France and the Irrational

When the news came of the ugly assassination of the poor low-life caricaturists the first thing I did was turn off the television. The law of the state must be upheld and I knew that France with its superb state machinery could well restore order and punish the criminals. Two things left me uneasy. Firstly, the political class as elsewhere is a sorry bunch. I knew that far from dealing with the crisis they would find themselves led by it to some other issue. Secondly, I thought of Proust’s mother, a rightly active supporter of Dreyfus who in private, regretting his dismal character, sighed,

‘Il faut changer le victime!’

The higher the rhetoric soared, the hotter the passions burned, the further and further did my beloved France drift from its historical role of remaining a force for liberty. I even had to turn off my iPhone. Nothing in the affair made sense. I realised that to get at the heart of the matter one had to abandon not merely the political imperatives, but, deeper still the rational foundations of thinking.

This was a demonstration of what Jane Arden, the great contemporary English feminist and film-maker called

‘The Other Side of the Underneath.’

My mind was focussed by Cicero in his second Philippic (2.35) when he challenged Marc Anthony with what he called the ‘watchword of Cassius.’

‘Cui bono fuerit?’ Who stood to gain?

In this event, ironically, the beneficiaries were the miserable tiny failed satirists of a weekly magazine. It appeared that they had resurrected with a flood printing of millions of copies, nationwide. Faces in the mass demos held hastily printed placards announcing that they were the lazarus-raised victims of the hideous attack.

Now, unable to succumb to conspiracy fantasies so popular today, I could not believe that the victims and executioners were one and the same.

While it was clear that each party stood and died mortally opposed there could be no denying that they in some strange manner were bonded, if only at a symbolic level. If you like, liberalism and terrorism while opposite in character, were still both ‘isms’, part of the structuralist cage in which we all live.

One had to go deeper. My search took me to Freud, and the nature of our Unconscious, and thus on to Ovid, the map-reader of our mythic DNA recorded memory system.

Of course! At this frontier level of myth and memory the situation changed. The mockers and the mocked, re-emerged in  the Freudian/Lacanian model of

going deeper the model took on an Ovidian character of mythic identity.

If the repression is represented by the dominant father then that is Ibrahim.

If the repressed is represented by the rejected son then it is the Prophet Muhammad.

In Ovidian terms it is the model of Racine’s classical tragedy ‘Phèdre.”

Now Phèdre is the wife/mother of Theseus and fatally she has fallen in love with Hippolytus, son of Theseus. Thus Phèdre is France torn between the power-force of the father, and the irresistibly longed for beautiful son.