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Viva la Muerte -- a Hegelian reflection on the Schiavo affair

Anonymous Comrade writes "[from the occasional e-journal of scholar Paul Werner...]
WOID #XII-42. Viva la Muerte

Paul T Werner, New York


The philosopher Hegel wrote of the ancient Egyptians: “The honor paid
to the dead [...] is not burial, but their perennial preservation as
corpses.” He might have been describing the “honor” paid to Terri
Schiavo by the US Congress. The poor woman’s been in a coma for
fifteen years, and thanks to the Republicans she’s on her way to
permanent mummyhood.

This one's no more about the “right-to-life” than abortion: it's
a “right-to-physical body” issue. Forget what it means to be a
sentient, breathing, feeling human being. If you’re a Christian,
forget about the soul.

Hegel himself saw the Egyptian’s fascination with death as a way-
station to Christianity, as he saw most events in History: The
Egyptians were able to grasp the concept of immortality only through
its opposite, mortality. The mortal body, they thought, could be made
immortal; the actual name of that aspect of the body that was immortal
eluded them.

I don’t know if there’s room for backsliding in Hegel’s system. He
surely would not have considered the present-day evangelists to be
Christians: whether whining about Schiavo, or the “unborn,” or the
Rapture, they seem unable to grasp that the self might live on
elsewhere, be it in the memories of others or the Christian
otherworld. A medieval scholar would have found them guilty of the sin
of despair: absolute, vicious despair, as if to preserve our bodies
was to preserve us from death; despair of the very existence of an
afterlife for the soul or despair, instead, of the very permanence of
the sensual world long after us, or the community of life. "Please
don't use my daughter's suffering for your own personal agenda," says
Schiavo’s mother. These are people who smear their own despair on the
World entire.


On October 12, in Salamanca, the aging Miguel de Unamuno, a
philosopher, a Christian and Rector of the University, reacted to the
same despair from Falangist goon squads. He had listened patiently as
they detailed the number of Spaniards who should die in order to be
saved. Finally he spoke up:

“I have just heard a necrophiliac, senseless cry, ‘Long Live Death!’
And I must tell you [...] that this barbaric paradox is repugnant.”
Upon which a Falangist officer stepped up and shouted in his
face: “Death to the intellectuals! Long live Death!”

That pretty much sums it up for us, too, doesn’t it?

Paul T Werner, New York

WOID: A journal of visual language"