Gossip politics

My provocation today comes from thinking about the idea of how politics has now become gossip or rather that gossip has become politicised. If you want to make it in politics you’ve got to be skilful with gossip. Policy now has the form of casual or unconstrained reports about other people(s), typically involving details which are not confirmed as true.

And response to gossip has the character of a dramatisation “Oh, no, really? Can (s)he really have said that?”

Gossip political functions as an economy of pleasure. Pleasure because one person or a group of people can be used to generate a sense of community, of belonging because the enemy or enemies have been identified and we can create bonds formed at the personal expense of other people.

In psychoanalysis most of the work involves gossip. It’s called empty speech, but the empty speech is taken very seriously, as seriously as the full speech which is when the unconscious gets involved, because it is in the empty speech that we find the full speech. But to access the full speech requires a different kind of relationship to language, to the idea of truth and the idea that we function in different registers.

The thing about the gossip political is not that it’s become a part of our lives, but that we are still in denial as to how it really is here. We are aware enough to be able to point the finger at it but we are not aware to the extent that gossip political is using us, how it enunciates who we are.



From Freud to Pink Floyd


This classic piece of BBC TV from 1967 –  Hans Keller interviewing Pink Floyd is so great.

Keller “The music is so loud, it is so repetitive, it requires an audience, I obviously don’t get it.” “I grew up with the string quartet.”

Floyd “Well we didn’t grow up with the string quartet and we like the loud sound”

Keller “Well a lot of people haven’t grown up with the string quartet but don’t play so loud”

Keller “Well it’s like a regression to youth, and I guess there is nothing wrong with that.”

Hans Keller was great for making an intervention into the known, questioning preconceived notions and passionately upheld the importance of the individual soul. He escaped Nazi Vienna and was always haunted by the memory of the religious Jews’ resolve against the aggression of the Nazi followers and legalised thugs who would beat up Jews on the street. He took that memory capture as a model for his own life.

With Pink Floyd he must have been confronted by the swagger and youthful libido of these privileged British lads, who could play loud for no other reason than they liked it. But maybe he also appreciated their bold stance against the establishment.

Kellers passion for Freud (apparently he had read and knew it all) led to what he described as a ‘self-analysis’ – which consisted for him of sitting down everyday for five years and writing a free association; of whatever came into his mind and he applied his discoveries to his understanding of classical music.

In a way Keller was making interventions in the way an analyst would. Picking out inconsistencies, excesses that stuck out of the consistent ideological material, loudness, repetition, audience, context, music form, patterns, meaning …

Psychoanalysis teaches us that Negation after all is also an affirmation of something. The loudness affirms quietness, repetition accentuates singularity, large halls long for small chambers, individuality only exists in the context of the crowd, politics manifests the personal, the strict forms of classical music manifest the radical revolution of Beethoven, the tight class system the eruption of a rock band.

Perhaps when Keller was talking of a regression to youth he might also be alluding to the trauma of birth and before that to the womb where the loudness for the foetus inside the womb of the repetitive heartbeat the comforting muffled sound of the mother’s voice which the foetus has been shown to respond toFloyd and Freud

Happiness as Decoy

The Office for National Statistics have announced that England is happier since the referendum vote. I don’t know how they think that you can measure happiness but some people obviously think that you can. I wonder whether happiness/depression and pleasure/anxiety have become conflated?

In any case it is great that mental health has been brought out into the open especially as one can imagine that there are certain occupations and work environments where it simply isn’t easy to talk about. All very well for writers or people in the entertainment industry to open up about their problems in getting from one end of the day to the other but what about people in the construction industry or road builders … “mate, I’m just not feeling it today…”

The current argument seems to be around whether mental health should be less prioritised than physical l health or placed on an equal basis?

One thing is for sure, our psychic world seems to have been gradually degraded over a period of time and replaced by a ‘biocomputer model’ where functionality can be measured; ability to process useful applications, move seamlessly between standby and full operation, procreate perfect new models, communicate with ease, manage work flow without too many surges and so on and so on. Isn’t the whole idea of mental health based on whether the individual fits into the biocomputer model?

