A 'Word' On Irish Politics

The Irish public is incensed by the behavior of our politicians; we cannot understand why our politicians are bringing about the demise of the republic and still appear utterly defiant. An Irish Times poll dated 18/11/2010 asked readers the following question, "Do you think the Government is in denial over the prospect of a bailout"? Why are we asking such a question? How can it be that our Government is acting in such a reckless manner? The aim of this piece is to potentially shed some light on the current thinking of our politicians, Psychology, or more specifically Psychoanalysis may hold the key to understanding why our politicians behave the way they do.

One particular Psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, proposed the theory of the 4 Discourse Model. Lacan was a Psychoanalyst renowned for his particular examination of language as a method of understanding ourselves. He argued that the moment a child begins to construct words and sentences it becomes an autonomous subject, dictated to by desire. According to Lacan, the subject spends its life seeking to reconnect with its desire; we can see evidence of this today; marketers offer to fulfill our every desire, and we consume products and experiences in a constant struggle to obtain satisfaction. Lacan argued that the source if this behavior lies in language, which we utilise to address a missing aspect of ourselves.

This is not the first time the 4 discourse model has been implemented in relation to a modern civil structure. It has been previously argued by Professor Jean Schroeder of Stanford University that the 4 discourse model permeated the US Judicial system, and it is argued here that the same can be said of Irish Politics.To understand the 4 discourse model we must return to 1960's France, at the time there was large scale rioting taking place in Paris, orchestrated to a large extent by students. They were rebelling against the perceived arrogance of the University authorities; they felt that their voices were going unheard. Out of this unrest came Lacan's Discourse Model, as previously stated the element within this theory which applies here is the University Discourse, most likely named after the educational institutions in France at the time.

According to Lacan, the University Discourse operates on the belief that it holds total authority, in a manner, the University Discourse believes it is the guardian of knowledge. This is how Fianna Fail see themselves, they believe wholeheartedly that they are the guardians of truth and that they must defend, at all costs, this version of reality. Furthermore Lacan argued that it is impossible for a person or institution to appreciate any discourse that operates outside the University point of view from which they operate. This explains Fianna Fails total inability to understand external arguments, and as long as they continue to operate within the University Discourse they will continue with this process.
The upcoming elections will most likely see the end of Fianna Fails rule, for now. However the discourse model advises us to take caution. Returning to 1960's France; the students in their frustration felt compelled to dismantle or revise the manner in which the education system worked. In their haste they turned to none other than Lacan himself for guidance, as he was held in revere for his criticism of the same authorities. However Lacan refused to accept the invitation from the students to lead because it was obvious to him that the students were simply trying to recreate another University Discourse with Lacan at the helm, thereby repeating the circumstances that had angered them in the first place. The lesson for us is clear; we must not run to other political parties in our desperation, as we will simply recreate the conditions that got us here in the first place, albeit under a different party. However this is the very nature of the political system in which we currently reside.

So what is the answer? Well, there is one more aspect of the discourse model that is worth mentioning, and may assist us in designing a new political system. This is called the discourse of the Analyst; it is called the Analyst discourse because this is how Lacan viewed the position the therapist should adopt when assisting a patient in Psychoanalytical treatment. Under this discourse, like the therapist, our politicians would need to empty themselves of their preconceptions, they must understand that they do not possess the answers, only the people do, and we the people must understand this also. It is therefore incumbent on our politicians to genuinely listen to the people, free of prejudice and tribalistic tendencies. Under this discourse, there is no attempt to enforce an established order, it is instead the duty of the politician to help us as a people to articulate our wishes clearly, and then to act accordingly.

There certainly appears to be parallels in the relationship between what occurred in 1960's France and our own situation today. If we are to listen to Lacan, we must move away from the current model of politics, which is designed to recreate the University Discourse regardless of who is in power, and encourage a political system that breaks down tribalism and encourages our politicians to understand that the people hold the answers to their desires, not the party, and that their role is simply to listen and essentially act as administrators.


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