to the bone, to the bare minimum, but perhaps in this case, one could say: the essential.

SARS-CoV-2, a little-known virus, now roams around the world on the loose, bringing entire nations to their knees, pushed to the brink of crisis, and in worst cases even collapsing. To prevent, or at least limit, the spread of the infection, the WHO has invited all the inhabitants of the affected nations (now all over the globe) to minimize close contacts, not to frequent crowded places and to get out as little as possible. home, except in some cases of need. To aggravate the situation, the governments of nations in a state of emergency have sanctioned the closure of non-essential exercises, to prevent the morbidity of the virus, such as meeting places such as bars, pubs, restaurants, parks etc. In this way our habits were suddenly mowed; the tranquility of repetition has fallen victim to necessity, prompting entire societies to defend themselves, in a world where the threat is internal to both the state and individuals, an unmanifest threat that is endorsing a social condition in which each component it is a shotgun with a barrel shot for one’s fellow man.

The necessary response to the state of emergency has undermined the foundations of the structure of the newspaper, has crumbled the fictitious “superstructure” of social relations, forcing us to a trench war apparently of all against all but really all-for-all. Undoubtedly a formidable effort, especially for the youngest, to stay at home giving up the much sought after social life, but only in this way (hopefully!) Will it be possible to return to the now coveted structured normality. For the moment everyone can help each other by granting themselves an unconditional mutual absence. In so doing, the bond takes on a different connotation, in which everyone in the grip of the same stormy sea, collaborates in unison with the same conduct for the same purpose: humanity now recognizes itself in a unanimous attitude of all in favor of all. The anguish, which replaced fear in this period, highlighted the lowest common denominator of reciprocity for the equal protection of health: each individual must renounce his crystallized habits, so that everyone can make a general gain in health, in provided, however, that everyone strives to do their part. Each will grant the protection of the other only by giving its absence to the other without mincing words, because this community cataclysm has inevitably made us equal, equally subject to the same evil and potentially lethal for our fellow men.

In doing so, the social bond takes on a new and, at the same time, ancient, different but common connotation: today we are living under the same constellation of dangers in which relationships are governed by simple and “elementary” gestures of gift and exchange inevitably reciprocal. It is only through the gift operator that social cohesion is taking place. What is emerging is the primordial root of the social bond, a root, as Marcel Mauss defines it, pioneer of the philosophical study of the gift, archaic: the latter term that indicates an “order of the past: but it is an order of the past that is always reactivated, of a fundamental layer of sociality whose oblivion is paradoxically necessary for its functioning in the present “. In the same way that a tree could not put leaves without roots, the constructs of everyday life could not exist without the foundation of the gift.

Once resurrected from oblivion, the social root of the gift regains legitimacy in human relationships, allowing us not only to better understand it, but to live it daily, not only through government regulations, but also through an ethical foundation marked by fire in human nature. The gift does not have an effective definition, it almost does not have an ontological consistency, but it works in the same way as gravity: it cannot be seen but its effects are recognized. Marcel Mauss, in fact, tries to get out of this logical-linguistic impasse, speaking repeatedly of gift-exchange and exchange-gift, also overcoming the crystallizations of the meaning with which the gift has been repeatedly defined throughout history. The gift is built on the triadic relationship of giving-receiving-reciprocating, with which convivial generosity and solidarity are brought into play, both aimed at ensuring that no one in society remains empty handed and that everyone enters this circle of unity and solidarity: A who gives to B, who gives to C, who gives to D … who gives to A. But in this ring of generosity a fourth time, the zero moment of the question, assumes vital importance, without which «The triple obligation to give-receive-reciprocate would turn empty “: to give to someone, it is supposed that he asks for it, needs it or wants it. And what are we asking for each other today? What do you need urgently? Of our mutual absence. The way back to our normalcy will inevitably have to go through the path of absence, unaffectiveness and distance; we are forced into passivity and the slow passage of time in which we must stop today to run faster tomorrow.

However, nothing better reflects this paradigm of the gift of the thousands, including doctors and nurses, who promptly responded to the call for help from the most affected areas. With rampant generosity and contagious reciprocity, these courageous angels demonstrate an incomparable solidarity, showing how, however much they are “on the other side”, we are all human beings, an affirmation of an authentic and genuine humanism, without flags, without banner and without barriers.

Within this reflection on reciprocity, a concept cleverly elaborated by Alain Caillé, under the name of conditional unconditionality, peeks through which «All that is requested must be immediately given to make it clear that you are betting on the unconditional bet of an alliance, without which it immediately takes off again in the war “. It is only by accepting and consolidating this alliance of distance that you can move to the calculating state of the bet: therefore, you enter a singular contractual form of do ut des with a utilitarian background, whose measurement condition is the unconditional acceptance of every request .

In the face of this social and biological nihilism and this dominant anguish, the gift of absence coincides to overlap with the lively concept, very present in contemporary thought, of care. Having lived quietly since the dawn of western thought, in recent decades his notion pervades today’s thought and never as in this singular period, its importance invests our existence in its totality. Igino’s fable best interprets the notion of cure: one day the Cura modeled the man, in which Jupiter infused his spirit, out of the mud, thus making human nature composed of Earth and Sky. The great God Saturn, then, decreed that when the time of death had come, the body of man would return to Earth and the spirit to Jupiter: but during his life, man would belong to the cure. Humanity is born from the hands of the cure, which governs it until the end of its days.

The transparency of this myth opens the door to the ironic Heideggerian interpretation in which the care stands as a founding and founding statute in human life. Being a fundamental structure of being-in-the-world, care expresses humanity’s relationality with the rest of the existing, sentient and non-sentient, dividing into two “attitudes”: authentic and inauthentic. Inauthentic care is directed towards the objectivity of the world, therefore a being-together; authentic care is directed towards the sentient world, an expression of co-existence. Therefore, humanity lives in the hands of care and without it humanity is forced into a world that is not authentically human.

The connaturality and the intertwining of gift and care as essential qualities of human nature highlight a papable response to the pandemic currently underway, provided, however, to accept our fragility, our temporality but above all our community. Realizing that victory and defeat depend exclusively on us, we must first accept these events as a war of attrition, where what must not yield is this gift of absence which necessarily passes through the care of distance, a sinolo unique in human nature, one way of acting for life, obeying what we really are. Inauspicious times await us, but at this juncture we will have to accept the idea of ​​having to be far apart in order not to plunge into the most complete crisis, because the balance that is settling today is tightrope walking above us on a very thin thread: if these, already delicate, new social structures should hold up, we will go back to normal, but if the balance should fail, the fatal hour could approach. We are one minute to midnight.

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