Psychoanalysis has become unpopular in part because it doesn’t fit into this set of assumptions. Analysis used to be available on the NHS, not just 6 sessions but several times a week for several years. Apart from the issue of time and money that dominates every area of life today, psychoanalysis became unpopular because it was fundamentally subversive.

Freud said that people present neurotic symptoms not because they can’t cope with the system but because the system that they have been moulded into, generates the symptoms. The process of adaptation to the system involves the repression of infantile pleasure and trauma into socially acceptable and useful activities.

Happiness and depression simply aren’t addressed in the 40 years of Freud’s work and writing. It’s a modern phenomenon and fuelled by the pharmaceutical industry.

Psychoanalysis is more interested in anxiety and pleasure and how they are related and bound together. For Freud anxiety split into automatic anxiety – the kind of anxiety that is triggered by say suddenly realising that you’ve lost your mobile and signal anxiety – the anxiety which is triggered by a response to an archaic trauma, and it was this signal anxiety that he started to use in his analysis of neurotic patients. This kernel of anxiety marked the place of a trauma that the analysand felt a compulsion to explore and at the same time a resistance to enter with equal measure.

This is why in psychoanalysis, signal-anxiety is considered the most profound affect or emotion, because it says most about our psychic construction. The problem with the happy/depressed economy is that it creates a decoy – it gives in to our resistances. The truth is that our resistances are a part of our neurotic symptom.

In light of this isn’t happiness just a conformist category exploited by governments to keep a workforce ignorant to what they perceive to be our miserable lives?23316810_1142614212538846_6269075066603733186_n

The Sexual Predator

The sexual predator, from the psychoanalytic perspective is influenced by psychic drives that develope in the early years of life. In a way the infant starts off as a pervert, ie enjoying sucking the breast, enjoying shitting, staring at objects for pure pleasure and then through a process of socialisation turns what are perceived as antisocial pleasures into more acceptable ones. At a certain point there is an intervention (usually the father) to separate the infant from the mother. This is a seismic moment in the development of the child and the trace left in the psyche of the boy (obsessive neurotic) deposits the interpretation; I can’t have the mother but I can have every other woman. For the girl (hysteric neurotic) the separation is accompanied by what is known as the ‘turn to the father’ and there after the search for ‘the one’.

So the story of sexuality in it’s cliche mythic form is, after puberty men go searching for every other woman (except ‘the one’ who is inaccessible) and the woman searches for the one.

This psychoanalytic story or myth doesn’t function on a conscious level, it is there as a psychic distortion of our conscious decisions, which is why you might get a ‘progressive man’ being exposed as a sex addict or a feminist woman repeatedly ending up in abusive relationships.

The dramatic high profile exposure of sexual predators will bring welcome questioning of what we have allowed to be considered acceptable in our society but a deeper change in sexual and working relationships and situations between the sex divide will probably require a more layered and complex examination of how personal history, sexual drive and ego drive become enmeshed and interrelated.

Liberal society traditionally tolerates sexual assault up to a point, “it’s a natural instinctive behaviour for men, particularly if they are virile and high achievers – in any case if you repress it with political correctness it will only make the situation worse.” This argument hangs on the concept that men have an natural instinct as a constitution, a rudimentary ego and superego, but psychoanalysis teaches us that the ego doesn’t exist; it is a construct. You don’t reach to touch that knee because of some ‘natural instinct’ beyond your control, it’s because your unconscious is distorting your conscious behaviour.
The strength of psychoanalysis is that you acknowledge and take seriously not only your conscious thoughts but your unconscious distortions too.23132083_1140392162761051_8068618767320881232_n

Talking to Anorexia

Watching Louis Theroux’s BBC program Talking to Anorexia I was interested by what seemed to be two distinct motivations for not eating or literally ‘eating nothing’. On the one hand there seemed to be girls who were conflicted by being underweight and would really like to return to a healthy weight but had developed an obsession around a particular symbolic association maybe as an avoidance of some trauma and on the other side those who appeared to need control over eating as a way of generating a certain kind of psychic consistency.

