“I always speak the truth. Not the whole truth because there’s no way to say it all. Saying it all is literally impossible: words fail.” Lacan
I’ve been reading with fascination and horror the various politicians brushing without blushing with truth and untruth. A spate of posts on Facebook giving A/B comparisons with what politicians have said in the past, with what they are now saying.
In psychoanalysis this kind of A/B comparison is one part of the interpretive process, a process that unfolds over a considerable amount to time. However it’s not, as in the case of the politic critiques to show the analysand/ patient up for being a liar. The analysand is telling his own truth even when he or she is ‘bending the truth’.
When we speak we don’t just impart information like a computer linking up to another computer. We evoke meaning. This is why it is so easy to be misunderstood. In fact Lacan would go further and say that speech is always miss-understood. We’re always slightly missing the target.
An example of how the ‘language of the unconscious’ distorts the Real can be found in Claude Levi Strauss’ village analysis in Structural Anthropology where two groups from the same tribe were asked to draw a map their village. They all drew a delineation between the ruling class and the workers. What was interesting was that some would draw variations on a smaller circle within a larger one and some drew a different types of square divided up into two different sizes to show the areas where the two classes lived.
What is significant about this is not the fact that it could be sorted out with simple and quick use of a drone camera and the correct layout established but more interestingly that the difference between the various maps is what demonstrates topologically how the unconscious distorts the shapes and information and the distortions created by the unconscious shows us our personal truth.
So when we get frustrated with, say, a political leader who is being inconsistent, or “why can’t their followers see them for who they are(!),” it’s time to remember that language is more than just the words. Yes in some ways the truth, like the word of God, the word is all we can work with, but if we only reduce listening and speech down to clean and functional sentences, the type loved by Americans, with a powerful subject/ object relationship/ antagonism we end up scooping out the bit that has us all mesmerised, the bit that does the strange work in the field and function of language and speech.