I have recently been afforded some time to think, time to read and time to learn things. I’ve spent days reading and re-reading and typing up the ideas that have come out of lectures and events I’ve visited. It’s been a surprisingly rich time and one when I have been able to gain considerable perspective. There have been aspects of my usual routine, the one I had up until a few weeks ago, that I have missed. But I have quickly adapted to my new situation. And being distanced from what I was doing has, strangely, resulted in me feeling considerably closer to what I was doing right.
Symbolic Castration happens when the gap opens up between a sense of ‘who we really are’ and the symbolic mediation of the interpellation of us as subjects. That is to say, we have an idea of the kind of person we are but, occasionally, as part of the symbolic order, a very different version of ourselves may confront us. This then creates a divided self, a heterogeneous self and a self caught within the symbolic order. In this sense we might say that what ever is conferred upon me – status, authority – is at some distance from who I think myself to be. Not being able to identify with the symbolic mask then creates a form of hysteria. Questioning what is our symbolic identity creates responses of uncertainty: “I don’t recognise myself in your description of me.” What is also significant is that the symbolic representation of power is always external, for example the robe of the judge or the uniform of the policeman or perhaps the password to access the online register. These things confer power and interpellate us into subjects of power. There is a gap between the symbolic objects and the dismal reality of an individual. Worryingly, it appears that the symbolic dimension of power is diminishing in today’s society, so it is more difficult to recognise those who have power through the symbols that adorn them.
It can be difficult to make the distinction between what we think we are and what others see us as being. The gap, the symbolic castration, suggests these two versions of our self are never reconciled. The symbolic order, in which we are located, prevents us from ever being fully accessible to ourselves. We might also say that, as human subjects, language situates itself as the sign of a constitutive lack. Since it is language that colonises the space of the symbolic and our own self. This lack then fixes the co-ordinates of desire. Our desire is the desire for recognition by the other. Therefore we need or are dependent upon another in order to address our desire.
What then are the important things I’ve come to realise in these last weeks? Firstly, that integrity, honesty and laughter are very important qualities. Secondly, a strategy of silencing is generally adopted by those fearful of what they might hear. Therefore speaking honestly and truthfully is what I feel I should do whenever possible. Mainly because it differentiates me from others – others I think I would rather not be like. My own values rate those who have ideas and ideals who have compassion and understanding. Logically, I therefore don’t rate those people who it seems pursue self-serving ends. Recently I appear to have found a few too many of the self-serving qualities in others. I have also, worryingly, uncovered ignorance and probably most disturbingly, incompetence. But most importantly, I have discovered that the culture of an organisation can be seen and is revealed in its systematic and ritual behaviours. What defines an institution is not its spontaneous actions but its continuous occurrences, that have been learned and then developed, by those with the power to enact them. The symbolic substance of an organisation is how it behaves.
Absence may be felt in different ways. It is the lack of something happening or the missing voice that may have offered a different perspective. When this voice is absent it may seem as though there are limited alternatives available. Even in a room full of other voices there can be one voice missing. When this is felt, even when the noise of others is loud, we are experiencing the presence of absence.