Kairos n°14


When Thomas More wrote more than 500 years ago that « we are born on graves », there was nothing « pessimistic » in his words. On the contrary, as the author of the book Utopia, he dreamed of another possible world. The recognition of death, inseparable from life, is thus presented as a condition of happiness.

Currently, the negation of this and of the process consubstantial to life, aging, are repressed in a dynamic that exploits and feeds the consumer society, creating the illusion of a formatted happiness and enjoining us to conform to it. Recently, we could read on a poster advertising on the street: « I am 20 years old since 20 years ». This sentence is not insignificant, because even if we know that it is impossible, this awareness of the impossible is mixed with a will to achieve it and generates a dissonance that the individual tries to resolve by joining the game of conspicuous consumption and appearance. « I look, therefore I am »… formidable marketing efficiency.

Now this great negation of our finitude, and of finitude in general, provokes this assimilation of the being to the object. We become a capital, a material that must be made to bear fruit, by remaining young, beautiful, « in », thanks to the products and services offered by the consumer society(1), by producing and consuming. But we can’t keep up, becoming more and more obsolete every day and having to constantly modernize ourselves in the appearance market. The old ones, we park them in homes, and we avoid showing them too much, they could remind us that we are mortal. The others, especially when they are public figures and the features of old age begin to mark them too much, get a face lift. The dictionary defines the term as « to tighten the skin of the face » but, more interestingly, it tells us that in a figurative sense the word means « to rejuvenate »: this is where the possible and the impossible meet, and where society organizes illness and individual suffering.

There are no more limits if even the one of death is denied. We keep pushing back the boundaries and, refusing to grow old, we refuse to live, drowning our anguish in the consumption of ourselves. What do we know about what this will do to our children? What disorder it has already developed and will develop in them? This brings a reversal of the well-meaning question we usually ask ourselves, which Jaime Semprun emphasized. « When the citizen ecologist claims to ask the most disturbing question by asking: what world are we going to leave to our children? he avoids asking this other, really disturbing question: what children are we going to leave the world to? »(2).

Alexandre Penasse

Notes et références
  1. Ce qui n’implique pas qu’il faille affecter le « laid», rejeter le beau comme signe de rejet du système.
  2. Jaime Semprun, L’abîme se repeuple, 1997 .

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