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From 9.00 AM to 7.00 PM


The Power of Speech

Dominique Holvoet

The title of the next European Zadig Forum (1) to be held in Brussels on December 1st 2018, “Discourses that kill”; may seem shocking. Did a word ever kill anyone? As Geert Hoornaert recalls in his article “Trivialization of discourses that kill”; the function of speech has always been perceived rather in its ability to deflect causing bodily harm. Yet, we argue that there are words that kill, because words impact bodies even when they slide on the shell of our indifferences and what this power of speech calls for in return is a responsibility of the speaker, particularly when the speech is public.

Everywhere in various parts of Europe, the world of hate is igniting. And if we choose to express ourselves in the public space, it is because we believe that the urgency is there. We are witnessing the return of hatred of the other in the most insidious forms, in our own country and beyond our borders – which have become places of exchange rather than barriers in the European project, that we remain committed to high democratic values. The forced displacement of populations morally or physically destroyed by local conflicts, climate tragedies or economic impoverishment, offer somber politics the opportunity to manipulate migration for a disturbing electoral profit.

Is it the taste of power or the power of hate of the other, that animates the megaphones of the words that kill?

The next European elections will be decisive as to whether voters will choose the path responsible for greater integration – daring to take at the same time, the risk of openness to the other in its difference. Or will they choose the nationalist path of withdrawal, on its small difference that finds its source in the hatred of the other. In 1968, Dr. Lacan said that this was the most burning problem of the time. The French psychoanalyst announced, “men engage in a time called planetary” (2) in which the passage from one world to another will take place, from one symbolized by the Empire and its verticality to one of multiplied imperialisms in a globalized world. The question is, “how can we ensure that human masses, doomed to the same space, not only geographically, but occasionally, family, remain separate? » (3)

Because that is where it is played out, within the family as a residual core of people’s history. Moreover, the family is carried by the ambient discourses.

The psychoanalyst cannot appease the hatred of the other if the hatred of oneself deepens in families as the public speeches become immoral. We know how irresistible the Freudian death drive is.  Jacques-Alain Miller in his fight in the French presidential elections said that in the wish expressed by some that “all this explodes once and for all”; lodged the death drive related to the jouissance of self-destruction, to the unspeakable desire to abandon oneself in the arms of the monstrous Valkyrie! »(4)

For, when the politician utters these fallacious words, he is animated by his own will to finish his great whole, with our humanity, with the desire that presided over his birth, a desire that he would want so pure. It is in this obscure cause that the orator breaks down definitively.

(1) ZADIG, Zero Abjection Democratic International Group, Global Lacanian Movement created by Jacques-Alain Miller in May 2017.

(2) Lacan Jacques, “Allocution sur les psychoses de l’enfant”; Autres Écrits, Paris, Seuil, 1981

(3) Ibid

(4) In particular in his text “la querelle du Votutile” published on March 22, 2017 in the number 63 of Lacan Quotidien

Translation by Lorena Hojman Davis

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Venue: University St. Louis, Auditorium OM 10,

6, rue de l’Ommegang, 1000 Brussels

Simultaneous Translations in French, Dutch and English


Schedule: 9.00 AM – 7.00 PM





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