Coercion versus Care

by Maria on August 12, 2023

I was recently in Stansted Airport, queueing in a low-ceilinged, quasi-temporary structure to enter the departure area for a Ryanair flight. There were two queues; the ‘priority queue’ which passengers had paid extra to join, and the ordinary one, but just one airport employee covering both, toggling stressfully between two irritated groups. Each time she switched, she left a line of people to wait. As I neared the front of the ordinary queue, she told a man with a wheelie case that he’d have to pay extra as his bag was too big. He objected and put it into the measuring frame. It fit easily, but the check-in woman refused to accept this, and demanded an extra £40. The man objected again and asked why the rules weren’t being followed, but ultimately paid up as he had no choice. He was clearly upset, but never raised his voice, used insulting or abusive language or made threatening gestures. He simply didn’t supply the meekness the very stressed out airport employee desired. As he moved into the boarding area, she called after him that she could have him taken off the plane, but it was very full and noisy, and he either ignored this or didn’t hear it and took a seat near the door. Both lines were now even longer, and she was dealing with the 200-odd passengers alone.
[click to continue…]

Analysing Argentina

by Paul Segal on August 12, 2023

Most visitors to Argentina are attracted by its famous meat and wine. Personally, I come for the Freudianism and Marxism. I grew up in north west London in a family of socialists and psychoanalysts, acutely aware of the contempt with which most of Great Britain held both of those vocations in the late 1980s. So while I spoke barely a word of Spanish when I first visited Buenos Aires in 2003, I had an extraordinary feeling of coming home. Now, twenty years later, my children are half-Argentine, and we’ve just had a semester in Buenos Aires, much of it spent in the traditional past time of discussing the personal and the political over endless coffees (and, I admit, also consuming plenty of meat and wine).

Argentina probably has the most psychoanalysts per capita of any country in the world. I would guess that every Argentine I know is in or has had therapy – at least, I’ve never met an Argentine who told me they never had it, and the topic usually comes up. What is clear is that they have a remarkable love of admitting to and talking about experiences of trauma, its causes and its effects, both at the personal level and at the social level. I’ve mentioned before the historian John Womack’s argument that Latin Americans are subject to chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, due to the ongoing stresses of poverty, violence, and political oppression. One of my in-laws recounts the story of being stopped by a soldier in Buenos Aires in the late 1970s, under the military dictatorship, and the soldier pointing his rifle at her baby while he waited for her to produce her papers. 45 years later her voice still shakes as she describes the experience. Trauma is endemic and enduring, and also quite plausibly a root of the dynamism and creativity, the refusal to meekly accept the status quo, that visitors to Argentina often extol.

[click to continue…]