The triumph of Death. Peter Bruegel.
Lea Tortura y trauma en la novela "El carnicero de Lyon" en
CRITIQUE TO HUMAN ESTULTITIA:
Dialogues in front of a nuclear explosion in the center of a great city
by Manuel Lasso
BERNARDO: What would happen, sir, if a nuclear missile explodes in the center of this great city?
ORESTES: It would be something extraordinarily frightening. From the distance it will be seen as an immense ball of red fire and black smoke rising swiftly and covering almost half of this ancient city.
BERNARDO: Half of this city?
ORESTES: As you sensorially perceive me and hear me. It would be a gigantic explosion which from the beginning would have instantaneously destroyed a large part of the city and would be advancing towards the periphery at an inconceivable speed.
BERNARDO: It would have to be observed from a considerable distance...
ORESTES: Yes, indeed. Due to its extraordinary destructive power it could only be seen from a remote place. Before it used to be observed from a very close location, mainly by some megalomaniac generals who would get drunk as much as they could and climb to a tribune. Staggering, with teary eyes, their chests full of medals, they would sing the national anthem looking at the elevation of the red smoky mushroom in the distance.
BERNARDO: To see exactly how it could be used...
ORESTES: Yes. To see if they could use it, seeking for glory, in the splendor of the battlefield, either during an attack on the enemy forces that seemed meek, feeble and easy to defeat or during the disorderly retreat of their own terrified troops when the artillery of the adversary turned out to be more lethal and destructive than expected. In reality, those generals could not comprehend that the only eye of the soul is understanding as Aristotle taught us and not the liquor drank at an inappropriate moment. Later on, it was found that these curious spectators, despite the medals hanging from their jackets, would become very ill with Acute Radiation Syndrome. From that moment the generals gallery remained empty. This is a weapon that would charmingly amuse a homicidal and vicious leader like Hitler, Caligula or Attila the Hun.
BERNARDO: Couldn't this be observed from the hypocenter of the explosion?
ORESTES: What did you say? To observe it from ground zero?... Bernardo, benedicite!... My dear fellow, you must hate yourself in an extraordinary way... Are you a martyr?
BERNARDO: No, sir. Why?
ORESTES: Because if you stand at the center of the detonation you will disappear... Why would you like to stand there?.. To say good-bye?... Or to say your last prayer?... The situation couldn't be so bad... Your sweety-thing couldn't be gone forever... She should be back soon... Please, calm down...
BERNARDO: I was just simply asking, sir.
ORESTES: So then, please, ask the right question. Otherwise you may give the wrong impression... It would be impossible to see it from the hypocenter of the explosion, simply because, as you can imagine, you would blow up and disappear immediately in a phenomenal mass of fire... Nothing would be left of you... The speed of that explosion would be a thousand times faster than the blink of an eye. Do you understand?
BERNARDO: Yes, yes; I understand.
ORESTES: This explosion is quicker than an envious human thought. Infinitely faster than the moving fingers of a clever robber in front of a pocket full of money or of a smiling magician ready to do a trick on us. After the blinding detonation no one would realize that everything had disappeared because there would be nobody to confirm it. At one moment, life would continue as usual with their exceedingly delicious sexual urgencies, their philosophical disjunctives and their consecutive dilemmas. On the next, in the middle of the smoke, the colossal explosion with its immense ball of fire would have relentlessly destroyed a great part of that city and would be advancing towards the periphery, as if galloping under the beat of the Overture of William Tell... Half of that apothetical and trascendental city, including its population, would have ill-fatedly disappeared in less than a hundredth of a second leaving an immense area of black rubble with exposed high voltage wires, leaking gas ducts, fallen sharp objects and fires while the brightly illuminated souls, will be ascending from everywhere, one after another, among the rising bluish smoke and the radioactive dust. I wish you could understand. I said, in less than a hundredth of a second... Hey, my dear fellow, wake up!... Well, I can not go against the designs of Heaven if you can not comprehend what I am saying...
