In the name of…

The film takes us to the countryside. We see boys at some kind of correctional institute learning how to lead a well-organised life. Their solidarity is extreme. When one of them is drowning in a little lake, everybody joins in for the rescue. But they are also cruel and violent and they suffocate each other. A intellectually disabled boy is kept down at all costs. We see the boys doing hard labour, we watch them having dinner and doing sports, such as soccer and swimming, but we also see them booze and taking drugs. When administration decides to draw the bow anew, the boys relax it again in their own fashion. A sportsmanlike young man is their educator. He is assisted by a straight faced second in line coach.

We are in the rural area of Poland. Adam, the young educator is both a runner and a priest. The jargon used is the language of Catholicism. The boys conform to it, but also manage to evade it, as we often see with care punctuated by coercion and urge. The youngsters know perfectly well the catholic jargon of sin and repentance that is expected from them in order to show their docility. The same way maladjusted youngsters in the Netherlands know how to speak the psycho-language in order to appear as adapted pupils: “My challenge is to be…..” At the level of discourse all seems well ordered. The real concerns and desires however lie hidden underneath that language.

It appears that priest Adam is gay. Is the film In the name of about that old-fashioned Catholic Church, that does not know how to deal with sex and cunningly covers up scandals? Yes. But it is also about the church as both a disciplining and a solidary community.

How does the sentence In the name of… end? Is it In the name of God? Multi-level viewing reveals, however, people acting out of a desire to be nurtured, a desire not to be punished again and again while trying to deal with their distress. In the name of….. is a journey through the desires of the boys and of both men- the educators, and of a woman called Eva. Or rather it is a journey through the fantasy versions of their desires. Fantasies encircle our desires, but they never coincide with them. Fantasies are the little stories we tell ourselves about our desires, the images we make to go with these desires. Adam has this image about being the trustworthy father of the youngsters while the desire is about bodily unity with one of them.

The political ethics of Lacan is about travelling through these fantasies. It is about traverser la phantasie. All those desires in the mode of fantasy are like: Life would be beautiful “if only I had…”, “if only the doctors would pay attention to me… then life would be bearable”. All those desires and their fantasy versions are just there. It is a matter of travelling through the fantasies, not to live in them. In the area of care many fantasies exist. We call them ‘care vision’. Desires underlie them, but we take the fantasy version as the starting point for our actions. Fantasy dominates, we live in it. As a manager I can’t get my hospital in order, ‘behind the counter’ it remains messy. We then as caregivers, develop the vision of shared decision making, which requires a new language, a discourse. It is pure fantasy to allocate to the patient a role and a responsibility that your own complex organisation cannot handle. Yet you can live in that fantasy.

Nothing wrong with the desire to arrive at a togetherness, nor with the desire to be nurtured when you feel miserable and humiliated. The encircling fantasies however are dangerous. The political ethical quest is to travel through the fantasy and not to live in it.

In the name of… (2013) by the Polish filmmaker Malgoska Szumowska 

About the author: Frans Vosman

Frans Vosman

Prof. dr. Frans Vosman studied moral theology and philosophy at Nijmegen University and did a doctorate on economical ethics in Paris and Rome. Professor Louis Vereecke was his promotor. He was engaged in medical ethics before he took interest in the ethics of care, at Tilburg University, where he was professor ethics of care. He held a chair ethics of care at the University of Humanistics, Utrecht. He was interested in combining conceptual and empirical ethics and in the fundamental political character of the ethics of care. Together with colleagues he did research in a general hospital about patients perspectives and research with regard to people with an intellectual disability. He focused on the ethics of care as a form of fundamental political ethics, He considered the connections with other forms of political ethics, with epistemology and political forms of phenomenology to be quintessential. Frans Vosman died in June, 2020

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