This was one of the eulogies delivered over the coffin of the talking cure at an event at Cabinet in Brooklyn, which marked the publication of Jamieson Webster's book, The Life and Death of Psychoanalysis. Following the eulogies, we processed to the Gowanus canal, where the corpse was ignominiously disposed of.
And so farewell, psychoanalysis. Your final hour has come. There will be no session next week. When the death pangs started, we didn’t know whether to call for a doctor or a priest. Finally we phoned a stand-up comedian. He said he’d been seeing an analyst for fifteen years. Fifteen years? We were shocked. Yeah, he said. I’m going to give him another year, then I’m going to Lourdes. That’s just how the intellectual world ends, not with a bang, but a dimunition, a slide into folk religion.
You sailed up the East River on board a ship. You thought you’d be unwelcome. Ratman bringing the plague. Dora the explorer. You came here to get famous, which you did, in spades. In return, what did you get up to? You shrunk people. Song of Myself turned into Portnoy’s complaint, sung repetitively in midtown treatment suites. You were very stern, at first. You said America was the ‘anti paradise’, a ‘giant mistake’. But as it turned out, that was just your symptom speaking. Sure, America was hell on earth (the noise! The people! So hard to get a good slice of Sachertorte) , but America loved you. Sure, it was partly your European accent, but they only made so many jokes because they took you seriously.
You told America that sexual feelings couldn’t be repressed without consequences. It was the greatest idea ever. It was the hula hoop of theory, what everyone had been waiting for for years. It had everything. it was revolutionary. 1776 all over again. Every time two people had a zipless fuck, it was one in the eye for King George. For a while it seemed like you had the whole repression thing beat. Orgasms for all!
Now we have AIDS and Rick Santorum. Guilt is back in fashion, bundled up in its sweater vest, reeking of surreptitious nocturnal emissions. Is that what killed you? Were the forces of reaction just too strong? Or did you get your hat handed to you by a bunch of good old boys you thought were too dumb to fight back against your fancy European notions. Maybe that’s what happened. While you thought you were teaching them to know themselves, they hollowed you out, turned you into lifestyle. You were always mixed up with that masturbatory old Protestant habit of self examination. Maybe, said the good old boys, you were just another kind of spiritual autobiography, and analysis was no different from looking into your soul and finding the Lord. And maybe you were just another kind of shopping, part of everyone’s god given right to choose.
As we tried to revive you, the comedian told us that last year he had difficulty with his income tax. He tried to take his analyst off as a business deduction. The government said it was entertainment. Finally they compromised and made it a religious contribution. We put coins on your eyes and lowered you into your coffin. We’re already nostalgic - nostalgic for the subconscious, for the privacy that implies. Now we’re all on facebook, under constant surveillance. We have cameras in every orifice. Already we miss you.
13th January 2012