We’ve heard it many times before, ‘the other stands where I want to be’. This is one of Lacan’s more famous ideas. I think there is a great example of this in the disney fictional biopic of the antagonist from the original fairytale called ‘sleeping beauty’. Maleficent is part of the fairy kingdom who is essentially jilted, manipulated and turns evil. Of course, this notion of evil as something that we lose is too trite.
In a capitalist society, its’ essentially what we gain that makes us evil.
However, its the magical element that plays an important role for us to better understand the nature of otherness. Remember, in the most simplest of terms, otherness is what makes someone different by virtue of having something I do not possess (i.e., a character quality, skin pigmentation, culture identity, economic identity and so on) or having something I myself do not possess.
The tendency in this process of othering is to create a certain distance between myself and the other. However, I think this is the wrong approach to understanding what it means to be other. This distance can be referred to something entirely, namely: magic or fiction. We create labels and abstract ideas around people or groups, and these fictional names give us power over that group or social dynamic. In the story, the human world wants to kill the magical being (maleficent) and forget her existence. Rather than deal with the underlying truth hiding in plain sight, that there defense of such violent acts are what make them the true monster. But, let’s go a step further, it also hides the reality that the monster hides within both sides..the fear of eradicating the other is not that they have something drastically different than me, but rather they occupy the same space I do. It’s not the maleficent is magical that they humans fear, but that she is just like them. That even in the midst of her ‘magic’ otherness, she still has to eat, sleep, use the toilet, and brush her teeth.
Is this not the same thing occurring worldwide? Between the Ferguson Riots, Charlie Hebdo, Islamophobia, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Whistleblowers and etc. Where antagonism are erupting everywhere because of what Freud referred to displacement, which is: “A term originating with Sigmund Freud, displacement operates in the mind unconsciously, its transference of emotions, ideas, or wishes being most often used to allay anxiety in the face of aggressive or sexual impulses.” Essentially, what is occurring is in the simple sense, scapegoating. But not just in that one group is becoming the victim of another groups actions, sure this too is taking place, but hides from the other scapegoating, the scapegoating of the fear of being mundane. We would all rather be the magical being, the abstract idea, the fear or truth is that we are not. Fear and truth are not that far apart, if at all. One is hiding the other.
In the Ferguson riots, it is not that the police desire to be free or would rather not be policeman, no, they fear that they are like everyone else (which they are). That they are just social actors and they actually do not share the same illusion of freedom as the citizens. The police are afraid they might be too normal, too socialized, too mundane. But, also, the black community that is being scapegoated suffer from a similar illusion, that they too can share in the same power that scapegoats them. That by doing so, they can free themselves, however, all they do is steep their position deeper into the mire. They fear they might have too much power and it might overtake them like it has the policing system.
What the antagonisms hide is the fatal flaw of the system. That both sides, no matter how ‘right’ one might be over the other, share the same characteristics, the same flaws, the same agreements, just on opposite sides of the field. Both are attempting to remove the fiction. They are attempting to take the abstract ideas, such as race, difference, power and etc. and bring them down to the material experience. Which is needed today, in light of a lot of loaded concepts being thrown from left to right. We need more of the material and less of the fictional.