Monday, April 7, 2014

The Perceived Value in Overidentification

The 'Big Other' might share some of his 'personal" jouissance with you...
Another way to define the trap into which cynicism gets caught is via the difference between the public Law and its obscene underside, the unwritten superego rules: cynicism mocks the public Law from the position of its obscene underside which, consequently, it leaves intact. A personal experience revealed to me this inherent obscenity of Power in a most distastefully-enjoyable way. In the 70s, I did my (obligatory) army service in the old Yugoslav People's Army, in small barracks with no proper medical facilities. In a room which also served as sleeping quarters for a private trained as a medical assistant, once a week a doctor from the nearby military hospital held his consulting hours. On the frame of the large mirror above the wash-basin in this room, the soldier had stuck a couple of postcards of half-naked girls - a standard resource for masturbation in those pre- pornography times, to be sure. When the doctor was paying us his weekly visit, all of us who had reported for medical examination were seated on a long bench alongside the wall opposite the wash-basin and were then examined in turn. So, one day while I was also waiting to be examined, it was the turn of a young, half-illiterate soldier who complained of pains in his penis (which, of course, was in itself sufficient to trigger obscene giggles from all of us, the doctor included): the skin on its head was too tight, so he was unable to draw it back normally. The doctor ordered him to pull down his trousers and demonstrate his trouble; the soldier did so and the skin slid down the head smoothly, though the soldier was quick to add that his trouble occurred only during erection. The doctor then said: "OK, then masturbate, get an erection, so that we can check it!" Deeply embarrassed and red in the face, the soldier began to masturbate in front of all of us but, of course, failed to produce an erection; the doctor then took one of the postcards of half-naked girls from the mirror, held it close to the soldier's head and started to shout at him: "Look! What breasts, what a cunt! Masturbate! How is it that you don't get the erection? What kind of a man are you! Go on, masturbate!" All of us in the room, including the doctor himself, accompanied the spectacle with obscene laughter; the unfortunate soldier himself soon joined us with an embarrassed giggle, exchanging looks of solidarity with us while continuing to masturbate... This scene brought about in me an experience of quasi-epiphany: in nuce, there was everything in it, the entire dispositive of Power - the uncanny mixture of imposed enjoyment and humiliating exercise of Power, the agency of Power which shouts severe orders, but simultaneously shares with us, his subordinates, obscene laughter bearing witness to a deep solidarity...

One could also say that this scene renders the symptom of Power: the grotesque excess by means of which, in a unique short-circuit, attitudes which are officially opposed and mutually exclusive reveal their uncanny complicity, where the solemn agent of Power suddenly starts to wink at us across the table in a gesture of obscene solidarity, letting us know that the thing (i.e. his orders) is not to be taken too seriously and thereby consolidating his power. The aim of the "critique of ideology", of the analysis of an ideological edifice, is to extract this symptomal kernel which the official, public ideological text simultaneously disavows and needs for its undisturbed functioning.
- Slavoj Zizek, "From Joyce-the-symptom to the Symptom of Power"

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