‘He who has been freed from communal obligations or who enjoys an original autonomy or successive freeing from a previously contracted debt enjoys the condition of immunitas.’ Going back to Esposito’s idea of the ‘gift’ and the idea that the community cannot exist without it, we can see in both of the texts that this is indeed true. This gift could for example be time, money or love, anything that is contributed to the community. Exemption from a service or obligation, privileges granted to individuals conferring exemption from certain taxes, burdens or duties are examples of this gift being taken away. It is without these contributions that the community starts to disconnect. In ‘Las Viudas de los Jueves’ the residents of La Cascada do not pay their school fees or taxes. They are exempt from Federal law, ‘la policía tampoco entra, la de verdad, ni la Bonarense ni la Federal, sólo entran los vigiladores que pagan los socios.’. Roitman and Phelps suggest that acts like these that take place in gated communities have economic implications: ‘In many cities and towns, the wealthy have in effect withdrawn their dollars from the support for public spaces and institutions’. The gated communities have an impact on the fiscal position of suburban municipalities, meaning less money and less opportunities are therefore available to the less privileged communities like those in ‘Pizza, Birra, Faso’. ‘Cordobés reveals that before the national railroad was privatised he used to work for them and Pablo is surprised that his hospital stay is not fully covered by the government’. Menem’s attempt to modernise the country left many of its citizens having to provide for themselves. The boys would rather work for ‘the boss’ committing crimes than get actual jobs because it is so difficult to find work. The failure of the state to provide for this community along with the increase in people moving to gated communities led to its breakdown. The residents of La Cascada are not giving anything to the community, they have abandoned their own community and precipitated its breakdown, consequently everyone turns on each other because the idea of community no longer exists. This explains why the film ‘Pizza, Birra, Faso’ is centred around crime and corruption because they are living in a survival of the fittest like world. Derrida points out that immunity is both an act of protection and self destruction: ‘immunity is always autoimmunity and hence always destructive’ but is also ‘an act that disassembles communities working in common’. As we have seen in the film, a national community is one that is expected to work in common but when the contributions are taken away, the community cannot thrive. Moreover, when one large community is destroyed it allows for the creation of smaller communities. The boys in ‘Pizza, Birra, Faso’ demonstrate this idea in the scene where they steal from the legless man on the street, we would expect them to be part of the same community since they share similar qualities in that they have been cast aside by society. It is this exact reason why they turn on people within their own community. Immunity is necessary to protect our life but when pushed to the limit it forces life into a sort of prison. The irony is that the residents of the gated communities left the city in order to escape the prison-like environment only to end up imprisoning themselves. Their freedom and their sense of community is lost so they try and make up for it by organising tennis competitions, going to art classes, hosting charity jumble sales (albeit paid for by the maids) to make them feel better about themselves for doing their bit for the ‘community’. The streets in the gated community are named after birds which is again ironic since birds represent freedom, something they are disillusioned into thinking they have: ‘Las calles tienen nombre de pájaros. Golondrina, Batibú, Mirlo.’. The lengths the residents go to in order to create a sense of community ultimately leads to their own self-destruction because they immunised themselves against their own original community, the city.
Immigration is a good example of immunisation and is also something quite often mentioned in both of the texts. In Piñeiro’s novel, the Uroviches plan to move to Miami, in the film Sandra and Cordobés plan to emigrate to Uruguay and start a new life, something we know never materialises for him but she is able to leave the city for good. You could also say that the residents of La Cascada have immigrated to the gated community, they have completely shut themselves off from the city and everything to do with it. ‘The fact that the growing flows of immigrants are thought (entirely erroneously) to be one of the worst dangers for our societies also suggests how central the immunitary question is becoming.’ Bird and Short insist immunisation is still very prominent in contemporary society, we fear even the risk of contamination and can see evidence of this in ‘Las Viudas de los Jueves’: ‘cuando llaman coreanos el starter tiene la instrucción de decir que no queda lugar o de mentir el valor del green fee’ or when Virginia says that Jews are not welcome by most of her neighbours. The spiralling fear of the unknown amongst us seems to necessitate ever stricter criteria of membership, which activates forms of racist, religious, and ethnic discrimination. Ironically Martin Urovich and his wife were intending on moving to Miami: ‘en Miami, con plata, tenés un futuro. Acá en poco tiempo no vamos a tener nada’. The Uroviches are emigrating form Argentina to Miami in the hope of finding better opportunities for work and happiness. Even living in a gated community, completely removed from the outside world is not enough escapism for them.
Scorer suggests that while immunity itself is dangerous, so is constructing a community of the immunised because immunity provides the foundations for the creation of alternate communities as they all share something in common. Piñeiro shows that when you strip the outside layer away from these gated communities, the ugly reality is that behaviours like alcoholism, domestic abuse and racism are all largely ignored, suicides, divorce, affairs, unemployment and bankruptcies all take their toll and the ‘community’ is conditioned into conformity. The only character who seems to understand the problem is Romina: ‘¿nos encerramos nosotros o encerramos a la afuera para que no puedan entrar?’. She has technically been passively immunised in the sense that she was adopted by Mariana and brought into the community with no say in the matter. Romina is the only character who gives the reader hope that the national community is not completely destroyed beyond repair.
Esposito suggests that the 9/11 attacks were the initial trigger of the paradigm of immunisation. He explains the tragedy in terms of protection; the Islamic State were protecting their religion from Western secularisation and the West were engaged in excluding themselves from the rest of the planet protecting themselves from sharing their surplus of goods. ‘It is this excess of defence and the exclusion of those elements that are alien to the organism that lead to potentially lethal effects … Not only did the Twin Towers explode, but along with it the immunitary system that had until then supported the world.’. So, excessive immunity brings destruction, for example the measures the community in the novel take to protect themselves like private security, ‘cámaras que giran ciento ochenta grados’ and perimeter fences, all amenities they need are enclosed within the gates so they never have to leave. Following on from this idea of excessive protection, we know that if some people have too much immunisation they die. Medicinally, small amounts of immunisation protect you but the more cure that is given ends up taking the form of a lethal poison. This leads me to Esposito’s final argument: the dangers of a community not immunising on a wide scale. He argues that: ‘immunity, which is needed for protecting our life, if carried past a certain threshold, winds up negating life’. An article about a measles outbreak in America can be applied to this argument that immunisation needs to take place on a wide scale to be effective. The article states that: ‘in populations where a large enough proportion of children are not immunised, everyone has a greater risk of catching the disease – the unprotected, but also those who are vaccinated’. While the article might refer to immunisation from a medical perspective, we also see that this applies to the metaphorical definition too; in Piñeiro’s novel the residents of La Cascada are too far removed from society because they have over-immunised themselves, so eventually they no longer become immune they become the diseased. However, ironically the characters in the novel rely on the people from outside of the gates to work for them for example, maids, gardeners, security, this mutual dependence undermines the idea that they are separate from the city. They cannot completely shut themselves off from the city, therefore they are not and most likely never will be entirely immunised. We even see that when Carmen is going through troubles, the person to essentially bring her back to life is her maid: ‘salía a caminar por las calles con Gabina, Ina al supermercado con Gabina, Gabina la acompañaba a la farmacia, la peluqueria.’ They are not in fact immune from the outside world, they still depend on it for survival.