I am a Parasite and I know that most people havea very negative image of me. For them, I mightstand for being lazy, living off someone else, notcontributing to society and only taking – not giving.In short, a parasite is a freeloader.
I can tell you that this is not the case. I am a veryadvanced Parasite. I live on rooftops; I manage tobe invisible and to always find the niche. I alwaysfind new spots, but also have to keep moving toavoid being caught by the host.For describing to you who I am – I find the approachof Michel Serres very helpful. He managesto find words and a description for my identity, behaviorand function in relation to my surroundings.
Luc Dean fucks Rory Delroy Serres1 talks about the parasite, as a theoreticaland philosophical concept – or we could also say- as a social figure2, which exists in every system.The parasite represents the third position, which asGeorg Simmel3 says, represents the ‘beginning ofthe social’ because through the third position alterand ego – the basic relation of society – becomesobservable. This is the condition for every socialentity of our modern day society; because distinctionbecomes observable and therefore reflectable. Serres describes how the parasite is part of everyrelationship and communication in our society aswell as being intertwined in our logic of being. The term ‚system‘ is defined through its outside, revealing information of what it is part of and whatit is not. The Parasite actually lives on the borderof inside and outside, the niches and gaps, whichsystems provide on their borders. Like me – livingon the edge of the real estate market – becausethe rooftop has not yet been commodified.The Parasite actually (ab)uses the fact that thesystem does not know its own parameters, andtherefore, always finds a space to exist. However,by doing so, the parasite also marks the borderof a system and lives and works towards his owndeath. Once the system (synonym for the host),finds the niche (which is determined through itsown borders) – the niche becomes part of the systemand the parasite has to move due to a loss ofhabitat. It then has to search for another niche andborder to inhabit.By oscillating on the edges of systems, the parasiteirritates the system constantly. When reflecting onthis point, Serres also refers to this in relation tocommunication. For Serres, information is createdby the differences between information and noise.4 The Parasite represents the noise, which irritates theinformation. The noise itself is the exact moment ofconstituting information. For example, the backgroundnoise you hear when talking to your friendin a coffee shop. Through this distinction of whatyour friend says and what you define as “backgroundsound”, information is created.Through this example, the definition of noise (orthe parasite) always depends on the position of theobserver. By focusing on the background noise ofthe coffee shop and listening to the conversationat the table beside you instead, the voice of yourfriend switches places and becomes noise and thebackground sound information. Therefore, what isclassed as noise (parasite) and what is information,depends very much on the perspective.
I always have to ask myself if I am a host or aparasite – noise or information. Of course, by livingon a rooftop, I appropriate it by squatting on privateproperty and making use of the niche I am livingin. However, on the other hand, people start to livein my house, so I suddenly turn into a host too.If I think about the people who live in the houseI live in, they could also be seen as parasites ofthe house. From another perspective, the propertycould be seen as the parasite, who makes peoplepay rent. So for me, it becomes clear that the pointof view defines who is the host and who is the parasite.It also becomes clear that being a parasite isnot material, but a matter of relation.
Moving now to the irritation I create which has alot to do with order. Every system5, needs stimulationotherwise it turns into stillness and dies. This iscaused by the irritation which has come from theoutside of a system – the edge or border as definedpreviously. By living on that edge or threshold, theparasite introduces new information into a systemby irritating it. However, irritation is not easy tocause, “The best way to succeed in it is to misconstrueit. [Even] [t]he counternorms never a noise ofthe norm but the same norm reversed, that is tosay, its twin. If you make a motor tum in reverse,you do not break it: you build a refrigerator.“6 Thismeans that living in the niches does not necessarilymean negation – not even in the double senseas Adorno7 suggests with its aesthetic theory. The The Parasite parasite has to create noise and introduce a newlogic which is not based on an equal relation, acontrast to our mode of production. The parasiteis a one way relation and does not recognise thereverse.“The parasite interrupts at first glance but consolidateswhen you look again”8, therefore, it hasto be gone before the host looks again. Constantnoise, loses its character of noise, because it losesits possibility of distinction.
