[Reader-list] Franco 'Bifo' Berardi: In the cockpit <nettime>

Patrice Riemens patrice at xs4all.nl
Wed Apr 1 02:14:03 CDT 2015

bwo nettime mailing list


In the cockpit

March 30, 2015

by Franco 'Bifo' Berardi

They say that the young co-pilot Andreas Lubitz suffered from
depression and had kept his mental condition hidden from the
company he worked for, Lufthansa. The doctors advised him to take
a leave of absence from work. That is not surprising at all:
contemporary turbo-capitalism detests those who ask for sick
leave, and it ferociously hates every reference to depression.
Me, depressed? Don't talk about it. I'm doing fine, I'm perfectly
efficient, cheerful, dynamic, energetic, and above all
competitive. I jog every morning, and I'm always willing to do
overtime. Isn't this the philosophy of low cost?

Don't they make announcements when the plane takes off and lands?
Aren't we surrounded by the uninterrupted commentaries of
competitive efficiency? Aren't we forced to measure our daily
mood against the aggressive cheerfulness of the faces in
commercials? Don't we run the risk of being fired if we are sick
too often?

Now the newspapers -- the same ones that for years have been
calling us lazy and singing the praises of cutting off the
inefficient -- say we should pay more attention to recruiting.
We'll make special audits to verify that airplane pilots aren't
deranged, crazy, depressed, manic, melancholic, or sad losers.
For real? And doctors? And army officers? And bus drivers? And
train engineers? And math teachers? And traffic police? We'll
purge the depressed. We'll purge them right out. Too bad they're
the absolute majority of the population today.

I'm not talking about the proclaimed depressed, who in proportion
are also increasing, but of those who suffer from unhappiness,
sadness, despair. Even if it's rarely acknowledged, and only then
with caution, the incidence of mental illness has grown immensely
in recent decades. And, beyond that, suicide numbers -- according
to a WHO report -- have grown by 60% (wow) in the last forty
years. Forty years. What does that mean?

What has happened in the last forty years that would make people
run in droves to the dark mistress? Maybe there is a relationship
between this incredible increase in the propensity to suicide and
the triumph of neoliberalism, which makes insecurity and
competition compulsory? And is this maybe related to the
loneliness of a generation that has grown up in front of the
screen getting continuous psycho-informative stimuli but touching
less and less another's body?

Don't forget that for every 'successful suicide there are about
twenty 'failed' attempts. Don't forget that in many countries
(even in Italy), physicians are advised to be extremely cautious
about attributing death to suicide if there isn't clear evidence
of intention. And how many car accidents hide more or less
conscious suicidal intents?

As soon as the investigating authorities and the airline revealed
that the cause of the plane crash was the suicide of a worker who
suffered from depression and kept it hidden, it set in motion on
the Internet the usual army of conspiracy theorists. "They think
we'll believe that?!" say those who imagine conspiracy. The CIA
must be behind it, or maybe Putin, or maybe it's a very serious
error that Lufthansa wants to keep hidden.

A cartoonist who signed with the name Sartori, and who is thought
to be very witty, shows a guy who reads the newspaper and says,
he adds: "Soon they'll be saying ISIS is just depressed people."
There, bravo.

The point is this: Contemporary terrorism can have a thousand
political causes, but the only real cause is the epidemic of
mental suffering (and social -- but the two are one) spreading
around the world. Could that explain the behavior of a shaheed, a
young man who blows himself up to kill a dozen other humans, in
terms of politics, ideology, religion? Sure it can, but it's
bullshit. The truth is that anyone who kills considers life an
intolerable burden and sees in death the only salvation -- and in
bloodbaths the one and only revenge.

An epidemic of suicide has befallen planet earth. The last
decades have set in motion a gigantic factory of unhappiness that
seems to leave no way out. Those who see conspiracy everywhere
should stop seeking out a hidden truth. They should, instead,
interpret the obvious truth differently. Andreas Lubitz shut
himself in the damned cockpit because the pain he felt inside had
become unbearable. And because of that pain, he condemned the
hundred and fifty passengers and colleagues who flew with him --
and all the other human beings who, like him, can't get rid of
the unhappiness that is devouring humanity.

Advertising bombards us with compulsory happiness, and digital
loneliness has only multiplied the stimuli and isolated our
bodies. And financial capitalism has forced us to work twice as
hard to earn half as much.

Translation by Cecile Landman

(w/ minor edits by Ted Byfield)

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