BERNARDO: I understand. In less than a hundredth of a second... Of course, I understand... Extremely fast... Extraordinary sight... Would it also be too hot?
ORESTES: If you call it hot. I do not know how to call it. The truth is that it would be the worst of hell because temperature could ascend to ten million degrees centigrade.
BERNARDO: Ten million degrees centigrade? In the center of the explosion?
ORESTES: As you hear, my dear fellow... Where you would like to stand...
BERNARDO: That would be really too hot, wouldn't it?
ORESTES: Well, imagine yourself... If water boils at one hundred degrees. What would happen at ten million? We would vaporize and vanish, without leaving on the floor not even a dirty drop of ourselves.
BERNARDO: Do you believe, sir, that at the gates of Hell the temperature would also climb to that level?
ORESTES: Hell?... My dear fellow, you will have to address that question to Virgil or to Dante or to Farinata degli Uberti if you find them somewhere on the road. They might be too old by now. But it is also possible that if you watch them with your binoculars you could see them moving and walking among the blaze and flames with the same red headdress and the same bluish green tunics of those times.
BERNARDO: What would happen to everything that existed in the center of this ancient and fabulous city?
ORESTES: Everything will vanish instantly. By that I mean the sanctified temples with their big columns and designs, the bustling whorehouses full of contentious penny-pinchers and the museums with their uninterrupted erotic act performances. The same would happen to us. All dissatisfied dreams and ambitions, the implacable sexual desires that do not yield with anything, the indolence from which you perpetually suffer and all the envy and hatred that we humans have towards each other, would melt together with the bricks and iron in a mass of fire, blood and contaminated dust. This entire megalopolis will be left in ruins emiting an enormous amount of radioactivity as it happened when God destroyed Cahors and Gomorra. It is too shocking for the imagination to conceive this but it is the truth.
BERNARDO: I have never heard something like this.
ORESTES: I am awfully frightened even by talking about it because it seems like a horror movie, a fiction, an exaggeration. It challenges the concept of the analysis of experience in terms of subject and object. However, it is astonishingly real. Do you think that I am saying something unseemly, my dear fellow?
BERNARDO: Not at all, sir. By the contrary. Now, could you, please, tell me if the public knows about the consequences of these nuclear explosions.
ORESTES: People in general, unfortunately, does not know how this is. Everyone speaks and reads about nuclear explosions. They look at photographs and films; but they rather see an erotic spectacle, like when a couple, say Othello and Desdemona, are anxiously and impatiently making love over a bed in the svanaka position. Then and only then, the spectators applaud and scream full of ardor and desire. But when the subject is the consequence of a nuclear disaster I doubt if any public could be interested.
BERNARDO: What would happen at 16 kilometers away from the center of the explosion?
ORESTES: The hellish heat would vaporize all metals.
BERNARDO: Do you mean that a war tank, with its uniformed occupants, standing on the top of a hill would disappear like ghosts?
ORESTES: That is exactly what I mean. They will dematerialize as the specter of Banquo did during the feast of Macbeth. I am delighted to hear that your epistemological understanding increases by the second. It calls for a congratulation... Let me applaud a little... It is true, the glass will melt and pour over the ground like lava falling down from the Vesubius. If it falls over a face it will make a mascara. If it falls over an entire body it will make a radioactive cast for a bronze statue.
BERNARDO: As we see it in that painting by Dali?
ORESTES: You have said it. Clocks would melt and drip as if they were made of liquid wax. You will hear the dripping. Or they will hang from the trees and the electrical posts.
BERNARDO: So then, Dali had a prophetical vision.
ORESTES: It might have been intentional, coincidental or prophetical. Dali's art, like our subconscious world, can not yet be well understood. It has too many scary situations, furious ghosts and screaming demons that makes it impossible to watch. On the other hand, science does not have to exhaust its own field in order to produce the necessary nexus between its determinant contexts.
BERNARDO: Between what, sir?
ORESTES: Between its determinant contexts...
