From Politics to Biopolitics . . . and Back
of grace. In Mozart’s
La Clemenza di Tito
, just before the ﬁnal pardon,Titohimself is exasperated by the proliferation of treasons that oblige him toproliferate acts of clemency:TheverymomentthatIabsolveonecriminal,Idiscoveranother./.../I believe the stars conspire to oblige me, in spite of myself, to becomecruel. No: they shall not have this satisfaction. My virtue has alreadypledged itself to continue the contest. Let us see, which is more con-stant, the treachery of others or my mercy. / . . . / Let it be known toRome that I am the same and that I know all, absolve everyone, andforget everything.One can almost hear Tito complaining: ‘‘Uno per volta, per carita!’’—‘‘Please, not so fast, one after the other, in the line for mercy!’’ Living up tohistask,Titoforgetseveryone,butthosewhomhepardonsarecondemnedto remember it forever:
: It is true, you pardon me, Emperor; but my heart will notabsolve me; it will lament the error until it no longer has memory.
: The true repentance of which you are capable, is worth morethan constant ﬁdelity.This couplet from the ﬁnale blurts out the obscene secret of
: thepardon does not really abolish the debt, it rather makes it inﬁnite—we are
indebted to the person who pardoned us. No wonder Tito prefersrepentance to ﬁdelity: in ﬁdelity to the Master, I follow him out of respect,whileinrepentance,whatattachesmetotheMasteristheinﬁniteindelibleguilt. In this,Tito is a thoroughly Christian master.Usually, Judaism is conceived as the religion of the superego (of man’ssubordination to the jealous, mighty, and severe God), in contrast to theChristian God of Mercy and Love—one opposes the Jewish rigorous Jus-tice and the Christian Mercy, the inexplicable gesture of undeserved par-don: we, humans, were born in sin, we cannot ever repay our debts andredeem ourselves through our own acts—our only salvation lies in God’sMercy, in His supreme sacriﬁce. However, in this very gesture of break-ing the chain of Justice through the inexplicable act of Mercy, of payingour debt,Christianity imposes on us an even stronger debt: we are foreverindebted to Christ, we cannot ever repay him for what he did for us. TheFreudian name for such an excessive pressure that we cannot ever remu-nerate is, of course, superego. It is precisely through