“Here, the point of desire and the anxiety-point coincide” in the visual field, according to Lacan [1]. How does this apply to a world suddenly emptied of the semblables, where places once crowded with the object gaze, are stripped of it?

I live and work in the centre of the second largest city in Greece. Someone coming to my practice, surrounded by all-day popular cafes, normally can’t escape the feeling that he is looked at. Actually, many of the people frequenting these popular and crowded cafés come to be seen, to seek out the object gaze, to manipulate their image, to exhibit an ideal in accordance with, dictated by and even prescribed by the Other.

This Other who now prescribes abstention from the field of the gaze in various ways. WE STAY HOME ads and stars’ interviews from their apartment, parts of a campaign judged necessary for public health, demand the disappearance of the subject from streets and parks. All public spaces and, recently, all shops except those selling food are closed. People have voluntarily, after an understandable lag, embraced the measures. This delay was due to the resistance of jouissance. The gloomy directives were initially accepted with “superabundant vitality,” an excessive enjoyment of Greeks basking in the weekend sun in numbers contrary to any sanitary suggestions. As the real of the pandemic was deciphered in the symbolic of statistical epidemiology, the number of cases has risen as the number of people on the streets diminished.

A minimum of commotion is necessary for most, and appearances, however limited, have a necessary supplement. Masks and gloves have vanished from pharmacies while their numbers proliferate on the streets, in supermarkets. All internists and epidemiologists have repeatedly explained that, with the exclusion of health care professionals, their use is unwarranted. Unless someone is sick. But, interestingly, people cling to them. In a morning news TV show, both hosts were wearing gloves in the studio, although a professor of pneumonology dismissed any need for that. Despite her calming reassurances, the couple were reluctant to take them off. The Other of the scientific discourse did not seem potent against the malevolent COVID19, the “Chinese virus”. The hole of the Real is readily filled with an Other of unrestricted destructiveness.

Police patrols now actively urge people to stay at home where they are not to be seen, looked at. And people voluntarily stay in, minimizing exposure, avoiding the Neighbour. However, the “nullification” of the gaze leaves desire in the visual field not without an object. This time the object is “summoned up by anxiety.” People stay home to avoid this constant gaze that seems ever present as the invisible gaze.

In every possible encounter, people are targeted by this gaze and the wager is inescapable. Is one a sitting duck, prey for the infiltrating agent, or a praying mantis, bringing havoc to those closest?


[1] Jacques Lacan, Seminar Book X, Anxiety, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, transl. A.R. Price, Polity, Cambridge, 2014, p. 242.

[2] Jacques Lacan, Seminar Book VII, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, transl. Dennis Porter, Routledge, Avingdon, 1992, p. 293.

[3] Jacques Lacan, Anxiety, op. cit., p. 242.