We are in a culture where bodies and minds are irradiated by signals and images and, though that culture produces the finest effects, it comes as no surprise that it also produces the most lethal viruses. The nuclearization of bodies began at Hiroshima, but it continues endemically, incessantly, in irradiation by the media, by images, signs, programmes and networks.
When the debt becomes too burdensome we expel it into a virtual space, where it appears as a catastrophe frozen in orbit. The debt becomes a satellite of the earth, just as war has become a satellite of the earth, just as the billions of dollars of speculative capital have become a satellite-heap, revolving endlessly around the planet. And it is, no doubt, better that it should be that way. While they are revolving – and even if they explode in space (as the billions ‘lost’ in the 1987 crash did) – the world is not changed by them, and this is the best we can hope for. The ‘rational’ hope of reconciling the fictional and real economies is entirely utopian: these billions of dollars exist only virtually; they cannot be transposed into the real economy. And a good thing too, for if they could by some miracle be re-injected into the production economies, that would spell real catastrophe. Similarly, we definitely should not try to re-connect the two separate spheres of warfare: let us leave virtual war in orbit, since that is where it protects us. In its very abstraction, its monstrous eccentricity, the nuclear is our best protection. And let us get used to living in the shade of these monstrous excrescences: the orbital bomb, financial speculation, the world debt, overpopulation (for which no orbital solution has yet been found – perhaps here again it will lie in the eccentric mobilization and circulation of the excess). As they are, they exorcise themselves in their excess, in their very hyperreality, and, after a fashion, leave the world intact, leave it free of its double.
This is what all the rich countries do today – providing weapons for the whole world and succeeding in that way in exiling, if not violence, then at least war, from their territories. But there is nothing to be done; just where we hope to drive out death, it surfaces again through all the protective screens, extending to the furthest reaches of our culture.
Globalization and universality do not go together. Indeed, they might be said to be mutually exclusive. Globalization is the globalization of technologies, the market, tourism and information. Universality is the universality of values, human rights, freedoms, culture and democracy. Globalization seems irreversible; the universal might be said, by contrast, to be disappearing. At least as constituted as a system of values at the level of Western modernity, which is something that has no equivalent in any other culture. Even a living, contemporary culture like the Japanese has no term for it. No word to refer to a system of values which regards itself as attuned to all cultures and their difference but which, paradoxically, does not conceive itself as relative, and aspires, in all ingenuousness, to be the ideal transcendence (dépassement) of all the others. We do not imagine for a moment that the universal might merely be the particular style of thinking of the West, its specific product – an original one, admittedly, but in the end no more exportable than any home-grown product. And yet, this is how the Japanese see it, as a specific, Western feature; and, far from signing up to an abstract concept, they, by a strange twist, relativize our universal and incorporate it into their singularity.
As Bruno Latour put it very well in Le Monde, the only person talking politics in France today is Le Pen. All the others are talking morality or civics; they sound like schoolteachers or instructors, managers or programmers. Le Pen, committed to evil and immorality, snaffles all the political stakes, scoops up all that has been cast aside or positively repressed by the politics of Good and Enlightenment. The more the moral coalition hardens against him – a mark of political impotence – the more political capital he makes out of immorality, out of being the only one on the side of evil. When, in the past, the Right went over to defending moral values and the established order, the Left did not hesitate to defy those same moral values in the name of political ones. It is itself today the victim of such a slide, of such a dereliction: with the Left overtaken by moralism, the repressed political energy necessarily crystallizes elsewhere – in the enemy camp. And so the Left, by embodying the reign of Virtue, which is also the reign of the greatest hypocrisy, can only fuel Vice.