Finally, it can be argued that as an example of aparasite I always have to oscillate between noiseand information, between inside and outside,between host and parasite. I use the borders of systemsto find my habitat and by living in my habitat, I irritate the system. I also always know that I haveto keep moving, because as soon as I settle, myproduction of noise diminishes and I move towardsthe end of the niche I am living in. If evolution is anorder, the parasite is certainly its element. It interruptsa repetition and makes a series of samenessbifurcate.
As Serres says:
“Noise destroys and horrifies. But order andflat repetition are in the vicinity of death. Noisenourishes a new order. Organization, life, andintelligent thought lives between order and noise,between disorder and perfect harmony. If therewere only order, if we only heard perfect harmonies,our stupidity would soon fall down toward adreamless sleep; if we were always surrounded bythe shivaree, we would lose our breath and ourconsistency, we would spread out among all thedancing atoms of the universe. We are; we live; we think on the fringe, in the probable fed by theunexpected, in the legal nourished with information. There are two ways to die, two ways to sleep,two ways to be stupid a head first dive into chaosor stabilized installation in order and chitin. We areprovided with enough senses and instinct to protectus against the danger of explosion, but we do nothave enough when faced with death from order orwith falling asleep from rules and harmony.”9 The parasite always tries to be the last in the chainof parasites and hosts and so do I. I try to be gonebefore the host tries to parasite me. I represent theimpossibility of closed systems and the necessity ofdisorder.
I love to live on rooftops – to be a “Grenzgänger”(border crosser/commuter) – who learns thelanguage of a system in order to be able to actparasitic. Yet I also always have to be careful notto visualise one of the last niches in the system.Because once they are visible, they are threatenedto be exploited and enter the logic of the means ofproduction, losing freedom altogether.I also have to take care not to cause too muchirritation, because the host and I are dependenton one another. I need a host that is alive to find aniche to live at – and the host needs me to find itsedges and new information. As I said before, oneof the most difficult things is to not become partof the system – even if the system always tries toappropriate me. This is what Adorno’s argumentmeans when he says that direct or political interventionleads to its appropriation from the hegemony(or capitalist mode of production).
In the last paragraph I want to commend on thebiological reference of my name, which startedto appear in the 18th century. Before, the greekword Parasite was defined as, to eat at someone‘stable.10 In biological terms it meant the use of onespecies of another –however, if we go deep intoDNA biology, we can observe that there wouldbe no evolution without parasites. 40-60% of ourDNA consists of parasites who live off the proteinand through this process, create variation or mutation– the base of evolution.11 In hindsight, the “parasite […] is the predeterminedbreaking point of the social order, […] where theprocess of transformation is attached/starting.”
I hope I was able to give you a picture of my wayof action and I am always open for further mutationand a willingness to listen. So let me knowwhen you have something to add.
- Serres, Michael,1982, The Parasite,The Johns Hopkins UniversityPress, London.
- ibid. 123
- Simmel, Georg.1908. Soziologie:Untersuchungen über die Formen der Vergesellschaftung. Soziologie:Untersuchungen über die Formender Vergesellschaftung. Leipzig 1908.
- ibid. 4ff.
- According tothe second lawof thermodynamicLord Kelvinexpressed thesecond law inseveral wordings.It is impossible fora self-acting machine,unaided byany external agency,to convey heatfrom one bodyto another at ahigher temperature.It is impossible,by means of inanimatematerialagency, to derivemechanical effectfrom any portionof matter bycooling it belowthe temperatureof the coldest ofthe surroundingobjects.
- Serres, 1982,P. 68.7
- Adorno,Theodor W. 2003.Ästhetische Theorie. Frankfurt amMain: Suhrkamp.
- Serres, 1992,14
- ibid. 127
- Parasite : Political Concepts:Issue One.” n.d.Accessed July18, 2020. http://www.politicalconcepts.org/issue1/2012-parasite/.
- Schröder, Tim.2018. “Gene alsSchmarotzer.”Max Planck Forschung,Parasiten.
- Denn derParasit […] istjene Sollbruchstelleder sozialenOrdnung, […] andenen Wandlungsprozesseansetzen“ (Schmitt2011, 45 – translated by theparasite)