Enjoyment and the Corona Moment of Humanity

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There is a joy of breaking the law. This law-breaking happens behind the eyes of the law. It happens in a hiding way. One enjoys breaking the law behind the back of God so to say. Humans like a kind of rupture of God’s gaze when they enjoy it. Psychoanalysis teaches that the possibility of enjoyment depends on breaking the law. Real enjoyment in some sense is a stolen enjoyment. This is why Lacan turns the declaration of Ivan Karamazov on its head when he teaches that instead of all things being permitted when God is dead, precisely should God be absent nothing would be permitted. If the law is absent there is no question of breaking the law. This is why the existence of God or the law is the condition that makes enjoyment possible. The law exists on the possibility of breaking it. If there was no possibility of breaking the law ceases to be a law. Thus, law survives on a lack of law or the possibility of breaking it. The present crisis of the coronavirus can produce desperation of breaking the lockdown. Hence, maybe we have to understand the intimate relation of enjoyment and the possibility of breaking a law.

Forbidden fruit is always tasty. This is why obedience to any law is a result of the resolution of castration phobia. One obeys the law to avoid being castrated. Castration here is a symbolic loss. But this symbolic loss amounts to giving up one’s enjoyment. This is why there is enjoyment in breaking the law. But this breaking the law has to occur away from the gaze of the law. This offers us the possibility of breaking the law while appearing to keep the law. The fantasy of keeping the law while breaking it is required for the desire to enjoy its act of breaking the law. But we have to factor in a radically changed scenario. We have moved today from a society that forbade and prohibited enjoyment to a society of enjoyment. We have a positive command to enjoy our death. We were living in some kind of an enjoyment explosion till coronavirus erupted on the scene. We have now become locked into a society that prohibits enjoyment. Once again we have to give up individual and societal enjoyment for a higher good. This is why enjoyment by transgression has come back.

Society of enjoyment also has its laws to break. It is not the law that forbids enjoyment. Human enjoyment requires a law that limits enjoyment. A society where the societal parent ego state has fallen silent and the id is given all freedom to enjoy is a society of enjoyment. How can there be a law that draws the line to limit enjoyment in a society that commands enjoyment? To command enjoyment, one needs this line that limits enjoyment and it is drawn by the enjoyment of the other in a society of enjoyment. In a society of enjoyment, individuals strive to break the limits of enjoyment of others. But one cannot go on competing with the other to enjoy for too long. The line that limits enjoyment keeps shifting and it becomes difficult to keep a track of the same. This is why after a saturation point one cannot truly enjoy in a society of enjoyment. We really do not suffer from too much enjoyment. Our problem is the sense that we never really have enough enjoyment. It is such a lack that drives all enjoyment.

This is why the disruption of coronavirus and the consequent lockdown is once again making enjoyment possible. Gifts are truly enjoyed by children when there is a barrier of rapping. Peter Berger teaches that persons enjoy friendship when there is a heretical imperative (lack of knowledge of each other) between them. Shared sacrifice is coming back after the coronavirus pandemic. It is an entry fee in a society of prohibition of enjoyment. To maintain social stability one has to give up one’s enjoyment. Enjoyment is moderated to perpetuate social order. Prohibition to limit enjoyment seems to be fast coming. Limiting enjoyment actually makes enjoyment possible. Maybe we will enter a society that will enable us to truly enjoy it. We cannot really enjoy anything directly. This is why a society that commands enjoyment does not allow true enjoyment. Freedom from the limitation of enjoyment itself becomes the limit in a society of enjoyment. It is so because our freedom to enjoy turns into the obligation to enjoy. Enjoyment then becomes a competitive affair with others and we always suffer not excess of enjoyment but less of it. We strive for symbolic recognition of the other for our enjoyment as we strive to bite the other for his/ her enjoyment. This is why we are constantly under the threat that the other may commit theft of our enjoyment.

Maybe the society that we shall enter post-covid-19 would stand somewhere in the middle between society of prohibition and society of enjoyment. We will still have the will to enjoy it. But it has no obligation but freedom to enjoy. The psychic barrier of obligation to enjoy will most probably die away. Just like we cannot fall into sleep by commanding ourselves to sleep so too we cannot enjoy it when enjoyment becomes an obligation to enjoy. This is why although coronavirus is a great disaster, it has brought us several blessings. The prohibitions and lockdowns that it has brought about fired our will to enjoy. It has once again made enjoyment possible. Post-covid-19 society cannot be a society that commands enjoyment. It cannot also be a society that prohibits enjoyment. It has to be a society that moderates enjoyment. Society of prohibitions while establishing the limits that one cannot transgress also opens transgressive space beyond it. But this transgressive space that lies beyond the limits of enjoyment disappears in a society of enjoyment. Enjoyment has no transcendent space but only immanent space. This is why in post-Covid-19 society the self itself and not the law or the big Other will moderate its enjoyment. With the suspension of the laws of market under lockdown, individuals are willing to live with the minimum. This might make room for the private enjoyment of the individual as the individual may emerge as the new moderator of one’s own enjoyment. This private enjoyment may have to be away from the gaze of law, God and the other.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao