Bereft of values, our society demands images of suffering from others to replenish our moral sentiment. We exchange our pity for their pain, in a process that guarantees the suffering must continue.
Baudrillard in 94 [Jean, September 28, "No Reprieve For Sarejevo"]
The problem lies indeed in the nature of our reality. We have got only one, and it must be preserved. Even if it is by the use of the most heinous of all paroles: "One must do something. One cannot remain idle." Yet, to do something for the sole reason that one cannot do nothing never has been a valid principle for action, nor for liberty. At the most it is an excuse for one's own powerlessness and a token of self-pity. The people of Sarajevo are not bothered by such questions. Being where they are, they are in the absolute need to do what they do, to do the right thing. They harbour no illusion about the outcome and do not indulge in self-pity. This is what it means to be really existing, to exist within reality. And this reality has nothing to do with the so-called objective reality of their plight, which should not exist, and which we do so much deplore. This reality exits as such - it is the stark reality of action and destiny. This is why they are alive, while we are dead. This is why we feel the need to salvage the reality of war in our own eyes and to impose this reality (to be pitiable) upon those who suffer from it, but do not really believe in it, despite the fact they are in the midst of war and utter distress. Susan Sontag herself confesses in her diaries that the Bosnians do not really believe in the suffering which surrounds them. They end up finding the whole situation unreal, senseless, and unexplainable. It is hell, but hell of what may be termed a hyperreal kind, made even more hyperreal by the harassment of the media and the humanitarian agencies, because it renders the attitude of the world towards them even less unfathomable. Thus, they live in a kind of ghost-like war - which is fortunate, because otherwise, they would never have been able to stand up to it. These are not my words, by the way: they say it so. But then Susan Sontag, hailing herself from New York, must know better than them what reality is, since she has chosen them to incarnate it. Or maybe it is simply because reality is what she, and with her all the Western world, is lacking the most. To reconstitute reality, one needs to head to where blood flows. All these "corridors", opened by us to funnel our foodstuffs and our "culture" are in fact our lifelines along which we suck their moral strength and the energy of their distress. Yet another unequal exchange. And to those who have found in a radical delusion of reality (and this includes the belief in political rationality, which supposedly rules us, and which very much constitutes the principle of European reality) a kind of alternative courage, that is to survive a senseless situation, to these people Susan Sontag comes to convince them of the "reality" of their suffering, by making something cultural and something theatrical out of it, so that it can be useful as a referent within the theatre of western values, including "solidarity". But Susan Sontag herself is not the issue. She is merely a societal instance of what has become the general situation whereby toothless intellectuals swap their distress with the misery of the poor, both of them sustaining each other, both of them locked in a perverse agreement. This parallels the way the political class and civil society are swapping their respective misery: one throwing up corruption and scandals, the other its purposeless convulsions and its inertia. Thus, not so long ago, one could witness Bourdieu and Abbe Pierre offering themselves as televisual slaughtering lambs trading with each other pathetic language and sociological garble about poverty. Our whole society is thus on its way towards "commiseration" in the most literal sense of the word (under the cloak of ecumenical bathos). It looks like as if we are in the midst of an immense feeling of guilt, shared by intellectuals and politicians alike, and which is linked to the end of history and the downfall of values. Then, it has become necessary to replenish the pond of values, the pond of references, and to do so by using that smallest common denominator which is the suffering of the world, and in doing so, replenishing our game reserves with artificial fowls. "At the moment, it has become impossible to show anything else than suffering in the news broadcasts on television", reports David Schneidermann. Ours is a victim-society. I gather that society is merely expressing its own disappointment and longing for an impossible violence against itself. Everywhere, a New Intellectual Order is following on the heels of the New World Order. Everywhere, we see distress, misery and suffering becoming the basic stuff of the primitive scene. The status of victimhood, paired with human rights is the sole funeral ideology. Those who do not directly exploit it do it by proxy - there is no dearth of mediators who take some surplus value of financial or symbolic nature along the way. Loss and suffering, just like the global debt, are negotiable and for sale on the speculative market, that is, the intellectual-political market - which is in no way undermining the military-industrial complex of old & sinister days.