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Kagwe should take Junet’s joke seriously for what it is

By Barrack Muluka | October 30th 2021

The alphabet of life does not change. Its length, breadth and depth obeys the same timeless rules. Human experience in its diverse histories through the millennia, therefore, is a factor of the same triggers and drivers.

The actors, time and space may change. Yet, the essence, rime and rhythm are invariable. That is why Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) will always be relevant. 

The Austrian neurologist founded psychoanalysis, a method of treating mental disorders through dialogue between the doctor and the patient. He is remarkable for placing sexuality and dreams at the centre of everything in human life.

Libido, as sexualised energy, he said, drives everything we do. At the heart of the matter is a death drive – an overwhelming hidden desire, in everybody, to kill or to be killed. 

This man defined erotic energy as the source of irresistible, but unconscious human desires. The drive to hate and be aggressive, for example. Even when people think they love, most of the time they only seek to gratify a primitive, aggressive appetite within.

To say, ‘I love you,’ could disguise the thought, ‘I desire you to gobble you up, to suck all the juices of life out of you.’

It is, of course, a lot more complex than my simplified narrative explains. It sits in the unconscious. Freud’s unconscious is a network in the mind. It has three elements he calls the id, or it, the ego and the superego. Put together, the three define everything the individual does. The id is a primitive part of each one of us. It bursts with raw energy.  It wants to do wild things.

All our uncontrolled instincts and desires reside here, in their most brutal character. The superego is at the other extreme. It is the moral judge within each one of us. It says No, to the id. 

The ego is the referee between the two. It guides the id to go where it desires, but without being extreme, and without being petrified by the moral high ground of the superego.

Hence, within these mechanisms, there is what Freud calls repression. And that is the essence of this column today. Repression. A defence mechanism that hides in the unconscious mind, things that would be unpleasant, if they were to surface to the conscious mind. They would cause anxiety to us and others, alike. 

Psychoanalytical repression hides our deepest thoughts and intentions, even to ourselves. And yet if these things were to remain in our hidden mind forever, they would destroy us. They must, accordingly, find unconscious avenues for fulfilment.

Freud explained two of these critical avenues. The first is the dream. The second is the joke. The dream is a fulfilment of a wish. So, too, is the joke. Freud published the volume titled The Joke and its Relation to the Unconscious in 1905.

He explained why we laugh at the joke – and why we find some jokes dry, others jarring. The joke, like the dream, satisfies an unconscious desire.

The joke brings to the surface unpleasant thoughts and desires that are otherwise repressed in the unconscious mind. It says things that society forbids.

Hence, ODM Raila Odinga’s right hand man, Junet Mohamed’s superego permits his ego to generate humour from the aggressive thoughts and desires in the id.

‘When Baba Raila Odinga becomes the president, the government will belong to Nyanza. The media should not capture this, because CS Mutahi Kagwe (who is not from Nyanza) will not be happy. Mutahi, you will come here as a visitor. You have had this thing for more than 20 years. Now it is going to be ours.’

In the end, there is nothing like a joke. It is a serious vent for what sits in the ODM id. Kagwe had better take the message seriously. The place he will visit is also hidden. It is not Nyanza. It is the government. Kagwe and the rest will be visitors in the government, perfect strangers and observers. Now there, you have it.

Dr Muluka is a strategic communications advisor. www.barrackmuluka.co.ke

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