Mariam Pipia

Not all lives have an equal importance: there are human lives that can be easily forgotten or substituted, whose speech―a primary tool of political being―lacks meaningful signifiers, and those ones that should be remembered and cared, whose speech is essential. This value asymmetry creates the basis for personal or institutional violence and impossibility to experience positive freedom.

Unheard Speech

Physical life becomes the part of political, when equality―the very fundamental principle of social and political organisation―is neglected. Named renunciation of equality leads towards considering someone’s speech as less meaningful and someone’s life as less valuable. The undervalued life becomes the basis for the former, undervalued speech. When one―would it be particular human being or subject of power structure―doesn’t consider all human lives as equally valuable, then the speech of less valued one becomes meaningless.

The one is unable to consider speech of those whose life can be easily substituted as the speech s/he should listen to. Thus, s/he denies creating the sense of mutuality with an owner of untranslatable speech. This speech becomes the speech, which is not understandable and lacks rationality. Therefore, when during the act of violence someone with undervalued life says: “I can’t breathe”, his/her act of speech isn’t perceived as carrier of some meaningful thought, which should make a murder to stop the violence. Those whose lives are considered as less valuable don’t obtain the power to communicate and define what should be acknowledged as meaningful. An act of violence imposed on a human whose speech is considered as meaningless exposes that rapist doesn’t share the past and the present with the victim, and refuses to assume the possibility of common Project with that person.

In pursuit of Care

Generally, physical death precedes to or coincides with the social one: we can easily mention how after the former, traces of one’s existence gradually fades away. However, in the case of those whose lives are considered as less valuable, social death comes first. This happens when particular groups differentiated by class, race, personal identities etc. aren’t objects of care. A person surrounded by indifference is doomed to face hardship that equals to social nonexistence. Experiencing reality where there are human beings who don’t enjoy sense of security, means to accept existed condition of unequalness of lives. Whereas one doubts, for instance, the importance of universal health care, s/he doubts that life of everybody should be equally valued.

Before the event of actual physical death, which is deprived of existential significance―because those who directly or indirectly commit a murder doesn’t consider the life of potential victim/sufferer as valuable in its uniqueness―there still is a space for rebellion. Revolt against the perpetrator might be interpreted as social resurrection, which creates a chance to question the disproportionality of lives’ value. This act of rebellion is an attempt to bring back existential dimension to experience of living. It is a denial of the assumption that every life can be substituted by any another. This is the quest for Care.

Redistribution of significance

Acceptance of this naïve thought that all lives are equally valued makes violence impossible and ‘freedom to’ as something conceivable. When one says that all lives are equally valuable, it means that there can’t be a life that is not significant.

Photo: an episode from a video-report on the new performance of Puccini’s “Crisantemi” at Barcelona’s El Liceu opera house plaid for over 2 thousand potted plants (2020, source: