Vertigo, like Hitchcock’s – we remember how his 1958 film gradually became accepted, by some, as the best ever. Something of this experience occurs to us today, when events simply sweep away our certainties concerning reality and the world. We might also invoke The Birds (1963) whose behaviour becomes bizarre, aggressive, invasive, unpredictable, disrupting the whole of reality; like the virus, which renders our world more unworldly than ever. No aseptic defence will keep us safe from this experience that, if it has exploded with the vertigo of a volcanic eruption, also promises to settle in and stay around for a long time. If we already know something, it is that social links will be different following this, that our immunity as regards the other will be excessive, that our defensive mechanisms – as we are warned – will have to be activated in a different manner.
For many, these defences are today demolished. The subjects we can still see on video-calls, thanks to the work of techno-science, testify to this. Freud already warned us, when constructing his second topography, that the ego needed to defend itself, not only from the unconscious, but also from reality. It is in this way that we receive subjects either brutally divided by their symptoms (anxiety, panic, uncertainty, fear, etc.), impelled towards cynical behaviours or gestures that are frequently harmful to society, or markedly indifferent to this social experience of madness and persecution, as if this delirious sense of life was part of their common experience. In one way or another the structure appears today, and even despite the confinement, almost out in the open.
What can we say, as psychoanalysts, about the social responses that the authorities elaborate starting from the advice of scientific experts? Firstly, about the necessary isolation, of which we are already warned that it cannot last too long, for demographic and even economic reasons. Lacan had already warned that modern science is indissociably born with capitalism. Both require the same founding operation: the mathematization of the real. The understanding and exploitation of nature are two sides of the same coin. But this, as is clear, does not protect us from the explosions of nature itself. There is of course no place, confronted by this, for any political position of nostalgia for the Name of the Father, as Jacques-Alain Miller often firmly maintains. There have always been natural cataclysms, which do not require either the hand of man or the wrath of God. In this respect, there is nothing new in our supposedly incipient Anthropocene, the new geological era that announces the impact of techno-science on the planet’s history. Lacan, in contrast to Heidegger, was not especially critical of the techno-scientific discourse and practices, quite simply because he didn’t believe in progress.
As Jacques-Alain Miller has also recently said, we cannot get off this boat because there is nowhere to get off. We have to find a way of making use of these techno-scientific devices, from the perspective of a kind of critical pragmatism. It is not only that speaking beings today make a massive use of these technical devices, but also that, ever increasingly, we can understand how the very subjectivity of our age is absorbed by and with the different bio-technological supplements that inundate it. When Miller dealt with the topic of the so-called Otaku effect, he emphasised how techno-science profoundly produces subjects who are ever more isolated in their respective islets of competence. Maybe, on many occasions, the manner of inventing a link cannot do without some device of competence. But at the same time in the knowledge, of course, that in the analytic act, in order for there even to be an analytic act, the presence and the body of the analyst are prerequisite.
Translated by Howard Rouse
Originally published in Spanish in #Crónicas XXI-17 by GRAMA. Available online.