The Invisible Armada

Image by Juan Alberto Casado, all rights reserved

Contemporary democracy as a Potemkin village... (2/3)

By Alain Brossat

29 March 2022

Potemkin becomes a precursor of contemporary inventors of reality, at the crossroads of the sphere of communication and the political scene. In our societies, the real is no longer the given, it is a fabrication, a production. Institutional policy, that of the State, is at the heart of this new production regime. In this sense, democracy is not at all a set of principles and values governing relations between rulers and ruled, determining the form and function of institutions. Democracy is a mode of production of the forms of reality, a regime under which is placed the production of a reality adjusted to the needs of the government of the living and the reproduction of the form of domination which is inseparable from it. Under this regime, what is commonly called politics pertains less to the domain of action in the sense of praxis, intended to produce displacements in the field of the real (Arendt), than to that of the production of configuration, shaping reality.

The field of action, strictly speaking, of the democratic elites has, in contemporary societies, constantly shrunk under the effect of determining factors such as the weakening of the state in the face of economic powers and the disappearance of international politics in its traditional sense in favour of global “policing”. The agency of democracies understood as the capacity to produce effects, all sorts of effects, has shifted towards what it would be wrong to reduce to the dimension of the production of useful discourse, the making of the narrative of the world and the management of the discourse police; it is, much more generally, within the horizon of configuration of the real that this agency unfolds. Democracy is not an ideality or a universal based on ideals, principles and values, it is a factory of reality, the formatting of it.

Good government, in its traditional form, consists in ensuring the right grip on a reality that pre-exists it and is composed of heterogeneous data - territory(ies), populations, wealth...[1] Under the regime of contemporary democracies, things present themselves quite differently: the primacy of artefacts intended to produce effects of reality is firmly established there. The stories, the rhetorical constructions take precedence over what a traditional perception of reality would have defined as the “state of the world”.[2] In this sense, a constitutive elective affinity is revealed between the general forms of late democracy and the Potemkin village. We touch here what we could call the Potemkin village effect inherent in contemporary democracy understood as an apparatus for the government of the living and, inseparably, as a mode of configuration of the present. Considered from this angle, contemporary democracies are Potemkin villages, constitutively, intrinsically. It is in fact that they are structurally based on the primacy of the production of artefacts (of the real of synthesis, of the discourses intended to produce impressions of the real), of the assemblages intended to interpose themselves between the state of things, the state of the world and the perceptions and subjectivities of the governed. The interposition (the masking screen) is precisely the primary principle of the Potemkin village.

However, if all contemporary democracies are Potemkin villages, some are so more distinctly, more visibly, more pathetically than others – some where the nudity of the king (the Potemkin village effect) is obvious to everyone, there where the cogs and strings of the decor (of the veil, of the drapery) can be seen with the naked eye – and others where the device more or less manages to be forgotten. In this sense, contemporary democracies are based first and foremost on the production of a discursive illusion – one that is based on the operation consisting in making the state of the composite world in perpetual becoming (Wirklichkeit) indistinguishable, nebulous, at the profit from the useful descriptions which are produced by the authorized narrators. The conduct of the world coincides more and more closely with the conduct of the narratives of the present, which is a production of fixed reality, indisputable, without alternative (Realität), "configured" with a view to its administration (its management) by the apparatuses of democracy. The reality of contemporary democracies is in this sense the result of a rhetorical operation intended to impose itself as a dogma. This dogmatic turn of contemporary democracy appears ever more evident as it is validated by using and abusing the rhetoric of the enemy. The way things are going, the only foundation of democratic legitimacy will be this point of dogma: it is what must be unconditionally defended against its ever more deadly enemies.

When the President of the United States convenes a so-called "Forum of Democracies" consisting in separating the wheat from the chaff by inviting certain countries and ostensibly not inviting others, it is indeed a question of producing in the eyes of the world effects of reality destined to establish themselves as solidly and as irrefutably as possible – the Brazil of Bolsonaro, the India of Modi, the Israel of Bennett find themselves comforted in their quasi-ontological position as/of “democracies” (both “real” democracies and incarnations of the ideal “Democracy”), while Xi's China and Putin's Russia are excluded. The dividing lines thus produced become constituent and organizing elements of the order of things. We are dealing here with an ontologizing rhetoric, producing reality – and yet: the operation mounted by Joe Biden and his entourage is leaking from all sides and is similar in all respects to the deployment of large style of a painted canvas named "democracy". When the latter finds itself embodied by regimes and personalities as commendable as those mentioned above, it can be said without exaggerating that it is no less stitched together with white threads than that attributed to the Minister of (known as) Great Catherine... And yet, as a performative operation (deploying both in the field of words and that of images), she is perfectly exemplary of what has become the mode of production of the real of synthesis by contemporary (late) democracies. Contemporary democracies are intrinsically placed under the regime that ensured the fortune of Canada Dry – they look like, they taste like – but this display is intended to make people forget the taste of the lost referent (an invigorating mixture made of gin, tonic and lemon).

