27 July 2006

Red, White, and Blue

Last weekend I went to a party. The people were terrific company in a down to earth sort of way, and the homemade bbq was outstanding, but I found myself highly disturbed by their home. Everywhere I looked there were decorations and wallpaintings depicting either the Texas states flag or the American flag. This is not the first time I've come across this. When I was searching for my home, I came across a number of homes that were filled with this overtly patriotic decor. For every discourse Lacan suggests that we should ask what jouissance is involved?, why do people get so worked up? The question that I've been revolving about ever since is what is it that leads people to so heavily identify with something as abstract as a piece of land in this way? I've been a nomad all my life, moving from place to place, so I've never had a firm sense of place. I like the idea of the cosmopolitan in its literal Greek signification as "citizen of the world". The only place I've ever been strongly identified with is Boston. So what is it that leads one to have such a strong sense of place? What sorts of desires are evinced in surrounding oneself with these sorts of images? What is a person trying to remind themselves of? And what ontological consistency do these sorts of icons provide? If we think of patriotism as being something one gets "in" to like anything else, how does a person get "in" to this as one of the primary meanings of their life? I'm probably not much better as my home is filled with images of figures like Freud, Goethe, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Deleuze, along with lots of framed leaves and impressionistic art... But all the same, I was a bit creeped out.

7 Comments:

Anonymous pebird said...

Do you mean the piece of land is abstract or the way in which they identify (through patriotic decoration, etc.)? Unlike you I have been in 4 places in 50 years (parents were immigrants from farm / village life), so I feel the sense of place ("ownership") being somewhere for a while.

But I also have this longing to be free of encumberences; the "land" (e.g., house + mortgage) is one of the biggest constraints. There could be this realization, especially in the exurbs where you struggle to get into an ideal "community" that isn't, but what do you do?

Why do we decorate? To draw attention? To point / signal away from what we don't want seen? To reinforce a value diminished through experience?

With what is going on the world now, I feel a strong sense of needing the ability to flee - because I don't trust authority in general and definitely not today's particular. Also, as our privileged position becomes more transparent to the globalized world, it is easy to feel threatened by enemies real and imagined. You are forced to either rebel or advertise your undying support. Your friends took the blue pill.

July 28, 2006 9:49 AM  
Blogger Sinthome said...

Hi Pebird,

Nice to see you! I think what I'm getting at is not so much identification with place-- which I somewhat understand --but the power of overt nationalism.

You write:

"Also, as our privileged position becomes more transparent to the globalized world, it is easy to feel threatened by enemies real and imagined."

I find this remark especially interesting. Is it just that our feeling of being threatened grows greater as our privileged position becomes more recognized? Or is it that there's something intrinsic to the structure of the ego itself (nationalism being a collective equivalent of ego) that invites this feeling of being threatened. Lacan, of course, saw the ego as a paranoid structure in and of itself.

July 28, 2006 8:50 PM  
Anonymous pebird said...

Hello Sinthome (that is one of the weirdest salutations I've written):

I think with paranoia there is always an element of truth that is distored and rewound into a displacement onto the other. Trust is not a natural tendency. I need to read more Ecrits (I'm trying to restart PV this weekend) - so my understanding of Lacan's ego discussions are spotty.

But it makes commonplace sense to me that the ego as a survival mechanism would be paranoic in nature. And these structures would be reflected into base social constructions.

There must be something in the architecture of the ego that - as you say - "invites this feeling of being threatened". I am being simplistic, but the need for reinforcement to maintain the structure is place is one - repetition.

And if one aspect of the ego (masculine) is to assert oneself against the world (or to gather the psychic forces to move the body into the world) then assuming opposition would be a good thing to have.

Back to your post - I saw your friends as displaying "domesticated" nationalism - a way to take the edge off the paranoia.

Of course, having a left perspective, I have my share of paranoia also, I'm sure it's keeping me from moving forward.

Regards,

P.E. Bird

July 29, 2006 9:44 AM  
Blogger Karlo said...

Great post. I've posted a long response to this over at Swerve Left (http://swerveleft.blogspot.com).

July 31, 2006 5:11 AM  
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