BERNARDO: Oh, yes, yes... Science.... Its determinant contexts, of course; but, what would happen at 27 kilometers from the center of the explosion?
ORESTES: You can imagine that at that moment the white smoky mushroom will continue ascending and forming crooked white volutes. The intense heat would burn everything including the houses, buildings and monuments. It will be worse than the fire of Rome or the inferno of the Library of Alexandria. Large enchanted forests will go into flames with all their owls, wolves, deers, unicorns, playful gnomes and dwarf-queens included.
BERNARDO: Nothing would remain intact?
ORESTES: Absolutely nothing. The carbonized birds will drop over the ashes like hot stones. Everything would be transformed into a bleak place covered by cinders and leafless little trees. Below those trees, in that metafinite cosmos, under the shadow of its branches, we will keep waiting for Godot, eating carrots or turnips and announcing with Estragon and Vladimir that there is still nothing to do over the ground covered by radioactive dust.
BERNARDO: It would seem like an authentic Apocalypse.
ORESTES: You are absolutely right, my dear fellow. You are a genius!... Seven times a genius!... When the sacred seals open, from different places of the enormous wall of white smoke, the four terrifying horsemen of Apocalypse will emerge covered by a fine layer of radioactive soot. They will look like four emaciated cadavers with their faces powdered with exaggeration and their fine lips painted on red. For an instant they will look in all directions. Upon seeing us they will spur their horses and will gallop towards us, swinging their heavy swords over their heads desperately, screeching and vociferating cries of battle in Greek, like Magnum Aleksanders, raising radioactive dust and running at the beat of a grotesque and scratchy sound of bugles, violins, cellos and basses, in order to transform us, with their bloody weapons, into pieces of guts, hands and feet thrown all over the place. It would be a horrible nightmare...
BERNARDO: What would happen at 48 kilometers from the hypocenter of the explosion?
ORESTES: With such a potent heat anyone walking on the countryside, anxiously looking at the most attractive portions of the bodies of the three merry virgins, taking a bath in the flowing waters of the creek, would endure severe burns all over their bodies.
BERNARDO: What will happen at 89 kilometers from the explosion?
ORESTES: At that distance anyone who would turn their heads back, like Lot's wife, to glance at the bright light of the enormous explosion would suffer an instantaneous blindness that could not be healed even if Maimonides in person would come, with his white turban, to rub their eyes with the best of his magic and scented oils while scratching his gray beard and reading in loud voice from an old volume of Iphigenia in Aulis... Do you know who Maimonides was?
BERNARDO: Yes, of course. He was a great physician and writer from antiquity.
ORESTES: Well then, you could imagine what David Hume would have done in this case inspired by his sceptical empiricism.
BERNARDO: Hume would not have believed in a nuclear explosion until seeing one. He only gave credit to what he could see, hear, smell or touch... So with eagerness he would have stared at the mushroom of smoke and fire...
ORESTES: I am glad he lived in a different age. Anyway Kant helped him get on line.
BERNARDO: Undoubtedly. But continuing with my questions. Would this explosion be the cause of a great number of deaths?
ORESTES: The amount of dead people would be unimaginable. There would be an incalculable number of cadavers resting everywhere like in the times of the Black Death. Worse than that, the bodies of these victims would remain in different positions, on the collapsing roofs of the destroyed buildings and on the devastated public plazas; on their boats, at the shores of the rivers, with a fish moving among their hands, or still holding desperately from the ropes of the church bells. Others would be on the corridors of the demolished whorehouses with their eyes and mouths opened in astonishment while holding flasks filled with ancient oil. What is more, the bloodcurdling rider of the red horse, the one with the sunken white eyes, without dismounting, would roll over the inert bodies with his sword, sticking its sharp tip in their bellies with mighty thrusts, to confirm that they were dead. There will be no one to entomb them and the carcasses will remain where they fell, for the contentment of the starving and jumping vultures and the voracious and delighted carrion dogs.
BERNARDO: What would happen if the infuriated corpses would get up and walk around to scare the carrion dogs that were eating them?