It is indeed an exemplary use of power, consisting in producing a reality or, if you will, a semblance of "given" from nothing or rather from its opposite: the brutal and disastrous regime of Bolsonaro, the supremacist regime of Modi, the apartheid regime of Bennett are transfigured into the embodiment of the democratic norm as opposed to the “dictatorships” of Xi and Putin. Under the impetus of this coup de force in language and this political bluff, all sorts of useful sequences can occur: certainly, Bolsonaro's vulgar style, the destruction of the environment he encourages, the ferocious war he is waging against the poor, his disastrous management of the pandemic are both criticisable and regrettable - but these shadows on the board cannot suffice to cast doubt on the dogma of the intrinsic democratic essence of Brazilian democracy - the most perfect of tautologies and, for this very reason, irrefutable. This clearly shows that the power of images is identified at the heart of the "problem" of contemporary democracy: basically, this democracy is above all an image, a matter of image(s), an operation organized around the production of images.

Contemporary democracy, in this sense, is not an idea, an ideal, a concept, it is a mental image. But we can clearly see that it is not an image of (unfathomable) reality or even of the real in the making, an image based on the powers of the imagination. It is, on the contrary, an image that is entirely linked with flight into the imaginary. Never has the opposition between imagination and the imaginary been so clear-cut: the imaginary is, when it inspires the operations carried out by the apparatuses of contemporary democracy, what emancipates the constituent elements of collective life, material and factual, from what constitutes the real environment of people's lives – not just the lived or tangible world (the sensible), but the objectivity, the practical field in which human life takes place. Imagination is, on the contrary, what leads back to the true state (in the sense of really real) of the world, to the truths of facts, the foundations and the organizing frameworks of people's lives.

The specificity of the operation oriented towards flight into the imaginary is to erase from the field of vision or to inscribe in a blind spot the fascist intensities which cross the ruling elites and the Indian or Brazilian political field by substituting for them the Epinal images of democracy-despite-everything, an essential stake in/for the mobilization of opinions in the context of the new cold war against China and Russia. The war of stories and images is now not only inseparable from the war of the worlds – it is firmly established there at the command post.

Another of the most convincing examples would be that of the Covid-19 pandemic – more precisely, the way in which the ruling elites of a country like France manage to evade the constituent elements of reality arranged around the bankruptcy of the health policy of the State faced with this major crisis. This, for the benefit of an apologetic narrative intended to impose itself as reality against all that, constantly, massively, persists in denying it. Such an operation takes the form of the deployment of a gigantic drape in front of the succession of episodes, sequences, twists and solidly established facts which attest to the amateurism, the casualness, the incompetence, the cynicism, the negligence of the power in the face of this rout, constantly avoided - a crisis whose human cost is unprecedented since the Second World War and whose lasting consequences are still impossible to assess.

However, it is quite obvious that, under these very conditions, the evasion of reality in favour of a dilatory and eclectic account of the "war" waged against the pandemic is possible: if this were not the case, the first of those responsible for this bankruptcy, the President of the Republic, far from being in a position to stand for a second term, would live the last moments of his five-year term while waiting for the dreaded moment when he would have to be held accountable for this bankruptcy and this disastrous record. However, it is quite the opposite that is happening, here he is at the top of the polls, as if the pandemic had never been for him, in the end, only the opportunity to “bounce back”, against all odds – this despite the series of failures recorded on other fronts, the persistence of the anti-vax sling, a firmly anchored unpopularity... It was his predecessor, François Hollande, holder, of course, of a disastrous five-year term - but whose name is not associated with such a massive and, strictly speaking, criminal failure – who, at the end of his mandate, found himself forced to forfeit the idea of running again, for fear of recording a humiliating and fatal defeat.

