Dealing With Theft of One’s Enjoyment: A Lesson from the Corona Moment of Humanity

Covid-19 and the consequent lockdown are taking away our enjoyment. We are experiencing theft of enjoyment.   Psychoanalyst Jacque Lacan calls it the theft of the Thing.  It is taking away our way of life.   We feel that something precious to us is taken away from us. How are we to face this theft of our enjoyment?  How are we to stand while our world appears to be falling apart? How are we to organize our emotional world as we face threats of covid-19 and immobilisation of lockdown?   Maybe we have to look at our resourceful past. We have several experiences in life that have been disrupting. A psychoanalyst may love to name them as castrating experiences.  The manner in which we handled these frustrating experiences can educate us to deal with our present condition.  We all love what Lacan and Zizek call the Thing. We enjoy processing it.  It can be both collectively or individually enjoyed.  The present crisis is taking away the Thing from humanity. 

Unfortunately, we always impute the other of having a natural tendency of excessive enjoyment.  This drive for excessive enjoyment renders the other as a good candidate who is thought to have a secret desire to rob away our enjoyment. The otherised other is then thought to be having a perverse enjoyment.   The theft of our enjoyment amounts to a kind of castration. It is felt as a loss of an originary enjoyment that is considered to be one’s right.   It is,of course, a fantasy but it has great power over us.   We see the other as enjoying at our expense and feel that we have the right to raise the decimals of our outrage. This gives us a mission to get rid of the greed of the other.  We are clearly trapped into what Slavoj Zizek calls ‘theft of our enjoyment.’  Thus, convincing ourselves that the other has stolen what is rightfully ours, we begin to hate the other and set out to teach the other a great lesson. 

 We do not just have to deal with the other but also have to deal with the other ‘s enjoyment. We have the challenge not just to face the other but also have to face the enjoyment of the other.  The other and the enjoyment of the other become key reference coordinates that shape our own enjoyment.  We can see these dynamics at work in ethnic rivalries. These dynamics are often used to fuel violence between different religious communities.   The other is construed as the other of our rightful enjoyment.  But the other is not really the other of our enjoyment. The other actually is also enjoying what we enjoy. This is why the other is thought to be a rival.  It is thought that He has his other enjoyment but has a secret desire to rob our enjoyment. Having thus constructed the excessive desire of the other,  we  think that we have to bring to a halt this excessive illegitimate enjoyment of the other. Premised upon this logic one can then hate, kill, and destroy the other. 

One feels the theft of one enjoyment depending on the intensity of one’s emotional investment in the idealism of that which the other is thought to exhibit excessive enjoyment.  Maybe an example is in the right order of things here.  Let’s say that we are all holding marital fidelity in the highest esteem. Supposed we come across a scandal involving adultery.  Maybe we will charge the persons involved as having the excessive desire and have secretly committed theft of our own enjoyment.    Thus, the disruptive act of two weak people is viewed as a disruption of marriage as such.  This logic operates in the way we construct the other as anti-national.  When we over idealize nationalism then we tend to raise the alarm bells over some disruptive acts and construe them as anti-national. We feel that those acts somehow rob our enjoyment of the Thing, our way of being a nation.  We may see how in several ways we think that Pakistan, Muslims, other minorities  have robbed our enjoyment  and consider ourselves as  out on recovery by ‘teaching a lesson  to their dynamism.’ 

The injunction to recover the stolen enjoyment can get the worst out of us as individuals as well as communities.  In the situation around this, we organize this recovery under what Lacan calls a master signifier. The Jews were the master signifier that organized the recovery of the stolen enjoyment in Germany. It seems that a Muslim is a master signifier in India today.  This master signifier sustains our sense of theft of enjoyment as well as our restorative mission thereof.  The master signifier structures the discursive field and reinforces the otherness of the other as a moral failure. This is a fantasy but it offers a guarantee that one is on the right track. It legitimizes the mission of hate. Thus, we learn to love our hatred.  This means we  begin to enjoy of hatred. We come to love to hate.  How are we to get ourselves freed from these entanglements?  It is only wakeful awareness that can set us free.   This awareness can enlighten us that our enjoyment can never be robbed. It is we who model our enjoyment on the model of the other and hence the other becomes a mimetic rival.  

The disruption and a sense of theft of our enjoyment that we may feel at this moment can teach us profound lessons. It can teach us to deal with our other and his/ her mode of enjoyment.  There cannot be theft of our enjoyment in reality.   We can only feel that our enjoyment is stolen.  Here we have to understand another kind of stolen enjoyment. While we are on lockdown, we can also enjoy breaking the lockdown. There is a trill in breaking the law.  This stolen enjoyment can be indulged in this context only at our peril.  All kinds of enjoyments can only be enjoyed by us.  Zizek tells us that often we construe that the other has committed a theft of our enjoyment to overlook our own insecurity.  Let us learn to deal with our tendency to covert others enjoyment.  How we deal with the missing enjoyment at this time of lockdown can indeed set us free from our tendency to covert the enjoyment of the other.  Beware the converting habit of the enjoyment of the other is often construed as a missing enjoyment which is then thought to be missing because of the theft of the other. 

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GREETINGS

Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao