Alarming danger and social control through the writings of Paul Virilio and Bruce Bégout
Related books :
- “The Administration of Fear” – Paul Virilio
- “Le ParK” – Bruce Bégout
Both of the books I chose are divided into chapters that could be independent. The first one, The Administration of Fear, is divided by questions during an interview by Bertrand Richards with Paul Virilio. The second one is divided by another logic, a descriptive one, every chapter represents a small part of the big puzzle, so the reader is left to link the different notions in order to build up the described world in their own imagination.
To sum up both of the books I will start with the Administration of Fear. In this book, Virilio speaks of a state of fear that reigns over the world. An unhealthy fear that is striving humanity. He puts it into three cases of fear of a bomb.
The first one is the atomic bomb, that has terrorized human kind who have seen its effect during the world war and are left with this post trauma effect of fearing a second one, so as a reaction, every country or group has been working on building theirs ever since. Being equipped to fight the fight when the time comes is what re-insures people.
The second one is the ecological bomb, from which people are not fully conscious. It is a phenomenon that is building up to explode at a certain point. This explosion shall be called the explosion of the ecological bomb, as a reaction to human vices. This is implementing another kind of fear into people’s mind, alarming them of the vulnerability of human kind.
The third bomb is the informational bomb, caused by the flow of information and its instantaneity. On this subject, Virilio speaks of his personal childhood memories, when he describes the importance of the radio signal during the world war. He also speaks of a certain live feed instead of real space nowadays.
All these three bombs are to him responsible of an imbalance of fear. He also speaks of an arrhythmic society, in which rhythm and harmony are replaced by exponential acceleration, until the crash and the systemic failure. He speaks of the world as if it was an egg, in which all the flux and the movements are accelerated to a point that this egg shell is about to break, to explode with everything and everyone within. This current era is to him the limit of human mind, their thought and time. He speaks of a certain end of geography, and pollution of distance, all this by the factor of speed and time that are replacing real space. He also warns us from a world of immediacy and simultaneity that couldn’t be inhabitable by human kind.
Over all, the notions spoken by Virilio in this interview are echoes to an alarm that humanity must listen to. The author is urging the human kind to slow its pace if this kind is not to be soon extinct. To him, we must be able to dominate the domination of progress and not be enslaved by it, or by all the acceleration that implies speeding up our lives and narrowing our visual field, missing what is perceptible otherwise.
The second book, “Le ParK” by Bruce Bégout is a description of a ParK that doesn’t exist in this world, but built up in a fiction recited by the author. Every chapter is meant to highlight a specific characteristic or experience of the ParK. It is a distant and isolated island owned by a Russian that made his fortune out of arms and entertainment. The access is strictly limited to a certain number of visitors (100/day) accompanied by guards during the visit, and of course the fee is enormous. The buildings don’t seem to follow any organization order and take advantage of the wilderness of nature, with which it is composed. It represents a laboratory of practicing and perfecting social control methods. Unlike critics and most of the people that visit the ParK, politicians are not scared nor irritated by what’s going on, they show a huge interest in the ways things go in the ParK by which they are fascinated and inspired.
However, the ParK was conceived to reunite all the forms in one place, and mix them according to new associations, as an example: a concentration camp to a techno pole, a cemetery to a Kindergarten etc. It is more than just a simple association, it is an entire combination, a mixture in which even the roles could be inverted. The concept is to confront and compare what is not comparable. It is a live experience of hybrid architectural and social tests.
It is a place that questions entertainment and human emotions, the architect of this place is called a genius. He sits upon his ivory tower overlooking the ParK. Always experimenting, and looking into neuro science in order to develop the spaces that could match the human mind and needs, working with science masters, botanists and many other disciplines in order to make this experience more unique.
Looking into the two books the first thing we see is that both of these books are fiction on the first level. A different kind of relation between fiction and reality is present in each of the books. The first one, in Virilio’s interview, is to the reader a fiction that evolves from an exaggerated reality. While on the second one, the fiction by itself reveals a reality. In the administration of fear, the author alarms us of an upcoming situation, in which our world will collapse, and urges us to act upon the realities he makes us experience and see; the upcoming situation by itself has not yet happened, so the speculations are a fiction that we are urged to prevent. While in the ParK the fiction is real, the ParK exists in the same world we live in. It is an exaggeration of all human vices and eagerness to consume and to fulfill their desires. The ParK by itself could be an existing place nowadays, with all its horrors and awfulness. The description of this act of constructing a place like this, reveal to the reader the actual reality of the world in which we live. By this act of revelation, the reader is invited to admit the realities in which we live, and to be conscious about the human vices and the atrocities that are happening.
On the other hand, a notion of scale and territory is different in each of the books. With Virilio we speak of a global phenomenon, a phenomenon that is happening everywhere on earth with a very big impact. While with Bégout, the act is isolated on an island. The idea of the island by itself in general kinds of utopia represents isolation, but on this one we speak of a punctual act that is meant to represent the general idea. So we have different logics in both of the books, the first one is deductive while the second one is inductive. But whether it is general of specific, an island or the globe, both of them are accentuating the repercussions of human behavior and acts on the planet and on the social interactions.
This last element, the social interactions, is more highlighted in Bruce Bégout’s book, where he illustrates the Park as a social laboratory by itself. Even though it is meant to search for controlling social beings and activities, still, it speaks more specifically about this half of the cup than Virilio’s book. In the Administration of fear, the social experience and evolution is present, but not on the first plan, it is changing according to the changing rhythms and paces of technology, unlike the social life at the ParK that most of the time dictates the spatial organization and the connections between physical elements on the Island.
Looking into these two books, a reader could directly feel danger. A danger of human evolution that was never before this big. This species controls the world and its components, and threatens both physical and time existence. It is a moving threat by which the third dimension of danger is felt and lived in our everyday life. The political control and systems are also questioned, by their ability to unbalance fear with their decisions and acts, or even by their social control through spreading corruption and manipulating people into their dark sides.
It is sure that after reading these books we realize that there is no man with white gloves. Everyone is part of the system, even if they don’t control it, and even if they are not conscious of it. These books could be binoculars through which we could look into a different dimension of our reality and our so called “modern life”. Some great achievements could mean failures of human kind, thinking of nuclear power, arms and weapons, to more innocent looking structures and infrastructures that are growing to devour the cities, and to transform our social life and behavior forever. The speed that is a privilege to Homo sapiens could mean the curse that this species brought upon itself. Speeding up exponentially could mean the loss of mass and the transformation into energy. An energy that could turn into dust with a blink of an eye. All this diversity and biodiversity could be turned into dust by a simple button, a bomb that could erase everything.
After reading these books all the chain is questioned, the system, the movement and even the nomadism and sedentary of human kind. Long ago, people struggled through deserts and strange wilds in order to find a strategical point for them to settle in and develop a life. Nowadays all the system is inverted, we have our settlements and our consolidation points, but we are in a constant seek of leaving them and having our nomad experience, traveling and hovering the globe. People, merchandise, energy, ships, planes, trains, cars, trams and many more are meant to fulfill this desire of being everywhere and being nowhere. So how do human desires affect the globe? How far could fulfilling these desires go, and what is the price to be paid?