It is therefore obvious that there is a major problem in contemporary democracies with what can be simply designated as the test of reality. Everything happens as if the most massive facts affecting the whole of society were henceforth liable to lose in people's eyes not only their name (here: a state crime) but, even worse, their very substance; this to fade before the painted canvases interposed between the real world of dissolved disaster, diluted in the tepid waters of the discourse of power, and “the public”. Which could also be said as follows: in the time of the democracy of the spectacle, the tribunal of opinion is transformed into the public, stricto sensu, that is to say into a mass of spectators, their noses glued to the painted canvases. The public, is constantly inclined to grant greater credit to the stories and images of the world concocted by the powers and instances of domination than to what it experiences directly and may have knowledge assured; in the very sense, it is more powerfully equipped by these narratives and its images than anchored by its own experience to everything of which Wirklichkeit is made up - this audience of contemporary democracies is, by definition, a good audience , an audience of dream for “democratic” oligarchies.

The very people who cultivate distrust of authority and, for this very reason, switch to the side of resistance to vaccines are the last to emancipate themselves from this condition, from this dependence: they compete with the rulers in terms of flight into the imaginary when they deploy before the set of facts that make up the pandemic object, the real world of the pandemic, the painted canvases of their conspiratorial and vaccine-skeptical phantasmagoria. They too are carried away and overwhelmed by a drive to erase, to evade reality of the real world. Their distrust of authority (the foundations of which are only too obvious) leads them not on the path of a return to facts against the words and images of power, but on the contrary on that of a Potemkinian machination: the world-village in the grip of the pandemic disappears in favour of a shadow theatre populated by killer vaccines and sadistic injectors. In short, there are indeed two types or two modalities of resistance: that which relies on the imagination (hope, utopian flows, from the classic "let's push back the frontiers of the possible" to the sixty-eight "be realistic: ask the impossible!”) and the one that flees into the imaginary and sees the world as an expressionist film set (the shadows of Plato's cave, seen by a chained prisoner on acid).

In other words, the condition for contemporary democracies to be able to turn, roll, and increasingly, to the production of villages and Potemkin effects, is that the grips on reality and the field of experience of democratic or rather democratized subjects, have withered and stunted at the same rate. These subjects have progressively lost the elementary and saving ability to observe and state aloud that “the king is naked”, thus signalling their awakening, their exit from this state of torpor in which the incense of power plunges them; the fact that the words spoken by the elites and the images exhibited by the rulers are so obviously far removed from reality as it is part of their own field of experience, but also the field of verifiable knowledge, is no longer enough to extract them from their programmed narcosis. What they see, what they experience, what they know or can know yields to the fantastical reality that television delivers to their homes. This erosion of their ability to oppose the fruits of experience and known facts to artefacts produced and disseminated by the dominant caste is all the more surprising since, as the example of the pandemic shows, never the field of the knowable, knowledge that ordinary people can access and trust, has never been so extensive. Never before, in the history of a disease or a health scourge, have the essential elements of knowledge (allowing it to be objectified and fight it) were produced so quickly by specialists and made available to the general public – it took three to four years for HIV to be identified after the appearance of the first manifestations of the AIDS pandemic, only a few weeks to "decrypt" the genome of the Covid-19 virus.

It is therefore on the side of experience and the ability to appropriate reliable knowledge that a collapse has occurred in our societies. Everything happens as if the subjects equipped by contemporary democracy had lost the ability to link (from) their own experience to the increase in their capacity for thought and their power to act (to face both the pandemic itself and the criminal negligence of those in power facing it), by appropriating the available knowledge. It is as if these subjects had lost the capacity to operate the distinction and the division between what, on the one hand, by informing and instructing them, increases their hold on the real world and, on the other, the hustle and bustle of communication that takes them to imaginary worlds.

It is precisely here that the trap of nihilism closes in on the democratized subject: the more he-she is stuffed with messages and supposed information, the more he-she is placed under “communicational” narcosis, and the less he finds himself in a condition to exercise his judgment and to demonstrate, in the test, discernment. He-she is inclined, not without reasons, to retain in priority the messages likely to nourish his-her distrust and aversion with regards to the powers and all that is authoritative. He-she turns to discourses and messages presenting themselves as an alternative to the discourse of powers and inspired by distrust of them.

