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不合時宜的思索:關於人類滅絕

姜于聲 (國立首爾大學)


《滅絕》。(圖/Wikipedia)

Alex Garland的科幻電影《滅絕》(Annihilation,2018)中,生物學家蕾娜(Lena)緩緩走過DNA突變的生物圈,目擊一個詭異的現象改變了自然演化法則。她有足夠的智慧可以認知到有件前所未有的事情在這行星系內發生了:「它不是在破壞。它是在改變一切。它正在創造什麼新的事物」。她不知道是什麼造成這激烈的異變,但至少她能夠察覺,正在發生的事情超越人類的想像。在流行病爆發後,我們掙扎著要面對的恐怕是相同的情況。病毒或許不會摧毀我們擁有的事物,而是改變我們周遭一切,創造新事物。如今我們意識到:病毒不是要消滅的敵人,而是個新因子,要求我們的人類中心文化做出基進的改變。


行動網路理論的重要法國哲學家布魯諾.拉圖(Bruno Latour)堅定地認為這次的病毒大流行只是一次「彩排」,為將來的環境危機預演(〈這是彩排嗎?〉)。對他而言,病毒傳染不僅僅代表公衛危機的關鍵時刻,也給我們一個預警,催促我們為氣候變遷的嚴重後果準備。就像格蕾塔·童貝里(Greta Thunberg)說的,「現在的政治和經濟系統無法解決氣候和生態危機」(〈呼籲大家面對氣候危機的全球警鐘〉)。這也是為何和病毒作戰這個概念聽起來很空泛。病毒乍看是微生物病原體,以自我增生有害細胞的方式繁殖,但實際上,病毒是只能依賴宿主生物的寄生物:人類是這些傳染物的活躍帶原者。如果要說這是戰爭,那也是對付我們文化本身的戰爭。


那可以做什麼?不斷向大眾發出警告、要求全球合作,這都不夠。隨著病毒持續蔓延,我們現在在全球目睹的恰恰與此相反。隔離措施——像社交距離、自我隔離,甚至是封城——需要廣大勞動者的犧牲;對國家主導之專制政策的恐懼越來越普遍;種族歧視和民粹正在崛起;所謂的「疫苗民族主義」(vaccine nationalism)佔據了全球政治。人類作為一種物種的生存正受到嚴重威脅,而此時我們似乎還是無望地冀求能回到日常。被這兩者完全地分裂的我們倚賴幻想以維生。


所以不意外的,持續的病毒流行大大的損害我們的心靈健康。我們的現實感正在遭難,因為我們希求的和正在發生的截然不同,就像《駭客任務》裡的尼歐(Neo)在藍藥丸和紅藥丸之間做出不可能的抉擇。如同齊澤克(Slavoj Žižek)扼要的說明,就算末日感漫天襲來,「沒有什麼真的改變了;流行病只是讓原先就在那裡的東西浮現」(《大流行!2》,頁100)。所有我們目前為止享受的事物都突然被懸置了,但所有東西都沒有變。我們渴望回到常態,但原來我們追求的常態就是我們不斷在對抗的東西。紅或藍,我們有的不是選擇而是個妄想(delirium)。這妄想是「世界—歷史的」,也如德勒茲所述,「沒有妄想不會在人民、種族、部落之間傳播,也沒有妄想不會糾纏普世的歷史」(《批判與臨床》,頁4)。


藝術與文學的救贖力量?(圖/Unsplash)

但什麼可以讓我們從這妄想中清醒?藝術,包括文學,能夠如德勒茲堅定宣稱的,把我們從對現實的妄想混亂中拯救出來嗎?藝術可以像紅色藥丸那樣引領我們,脫離回歸常態的幻想誘惑,帶我們抵達事物的真實嗎?對於藝術(和文學)的救贖力量,德勒茲的說法訴諸藝術的基本任務,即創造新的人民,一種肯定可以對抗妄想之法西斯主義的健全人民,但是,在疫情大流行的時期,正是這些消失的人民遭遇最艱難的處境,根本沒能夢想去接觸任何一種形式的藝術。藝術是另一種妄想,是對抗統治之妄想的妄想,它令我們想像我們對常態的理解出了什麼問題。這就是《滅絕》告訴我們的:包括病毒流行和氣候變遷,人類就是全球性災難的問題點。就像蕾娜向我們發問的,「自我毀滅的程序,不正深植我們之中嗎?」。


這個人類的妄想、我們對現實的扭曲想法,可稱為人類中心主義(Anthropocentrism)。人類太習慣將自己想做是地球的主人、管理者、典範、中介者,所以即使是病毒,他們也認為可以穩妥的將其概念化為他者——有敵意的那種。的確,人類歷史常和地球的歷史等同視之,而「人類世」(Anthropocene)這個詞也揭示人類所代現的地質時間。只要我們還認為我們是地球的主人,像大流行這樣的全球災難會繼續影響我們。病毒不是異常的寄生物,打算摧毀人類宿主;我們才是妄想的、毀滅性的、自我中心的寄生蟲,把主人地球當做人質。


