May 02, 2011

The death of a master signifier

"Osama Bin Laden," the master signifier of the US war on terror, is dead. The frail proper body that used to be attached to that signifier was assassinated in an imperial US military operation in a foreign country, Pakistan. That body is not important. The Master Signifer Osama bin Laden had only a passing and insignificant, literally, relation to that body. Rather, It represented the Middle Eastern subject, the rebellious native, the child who rejected the authority of the father, to America the Beautiful.

The operation was carried out among a people who despises the US for decades of misery that the US inflicted of them. It was the very kind of operation that convinced a much young Osama Bin Laden that killing lots of Americans is the only way to go. He was wrong. There are better ways. And his idea of liberty was kooky. But that is as much as one can say against him. The number of people he killed is pathetically small by the standards of US presidents. If Bin Laden merited a bullet, then Emperor Obama deserves to be quartered and drowned. As for Bush and Blair, if we set to punish them honestly we would need the sadistic creativity of the Olympian Gods. There is no human punishment that would be horrible enough to match their culpability.

Nevertheless, the death of a Master Signifier is a cause of celebration. It is appropriate that it happened in such close proximity to the Wedding of the Century, an opulent spectacle of violence in the name of the Holy right to violence, matching an opulent spectacle of looted wealth celebrating its God given right to loot. Death and Marriage, as Freud might have hummed one spring afternoon, go together like horse and carriage. The death of the master signifier puts into play the knowledge of God's love for his people. It is not, of course, "America" that knows. America knows nothing at all. Except that it knows that the Middle East knows it for it. On the occasion of his visit to Bin Laden's territory, Bernard Henri Levy already explained how the knowledge of race and the knowledge of God's election exchange fluids.
“The Taliban weren’t just defeated, they were defeated without a fight. …the image of these defeated fighters, lionized by the Arab street from Baghdad to Damascus, the image of these salahudins who were supposed to !bring America to its knees, and who, at the first shot, fled like chickens, could only astound those who identified with them.”
Out of the labor carried out by this Arab knowledge of America emerges what Jacques Lacan calls a "surplus-of-joy". The people of the US are jubilant. So I hear. I am not sure if that covers also the people whose houses were foreclosed in the last three years. But it is possible that they too are jubilant today. It is Purim in America today. The evil Haman is dead. Millions of his kins have been murdered in advance.

Only a doubting Thomas would fail to see here the ultimate proof that God loves America, England, and, of course, the Queen.

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