However, it so happens that, in this context, as, more generally, with regard to global warming, this "alternative knowledge" emanates from the factories of ignorance and in no way from sources or bodies which we can expect to support some form of return to reality and the objectivity of facts, as opposed to the perpetual smoking practiced by rulers. Where individual and collective experience, deprived of its foundations in elements of reliable information and knowledge, no longer allows orientation, the spiral of ignorance revamped into rebellious expertise can unfold without encountering obstacles: nihilism thrives at the juncture of the increasingly uninhibited "potemkinism" of those above (where the Trumps, the Boris Johnsons show the way)[3] and the constantly increased mistrust of those below the place of any speech or knowledge associated with authority.

The shrinking of the field of experience and its obsolescence have their roots in the disintegration of the collectives that produce the powers of identification and the ability to situate themselves in reality – work, neighbourhood, political membership, family life, organized leisure... This weakening does not only lead to that of traditional forms of identification, it affects our grip on reality. The increasing serialization and fragmentation of social subjects produces increasingly disaffiliated individuals brought to produce and inhabit an increasingly ghostly “world”, modelled by imaginary powers. It is wisely that Bruno Latour asks his contemporaries the question which imposes itself today as the one around which all the others are arranged: what world do you inhabit exactly? Or rather: what world does your way of life, your being-in-the-world and the ideas that go with it presuppose? And, therefore, are you sure you live in the real world? This world in which you have established your habits and where your bearings and comforts of existence are arranged, what relationship does it maintain with the one which, upon examination of available and verifiable knowledge, can be defined as the real world, not fixed in its being but in the making, projecting itself in directions that are both predictable and unpredictable today?

What has taken shape in our societies today is such a manifest weakening of the capacity for objectification, that of individual subjects, in their relationship to the present, that lived worlds now appear as an archipelago of isolated, of bubbles, of more or less narrow, stunted spheres, and maintaining, as such, more or less distant or distended relationships with what we must well and truly persist in defining as the real, Wirklichkeit, what we could call the world-in-effect, rather than the "true" world or what the world would be in truth.

This distortion, as it has been constantly at work throughout the health crisis, is particularly salient in two structural dimensions of the crisis of the present: climate change, (the becoming-uninhabitable/unbreathable of the planet) and the new cold war understood as war of the worlds. The rise of contemporary me-meism, an exacerbated form of subjectivism, a symptom of the bursting of subjectivities, the proliferation of demands for immunity and security (individually self-cantered or pseudo-community-oriented) are indices among many others of this advent of a time of isolates, niches understood not only as places of survival or bad-living, distorted lived worlds, but as factories of a derealized reality, placed under the condition of an imaginary now powerfully equipped by new and themselves derealizing technologies – digital first and foremost.

Asking people today what world they live in (or think they live in) does not only amount to taking stock of the diversity of practical worlds and the modes of existence that go with them, it also supposes that we question the relationship between the forms of the imaginary and objectivity. A purely relativistic approach to the diversity of lived worlds and modes of existence is a bad adviser here. This is sufficiently indicated by the gaping chasm between the objectivity of the climate emergency and the subsidiary place that this problem occupies not only in people's supposed concerns – but in their own “real world”. What should be taken into full measure is this: in our societies, the majority of the living live “next to”, “outside” of what we know to be objectivity – of what they too could, in principle or in a better world, could perceive as the real. This in exactly the same way that Europeans lived, in the Belle Epoque, "alongside" what constituted the tightest web of their present in immediate becoming - the combination of factors and explosive historical substances which has led to the catastrophe of August 1914, this "suicide of Europe" (see on that Stefan Zweig, among others).

Our problem, therefore, is not only that we have to live with people who do not live, strictly speaking, in the same world as us - to each his own sphere, his bubble, his island - it is that we are compelled to this, in principle, unrealizable task of coexisting with people for whom the real world has ceased to be a problem with which it is necessary to grapple day after day, on which it is important to make sure of the grips, in spite of everything that tends to distance us from it, to derealize it and to transform inhabitants of the world into zombies.[4]

The real world is no longer a problem for them because they are now firmly entrenched in immune imaginaries, alternate worlds, second planets that do not exist, false knowledge, obscure “communities”, etc. They are now protected from the real by all kinds of heterogeneous envelopes made up of technologies, slogans, mass phenomena, mobilization devices, reactive affects... It is really worth asking with perseverance what may well be (made of) the world of fanatical Trump supporters who have invaded the Capitol; a world which is not only a subjective world, a lived world, since it is constantly brought to objectify itself in actions which produce powerful effects of reality – which transform and, sometimes, upset the world. We must ask ourselves in the same way what the world of those who, in France, undergo in our very present the irresistible attraction of Zemmour, can be made of – what populates it, composes it, structures it, what nourishes its expansion, which makes it a world placed under the regime of pure phantasmagoria, haunted by imaginary figures (the “great replacement” and its aftermath of devilries and chimeras...[5]).