將病毒當作一種新的他者,這想法來自一種虛妄的幻想,覺得人類是地球的合法佔領者。這也是為什麼緊急狀態或例外狀態不會是病毒流行。真正的緊急狀態是人類世自身:沒有什麼比人類佔領地球更加前所未見了。更糟的是,人類中心的幻想輕易地推導出「他者等於病毒」的觀念。所以,我們現在目睹,對他者的恨意正捲土重來,這不是巧合。西方國家對亞裔和黑人族裔的種族歧視日漸高漲、災難資本主義下出現一種新的全球性階級剝削、監控政治的科技發展,以及假隔離之名執行的國家或民族的民粹敵意,這些都是人類中心主義妄想的症狀。有些人就像是病毒,必須持續被忽略或消滅。


沒有人類的世界?(圖/Unsplash)

因此,對我而言,真正可怕的是去想像大流行之後未來會是如何或應該如何。當然,病毒流行在可見的未來會以某種方式被控制住。但情況會和以前一樣或完全改變?有了紅色藥丸,我們真的準備好去創造一種新的共群或「共同—免疫」(co-immunism),和地球上的未知他者一起生活?或我們會選藍色藥丸,希望可以回到過去,一切都沒有改變?除非我們開始從人類中心妄想的嚴重後果中學習,除非我們正視持續的病毒流行,把它當作是未來災難的警鐘,否則,「我們的身體和心靈,」如范特斯博士(Dr. Ventress)在電影中預言,「會不斷裂解成越來越小的碎片,直到什麼也沒有」。完全的滅絕。所以,我們思考和行動的當務之急,就是去想像一個沒有人類的世界。




姜于聲(Woosung Kang)

韓國國立首爾大學英文系和比較文學學程的教授。他是賓夕凡尼亞大學(2012-13)和國立臺灣大學(2019-2020)的訪問學者。研究領域包含美國文學和文化、美學的政治、批判理論、精神分析、電影理論,以及亞洲電影。他的著作包括《佛洛伊德專題》(2019)、《作為哲學凝視的繪畫》(2014),《翻譯愛倫坡》(2014)、《風格的誕生:愛默生及美國文藝復興的當下書寫》(2003)。發表文章涉獵美國文學、日本電影、解構、德勒茲,以及其他理論家。他將齊澤克的《大流行!》(2020)和《大流行!2》(2021),Timothy Snyder的《我們的疾病》(2021),Avital Ronell的《愚蠢》(2015) 翻譯為韓文,現在的書寫計畫為《東亞電影的地理學:台灣的合流與政治的德希達》。



譯者:黃冠維

校對:蔡善妮

編輯:黃山耘



Untimely Meditations on Human Annihilation


Woosung Kang


In Alex Garland’s Si-Fi movie Annihilation (2018), Lena, a biologist who trails through the DNA-mutated biosphere, witnesses the uncanny phenomenon that changed the law of natural evolution. She is clever enough to acknowledge that something unprecedented occurred in the planetary system: “It wasn't destroying. It was changing everything. It was making something new.” She does not know what causes this immense mutation, but she is, at least, able to discern that what happened was beyond human imagination. Since the outbreak of viral pandemic, what we have been struggling with might be the same situation. Virus may not destroy what we have; it is changing everything around us, making something new. Now we become aware of the fact that virus is not an enemy to be eliminated but a new element demanding the radical change in our anthropocentric culture.


Bruno Latour, a leading French philosopher of network theory, insists that the virial pandemic is only a “dress rehearsal” of the upcoming environmental crisis (“Is This a Dress Rehearsal?” ). For him, the viral infection does not merely represent a fatal moment of health crisis but also showcases a preliminary warning which incites us to prepare for the dire outcome of climate change. As Greta Thunberg put it, “the climate and ecological crisis cannot be solved within today’s political and economic systems” (“Global Wake-Up Call to Tackle Climate Crisis”). That’s why the idea of war against the virus sounds empty. Virus looks like a microbe pathogen that proliferates as a self-multiplying malignant cell, but it, in fact, is a parasite entirely dependent upon the host organism: human beings are the active carrier of these infectious elements. If this amounts to a war, it has to be waged against our own culture.


What is then to be done? To keep sending warning signals to the public and to demand global cooperation are not enough. What we are witnessing right now in the globe as the viral pandemic drags on is just the opposite. Quarantine measures like social distancing, self-isolation, and even lockdown require the tremendous sacrifice of workers; the fear of the state-driven authoritarian policies becomes widespread; racial discrimination and populism are on the rise; the so-called “vaccine nationalism” preoccupies the global politics. At a time when the survival of the human as a species is in critical crisis, we seems to still desire the impossible return to the normal. Utterly divided, we feeds on the fantasy.