None of them said that it was to do with external pressure to conform. It might have been initiated by the rejection by a partner, or other trauma but thereafter they all said that it was an internal conflict.

The approach to therapy was to identify problems the girls were having with authority, self criticism, the fear of growing up – the archetypal power struggles that originate in the early development and then an examination of the relation to food as object. But the problem that seemed prevalent in the program with this approach; based purely on these distinctions is that it quickly pushes up against impasses. When you identify that the problem is that the girl has a fear of growing up, or has introjected a vicious superego, or has acquired an unrealistic relationship to the physical world where do you go from there, apart from lending a sympathetic ear or attempt to introject a more healthy superego?

The name of the program ‘Talking to Anorexia’ seems indicative of our contemporary culture and approach to therapy where the focus is exclusively on the symptom rather than an exploration of how the unique language functions for the individual – how words have become so heavily charged with libidinal investment that language itself has become imprisoned by it’s own demands.23132083_1138356416297959_214294377848874342_n

Psychoanalysis and Brexit

In my psychoanalysis seminar in London I’m one the very few British students. For some reason psychoanalysis is very popular in South America and France, in fact in Argentina it is the norm but not so much here in the UK. A few weeks ago we had a seminar on Psychoanalysis and History and we had someone speak on the subject of the Cold War, another on Lebanon and an Iranian psychoanalyst on the subject of analysis in different languages.

In the open discussion at the end of the talks I asked what impact Brexit had had on the work in the clinic in terms of official history and subjective history. Two of the psychoanalysts answered that not a day goes by when it doesn’t feature heavily in their work and elaborated on the effects it has had in the psychic world of their patients. The exit seems more far reaching than a straight political reorientation. It cuts deep into the psychic and social fabric of the British society and particularly EU citizens who have chosen to live and work in London.

I asked the question in a room where, as a British citizen I was in the minority – an extraordinary, wide ranging group who have become analysts or are in the process of studying to create this unusual thing called the ‘analytic situation’ where people can discover their own truth in a process called psychoanalysis, which Sigmund Freud brought to London when he escaped Nazi Germany in 1938.

I do hope that Brexit UK doesn’t lose the fascinating range of cultural diversity that we have enjoyed for most of our lives, at the expense of flirting better trade deals, securing border control and that we can reinstate culture and art in the prominent position that we have traditionally placed it.

Voice as autonomous partial object

I had a dream on Sunday night about someone making a phone call in my gran’s house and it reminded me about the call Marcel (Proust’s protagonist) made to his grandmother …. “the voice [Marcel’s grandmother’s] is subtracted from its “natural” totality of the body to which it belongs, out of which it emerges as an autonomous partial object, an organ which can magically survive without the body whose organ it is—it is as if it stands “alone beside me, seen, without the mask of her face.” This subtraction withdraws it from (our ordinary) reality into the virtual domain of the real, where it persists as an undead specter haunting the subject: “‘Granny!’ I cried to her, ‘Granny!’ and would have kissed her, but I had beside me only that voice, a phantom, as impalpable as that which would come perhaps to revisit me when my grandmother was dead.” As such, this voice signals simultaneously a distance (granny is not here) and an obscene over-proximity, a presence more intimate, more penetrating, than that of an external body in front of us” – Zizek

I’m still in love with Brixton. Walking down my leafy Victorian street at slate grey 7am, two guys staggering ahead of me, drinking from a can. Turn left into Salturn Road and a couple of junkies ask me for a Rizzler “sorry mate …” Turn right past the Black Cultural Archives and they’ve got some strange garish sculpture which has replaced the glitter boxes and there are a flock of kids who are fresh out of a club draped over the concrete furniture of Windrush Square close to the Black War Heroes Memorial. One of the local schizophrenic celebrities, Marianne, middle-aged but wears several different outfits throughout the day, all variations of a childhood theme, is weaving between people walking along the high street, the SMILE busker wears a skimpy leotard, florescent body paint, his Afro hair in bunches, and dances to 70’s disco like Pans People on speed.