We can clearly see here that the question is no longer at all, in this configuration, that of political disagreements, ideological differences that we would maintain with some of our fellow citizens, nor even the question of division in its Machiavellian or Marxist sense (this which opposes the proletarian to the bourgeois, the plebs to the patriciate...), the question is no longer even that of the dispute (which would prevent us from agreeing with those to whom we oppose on procedures for settling what divides us), the question has become quite different: we live on the same planet, in the same places, we speak, more often than not, the same language as the living around us, share the same customs – and yet, we no longer live in the same world as many of them – our respective worlds do not communicate, as if they were separated by transparent but totally sealed walls. We increasingly live in a common world devoid of any consistency, no longer placed under the sign of division and conflict (a world in which we have adversaries and enemies), but of the tightness of spheres or bowls: we now live among the aliens, in the sense of extra-terrestrials, that is to say living beings who, beyond appearances, are for us "from another world" - both their thoughts and their behaviour, their way of inhabiting the world have become foreign to ours[6]. But they are not extra-terrestrials, precisely and this is where the problem lies, terrestrial, they are no less so than us, and they are not "others" either in the sense that ethical philosophies of otherness understand this term - they are far too foreign to us for that - and we therefore need to put new words on this new condition of strangeness/foreignness which confuses us and transits us - we could introduce the neologism here (inspired by Bruno Dumont) by Zautres.[7] For we must not hide our face: those who tirelessly tag on our walls "Pfizer kills" and write "My real vaccine is Jesus" do indeed live on the same planet as us and in the same spaces, but above all in other worlds. They are, more than misguided, Zothers – they massively produce derealized reality, they influence the course of things in the direction of the worst, they are harbingers of the apocalypse, they are situated for us both below and above the figure of the enemy – it is not so much our own integrity that they are jeopardizing – it is the very integrity of the planet's habitability – if they are the enemies of something, it's life, quite simply, they are the nihilism of the present time embodied.

It is here that once again the cinema is of great help to us to understand what is happening to us: we now know that our world is populated by human-others (the Zothers) who are neither "replicants", nor "real humans", that is to say artifacts with a human appearance and perfectly imitating human behaviour, even human thoughts and feelings, while remaining sophisticated machines or androids. Zothers who are therefore humans "like us", no less human than us, everything except "sub-humans" or defined as such according to the rules of an indefensible and odious hierarchical taxonomy - but who, in spite of this belonging to the human condition, are none the less for us not different, foreigners, others, but radical aliens – living beings of the same appearance as us but whose forms of existence have become incommensurable with ours and which in no way communicate with ours. Zombies, living dead, aliens, in movies, have differences in appearance that make them immediately identifiable as non-humans. In the same way, the artificial and mechanical creatures which imitate the human appearance always end up betraying themselves by some sign.[8] What is new with the appearance of people "from the other world" or "from other worlds" is precisely that they have not come from elsewhere, fallen from another planet, that they are fully human, from the same matrix as us, that nothing distinguishes them from us in their appearance and yet that we no longer have any common world with them, that we live in separate spheres between which there are neither membranes nor airlocks, nor point of passage of any kind.

But there is worse: it is not only that their reality has no common measure with ours: it is also that we have every reason to suspect them of wanting or desiring to harm us, of being animated by a strong impulse to destroy our own spaces, niches, positions. We have every chance of being one day or another (if we have not already) “caught in their dream”, in the sense here of phantasmagoria, and this in the worst of conditions – that of the bad object. We know, from knowledge based on historical experience, how close the affinities are between fascism and collective escapes into the imaginary. And we know that fascism, any kind of fascism, fuels not only hatred but a constant desire for purification, cleansing, liquidation, extermination. We cannot ignore the relationship that is established, in today's France, between the persistence of health revisionism and the massive shift of political apparatuses, but also of opinion reconditioned in sleepwalking public, towards political nihilism. The spectacular Zemmour climb being just the tip of the iceberg here. These leaks, flights, escapes into the imaginary, the prosperity of parallel pseudo-reals are full of promises of acting out, of which the electoral programs displayed by the maniacs of the far right give only a faint idea. Those who are now firmly established in these "other worlds" populated by chimeras are not living dead or zombies, since they are “human, too human”, but their line of death does not lead them any less, for all that, to destroy us and, with us, the persistent desire for a habitable world.