ORESTES: There would be no one who would raise to stretch and walk. To all those who would dare to stand up, the emaciated rider of the black horse, the one causing famine, will hit them on the head with his balance, making a metallic sound and will knock them down to the ground. Then the carrion dogs, wagging their tails with great enthusiasm, will come close again to continue licking and chomping on their heads.
BERNARDO: I understand. And the generals?
ORESTES: Do you think, that in the middle of that orgasmic cataclysm, the generals would be warming their throats to sing the national anthem with their falsetto voices?
BERNARDO: No, no; of course not. I mean if they were dead.
ORESTES: If those genocide officers, responsible for the disappearance and assassination of innocent citizens, were present at that moment, they would also be eaten by the black vultures, starting by their eyes and their tongues.
BERNARDO: Like Greek heroes...
BERNARDO: Such a tragic scene... My father was also a soldier...
ORESTES: I am very sorry for you and your father, my dear fellow, believe me; but as I said, at that moment no one would envy anybody and there would be no one who could hate other humans.
BERNARDO: Would racial hatred end with nuclear destruction?
ORESTES: It is possible that with these extreme catastrophes the unexplainable detestation that some humans feel for others would end. My dear fellow, we are all equal and no one is superior to anybody, because we descend from the same fragile bow-legged African woman who instead of long hairs on her head had small multicolor serpents that enjoyed by swiftly jumping over each other to bite their own little poisonous muzzle chops and their shinny throats.
BERNARDO: And the dictatorships?
ORESTES: They will also disappear.
BERNARDO: And the torturers?
ORESTES: There would be no low rank torturer, no brainless homo sapiens, who could electroshock, out of infinite pleasure, the didymus of an innocent prisoner, whatever his political agenda might be, simply to confirm the ontological relationship between the whole and its parts or to verify that electricity could conduct equally and distributively between the total organ and their component cells.
BERNARDO: Excuse me, sir; but what is the didymus?
ORESTES: My dear fellow!... Don't you know?... Haven't you ever heard of the didymus of Hannibal's elephants? Or the didymus of Charles Maurice de Talleyrand which was rather very small indeed? Or the one of Victor Hugo which was senile and fibrous but still highly functional? For God's sake, this is utterly incredible!... You need to be hit on the head by the rider of the black horse... The didymus, my dear fellow, is the round and soft organ that exists below the existentialist epididymus.
BERNARDO: And what is the epididymus?
ORESTES: For that question you will have to consult with Being and nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre and the Fifth Book of Vesalius's De humanis Corporis Fabrica. There you will find a good illustration of it and you will see it clearly. Don't tell me that you don't know what the didymus is. Because it is a very elemental concept. If it were not for the didymus or the gonad of the females with their beautiful primordial germ cells, neither the homo erectus nor the homo sapiens, could have existed... Or the bluish red paintings of the caves of Altamira... Or the carved images of the temples of Khajuraho. They were extremely indispensable in the evolution of our ancestors... The only thing we can not have access to is eternity, my dear fellow, eternity...
BERNARDO: Of course, of course... Eternity... I understand you... That is where Nero wanted to enter and remain forever... But, please, tell me, sir, would there be too many injured people after the explosion?
ORESTES: It will be an extraordinary sight. Countless numbers of wounded people, saintly or sinful, will lie on the outer area of the explosion. It would be horrifying because they would be piled up, on top of each other, like morsels in the market, even when they would not like to be in that position, moaning of pain and terror, calling for the benevolence and the mercy of the Almighty; but regretfully no one could come to help them because there would be no one to assist anybody, nor even the witches or the hob-goblins because they will also be among the dead. It would resemble the end of a cruel battle of Antiquity, with the four horsemen of the Apocalypse riding with their banners, between the victims, blowing their trumpets vigorously and announcing their victory in all directions.
BERNARDO: Would it be like in the paintings of Bruegel?
ORESTES: Something immensely more frightful. Honestly, I would not wish to be there.
BERNARDO: And the survivors?
