Hyper-Positivity And The Flourishing of Naivety

In this time of global crisis, universal love for our fellow human being overflows. Is it real and will it last?

Herd of sheep for article by Larry G. Maguire

Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

In this time of global crisis, universal love for our fellow human being overflows. Is it real and will it last?

Everywhere you look, people are wishing other people well, and on the face of it, this seems great.

The emergency services, nurses and doctors on the front lines are the main target. My wife says, “I wish they’d stop all this… it makes me nauseous”.

She a hospice nurse and feels it’s all a bit too much. “We’re just doing our job”, she says.

What can we make of the current hyper-positivity, overflow of universal kinship and love for all?

Here it sits alongside perhaps the single-most dramatic sequence of events in modern human history–the global coronavirus health crisis. The collapse of the global economy unlike anything ever witnessed before, the cessation of direct human interaction, widespread health fears and anxiety for the future.

Can this overflow of apparent love and concern for our fellow human being be trusted? Is it real, or is it an unconscious fabrication, a reaction to the trauma of sudden change?

Some hyper-positive commentators suggest Covid-19 is a turning point in the consciousness of humanity. Maybe they’re right, or maybe they’ve been caught in the hype, misread the situation just like millions of others.

It feels like the right thing to do. How can we not reach out and be there for our fellow human beings at a time of crisis such as this?

Well, we should. However, it’s striking, not least because amid everyday normality we ignore their need.

We walk past people begging for change in the street. Politicians and civil servants underplay the glaring ineptitude of the country’s mental health services. The institutions of the State disregard the needs of children for the sake of the needs of influential business groups and corporations.

The speed of response to Covid-19 in my country reminds me of the speed at which the 3-lane N7 leading from Dublin to Straffan Co. Kildare was resurfaced about 10 years ago in time for the Ryder Cup.

That is to say, things happen when there is a political will. Money miraculously appears and people get things done.

Why can’t this happen for the tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people that desperately need psychological care and/or a place to live?

That’s just a couple of examples.

From this observers perspective, all this gushing all over each other is unsubstantial insofar as it is unsustainable. It is a flourishing of hyper-positivity and naivety which come about from an obscene indulgence in the drama — a “jouissance”, as termed by French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan in the 1950s.

We can say Jouissance is a kind of profane hedonism, an extraction of “enjoyment” from the frustration and failures of desire.

What is this desire?

It is an ever-increasing search for self in things, stuff, status and material wealth — in the symbolic world. What we see now, on a worldwide level, is an over-the-top response to a collapse of the systems we once believed would fulfil that desire.

This over-the-top gushing of love for one another is typical of a global population incapable of holding the middle ground in the event of dramatic change.

And it won’t last.

On the thin surface layer of reality we call human experience, things have changed — sure. But underlying our emotional reaction and physical appearances, things have not changed.

Despite the hyper-positivity, our psychology remains fundamentally unchanged.

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