Anxiety of Security and Autonomy and Digital Society

At the end of “Plague and Man”, the historian William McNeill wrote in his always calm brushstrokes: “Although technology and knowledge have profoundly changed most of humanity’s disease experience, in essence, there is still nothing. Never, free human beings from its ecological position from beginning to end (as an intermediary between the invisible microparasitic relationship and the giant parasitic relationship of some people relying on others)…. Technology, knowledge, and organization will change, But the vulnerability of human beings to epidemics is unchangeable. Infectious diseases that have existed before the initial employment of the people will always be with humans, and as always, will remain one of the basic parameters and determinants of human history. “This book was published in 1976. That year, a virus appeared in the villages along the Ebola River in southern Sudan and Congo (Kinshasa) in Africa. It will suddenly appear and disappear mysteriously after a few years. Forty years later, the World Health Organization announced that the vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada could achieve high-efficiency protection against this later known as “Ebola virus.” But in 2019, it raged again, from Northeast Africa, Central Africa, to many countries in West Africa, and the Congo (DRC) health department had to introduce a second Ebola vaccine.

Viruses are a kind of non-cellular organisms, just like human beings or human society, they will constantly mutate and develop. Therefore, the relationship between humans and viruses has become an eternal symbiotic relationship. The emergence of the new crown pneumonia epidemic in 2020 and its global spread prove that McNeill’s conclusions are still not out of date. In the virus and human response to the virus, the faces of our time and the soul of society are also reflected.

Dr. Zhang Wenhong advises overseas students on epidemic prevention

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Ubiquitous anxiety, diffuse but invisible threats, helplessness and having to live with them… There is no longer a cultural metaphor of the era that is more appropriate than COVID-19. Like a virus, people cannot be sure of the current life, culture, and society. All of this, together with the hysterical attention to the body and health, which is the inevitable result of the fading of idealism, triggers and intensifies even more. Emotional and emotional feedback of the skin.

What followed was the more worrying variability of the virus, especially its successive outbreaks all over the world (only inaccessible Antarctica survived), making the tracing of its origin become suspicious, which makes the virus The fear of being unable to be locked on a specific target, it defeats the single-line causal logic that can give people a sense of stability, leaving ordinary people’s rationality and emotions torn down. People are forced to accept the involuntary nature of the virus. It is like the ancient Klusu monster, transcending the distinction between good and evil and the scope of human cognition. It has powerful existence and destructive power, but it seems to appear randomly and accidentally. , Is an existence outside of subjective morality-rather it is indifferent to human beings. This kind of indescribable and indescribable makes it a fluid and diffuse fear. Just like we are in the post-truth context, you never know what kind of “news/rumors” will break out in the next second. The suffering of others came directly, and it was impossible to ignore. Epi-demic (epidemic) rose to Pandemic (global pandemic), and Infodemic (information epidemic) was added, and even the words about the epidemic were largely overwhelming. To understand its reality: everything points to a great crisis of security.

The Australian fire, the Sino-US trade war, the US-Iran conflict, Brexit, and the spread of the African locust plague… At the beginning of 2020, the world will show all kinds of misfortune. Viruses are the most invisible and threatening terrorist thing besides the risks of ecological environment, financial capital, geopolitics, religious issues, grain, oil and energy, and transnational crime. It is impossible for anyone with a bit of a brain not to think that due to the interruption of the epidemic, the increase in unemployment, economic depression, financial crisis, inflation, and even the shortage of daily necessities and food are likely to be brought about. Therefore, the anxiety caused by the virus is mixed with future imagination, which has overflowed the scope of pure medicine and public health, and has spawned a social spiritual crisis. It is no longer just a question of pathology and governance, but also extends to the realm of ideas. We lack a set of ready-made and complete discourses that can replace religion or philosophy to narrate and modify. In the process of China’s fight against the epidemic, the united efforts and united resistance under the brilliance of collectivism and idealism played a role in spiritual healing, but they also caused criticism due to the shortcomings that emerged in the new technological context. . This has created a strange situation: on the one hand, the disaster entity has caused painful harm; on the other hand, the words triggered by the plague have deepened the degree of harm, and even sprouted new types of harm. For many people, the secondary damage caused by the flood of information and low degradation is greater than the damage caused by the virus itself, and people’s cognitive structure and emotional mode have also undergone fission.

