William Burroughs, parasitism, language and the virus
"Which came first, the intestine or the tapeworm?" In this epigram, Burroughs suggests that parasitism–corruption, plagiarism, surplus appropriation–is in fact conterminous with life itself. The tapeworm doesn't simply happen to attach itself to an intestine that was getting along perfectly well without it. Say rather that the intestine evolved in the way that it did just in order to provide the tapeworm with a comfortable or profitable milieu, an environment in which it might thrive. My intestines are on as intimate terms with their tapeworms as they are with my mouth, my asshole, and my other organs; the relationship is as 'intrinsic' and 'organic' in the one case as it is in the other. Just like the tapeworm, I live off the surplus-value extracted from what passes through my stomach and intestines. Who's the parasite, then, and who's the host? The internal organs are parasitic upon one another; the organism as a whole is parasitic upon the world.