February 23, 2019

Food for Thought

Seeing the egg tart @wandersauce posted made me want to get one myself. According to the French-American philosopher René Girard, that’s precisely how desire works. Desire is “mimetic,” he says. We desire something because others desire it. Conflicts arise, not because of our differences, but because of the same things we want. It’s true; marketers know this very well. They often artificially create scarcity because it’s a sign of desired objects. Advertising is full of desirable people desiring the products. The value of “influencer” is determined by how much desire she can arouse in others through her own expression of desire. Even the desire of the influencers is mimetic; they desire the influencer status because others desire it.

But some people’s desires seem to come from nowhere. For instance, I once read a story about a little boy who loved the color pink, oblivious of the fact that it’s associated with girls. He wanted everything in pink, like his bicycle. He was so passionate about pink that other boys around him began wanting pink. These boys were simply following the formula of mimetic desire, but how about the boy who originated it?

In elementary school, I had a friend who obsessively drew a cartoon character of a bird he invented. Because he kept drawing it, I began wanting to draw the same character. Eventually, I became quite good at it. The bird itself didn’t mean anything to me; I just wanted the same thing he wanted. My reaction too was simply mimetic, but whose desire was my friend mimicking?

Psychoanalytically, it’s possible, for instance, that the bird represented the object of his mother’s desire. Let’s say, when he was a little boy, his mother had a bird she loved, and this image of his mother loving the bird unconsciously stuck in his mind. Because he desired to be the sole object of her love, he became obsessed with birds. This is just a random example to illustrate that there could be hidden subjects whose desires we are mimicking.

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