The Nation Transcends Death
Richard A. Koenigsberg
Each organism—each human being—is in a process of disintegration. Our bodies are continually breaking down. This is what Freud meant by the death instinct: the gradual decomposition of cellular structure. To avoid perceiving the disintegration of our body, we flee into the idea of the nation; that which keeps on keepin' on. When one story ends, the next begins. The News is immortal. The players change, but the narrative goes on and on. We want to be part of the ongoing narrative. I knew that my Mother was dying when she stopped watching television. She had surrendered to death—abandoned the realm of immortality.
The nation exists as a projection of one's body. It is because we project our bodies into the idea of the nation—that the nation exists. Nations have an "objective" reality because we project the idea or experience of our body into the nation. The experience and fantasy of one's own body sustains the dream of the body politic.

One projects one's self—the idea of one's self—into a double of the self. The nation is a double of the self: a collective self: in which all citizens (as well as non-citizens) are contained.

Our concrete existence is not enough for us. It's too small; trivial. We project ourselves into the "third dimension:" transitional space; outer space; the idea of the "nation," so far away, yet so close to the self. So close to the self that we barely experience our nation as something separate from the self. So far away, yet so close: everywhere. This is the nation, "national life.

The nation constitutes a third dimension: neither self nor other; the dimension of culture; that which "lives on." Our nation oppresses and torments us, yet we can't walk away from it. Fear of separation is fear of separation from the domain of immortality. We want to live on or within our nation. We want to be contained within a library, or even as a New York Times Obituary. Proof of existence.

The "body of culture"—unlike one's own body—does not seem subject to decay. It "keeps on keepin' on." To project one's self onto this "higher level" is to identify with the fantasy of eternal self-perpetuation.

To free the self is to split from identification with the vastness of  "culture;" to become disillusioned. This is the unkindest cut of all. Castration means losing the body politic that was bound to the self: loss of omnipotence. One retreats into one's own life, becoming a small, limited human being. One is now finite, no longer bound to the "system." This is what "symbiosis" means: no separation between oneself and one's nation; the "dual unity" of self in culture.

Each organism—each human being—is in a process of disintegration. Our bodies are continually breaking down. This is what Freud meant by the death instinct: the decomposition of cellular structure. To avoid perceiving the disintegration of our body, we flee into the idea of the nation; that which keeps on keepin' on. When one story ends, the next begins. The News is immortal. The players change, but the narrative goes on and on. We want to be part of this ongoing narrative. I knew that my Mother was dying when she stopped watching television. She had surrendered to death—abandoned the realm of immortality.

For Hitler, the principle of decay was split off into the Jew. In order to maintain his fantasy of immortality—the eternity of the Reich—he believed it was necessary to kill the Jew: symbol of the reality that all bodies die. However, he could not repress the death instinct—the reality of death. So the killing of Jews had to continue endlessly. But even if Hitler had killed every Jew in the universe, the death instinct would return. There is no "Final Solution" to the problem of death—except death itself. And this was the solution that Hitler chose for himself.