Lacanian Review Online – Strokes of the Brush

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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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13th March 2019

Family Ties
Gustavo Dessal
 

No ideology, whether of the right or of the left, none of the experiments and utopias that tried to change the structure of the family succeeded in even shaking it. It was not until the arrival of the advances of biotechnology that the familial structure, at least in its formal presentation, began to undergo certain variations that in truth affect only an infinitesimal percentage of the planet’s population. In three quarters of the world we find families governed by ancestral structures and in the so-called First World – an odious expression that I allows myself to use only in order to be clear about the sector that I am referring to – the classic parental model continues to be the accepted norm.

This observation is designed simply to avoid the idea that we find ourselves faced with an extraordinary mutation of the family, when this is not even the case from the anthropological or sociological point of view. While it is clear that this same First World is experiencing a high percentage of familial breakdown, this is the result of conditions unconnected with the so frequently repeated pronunciations of a crisis of the family.

M. is an attractive young woman who works independently in her profession. Like many women approaching an age limiting her fertility, she decided to become a mother even though she did not have a stable partner. This is not something she did at random. She chose from her emotional catalogue a man with whom she had had a committed relationship and who summed up the best conditions for her. He lives in another country and although he has not formally assumed any tie with the child he visits at intervals and maintains a cordial relation with the mother. M’s father, who has not denied his daughter anything, serves as a substitutive father, assuming the role for his daughter of a power that is exercised in various senses, especially economic. He supports everything. M. is a happy mother and a satisfied woman. Her son presents a neurosis that is perfectly reasonable and usual for his age, although she does not discount the possibility that he might require an analysis at some future stage, as happens with other children from more or less classical couples.

H’s mother had her with a man to whom she was married for a number of years, until she discovered that she actually preferred women. She then entered into a homosexual relationship which has lasted since then. H does not get on with her mother’s partner, just as J does not get on with her father’s partner, who is a woman. H and J do not know each other, but like thousands of children of separated parents, they express an authentic antipathy towards the partner of one or other of their parents, at times towards both, whether homo or hetero. H and J are in analysis and their respective neuroses are no different from those suffered by children whose parents are not separated.

Michael Jackson’s family had a classical structure but a monstrous father. This famous artist explained his own psychosis in an extraordinary interview with Martin Bashir. The singer had two children with Debbie Rowe, the nurse of his dermatologist, by means of artificial insemination. His third child was conceived with a mother who was a paid surrogate and is known by his nickname Blanket because his father used to cover him to prevent him being photographed. A traditional family gave rise to an extraordinary psychotic. An extraordinary psychotic formed a mono-parental family whose effects on the progeny are diverse, just as one might observe in any other modality of familial order.

It is fascinating to note that the formal changes in the subjectivity of the epoch do not necessarily shake the unconscious foundations of the speaking being. Everything is changing at an accelerated pace and at the same time we continue to be a stroke, a trace, a vestige without content that repeats in the diachrony of history.

 

Translated by Roger Litten

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