In the solitary cabin of our lives: on Andreas Lubitz
By Franco “Bifo” Berardi
Translated from the Spanish at El Diario:
It seems that Andreas Lubitz, the young pilot who crashed himself along with an airplane full of passengers into a rocky mountain, hid a medical certificate that diagnosed his pathological depression from his company, Lufthansa. This was wrong, without a doubt, but totally understandable: turbo-capitalism does not like workers who take time off for health reasons, and much less for depression.
Am I depressed? Don’t mention it! I feel fine: I am perfectly efficient, happy, dynamic, energetic and, above all, competitive. I am going to run every morning and always be available to work extra hours. This is the philosophy of the low-cost airlines, isn’t it? And it is also the philosophy of the perfectly deregulated market, where everyone is constantly asking us to give the best of ourselves to survive.
After the mass murder and suicide, the airlines were asked to perform more rigorous psychological exams on their workers. Pilots should not be maniacs, nor depressives, nor melancholics, nor suffer panic attacks. And what about bus drivers or police officers, miners or schoolmasters? Very soon we are all subject to psychological monitoring with the goal of detecting and expelling those who suffer depression from the labor market.
A very good idea, really, but it happens that the absolute majority of the current population should give up. It is easy to point to those who are officially labeled as psychopaths; but nevertheless, what about all those people who suffer from unhappiness and who try to maintain their calm, but that could lose control in dangerous situations? It is difficult to distinguish between unhappiness and an imminently aggressive depression, especially when the mass of desperate people grows and grows. The number of psychopathologies has been increasing in recent decades and, according to the World Health Organization, the suicide rate has increased by 60% in the last 40 years, and in a particularly dangerous way among the young. In the last 40 years? Why, precisely, in this timespan? What is it that in the last 4 decades has gone pushing people to plunge themselves into the arms of the angel of death? I admit that I see a relation between this incredible wave of the tendency to suicide and the triumph of neoliberal coercion to compete. I admit that I see a relation between the generalization of psychic fragility and the loneliness of a generation that only encounters itself through a screen. For each person that successfully commits suicide, there are 20 others that try to kill themselves without the power to consummate the act. That is why we should recognize that there is an epidemic of suicide spreading across the face of the earth.
It is possible the here one finds the explanation of some of the terrible phenomena of our times, those which we often read in political terms, even though we fail to understand them through the lens of politics. Contemporary terrorism should be interpreted, in the first place, as a tendency of self-deletion. It is said that the shaheed (suicidal terrorist) apparently acts, driven by political, ideological, or religious motives. But this is simply superficial rhetoric. The deepest motivation for suicide is always desperation, humiliation, misery. One who decides to destroy their own life is someone that has experienced an unbearable burden, that sees in death the only exit, and in murder the only revenge against those who have cheated, humiliated, or insulted him.
The most probable cause of the wave of suicides, and in particular the homicidal suicides, is the transformation of social life into a factory of unhappiness from which is appears impossible to escape. It is the demand to convert oneself into a winner, opposed to the consciousness that it is impossible to win or, even better, that the only way to win (at least provisionally) is destroying the lives of the others to kill oneself afterwards.
Andreas Lubitz locked himself in that damn cabin because his suffering seemed intolerable, and because he blamed his colleagues, and the passengers, and all of humanity. He did what he did because he could not escape from this unhappiness that has been devouring contemporary societies since advertising launched the first bomb against the collective brain, ordering obligatory happiness; since digital loneliness began to multiply nervous excitability and enclose bodies in the cage of the screen; since financial capital began to force all of us to work for more and more time, under the miserable salary of precariousness.