From a broader perspective, security anxiety comes from what Xiang Biao calls the “super mobility” of contemporary society. Not only did China lead to a chain reaction to a grid-block reaction that was different from the SARS virus prevention and control in 2003; from a global perspective, the relationship between the epidemic and other regions and countries can also be clearly observed. Its liquidity and proliferation are in line with the global supply chain. Because of the deep political, economic, and cultural embedding between regions and countries around the world, the epidemic cannot be local from the beginning. But what is significant is that the consequences it triggers are the de-globalization or de-globalization of some countries and regions-the closure measures adopted by many countries and the conservative propositions with economic considerations have made borders and sovereignty And national interests are highlighted-and the logical result should be global solidarity and cooperation in response to global disasters.

On March 12, 2020, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proposal of “herd immunity” aroused global heated debate

This puts the world in a huge uncertainty in various fields. At the beginning of April, I accepted an interview with the media. The main point was to talk about if the epidemic causes the world to “de-globalize” from then on, it will What are the impacts of cultural fields, especially cultural exchanges? My answer at that time roughly meant that we need to re-understand and understand the “globalization” model before the epidemic, because many times that “globalization” is just the continuation of colonial modernity: a world formed by a strong civilization The system spreads certain economic forms and cultural concepts centered and dominated by Europe and the United States to other places, forming the so-called “local globalization” (such as Hollywood movies) and “global localization” (such as tourism in late-developing regions). , Industry) of the “center-periphery” structure. In this process, international organizations and transnational elites of “super-nation-states” were also born. They have the meaning of disintegrating national/national borders. However, the uneven distribution of benefits, unequal opportunities, and regional imbalances caused by this globalization model Instead, it stimulated identity awareness, the identity of sovereign states, and the appeal of nationalism, which in turn triggered a resurgence of conservative thinking and closed behavior in the cultural field. The epidemic only exposed and magnified the existing “de-globalization” phenomenon. However, the epidemic also reminds us that we really live in a community with a shared future for mankind. In a society and era facing many crises, it is impossible to go back and rebuild physical and spiritual barriers and boundaries. When facing common risks, what is needed is to coordinate common interests and common ideals. The latter point is particularly difficult because there are ideological barriers, but some of the most basic values ​​(peace, friendship, justice, sustainable development) can be achieved common divisor. The spread of the epidemic has caused some obstacles to the channels of cultural exchanges. The direct manifestation is the cancellation and postponement of many regional and even global cultural activities. The most prominent of these is undoubtedly the nation. The boundaries of the country have been clearly marked again, and furthermore Provoked conflicts with identity politics and ethnicity. However, the return of conservatism, and even the rise of populism to a certain extent, was not caused by the epidemic. The epidemic only deepened and magnified this symptom. It was caused by various factors such as the gap in economic development, the separation of political ideas, and differences in religious traditions. As a result, it is a backlash against the single globalization model before it. Because of the economic and trade decline, the humanities that appear to have less direct effects may be hit harder. For example, the shrinking of budgets and the reduction of project disciplines will take a long time to recover or never recover.

Now three months later, looking back at this interview, it seems easy to speak about grand things, because this kind of expression is intransitive, and the transmission from information to information involves the impact of the epidemic on one’s body and mind and The resulting confusion is difficult to express. I always don’t believe in the common narrative of the grand history from individual experience, which has no practical significance except narcissism and absurdity, and does not increase any cognitive advancement, but only Personal experience and ideas are imposed on a certain conventional discourse. In fact, although the epidemic may be like Alain Badiou said, “There is nothing new under the sun”, but different measures in the face of the epidemic may completely lead to the beginning of a new world and culture. For example, online courses, online meetings, and cloud-based work that are carried out due to the isolation of physical space have brought new forms of production and exchange of knowledge and ideas, which have and will further change the concept and style of culture and communication. In addition, the differences between China and foreign countries in response to the epidemic, at least for Chinese humanistic intellectuals, North American and European concepts and myths have been destroyed by ruthless reality, rendering the once obsessive and even superstitious discourse of individualism and consumerism partially invalid. At this time, how to rebuild a foothold on the ruins of discourse, and re-observe the world and self on this foundation.