ORESTES: Only those who were far enough from the explosion will survive; but sometimes I think it would be better not to survive.
BERNARDO: Why not?
ORESTES: Because those poor ones, would suffer terrible deformities. Grotesque bumps will emerge from the skulls of hoarders and spendthrifts. Burns and lethal illnesses will follow. Unexpectedly, third eyes will appear on their foreheads looking at the passing women and moving at their own will. Some survivors will suddenly grow seven heads from their necks and five tails from their rear end, moving each one at different speed and with different rhythm. We'll be surrounded by monsters. It would be a hecatomb, an abstract unity which could not return rationally to the world of the phenomenon. Something that could not even be understood. The worst would be the nuclear winter which will follow soon afterwards.
BERNARDO: What is that?
ORESTES: I am delighted to hear that you ask this because, as I have explained before, if a nuclear winter is produced, all cinder and residues of the explosion will form a gigantic cloud around the planet. The sunlight will not be seen for an indefinite period of time and all plants and animals will die. It would be like a gruesome and macabre night of unknown duration with demons screaming and howling in the darkness. Besides, the massive radioactivity accumulated in that global cloud would fall over the earth and contaminate all food and water with cesium-137, strontium-90 and Iodine-131. There would be nothing to eat or drink, not even a little red hot pepper which was intended to be used in a Kung Pao Chicken. The horses of the Apocalipse will have no hay or water to consume either. They will remain neighing and snorting, waiting for everybody to expire before departing. In a short lapse the entire humanity will have ceased to exist with all its hatred and belicosities.
BERNARDO: Would the horsemen have anything to eat or drink?
ORESTES: Don't worry about them because they are biblical and do not eat or drink like us.
BERNARDO: But they drink beer and wine.
ORESTES: No, they don't. They drink blood and feed on rotting flesh.
BERNARDO: I understand. So, the entire humanity would become extinct?
ORESTES: As simple as that, sir.
BERNARDO: Isn't it possible that a single homo sapiens could survive hidden somewhere, between the rocks?
ORESTES: I don't think so. No man can survive without the ardent love of his woman and viceverse, no woman can continue on living without her idolized male making love to her at all times. Nature made them inseparable. They just can not hold it for too long. Therefore, a scared homo sapiens, hiding behind the rocks, would die immediately screaming the name of his adored woman. His feeling of defeat and despair would be immense. All species have the potential to become extinct and this would be the end of the homo sapiens. In that way we would arrive to the last paragraph of our universal history without finding yet the best way to govern our political societies and without responding to all the questions that constantly perplex us.
BERNARDO: That is the most regrettable. Could the explosion of this city produce a nuclear winter?
ORESTES: One hundred megatons are enough to produce it.
BERNARDO: The explosion of this city was of twenty.
ORESTES: Yes, indeed. But every action provokes a reaction. If a pipsqueak and fanatical individual explodes a bomb somewhere, retaliations of more megatons will necessarily follow and will annihilate him. I don't believe that there would be a nation that will not respond, unless it is full of dumb people or if the necessary weapons are non existent. If there is a nuclear exchange between several nations, above all if there is an insane leader, who would launch a strayed missile, as if it were a firecracker of a town fair, then more than one hundred megatons would accumulate quickly and the arrival of the nuclear winter would be over us.
BERNARDO: This is absurd. Do you really think that this could happen? I don't want to die...
ORESTES: Me either. But I can assure you that this will happen. Do not harbor any doubt. Sooner or later, at some point, this will occur. Unfortunately the only way we have to delay it is the peaceful one. We are very near absolute acosmism and nihilism...
BERNARDO: I humbly apologize, sir; but, what is acosmism?
ORESTES: Don't you know?... For God's sake!... Hey, someone call for the rider of the black horse, please!... What university did you attend, my dear fellow?
BERNARDO: None, sir. As you might remember I am a self educated theologian turned revolutionary.
ORESTES: How excellent!... How marvelous the human mind is!... Theologian turned revolutionary... Extraordinary!... But obviously, you need to go back and review your philosophy notes... A revolutionary who is not well prepared and who does not know his theory is an easy pray for his adversaries in the battlefield.
