[reblogged] In the cockpit

Original by Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi Nella cabina di pilotaggio March 30, 2015. Translation by Cecile Landman (w/ minor edits by Ted Byfield) distributed via nettime.

They say that the young co-pilot Andreas Lubitz suffered from depression and had kept his mental condition hidden from the company he worked for, Lufthansa. The doctors advised him to take a leave of absence from work. That is not surprising at all: contemporary turbo-capitalism detests those who ask for sick leave, and it ferociously hates every reference to depression. Me, depressed? Don’t talk about it. I’m doing fine, I’m perfectly efficient, cheerful, dynamic, energetic, and above all competitive. I jog every morning, and I’m always willing to do overtime. Isn’t this the philosophy of low cost?

Don’t they make announcements when the plane takes off and lands? Aren’t we surrounded by the uninterrupted commentaries of competitive efficiency? Aren’t we forced to measure our daily mood against the aggressive cheerfulness of the faces in commercials? Don’t we run the risk of being fired if we are sick too often?

Now the newspapers — the same ones that for years have been calling us lazy and singing the praises of cutting off the inefficient — say we should pay more attention to recruiting. We’ll make special audits to verify that airplane pilots aren’t deranged, crazy, depressed, manic, melancholic, or sad losers. For real? And doctors? And army officers? And bus drivers? And train engineers? And math teachers? And traffic police? We’ll purge the depressed. We’ll purge them right out. Too bad they’re the absolute majority of the population today.

I’m not talking about the proclaimed depressed, who in proportion are also increasing, but of those who suffer from unhappiness, sadness, despair. Even if it’s rarely acknowledged, and only then with caution, the incidence of mental illness has grown immensely in recent decades. And, beyond that, suicide numbers — according to a WHO report — have grown by 60% (wow) in the last forty years. Forty years. What does that mean?

What has happened in the last forty years that would make people run in droves to the dark mistress? Maybe there is a relationship between this incredible increase in the propensity to suicide and the triumph of neoliberalism, which makes insecurity and competition compulsory? And is this maybe related to the loneliness of a generation that has grown up in front of the screen getting continuous psycho-informative stimuli but touching less and less another’s body?

Don’t forget that for every ‘successful suicide there are about twenty ‘failed’ attempts. Don’t forget that in many countries (even in Italy), physicians are advised to be extremely cautious about attributing death to suicide if there isn’t clear evidence of intention. And how many car accidents hide more or less conscious suicidal intents?

As soon as the investigating authorities and the airline revealed that the cause of the plane crash was the suicide of a worker who suffered from depression and kept it hidden, it set in motion on the Internet the usual army of conspiracy theorists. “They think we’ll believe that?!” say those who imagine conspiracy. The CIA must be behind it, or maybe Putin, or maybe it’s a very serious error that Lufthansa wants to keep hidden.

A cartoonist who signed with the name Sartori, and who is thought to be very witty, shows a guy who reads the newspaper and says, DEPRESSED CO-PILOT RESPONSIBLE FOR AIRBUS SLAUGHTER.” And then he adds: “Soon they’ll be saying ISIS is just depressed people.” There, bravo.

The point is this: Contemporary terrorism can have a thousand political causes, but the only real cause is the epidemic of mental suffering (and social — but the two are one) spreading around the world. Could that explain the behavior of a shaheed, a young man who blows himself up to kill a dozen other humans, in terms of politics, ideology, religion? Sure it can, but it’s bullshit. The truth is that anyone who kills considers life an intolerable burden and sees in death the only salvation — and in bloodbaths the one and only revenge.

An epidemic of suicide has befallen planet earth. The last decades have set in motion a gigantic factory of unhappiness that seems to leave no way out. Those who see conspiracy everywhere should stop seeking out a hidden truth. They should, instead, interpret the obvious truth differently. Andreas Lubitz shut himself in the damned cockpit because the pain he felt inside had become unbearable. And because of that pain, he condemned the hundred and fifty passengers and colleagues who flew with him — and all the other human beings who, like him, can’t get rid of the unhappiness that is devouring humanity.

Advertising bombards us with compulsory happiness, and digital loneliness has only multiplied the stimuli and isolated our bodies. And financial capitalism has forced us to work twice as hard to earn half as much.