Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Parasite

I came upon a book called The Parasite (1982) by Michel Serres, a French philosopher. He examines parasitism of all kinds, from natural to existential, using language, fables and everthing else he can think of. One chapter in particular reminded me of the famous "healthcare debate":

Serres recounts the fable of the man who picks up an apparently freezing snake and takes it home to warm it by his own hearth. The snake wakes up, is startled and angered, and bites the man. Serres continues:

"The serpent was not a lessee; he was not looking for a haven; he was answered without having called. He was given an uncalled-for opinion. Someone made himself the serpent's benefactor, savior, and father. You are sleeping quite peacefully, and when you wake you find yourself in debt. You live with no other need, and suddenly someone claims to have saved your country, protected your class, your interests, your family, and your table. And you have to pay him for that, vote for him, and other such grimaces. ... Who has to pay? The litigation is serious. Who is the host and who is the guest? Where is the gift and where is the debt? Who is hospitable, who is hostile? ...

"Who among you allows himself to be displaced, carried from his home territory, permits himself to be the passive object of another's whim? ... Who would thank, moreover, the one who decides for you? That would be the same as giving recognition to professional politicians. To those who see and consider others as if they were rocks, cold stones. To those who force others to be only objects, which then can be carried. To those who are astonished when the passive object suddenly wakes up and lashes out in anger. The one who did not lash out against his benefactors, saviors, and fathers would be forgetting all his duties, as would he who did not pass from cold passivity to the heat of battle. Ready to die."