BERNARDO: Will there always be a revolutionary, sir?
ORESTES: Of course, there will always be a revolutionary with an assault rifle in his hands ready to use it, whatever the times or the century may be, because the revolutionary spirit is part of the human nature, a portion of gray matter of the human encephalus. The political theory and the ideology will be different because they change with the passage of time, but there will always be a reason for the young revolutionary to take action against his or her own society. The revolutionaries are the undeniably enforcers of the thoughts of their times.
BERNARDO: What were you saying about the Holy Scriptures, sir?
ORESTES: I was saying that we are very near absolute acosmism and nihilism. What we do not know is the exact moment. The clocks are ticking and it is only a matter of time. Nuclear missiles are already set on their launching pads aiming at their assigned targets. There are martyrs who would have a great spiritual satisfaction in exploding them in person in the downtown area of any big city. All nations want to have their own atomic weapons to terrify and threaten their neighboring country. It is as if we would give loaded machine guns to a group of young people and ask them to shoot at each other to see what happens. Perhaps they would act with more common sense and refuse to do it. Children many times have a better judgment that adults.
BERNARDO: Isn't it the proper moment to accomplish a total and absolute nuclear disarmament?
ORESTES: It is. But no one wishes to disarm because nobody wants to lose the superiority they believe they have achieved with these weapons without thinking that they are harboring their own destruction. It is as if the great potencies would have obtained a marvelous toy which they would not like to lose. The reason is that the homo sapiens, despite his exceptional intelligence and his developed civilization, full of Euripideses, Einsteins and Newtons, that can inquire in the infinite dimensions of the universe or within the intimacies of the atom particles, is still a very primitive and immature animal as dim-witted as an earth worm... When total disarmament is the subject of discussion all world leaders pretend not to be the involved ones as if their nations could not be targeted for nuclear destruction. It is unbelievable how certain human brains could reason so fallaciously in such a dangerous moment. Epistemology sentences that their thoughts are untrue; however the fierce determination of a shortsighted head of state is the only condition needed to send the world into complete chaos and annihilation. Besides, there are insane and demential leaders, full of abhorrence for their enemies, who compulsively continue building reactors to produce plutonium, missile control centers and launching pads, without thinking that almost immediately after they strike their own cities will be completely anihilated and erased from the surface of the earth by massive and extraordinary retaliations. Most importantly, we have to consider that these deranged leaders, out of exquisite hatred, are the ones sending the missiles, but the noble and innocent civilians, women and children, are the ones suffering the horrible consequences of these tremendous nuclear explosions. Why should they allow this?
BERNARDO: Then, what can we do, sir?
ORESTES: It is very simple... As King Richard III used to say: “Chop their heads and tails off!”
BERNARDO: Of course. It is obvious that without their tails they could not go anywhere. But besides that, what else can the nations do?
ORESTES: What we can do is very well known. However we do not act because we are victims of our own estultitia. Our difficulty does not reside in not knowing what to do because we know what to do; but in not doing or not being able to do what we know we have to do. Near the end, I will mention something that is so evident. First, we have to self contain the loathing and detestation we have for our neighboring countries and use more maturity to peacefully resolve our international conflicts instead of recurring to our primitive tendencies of making war because of childish and insignificant reasons in the name of our patriotism and our affronted national honor. Secondly, this should be a planet without nuclear weapons or it will not be. Therefore we have to give away our arsenals without exceptions. We have to chose between our existence or our non existence. Thirdly, we have to disuade, in any possible way, all fanatical attempts to build and use this type of weapons because there is no nuclear attack without colossal retaliation. The end will justify the means. And fear the retaliation, my dear fellow, as you fear the monsters that chase you during your horrible nightmares, because there is no nuclear attack without extraordinary and gigantic reciprocation. So then, curse the clunky hand that will detonate the first bomb, my dear fellow. By God, Bernardo, curse it!
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