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The epidemic and the contingency measures of their respective governments have caused a symptomatic controversy among European philosophers. It points to anxiety about autonomy. Many temporary measures that damage the rights of citizens in order to prevent and control the epidemic may be extended to regular and institutionalized governance, so that nationalism and even authoritarianism squeeze the precarious personal freedom. It is only an imagination of this prospect. It is enough to make many people unbearable. In their view, physical life lacking autonomy is nothing more than a walking dead existence. In Agamben’s view, the normalization of the state of exception is due to the government and officials, and the beggar-thy-neighbor and retreat to naked life become the intentional result of the ruling party, leading to the loss of freedom and permanent fear. This kind of remarks made him under attack. Obviously, his narrow elite consciousness made him ignore the choice of the “public”-he mistakenly thought that the public is a passive, blind, and arbitrarily manipulated “gang” without consciousness. As far as their active choice is concerned, at least they have their own role in the entire event, and they are not brainless and passive “crowds” in the comprehensive force. In fact, without their participation, the normalization of the state of exception cannot be implemented quickly. Just as Anastasi Berg criticized, “Agamben’s way of talking about problems is placed in a distinguished framework. On the one hand, there is the’naked life of our biological existence, and on the other hand, he believes that the higher level The social life or the theoretical life.” The biggest problem with this “naked theory” is that it allows the theory to override reality. The visionary imagination of high-level dance suppresses the urgent needs of the moment; and the criticism of it shows the individual , The loosening of the dual settings of state, freedom, equality, concepts, and practice has the potential for theoretical breakthroughs. However, the questions raised by Agamben and the expressions reflected in it reflect the current “emotional reality” that is generally uneasy.

I once borrowed Masumi’s words from elsewhere to express the perplexed sense of threat in this idea: “Facing the threat of the future, fear is the reality envisioned at this moment, the reality as a feeling of non-existence, and the looming emotion of things. Reality.” It is not truth and fact, but extremely real and emotional fact. The logic of determining facts based on emotions is hypothetical, which provides legitimacy for the logic of preemptive action. “Pre-ensure security depends on the insecurity caused by pre-defensive actions.” This preventive logic deals with the truth Events are “symbols-events”, and current actions are the results of projections of future possibilities. When Agamben was reflecting on the possibility of the normalization of exceptions, he unconsciously repeated this way of thinking and shared the common logic with the objects he criticized. The former is based on limited information to make infinite inferences, and the latter is based on limited information to predict. Judgmental interventions, they are all pessimistic expectations and imaginations caused by excessive rationalization, which reflect the anxiety about the possible loss of life autonomy.

In the epidemic, there are two sources of autonomy anxiety, one is the virus itself, and the other is the authority, organization, and system as a unit of action. The former is elusive and can easily lead to accusations of the latter. In the initial discussion between China’s lockdown measures and the “herd immunity” in certain European countries, we can see that different values ​​lead to different positions. Different governments are all to ensure the established social order, but for life and The understanding of freedom is not the same, and there are also differences in public acceptance and endurance. They cannot be said to be higher or lower, but they cannot escape the fate of being accused. In order to avoid accusations, some governments will inevitably blame others and try to divert the crisis. This is really a tragedy.

Alain Badiou

Different response methods have their own pros and cons, but in any case, the risky society predicted by Baker has become a reality, but Baker emphasizes institutional risks and does not involve the influence of technological monopoly, especially the influence of new media-independence Sexual anxiety can easily be magnified in the contradiction between information overload and information cocoon room, and bring about a state of physical and mental division. This is closely related to the living situation in the isolation era. On the one hand, the body is restricted and confined in a limited place or even only in a certain room. On the other hand, he or she will obtain massive information under the mud and sand through a convenient network terminal. . The static and solidification of the body and the rapidness, dynamics, and changes in the reception of information interact with each other, tearing apart the deterministic cognitive space and spiritual world.

Seeking to construct a certain certainty in uncertainty has always been the basic law of a civilized society. Certainty often gives us a kind of illusion or psychological comfort to repair the huge void caused by survival and life defects. The gap in between was torn more clearly. Of course, there was a process of change. From the beginning, it was thought that the epidemic could be quickly controlled, but it was soon discovered that not only the scope, route, and speed of transmission had not been effectively contained, but even the development of vaccines was a long-term affair—it became The cold ridicule of the effectiveness of modern governance technology and scientific thinking has forced people to use the words, thinking, and operation methods of “war” in epidemic prevention and control. So that we can no longer deceive ourselves and speak certainty without reflexively, and even the legitimacy of certainty itself is increasingly being questioned. This is a dangerous sign, heralding the quiet arrival of anti-intellectual, laissez-faire cultural anarchism and decadence. “War” actually presupposes optimism in a certain extreme situation, even for the need for comfort, this optimism is also needed. But optimism itself will not solve the problem. It still relies on people’s belief in medicine, which is the last thing people can rely on when religious comfort is useless. Here you can see the unpredictable fear that originated from the unknown, although it may slip to agnosticism, it is ultimately suppressed by science and reason.