No wonder the prolonged viral pandemic severely damages our mental health. Our sense of reality suffers immensely from the discrepancy between what we hope for and what is happening, like Neo who faces the impossible choice of the red pill or blue pill in Matrix. As Slavoj Žižek succinctly put it, despite the overwhelming sense of apocalypse, “nothing has really changed; the pandemic only brought out more clearly what was already there” (Pandmic!2, 100). Everything we have enjoyed so far becomes suddenly suspended, but nothing has really changed. We yearn for the return to the normal, but the normality we seeks after turns out to be the very thing we have constantly struggled against. Red or blue, there is no choice available for us but a delirium. This delirium is “world-historical,” and, as Gilles Deleuze writes, “there is no delirium that does not pass through peoples, races, and tribes, and that does not haunt universal history” (Essays Critical and Clinical, 4).


But what can awaken us from this delirium? Can art, including literature, save us, as Deleuze insists, from this delirious confusion of reality? Can art, as the red pill that will lead us to the true state of things, deliver us from the seduction of the fantasy of the return to normality? Deleuze’s argument for the art’s (and literature’s) power of saving grace resorts to its essential task of inventing a new people who guarantee the health against the delirious fascism, but the very people who are missing suffer the most amidst the pandemic, without even dreaming of the access to any form of art whatsoever. Art as a different kind of delirium that opposes the delirium of domination, however, makes us imagine what is wrong with our sense of normality. That’s precisely what the movie Annihilation tells us: human beings are the problem of global catastrophe, including viral pandemic and climate change. As Lena asks us, “Isn’t the self-destruction coded into us?”


This human delirium, our perverse sense of reality, can be called Anthropocentrism. Human beings are so much used to think of themselves as the master, the manager, the paradigm, and the mediator of the earth that even a microbe like the virus, they assume, could be safely conceptualized under the category of the other, a hostile one at that. Indeed, human history is often regarded as identical with the planetary history of the Earth, and the term “Anthropocene” exemplifies the human representation of the geological time. As long as we think we are the host of the Earth, the global catastrophe like pandemic will continue to plague us. Virus is not an abnormal parasite which intends to destroy the human host; we are a delirious, destructive, self-centered parasite that takes hostage of the host Earth.


The idea of virus as a new other comes from the delirious fantasy that human beings are the legitimate occupier of the Earth. That’s why the state of emergency and exception could not be the viral pandemic. The real state of emergency is the Anthropocene itself: what is exceptional is none other than the human occupation of the Earth. What is worse, this anthropocentric fantasy easily leads to the notion of the other as a virus. It is no coincidence, then, that we are now witnessing the aggravated revival of the hatred against the others. The upsurge of racial discrimination against Asians and Blacks in the Western countries, a new kind of world-wide class exploitation under disaster capitalism, the technical development of surveillance politics, and the national or ethnic populist antagonism in the name of quarantine are the very symptom of this anthropocentric delirium. Some people have to remain missing or to be obliterated like a virus.


So what is really frightening for me right now is to imagine how the future would or should be like after the viral pandemic. Surely, this viral outbreak can be controlled in some way or other in the near future. But will it be the same as it used to be or get completely changed? With red pills, will we really be ready to create a new life of communism or co-immunism with the unknown others of the Earth? Or will we, taking blue pills, desire to find ourselves back to the past where nothing has changed? Unless we start to learn from the dire outcome of anthropocentric delirium, unless we seriously take the ongoing viral pandemic to be “a wake-up call” for the catastrophe to come, “our bodies and our minds,” as Dr. Ventress prophecies in the movie, “will be fragmented into their smallest parts until not one part remains.” A total annihilation. To imagine a world without human beings thus should be our task for thinking and acting.


Woosung Kang is Professor of Department of English and Comparative Literature Program at Seoul National University, Korea. He was a visiting scholar at University of Pennsylvania (2012-13) and National Taiwan University (2019-2020). His research area includes American literature and culture, politics of aesthetics, critical theories, psychoanalysis, film theory, and Asian cinemas. He is the author of Freud Seminar (2019), Painting as the Gaze of Philosophy (2014), Poe Translated (2014), The Birth of a Style: Emerson and the Writing of the Moment in the American Renaissance (2003). He published articles on American literatures, Japanese films, Deconstruction, Deleuze, and other theorists. He translated Slavoj Žižek’s Pandemic! (2020) and Pandemic!2 (2021), Timothy Snyder’s Our Malady (2021), and Avital Ronell’s Stupidity (2015) into Korean, and now working on The Geographies of East Asian Cinema: The Taiwan Convergence and Political Derrida.


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