The testimony of Michi Panero in Jaime Chaverri’s El desencanto (1976) still resonates today as a salient witness of the eclipse of the human race and its possibility of experience. I offer here a very straightforward translation of the last sequence of the documentary: “From my own experience, I fear that we will not achieve descendancy…we are the end of the species (fin de raza), an end that is far from being Wagnerian, a species that has been eroding with time. And we simply cannot go on…”. Although Michi uses the expression “fin de raza”, it is obvious that he is not referring to “race”, but rather evoking the human species or the ‘human race’ as a whole (in the same way that, for instance, Robert Antelme’s memoirs of the camp was rendered as The Human Race, originally in French L’Espèce humaine). If our epoch is frivolously obsessed with race and identity tribulations, it is simply because it has opted to suppress that the exhaustion of Man in the moment of the death of God has been set as a concrete end of the human species itself.
This is not necessarily due to a series of immanent threatening events that could put the species at extinction on earth – from ecological catastrophes to nuclear war and global epidemics, to other forms of unimaginable outbreaks – but more fundamentally because everywhere the end of the human is signaling that the human species merely occupy a bulky and flat space and time. In this sense, Michi’s existential witness is not about the decadence of the family structure (of an aristocratic Spanish family during the Franco Regime, which the film denounces as the epochal crisis of the family was becoming a reality in the West), but as Teresa Vilarós reminds us in her classic study, that from now on life will only be perceived as fossilized life, and thus devoid of any existence . And I will add a complementary element to Vilarós’ analysis: there is no resurrection in the fossil residue, but only debris and decomposition of the most elemental kind.
Hence, the last of the human species will linger on for a while, but this is a separate question from what this transformation entails for the originary community of the species. The end of the species, insofar as it belongs to the trained to the regime of adaptation, will only relate through a process of abstraction of absolute expropriation. This is why increasingly today, in the wake of the ruins of politics, the social bond emerges as a brute force of inhuman mediation. In a way, socialization can only socialize the last reserve of the human species: its inhumanity.
If the end of the human species is rarely rationalized, it is due to the fact that within the regime of adaptation, the passage from the sense of belonging to the ‘human species’ into the community of inhumanity is intertwined and at times completely blurred. In fact, this is the same numbing of experience that Robert Antelme captured in The Human Race (1947): “For in fact everything happens in that world as though there were a number of human species, or, rather, as though belonging to a single human species wasn’t certain, as though you could join the species or leave it, could be halfway in it or belong to it fully, or never belong to it, try though you might for generations, divisions into races and classes being the canon of the species and sustaining the axiom we’re always prepared to use, the ultimate line of defense: ‘They aren’t people like us” . The proliferation of the fictitious community today registers the absolute obsolescence of the human species rendered legible in the furious processes of adaptation and reproduction. Michi’s complaint – “somos un fin de raza” – should be inserted in its proper indictment. Un desencantamiento ante el mundo: the revealing of the inhumanity of the human species unleashed in the most natural ways imaginable against the world.
1. Teresa M. Vilarós. El mono del desencanto (Siglo XXI, 2018), 56.
2. Robert Antelme. The Human Race (Marlboro Press, 1998), 5.