However, anxiety, panic, anger due to powerlessness, the urge to find a scapegoat, and the desire to find someone to worship simultaneously breed. Scapegoats and idols, the two look at each other and are the easiest to dramatize and visualize, and thus become the most convenient and favorite way of expression for people. For example, the commentators of Lizhongke, the tragic medical care intertwined with misery and hope, the inspiring typical of the combination of bravery and sacrifice… The purpose of different media and the diverse experiences of the people make the image output and input appear in various forms, sometimes almost It’s a world of difference, and the emotional confrontation and collision that they cause is particularly disturbing. The epidemic forced people to enter a new state, and life at the same time entered a state of intense experimentation just like developing a vaccine. In many cases, it is not rationality, but position and passion dominate the narrative and acceptance of the epidemic, because people have not yet adapted to this process of exploration and practice, especially when it integrates with the emerging digital social background.

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The epidemic in the digital society is not only a public health event, but also a communication event. The high fluidity of this intermediate information is as diffuse as the high fluidity of the virus. The bombardment of fast, excessive, and frequently reversed information suffocates calm thinking and measurement, and only leaves a short pause in the stress of biological instinct. At this time, the level of rhetoric of information determines the speed and scope of its spread. The means of rhetoric include empathic personal experiences and experiences, vivid and plot stories, descriptive and easy-to-accept language styles, visual presentation of multiple forms (such as images, data, and videos), and closeness in relation Sex, even simple and rude subcutaneous injection repetitions are effective. As Pennycook, who studies misleading psychology, said: “Social media does not incentivize the sharing of real articles, it inspires participation.” This just confirms what we see in the media field: the intuitive stimulation of the appearance is overwhelming Deep abstract thinking and passive acceptance of participation squeeze active critical thinking.

According to the normal inertia of thinking, people always decide their heads by their buttocks. Paradoxically, when facing a common crisis, their heads often decide their butt. That is to say, differences in culture and values ​​almost a priori dominate people’s judgment and recognition of crises know. The controversy triggered by the epidemic has caused people to be more passionate and impatient to analyze. Passion catharsis can of course also be understood as a self-protection mechanism in times of crisis, but various metaphors about diseases are publicized along with fanatic emotions, but metaphors themselves are not helpful to the advancement of knowledge, and sometimes they are more likely to be hidden. .

Therefore, the epidemic is not only a psychological issue, but also a political issue. It shows the failure of neoliberalism and consumerism that have prevailed for more than forty years (as pointed out by David Harvey), and hints at the transformation of contemporary politics, from biopolitics to digital politics, from elite politics to the masses Political transformation. I am not saying this with a sense of superiority to the “medium”-in fact, I do not agree with the so-called “gang gang” and “medium”, but only describe the status quo. We can obviously see the birth of contemporary mass groups that have grown up with the achievements of industrialization and commercialization. The possibilities of their lives have been released from the shackles of the old community. The level of education has generally increased, the mobility has increased, and the reception of information and Political participation has also been improved. This kind of masses are neither elites in any sense, nor are they different from the pure bottom. They belong to people who are in the middle level of society in terms of culture, status, and money in the general sense. When the public’s political consciousness is awakened, the main way of participation is language participation, and the effect of language participation is greater than that of its truth and meaning, that is, they don’t care about the logical persuasiveness of language, but pay more attention to it. Moral temptation and sensational effect. The demands of the public are so diverse that it is almost impossible to reach a consensus. However, elite politics are often influenced by popular politics, such as in the investigation of the cause of the virus. Also, when we anthropomorphize the virus and prevention and control, we actually fall into the witch-hunting mindset. Although the popular discourse is diverse and fragmented, its influence cannot be ignored in the digital context. It will force elite discourse to respond.

The response of elite politics in dealing with this pressing issue of life is not fast, especially in China, in addition to adopting modern governance techniques in the usual sense, a layer of digital means has been added. If the previous governance system included party committee leadership, government responsibility, social coordination, democratic consultation, public participation, and legal protection, the technical support at this time is undoubtedly a striking presence. In 2011, the State Council Information Office, the National People’s Congress, and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference opened mobile clients; in 2013, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Culture, and the National Bureau of Statistics successively opened the government clients; launched on the eve of the two sessions in 2016 The State Council client directly allows the public to interact with the highest-level government agencies. The epidemic situation has made long-distance cloud services a normal operation, even more powerful than the United States, which has been at the forefront of this path.

Digital technology has penetrated into life, and instant communication, digital payment and logistics express delivery have not only brought convenience, but also triggered a series of reflections. The differentiation caused by factors such as generation, education level, economy, and resources will marginalize some disadvantaged groups and make them an invisible existence in the digital society, a kind of absence from presence. In fact, the exponential development of digital technology has marginalized almost everyone. Ingenious equipment and novel creations are quickly obsolete, obsolete and replaced. It is impossible for ordinary people to fully grasp and understand the entire world he lives in. At the same time, the problem of “representation” will also arise, that is, the silent person is often covered and replaced by the noise of the noisy, not to mention the information cocoon caused by the benefit filtering, preference filtering and algorithm filtering, which makes the digital society common Cognitive dissonance, polarization, and dilution of social stickiness.

