War of the Pigs and tribal politics

Jorge Majfud

Translated by  Fausto Giudice Фаусто Джудиче فاوستو جيوديشي


To distract attention from the global assault by 0.1 percent of the world’s population, we have a growing War of the Pig (Diary of the War of the Pig, novel by Bioy Casares, 1969, engL 1972) but extended to the most diverse extremes the Argentine novelist ever imagined: young against old, whites vs.  blacks, Latinos vs.  Anglos, fat vs.  skinny, truckers and miners vs.  university students, beer drinkers vs.  abstainers, vegans vs.  vegetarians and vegetarians vs.  carnivores, feminists of the first wave vs.  Instagram feminists and vs.  men, machistas vs.  feminists, men vs. women, lesbians vs. heteros and heteros vs. gays, Ford drivers vs. Chevrolet drivers, bearded Harley-Davidson bikers vs. beardless professors, third-generation vs. first-generation immigrants, gun lovers and Saturn believers vs. Uranus believers. Good haters vs. bad haters (another untranslatable word defecated in the centre of the world for consumption by the periphery).

At the beginning of this century (still with some optimistic faith in a new form of radical, direct democracy of a «disobedient society» liberated from its great leaders and from the manipulations of the financial aristocracy) we began to publish on the return of «The Mental Frontiers of Tribalism» (2004, tribal, in the European sense of the word, because the «wild tribes» I found in Africa were the most civilized and peaceful people I’ve ever known in my life), about the new «Culture of Hatred» (2006) and about the possible return of Western monsters («The Slow Suicide of the West», 2002) such as fascism, arrogance and intolerance towards «the other». The most recent article «The own opinion and other banalities» (2015), then read as satire, is now a reality: machines can easily opine on everyone based on their consumption habits or on their social, racial position, etc.

But we can still speculate that all that medieval mentality that has been installed in the world can be just a reaction to a major historical movement, deepened in the sixties or, in the worst case, a historical cycle in itself that has come to stay for many years. (I don’t believe that much in the latter. Most likely in a few decades we will be talking about a reaction from those from below. We haven’t crossed the inevitable break line yet and it’s not going to be pleasant for anyone.

The new interactive media have not helped significantly to know the other better (the other individual, the other culture) but, probably, the opposite.

Why? What happened?

Many years ago, with an outside view from within the great power, we were surprised that in the United States one could guess a person’s political affiliation just by looking at her face, seeing her walk, without the need for her to say a word. That apparent absurdity is currently the fashion trend in the world.

We did not foresee that one of the repressed monsters to which we had referred before that moment and which define us as human beings, opposed to altruism, to the search for justice and coexistence, would be strengthened thanks to the same interactive media. I am referring to the blind ego, to the need to feel superior to the rest at any price, to the «Trump syndrome» in everyone as an illusory source of pleasure (not happiness) that only causes more anxiety and frustration.

In other words, it is the politics of the aforementioned tribes (nationalisms) and micro tribes (social bubbles). Many times, bubbles prefabricated by the culture of consumption.

From this atomization of politics and society into tribes, into microbubbles, our global culture has become increasingly toxic, and hatred of the other into one of the common factors that organizes it. Hate and inevitable frustration exacerbated by the struggle for social recognition, by the five-minute fame, by the desire to become viral thanks to some frivolity, by the need for «visibility», the old word and obsession of USAmerican culture before it was adopted as its own and natural by the rest of the world. (A few months ago, a Uruguayan congresswoman, Graciela Bianchi, not a millennial but an older woman, defended herself in front of an Argentine journalist questioning her statements by saying that she had «a lot of visibility» in her country.)

But since not all individuals can be famous, «influencers» (much less when the individual no longer exists, when it is a flat, standard, repeated entity with minimal variations that each one considers fundamental), the need for individual recognition is projected in a larger group, in the tribe, in the irrational nationalist or racial feelings where the fury for a flag of a country or for the flag of a football club hardly differs but in scale. Thus, if even an individual named Donald Trump, a millionaire who has become president of the most powerful country in the world, needs to humiliate and degrade the rest in order to feel superior, it is not difficult to imagine what goes through the grey muscle of millions of other less fortunate abstainers.

The humanist idea of equality-in-diversity, the paradigm that most recently defined the Modern Era (apart from reason and secularism) and which was an absurd novelty until the 18th century, has suddenly lost much of its prestige.

Although it may seem absurd, people get tired of peace, they get tired of justice, they get tired of solidarity. That is why they need, from time to time, a great conflict, a catastrophe, in order to put aside again «the rage and pride» a la Oriana Fallaci, that toxin of the individual, of the race, of the tribe, of the group in front of  an enemy and to return to worry for the values of justice and the collective survival.

For this reason, certain periods of world peace and solidarity are possible, but humanity itself is doomed to self-destruction, sooner or later. Human nature is not content with discharging its most primitive energies in football stadiums, in presidential elections, but needs to humiliate, rape and kill. If others do it in its name and with a beautiful flag, so much the better.

History will continue to be written in the eternal struggle of power against justice, but moral arrogance, selfishness, individual or collective, will always have the sword of Damocles in their hand. The novel The City of the Moon, published late in 2009, was a clear metaphor for the world that came after this new medievalism in which we are slowly sinking as Calataid sank in the desert sands while its members hated each other in sects that considered themselves the moral reserve of the world.

No, nothing we see now was a surprise of history.

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