Enacting 'being alive'

Haraway's insights imply consequences for the sense of presence on an even deeper level. In the work of Haraway, and others like Judith Butler, it is argued that people perform masculinity, femininity and ethnicity (Butler 1993). We act out our gender and race and this performance is determined by the biological writing about the body and this biological writing reflects ideological, cultural and power positions. I can possibly argue that the same writing and power positions influence the way we act out our physical presence. We act out our 'being alive' and this acting out of being alive also reflects biological writing and ideological positions about what it means to be alive in a certain culture within certain power relations. How to be alive, and especially how and when to stop being alive, was very different for Inuit people a 100 years ago from the practice of an intensive care unit in a hospital today. The Inuit person, living in the arctic region, who feels that strength is fading would leave the group, sit on a rock and die of cold.note 53 In a contemporary intensive care unit being alive is proven by the sound of certain beeps from machines and no longer has anything to do with being able to act. How we understand being alive is also determined by a cultural biological writing in which power relations and technology play a crucial role. Haraway's idea about the cyborg identity has to be understood as a perspective on how deeply technology and the discourse that it produces has invaded our lives. The cyborg identity refers to the fact that technology and its discourses has also become embedded in our minds.

We are still talking of humans though. The influence on the human identity of a pacemaker, an implanted pair of kidneys, the effect of hormonal treatment, the effect of medical technologies and the effect of media technologies on our brains for example, has barely been researched and is beyond the scope of this study. Here the position is taken, until proven otherwise, that the cyborg identity is part of being human today but does not rule out the humanity of our being. In the UDHR, article 1 states "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." (UDHR 1948). Reason and consciousness are influenced by technology even though it is often hardly recognized. All over the world people, more and less cyborg, love and take care of each other in a spirit of brotherhood. All over the world people, more and less cyborg, hate, hurt and kill each other. For the sake of argument I will consider the cyborg identity of human beings as an integral part of their humanity. We have to be aware though that our idea of humanity is a cultural construct. Over the centuries many people have been excluded from basic human rights: slaves, women, children, indigenous people and more. Who is granted human rights is still an issue today. I argue that the cyborg identity does influence the sense of presence of a human being, but not in such a way that it deprives this human being of his or her humanity and entitlement to have his or her human rights respected.