What makes the populations of democratic societies in the global north so continuously and easily governable by elites and leaders who are increasingly openly locked in and carried away by “dreams” and speeches without a grip on reality? What makes them fall so easily under the influence of a whole bric-a-brac of obsessions, fantasies, whims, dreams of grandeur, hollow and high-sounding words, extravagant pretensions – in short, everything that constitutes the arsenal of the omnipresent “populism” we have become familiar with?

It is obviously the fact that the relationship of these populations themselves to reality (to the real, rather) the supposed object of experience and knowledge, both individually and collectively, it is indeed the fact that their roots in this reality are deeply altered. What can make those who now form a procession behind Zemmour let themselves be seduced by this mediocre flute player - if it is not, precisely, that their own relationship to the world, their own "real world", that everything that makes up their life-world is so deeply damaged, distorted, mutilated that they come to perceive the fanciful, wacky, sinister depiction of the state of affairs presented to them by this poor magician as the most realistic of pictures, the most realistic proposals?

Those who therefore persist in defending and promoting a strong realism based on experience and knowledge cannot content themselves with demonstrating that the diagnoses made by the charlatans of institutional politics do not stand up, are only smoke and mirrors; they must also ask themselves what creates the conditions for the acceptability of these delusions by a growing part of the public; or rather, they should start by asking themselves about this collapse of the realism of the ordinary man – the one who, in principle and in other times, leads him to welcome with a shrug of the shoulders this type of buffoonery and spasmodic agitation (the Zemmour circus), so remote as it is from what constitutes the most solid fabric of its own experience and knowledge of the world.

[1] What we mean here by real or the real world is distinct: not "nature" of which we would have a vocation to become masters and possessors, to which we should give up throat, but the environment on which we have a hold, of quality variable, as this exerts a hold on us. The Anthropocene is the name of the disruption of this system of interactions based on the reciprocity of holds.

[2] The real is according to this nomenclature what we can experience, what we can produce verifiable knowledge about. Reality remains in the background – it can only be glimpsed in the breaches that are sometimes hollowed out in the texture of things, of beings.

[3] A simple exercise would consist in reconstructing the “world” of political leaders, of the powerful of this world from their sole declarations, comments and public speeches. It would then be easy to measure the distance that extends between this "world" of power and, not only the "lived world" of ordinary people, but, more radically, what the real world is made of, understood as the objective foundation of the existence of the living. The world according to Trump, Bolsonaro, Johnson or Macron is not only a fantasy, it is also a terribly real imaginary world, being that of people in power who, as such, failing to transform the real world, instruct decisively the drift.

[4] Of course, we continue to share, despite this separation of lived worlds, the same objectivity with those we meet in the street, at work, in the supermarket. But that doesn't mean we live in the same world as them. There are many people, says Deleuze, who have no world of their own. We would rather be inclined to say here that the characteristic of the era is the multiplication of derealized proper worlds – but in the end, it might come down to the same thing...

[5] “Le grand remplacement” - the new gimmick of the far right and right in France, meaning the ghost of the invasion of Western Europe by dark post-colonial migrants and refugees – a typically neo- white supremacist obsession.

[6] I know how shocking this abrupt proposition can appear. It is inspired by the epistemological approach of the question of what we really can know of civilizations or societies of the past by the French historian Paul Veyne, a specialist of the Ancient Roman world. We are completely wrong when we imagine that the gladiators' fights have progressively disappeared because of the development of the Christian religion and the “softening” of mores that is supposed to go with it – this because we project our sensitivity on a world that was completely alien to it. What we have to be aware of is that we are separated from these other worlds, in time or space, by a mental glass wall – we can see them at very close range, through pictures, texts, narratives, tradition, etc. - but the glass wall is watertight and it keeps us away from them – we cannot have any real intuition of how a Roman patrician or plebeian of the Second century after Jesus felt about gladiators' fights as an entertainment and a show.

The same way, we have to acknowledge today that the glass walls that separate individuals or groupes from each other multiply. This is one of the reasons why our present has become not only so depressing, but, squarely, dangerous...

[7] Zautres in French, a neologism intended for making more radical the term “autre(s)” (other), the same way the film director Bruno Dumont has coined the ironical term “Z'humains” from “humains”, the humans.

[8] See Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, 1982 on that question – how replicants “betray” themselves.