On the Regeneration/Degeneration of the Lebanese Species.

Since posting wisecracks is most people’s raison d’être on Facebook (beside showcasing the awesomeness of one’s life), I thought I would go with the flow and post my own; one that I could claim ownership of. So I wrote:

I think the next generation of Lebanese babies is going to have built-in night vision, if you see what I mean.

…with reference to the protracted/frequent power cuts.

I noticed last night that I had an increased ability to see in very low light conditions, that’s why. Then I wondered if I were the only mutant in my entourage.

Anyway, a good friend of mine commented on the post, saying “we should consider if we should have a next Lebanese generation,” wondering about the legacy of past generations. “Nothing much to offer, she added, at least nothing much positive.”

I connected this reaction to a notion I had learned about a few days earlier, namely the mélancolie génésique or “reproductive melancholy,” an expression coined by Yves Paccalet, a French philosopher and long-time companion of Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

Paccalet talked about mélancolie génésique or “reproductive melancholy” to explain the declining reproduction rate of cod-fish and whales. According to him, the mélancolie génésique is the psychological consequence of human aggression on marine ecosystems (industrial overfishing, pollution, etc.), which causes the species to lose their appetite for life (yes, animals also have it, sometimes more than humans), their will to procreate, their desire to perpetuate their species.

I think this is a fascinating idea. It would be interesting to extend it to humans. I totally understand this “reproductive depression” in a time of political and socio-economic depression, a time of moral degeneration. Our society is fairly degenerate (I like this word, it suits us, I mean: il nous ressemble), so whence our surprise to see our “regeneration rate” dropping?

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2 Responses to On the Regeneration/Degeneration of the Lebanese Species.

  1. C. says:

    On whales and men
    Moral degeneration is more than the consequence of political and socio-economic depression. Degeneration means, as I understand it, a subjugation to circumstances, which are themselves constructed. It is as with the whales that submit to external circumstances (human aggression). I imagine that it would be ignorant to imply that this submission is the result of a natural chain reaction, something like a psychological necessity of whales. I rather consider it to be a form of resistance against (according to the whales’ point of view) unendurable living conditions, which are beyond their control. Although I do not believe in men as the superior creation (…), we (men) do indeed make or perhaps choose our condition (of being active, passive or degenerated, if you want). However, while we produce our personal or generational condition, this choice is also embedded in circumstances that, Marx, for instance, understands as given and inherited.

    This would mean that men are not so much different than whales, if men are degenerated, because of their inherited “polluted” mind and the given (not over-fishing), but over-consumption that contribute to men’s loosing of their appetite for life (talking from a Western point of view, of course). Despite being willingly or unwillingly trapped in certain circumstances, whether inherited or given, these circumstances are like history a social product rather than a product of some kind of natural God given law. Circumstances are constructs and therefore, made by “men” (which is indeed literally true considering the dominance of “men” in powerful positions). Anyway, this does not mean that we should comfort ourselves in an illusion of false necessity (I mean by that the necessity of being the victim of our own circumstances), which are, even though, not necessarily (personally) created by us, man-made, and thus, can also be re-made or changed differently. On the illusions of false necessity Unger writes in another context that it arises “because we surrender to the social world, and then begin to mistake present society for possible humanity, giving in to the ideas and attitudes that make the established order seem natural, necessary, or authoritative.”

    Having Marx in mind, these illusions (on how the world is and who I am in this worldly context) can be changed, although change is constraint by the existence of circumstances (predominately capitalistic structures, I guess, which also appear to be inscribed in our way of social interaction by determining our most beneficial way of being of our economic (cost and benefit motivated, so essentially, not moral) selves. Though the present circumstances are changeable, change itself is also limited or constraint by the same circumstances. This does not mean, as Berlin puts it, that men are set on “an irresistible course with inevitable outcomes, and that events are accordingly to be attributed to impersonal forces beyond the control of individual human beings.” For this would imply, he adds, that “individual agency is denied, so too is the basis for personal responsibility.”

    Society’s moral degeneration (yours, mine and others), is not arbitrary, but a product of circumstances as well as personal and generational choices (despite all the limitations imposed on our choices). In order to overcome the depression of degeneration, men has to challenge circumstances that are perceived as unjust (or degenerated) by acknowledging that nothing is random. In contrast, the assumption that the present circumstances (including the moral degeneration) are unchallengeable or God given (fated), denies any act of resistance and degrades men to the destiny of the above mentioned whales. Perhaps, it is absurd to argue, but what if it is also our morality (whatever morality means) that makes us and our societies feeling degenerated, because we feel empty in the way over-consumption and over-liberalization (which is not liberal at all) determine our existences and deprive men (us) of the possibility to morally re-generate (our societies and circumstances), to be aware of personal agency and responsibility (in particular, given that there are less limitation imposed on us then on those on the loosing side of the system, for instance, with respect to our access to resources to act)?

    • a.s. says:

      The argument was that degeneration is a byproduct of political and socio-economic depression, which is a constructed circumstance, as you put it. Indeed, it is not a mechanical necessity but a form of resistance given the perceived unendurable living conditions. Disappearing “appeared” as a way to get escape the trap.

      However, I am not very keen on the basic rational-choice approach. Voluntaristic theses are always somewhat naive because they hypertrophy some factors (conscious, rational factors) while being oblivious to other driving forces (unconscious, emotions, etc.).

      Surely, degeneration is not arbitrary. But it’s a matter beyond the reductive issue of choice.

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