In the film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and in the British play, Billy Liar, the protagonists live in dreamworlds, in which they are the heroes and stars of self-created dramas. We are all a bit like that, I suppose, in our personal lives. What puzzles me a little is the extent to which, as society becomes more and more complex, our delusions become in some ways less collective and more individual. The current (re-current, really) debate about cycling, walking and driving in our cities is a pertinent example – everyone has a solution and an idea of the perfect transport system. One which coincides with their particular interests. I have one too. It involves a golden coach and a team of outriders….
My solution depends mostly on other people doing what I want, when I want and only when I want… and for an imaginary entity (usually called ‘the government’) to ensure that this situation continues. The perennial solution – and the perennial threat to my solution – is what some psychoanalysts call The Other, others call The Big Other, and you and I simply call ‘Them’.
In order to avoid ‘Them’, we do things such as insulate ourselves by wandering about the world plugged into our personal soundtrack… this has the result that occasionally we wander into oncoming traffic… to the extent that the Voice of the Cabby has suggested, not entirely frivolously, that new roadsigns are erected to warn drivers of high iPod usage areas.
In the real world, whilst we must surrender some of our free action to illusion, trust and hope, in 0rder for our society to continue, I am one of the people who stays on the pavement, obeys the Highway Code and gets out of the way of the motorcade…most of us are. We all depend on each other.
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