In different centuries and eras, London has given refuge to the Huguenots, the Jews, the Bangladeshis and the Russian Oligarchs – the latter, the most persecuted group of them all, because they persecute each other. Asylum seekers or economic migrants, why do they choose London? Is it because they do not know that in London nobody cares, or is it because they know? A kind of utilitarianism in reverse, functions here. Not the benefit of the greatest number of people, but the benefit of the One, in the sense of the number, the number itself. The compass of British politics is the number. The oligarchs build hundreds of luxury mansions, as well as buying football clubs and newspapers, the most British of institutions. The Qatari royal family buys the most exclusive neighbourhoods, part of the Queen’s estate, around and including the store Harrods. Why is this possible? Because only the number decides.
The other economic migrants are reduced to slaves in the workplace, replaceable and on zero-hour contracts, working for impossible demands, impossible hours, for impossible incomes. Isolated, exploited, discarded, they work to keep the city’s façade intact. Beautiful museums, galleries, historic sites, and first class universities, built and donated by Saudi sheiks and multinational firms. On the other side, an enormous city of banks, inside a city, which works around the clock to gamble on non-existent money. Teachers and doctors, who would be the substance inside the institutions, are reduced to labour under standardised management, serving the number. Nobody is respected, nobody can bear it any longer.
Jacques-Alain Miller described a dystopia in his presentation for the congress on the speaking body1, in relation to pornography. We could generalise this and pose it as precisely the way the drives of the Ones all alone function: ‘incitation, intrusion, provocation, forcing’ and then, ‘disenchantment, brutalisation, banalisation’. These are the effects of the symptom of the empire of technology. Like internet pornography, the number has the effect of semantic vacuity. It is just as much a description of British politics and its way of treating its citizens and its children.
So, as Miller says in ‘A Fantasy’, at a previous Brazilian congress, “The relation between the two sexes is going to become more and more impossible, [ ] the one-all-alone will be the post human standard, the one-all-alone, all alone to fill out questionnaires in order to receive his/her evaluation, and the one-all-alone commanded by a surplus jouissance that is presented under its most anxiety generating aspect.” Subjects reduced to numbers have become speaking bodies, who rely on numbers to measure their bodies. Diets, exercise, and substance abuse, as well as social media and phone apps, all reduce human activities to numbers. The speaking body is principally occupied with limiting jouissance, framing a body, inventing regimes and practices to bear the fragmentation of the body and the limitless command to enjoy gadgets. We ‘analyse the sinthome of the parlêtre’ because there is only a speaking body and its irrupting jouissance. But the speaking body needs to speak, even in silence, in order to analyse it. Sometimes, these Ones cannot even bring themselves to speak…. That is truly post human.
A young woman talks about her two blackberry mobile phones, and the incessant demand by her employer, an investment banker, to be available on call around the clock, as the market never sleeps. An event in Hong Kong has the effect of her company calling her to work at 3am at night… This comes after a 12 to 14 hour workday, where she cannot leave earlier than the boss. She has no words, no sleep, just anxiety and tears, a speaking body unable to limit the ferocious super ego that says ‘work’, ‘achieve’, ‘make money’, the ideals of her parents. The invitation to speak is not taken up by this woman. She says she needs medication, a fix, fast relief, something that can be expressed in numbers. The body is in the constant and repeated attempt at regulating jouissance, while, not in possession of any phallic value, it is not alive. The bodies move zombified through the metropolis, contributing to produce ever more numbers. Numbers to save money, as efficiency, numbers to make money, as profit, numbers to evaluate, as insurance, numbers to verify, as control, numbers to confirm, as proof, numbers to reduce, as savings, numbers to increase, as output… …in a city of Ones-all-alone.
1The Speaking body : On the unconscious in the 21st century, Congress of the World Association of Psychoanalysis in Rio, April 2016. .