Lacanian Review Online: Our Epidemic Madness

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When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender
This I could not do

(Leonard Cohen, The Partisan)

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LRO – COVID-19 2020 #27
29th March 2020

 




The Con Man Behind The Curtain
Gustavo Dessal

 

“It has taken a good deal longer than it should have, but Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain,”[1] writes Peter Wehner in his column for The Atlantic referring to Donald Trump.  The unexpected event, once again, can change the course of history. This is why political predictions so often suffer the outbreak of the real. The pandemic has busted Trump in the face, and all his tantrums and his Twitters are increasingly perceived for what they are: the manifestation of an alienated mind, of a seriously disturbed personality, not only from the psychopathological point of view, but fundamentally from the moral one. Beyond all diagnostic consideration, amply demonstrated, it is no longer possible to hide the obscene appearance of the character, his total lack of scruples and his absolute condition of knave. It is not known how many deaths will occur due to the disastrous management of the pandemic, but perhaps it is the death sentence of this presidency, although this is not certain either.  Monsters never completely die. It would be curious that the coronavirus had the unexpected property of being the kind of real that awakens the conscience of a part of the American people, the one that still continues to dream the idiotic dream that will turn into a nightmare.

But beyond Trump and the paradoxical consequence that this misfortune could bring to the United States and to the entire world, we find once again the extraordinary phenomenon, repeated throughout history, that under certain conditions certain degenerate characters not only become the leaders of the masses, but also the drivers of an entire nation towards the slope of catastrophe. Hitler remains, undoubtedly, the great champion of this phenomenon, just as the Germans and many of their neighbors can up to now maintain the first place of crime and simultaneous collective suicide in The Guinness Book of Records. Hannah Arendt dedicated a large part of her life to investigate this human mystery, and her findings maintain an indisputable scope and validity.

In view of the rise of fascism, Freud and Lacan were forced to fine-tune the analytical instruments to decipher that lethal phenomenon that germinates in the dark and fetid magma known by the names of homeland, nation or people, the latter perhaps being the most dangerous of all, especially due to the unusual speed with which the seduction of its use can spread.

Now we have become infected with universal love, because in the face of the feeling that the end of the world is approaching, we want -from our forced confinement- to embrace and hold hands. Twinned in our misery, we trust we can save one another. This is moving, and at the same time disturbing.  What will be the fate of all that love that is accumulating and overflowing in an irrepressible river of solidarity? We don't know, but in the meantime it is definitely very welcome. We do know that the sale of guns in the USA has gone through the roof. Perhaps it is because due to the prospect that hangs over the country, the millennialism inherent to this society prepares for a scenario similar to the one depicted by Cormac McCarthy in his novel "The Road": each one defending the possible assault on their fridges and their supply of toilet paper.  Like most people, I am moved by the daily initiatives aimed at alleviating the anguish and pain that we suffer. At the same time, I keep a safe distance (at least a meter and a half) to avoid the possibility that we will re-infect ourselves with our own human condition, the one that sooner or later makes us return to reality. Many predict that this will change us on the outside and inside, that we will have to reinvent ourselves and that we will be better.  That this virus that fell from the sky, like the color of Lovecraft's story, will be remembered as that which led us back onto the pathway where we had gone astray long ago. When did we get lost? Where did we go wrong? With capitalism? With the fall of the Roman Empire? When we crucified Jesus Christ? At what point did the chariot of history get out of its way and led us to the error that we have perpetuated since?  Possibly these questions don’t have any meaning whatsoever. History already started crooked, because it is made of what we are all made of. We are creatures chained by the force of repetition. Nothing is repeated in the same way, but the resemblance is amazing. As amazing as the love added every day to the ingredients of our epidemic madness.

 

 

Translated by Florencia Shanahan & Roger Litten

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/peter-wehner-trump-presidency-over/607969/

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