That is the question that the LRO’s editor in chief, France Jaigu, asked me. I was struck by its pertinence. I read again the Islamic State’s communiqué claiming responsibility for the attacks that have just plunged Paris and France into mourning. Of course France is engaged in military operations, but other Countries are involved in these operations too. So this is the only reason for this choice.
The first answer that came to mind had to do with historical reasons. To take Paris and France as a target is the reverse of the reactions that were heard across the globe when the attacks were made known. Let’s take President Obama’s televised speech for example. The roots of the alliance between our two Countries, that have withstood many a tangle, dates back to the Enlightenment, the encyclopedists, the French revolution and the ideals that their signifiers put into circulation. That neither France nor the USA has often been to up to the standard of these ideals, and has even trampled them, has not weakened the force of these master signifiers that spread the world over like a bolt of lighting: liberty, equality, fraternity, blue, white, red: a double ternary structure for which Lacan has shown the power of the knot. Their diffusion expanded the interpretations, almost infinitely. Therefore France because, first hit of the battering ram in the Name of the Father, a political scansion of the rising capitalist economy. To take the opposing view of all the signifiers from the Enlightenment, according to logic inaugurated by the extreme right in France, as Z. Sternell has demonstrated it.
The second answer is of a different order. Here, it is the IS’s communiqué that puts us on the track. Paris is qualified as « capital of abominations and perversion », and the youth of all nationalities at the concert at the Bataclan or at a terrace café as « idolaters in a celebration of perversity ». What is being targeted here? A mode of enjoyment, as Internet users quickly interpreted it on social media. Now it just so happens that this mode of enjoyment has become an international icon: images seen thousands of times in the movies, book titles, and photos. The beret, the baguette, the terrace cafés, the conversation, the music in the streets, the museums, the fashion, the ravaged by the ferocity of the Super ego. It hit gourmet cuisine, the social diversity, the kiss: a catalogue of the symbols of the pleasure principal. Paris is a myth of the party, of the joy of living.
Why Paris? Because it is a dream that has become universal. Paris, vedutta della Città ideal of the 21st century, a live set where youth in all its diversity breathes life into desire and into its objects in a world ravaged by the ferocity of the super ego. It hit.
First and foremost those of us in New York wish to send condolences to our colleagues in Paris. We are struggling with how to respond to the trauma of this event. Struggling not only with our own confrontation with this ‘horrific’ mode of jouissance of the Other, which disrupts the symbolic.
But also how to speak as people living across the Atlantic, removed from the more direct experience of this assault on the citizens of Paris. We nevertheless believe it is important to reaffirm the social bond we feel with the members of the Ecole de la Cause Freudienne. From our perspective, the onslaught of November 13 was itself an attempt to rip apart the social link at the heart of Parisian culture. Our 9/11 was also a horrible massacre, but somehow different in that it was a strike on semblants of American capitalism and government. Whereas these coordinated attacks in Paris seemed to be directed towards the everyday lives of people and their modes of jouissance. It has been called an act of war by many officials and individuals. But what is this war about? At the core of this religious crusade against Parisian culture, it appears to us to be a war of jouissance. Last spring in NYC Marie-Hélène Brousse gave a talk in which she addressed the attack on Charlie Hebdo and pointed out that “jouissance in monotheism, is always tragic: sacrifice, martyrdom, and always linked with death.” It is a way of putting “suffering into the glory of God as a process of transformation.” Although we can’t fight the terrorist’s mode of jouissance, it appears that the social fabric of Paris is stronger than the attackers anticipated. Despite police warning, Parisians not only went into the streets the next day, but directly after the attacks a signifier also emerged: #portesouvertes, an effort through Twitter to help those on the streets and to preserve social links.
By Jorge Assef in Córdoba, Argentina
Scott Wilson in Kingston, London, UK
Ricardo Schabelman, an Argentine in Paris
Alasdair Duncan, London, UK
A large number of us Argentines have grown up looking at France; perhaps that's the reason why the terrorist attacks last November 13 shocked the country in ways that those in Atocha, Madrid, or on the London buses hadn't in the past.
At 7:00 pm all TV channels and radio stations interrupted their programs in order to follow the events in France minute by minute. WhatsApp messages flooded into my phone; phone lines collapsed. Evidently, in the face of horror, after moments of stupefaction, subjects needed to speak with others.
In the wee hours of the night, people started making symbolic gestures in front of the French Embassy or in front of the Alliance Française offices in smaller cities across the country. To many Argentines, Paris works as an idealized, even romantic, symbol. Watching its streets transformed into a horror scene shocked a part of Argentina’s own culture, that which always thinks of Paris “as a joyful place”. Perhaps that’s why, days after the catastrophe, newspaper front pages, conversations at meetings with family and friends, all lead to the same place: Paris ̶ talking about the topic over and over again as an attempt to understand the impossible.
(Jorge Assef in Córdoba, Argentina.)
While Paris is not the only city to have been attacked by Daesh, they did at least specify a reason: that it is 'la capitale des abominations et de la perversion'. Coming from an organization that has turned Raqqa into the capital of murder, rape and slavery, some kind of perverse correlation is being made. As for pourquoi Daesh? I think that Freud’s analysis of the Nazis might be worth re-reading, along with Lacan on Sade. I think it is a symptom of the historical failure of Islamic civilization. It is a suicidal cult that loathes Islam for this failure and wants to use the West to destroy itself utterly, perhaps so Islam can start again ex nihilo.
(Scott Wilson in Kingston, London, UK.)
When I was a young boy, I would walk to school everyday, day-dreaming that, on arriving, I would be told there had been a catastrophe, that the school had burnt down or been blown away. On Saturday, I woke up and « school » had been cancelled*. Only this time, it is a true nightmare.
*the 45th Journées de l’Ecole de la Cause freudienne scheduled to take place on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th of November were cancelled after the attacks.
(Ricardo Schabelman, an Argentine in Paris.)
There is no 'today's edition' of Facebook. Facebook presents a continuous stream of posts, one after the other, distributed fairly evenly across the surface of the screen, going on, without end. In this particular sense there is no scansion on Facebook. Each post is discreet, but within the structure of a surface without end. When something terrible happens, as it just did in Paris, something that for many touches on their reals, Facebook becomes a site on which the marks of this touch are given expression. It’s a place where people may seek to make sense and thereby limit what hurts, and the better in so far as that is possible. It allows that those closer to the scene may comfort friends with the knowledge of their safety. It may also be a place, perhaps for those more at a distance from events, to find agreement or to delimit views that are beyond the pail: The slaughter was a false flag attack instigated by Western powers; Borders need to be closed to those beyond the West, totally and immediately; Love to those who share the nomination of a religion with the murderers, or hate; The Tricolore, the flag of Lebanon, another, or none. It goes on. In so far as this is without scansion, it can become little more than a distribution of agreeable or unbearable responses on a surface implying little more than its continuation as surface, there may be little question of finding on Facebook ways to institute a stop, a limit to what hurts. Yet still we must try for what we might get, as difficult as it might be.
(Alasdair Duncan, London, UK.)