There is an edgy and mad side to Brixton but there is a really peaceful and contented community that just don’t mind – they’re just getting on with it. You could walk down the high street in latex rubber body suit and people wouldn’t bat an eyelid, [I know because I did back in the day … ]

In the 11th century it was known as Brixistane which means the stone of Brihtsige which was used as a meeting point for 2 different communities between the two main roads leading into the centre from the south which became the A23 and the A3 and over the years it became shortened to Brixton. Between 1860 and 1890 the area underwent huge transformation with the railway link to the centre of London and that is when we got the Electric Avenue which sweeps around from the high street to the railway station that perches high up above the arcade which has become the gentrified Village. Lots of big houses where built and by 1925 Brixton had the largest shopping area in south London.

The area was badly bombed during WWII and you can see signs of it around the streets where I live; gaps between houses and a lot of the houses fell into disrepair. It is said that Brixton was initially chosen as a destination for the immigrants from the West Indies in the 1940’s and 50’s because of the underground bunker in Stockwell.

It might have gone through a massive change in the 20 years since I’ve lived here but there’s no sign of the soul of Brixton going anywhere because to come and live in Brixton you’ve got to believe that people from different backgrounds make for an interesting life. It’s not a hippy “we can all live as one” bollox. No. There are different cultures living alongside each other respecting each other at a respectful distance.

People go on abroad to experience different foods, different smells, different languages, different social gestures and customs … I just walk into my local market. I’m not ready to leave Brixton.brixton

A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story is an interesting film. In some ways it doesn’t make sense and therefore invites the viewer to make their own sense of it. It’s the kind of film that you either love or hate. The deadly dull reviewers on Radio 4 hated it, which was a sign for me that it could be interesting.

The first problem that the film presents is the idea that the ghost(s) is going to be represented by a white sheet with two empty eye holes draped over the character who is killed quite near the beginning of the film and remains sheeted for the rest of the duration of the film. So you are thinking ‘right, how are they going to get away with this…’ I think that the cliche stage prop was playing with the whole concept of whether a film is representing reality or whether the reality of the moving image on the screen is representing an idea. The splitting up of the sign and the signified. But what is also interesting about the presence of this sheeted actor is that the gaze of the ghost becomes the gaze of us the audience. There are points when the invisible-to-the-actors ghost is present to the intimate solitude of the characters. The scene of the widowed young woman sitting on the floor of her kitchen mechanically scoffing a huge chocolate pie, and then immediately vomiting it into the toilet being the first demand on us the viewer to be a voyeur on a scenario that seems too unbearably intimate for us to witness.

Within this frame the film unfolds with a poetic exploration of time (reminiscent of the films of Tarkovsky and Bella Tar), unconscious time, logical time, vertical time (when the ghost jumps off the new high rise building that has been built over the rough old wooden dwelling, and travels back in time) and an amusing exploration of existential philosophy when the dwelling becomes inhabited by a student party, where an evangelist-philosopher-kitchen-party-motormouth delivers a brilliant monologue which twists around Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and questioning the idea of whether meaning can project into the future or is it just, like us, only relevant in the the hic et nunc?



Solaris dream

I had a dream last week and in one of the three parts of the dream I was onboard the space station from Tarkovsky’s Solaris film. I said to the captain “I don’t believe in gravity” and as I said this the space station started to descend into the sea of unconsciousness. In my free association, on the couch, I said that this part of the dream had something to do with me not believing in empirical truth … my analyst asked me “What was the empirical truth that you didn’t believe in?” … I halted […] he ended the session.

Since the session I’ve wanted to find some event in my childhood that would be that empirical truth that I didn’t believe in – I hoped that it might come to me in another dream – but it hasn’t.

This morning during my park walk I was thinking about Freud’s case of the Wolf Man and the primal scene. Freud says that the trauma of his witness didn’t necessarily occur in reality the way that he described it in his analysis and it doesn’t matter that it didn’t. There is a kind of coalescence between fantasy and reality in the construction of the primal scene and primal fantasy and that there is always the aspect of Nachträglichkeit – that meaning always occurs retrospectively.