In the Middle east at the moment dictatorships are being overthrown by the will of the people – some of whom are making and publishing films like this: The source of these videos, Qunfuz,is a blog following these events – tracking this conflict between government and governed. He highlights not just the loss of confidence in the government, that was gone long ago, but the ‘something’ that enables people to gather, join forces and work towards their own brand of collective freedom.
At the Australian Psychoanalytical Conference yesterday Dr Claudio Laks Eizirik a Brazilian and past president of the International Psychoanalytic Association talk about Power and its legitimisation. He spoke of the power of repression, of unconscious drives; the power relationship between parent and child ( does he mean ‘authority’ here?) and of the relational nature between government and people. Eizirik cited Winnicott‘s ideas on democracy – a convenience whereby power is ceded to ‘government’ by the larger group so that individuals can get along with their lives.. It is a little different, I think, from the parent-child relationship; perhaps more expressive of a collective (unconscious) will.
But what if this relationship breaks down? In answering this we may begin to see what it is that is ceded to the leader and why it is they come and go. In Britain Winston Churchill was the leader for the war, between 1939 and 1945. He related to and articulated something necessary for the British to be able to continue to fight and survive against enormous odds. Before and after this he seems unable to find the necessary pulse to be able to lead.
Claudio Laks Eizrik’s questioning was illustrated with his own experience of the Brazilian uprising followed by the takeover by the military in 1964. It had begun in 1961 when the president,Quadros, in office just seven months, resigned. He was to have been replaced by the Vice President, Goulart, then out of the country visiting China – a country a long way away and suspiciously Communist. Goulart was accused of being such by right-wingers. He was initially not able to take office, only doing so after protracted negotiations by his brother-in-law in 1963. He legitimized his position through a referendum.
Goulart’s attempts to socialize the country were countered by demonstrations -popular uprisings – followed by the Army’s decision to take control. More detail is here. Claudio Laks Eizrik remembered being in the crowd of protesters facing the Generals outside the presidential building when someone began to sing the national anthem. The crowd followed. After a pause the general joined them. At that moment, ( this is my reading of it), the General joined the people. He gained enough legitimacy for the coup to succeed without bloodshed.
I don’t have any great insights to offer here. Other than to say that when the leader is out of touch with the people’s will but continues to rule, a kind of tyrannt can be set up where the leader holds the governed in thrall. As a ‘metaphor’ for the analytical situation, it is also a warning…