Japanese anime “Psycho-Measurer”

As far as individual experience is concerned, the issues of privacy and control are undoubtedly the most concerned. For example, health codes. Generally, cities will use Alipay or WeChat scans to obtain travel records to confirm the health of individuals or the probability of infection. The most rigorous (scientific) way is even through integrated electronic medical records, health checkups, and lifestyle management. The data to establish a personal health index, and those data include daily exercise, drinking, smoking, sleep and other detailed information. This is obviously a great concession of personal privacy. It can be used as a means to control the epidemic in a state of emergency, but once it is routine, it is difficult to avoid the consequences of technology dominating people and people being digitalized. The Japanese animation “Psycho-Measurer” has such a sci-fi setting: a system that controls big data and algorithms will ultimately judge and determine the health of a living person through various indicators. The issues involved here are not only the question of whether the spirit, potential, emotion, etc. can be quantified, but the more pressing anxiety comes from the question of who controls the data and the system. This measure is still a modern logic for maintaining order in chaos. Han Bingzhe described the possibility that “spiritual politics” in the digital age may be more efficient than biopolitics, because digital transparency and surveillance society have access to the collective subconscious. This interferes with the future social behavior of the public. But popular politics is subverting this logic, because people are never objects without self-consciousness. Digital surveillance is a double-edged sword. How powerful and deep it penetrates, it triggers emotional linkage and behavioral backlash. . In the end, the concepts and actions that are flooding the digital world will be like the virus in the epidemic. They cannot be brought under control. They can only coexist in coordination and balance.

The pandemic virus and the digital society have thus formed an isomorphic metaphor. It itself is new, and the immune system has not yet been able to recognize it, and they may continue to have variants. It forces the body to build new defense methods, including new antibodies and immune responses that can recognize and resist. All the measures currently taken by mankind to trace the source, control proliferation, and develop vaccines are manifested as a conflict between action and structure, change and system. While the structure and system are adjusted, actions and changes are also followed up. This is an inextricably chase run. Regardless of the country, organization, or individual, one must learn to accept the alternate state of control and out-of-control-it may never have been fully controlled, and any control will always leave a gap. All the modern rational planning of orderly, well-organized, trying to use existing experience to deal with sudden things is no longer applicable. This reminds me of the law of future social survival envisioned by Ito Joichi and Jeff Howe, which emerges better than authority, compass better than maps, practice better than theory, diversity better than ability, toughness better than strength… Of course, structure and The system always has its inertia, and its self-renewal requires trial and error and time. At this time, the power of self-organization shows its effectiveness because of its flexibility and adaptability. We have seen this in the self-help and mutual assistance of the people during the lockdown of Wuhan. Kind of light of the people.

Every major disease in history, such as the Black Death, smallpox, cholera, and Spanish flu, has changed the pattern and course of history. The outbreak of the new crown virus also forces people to reorganize their production and lifestyles and ways, and it also prompts us to understand the meaning of information transparency, reflect on the pros and cons of a digital society, attach importance to environmental pollution and ecological imbalance, and further impact the old-style globalization and national The idea of ​​personal safety. History seems to be repeating, but people have never stepped into the same river. I don’t intend to discuss the “history and repetition” of Marx or Karatani in detail. They undoubtedly agree that history has only superficial similarities and repetitions, and its structure has actually been changed with changing circumstances, relying on human limitations. Information, as well as the narrow and shallow rationality, cannot be deciphered. It is impossible for people to sing the ballads of the past in a historical context that has been turned over. Changes in reality require a changed response. Imagining a world coexisting with viruses is to accommodate the diversity itself and also to treat disasters and cures. a method.

Coexistence and tolerance are the foundation of unity and cooperation. Only under this premise can we have an understanding of the different ways of dealing with different parts of the world, and then seek the possibility of rebuilding a friendly global community. The crisis and pain of the epidemic can be transformed into a key node for mankind to understand itself, the other, the ecosystem, and the universe. Alain Badiou said: “The current situation-the context of knowledge-cannot produce anything except repetition. To confirm the novelty of truth, it must be supplemented. It is unpredictable and uncalculated. It transcends Self. I call it an event. In its novelty, the truth appears, because the addition of the event breaks this repetition.” Whether it is pessimistic or optimistic, the epidemic is such a truthful event.