Zizek and the Hungry Seagull

Slavoj Žižek On 9/11: New Yorkers faced the fire in the minds of men

World Trade CenterTwo Hollywood films mark 9/11’s fifth anniversary: Paul Greengrass’s United 93 and Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center. Both adopt a terse, realistic depiction of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. There is undoubtedly a touch of authenticity to them and most critics have praised their sober styles and avoidance of sensationalism. But it is the touch of authenticity that raises some disturbing questions.

The realism means that both films are restrained from taking a political stance and depicting the wider context of the events. Neither the passengers on United 93 nor the policemen in WTC grasp the full picture. All of a sudden they find themselves in a terrifying situation and have to make the best out of it.

This lack of “cognitive mapping” is crucial. All we see are the disastrous effects, with their cause so abstract that, in the case of WTC, one can easily imagine exactly the same film in which the twin towers would have collapsed as the result of an earthquake. What if the same film took place in a bombed high-rise building in Beirut? That’s the point: it cannot take place there. Such a film would have been dismissed as “subtle pro-Hizbullah terrorist propaganda”. The result is that the political message of the two films resides in their abstention from delivering a direct political message. It is the message of an implicit trust in one’s government: when under attack, one just has to do one’s duty.

This is where the problem begins. The omnipresent invisible threat of terror legitimises the all-too-visible protective measures of defence. The difference of the war on terror from previous 20th-century struggles, such as the cold war, is that while the enemy was once clearly identified as the actually existing communist system, the terrorist threat is spectral. It is like the characterisation of Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction: most people have a dark side, she had nothing else. Most regimes have a dark oppressive spectral side, the terrorist threat has nothing else.

The power that presents itself as being constantly under threat and thus merely defending itself against an invisible enemy is in danger of becoming a manipulative one. Can we really trust those in power, or are they evoking the threat to discipline and control us? Thus, the lesson is that, in combating terror, it is more crucial than ever for state politics to be democratically transparent. Unfortunately, we are now paying the price for the cobweb of lies and manipulations by the US and UK governments in the past decade that reached a climax in the tragicomedy of the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Recall August’s alert and the thwarted attempt to blow up a dozen planes on their way from London to the US. No doubt the alert was not a fake; to claim otherwise would be paranoiac. But a suspicion remains that it was a self-serving spectacle to accustom us to a permanent state of emergency. What space for manipulation do such events – where all that is publicly visible are the anti-terrorist measures themselves – open up? Is it not that they simply demand too much from us, the ordinary citizen: a degree of trust that those in power lost long ago? This is the sin for which Bush and Blair should never be forgiven.

What, then, is the historical meaning of 9/11? Twelve years earlier, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin wall fell. The collapse of communism was perceived as the collapse of political utopias. Today, we live in a post-utopian period of pragmatic administration, since we have learned the hard lesson of how noble political utopias can end in totalitarian terror. But this collapse of utopias was followed by 10 years of the big utopia of global capitalist liberal democracy. November 9 thus announced the “happy 90s”, the Francis Fukuyama dream of the “end of history”, the belief that liberal democracy had, in principle, won, that the search was over, that the advent of a global, liberal community was around the corner, that the obstacles to this Hollywood happy ending are merely local pockets of resistance where the leaders have not yet grasped that their time is over.

September 11 is the symbol of the end of this utopia, a return to real history. A new era is here with new walls everywhere, between Israel and Palestine, around the EU, on the US-Mexico and Spain-Morocco borders. It is an era with new forms of apartheid and legalised torture. As President Bush said after September 11, America is in a state of war. But the problem is that the US is not in a state of war. For the large majority, daily life goes on and war remains the business of state agencies. The distinction between the state of war and peace is blurred. We are entering a time in which a state of peace itself can be at the same time a state of emergency.

When Bush celebrated the thirst for freedom in post-communist countries as a “fire in the minds of men”, the unintended irony was that he used a phrase from Dostoevsky’s The Possessed, where it designates the ruthless activity of radical anarchists who burned a village: “The fire is in the minds of men, not on the roofs of houses.” What Bush didn’t grasp is that on September 11, five years ago, New Yorkers saw and smelled the smoke from this fire.

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Slavoj Zizek is international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, szizek@yahoo.com

Slavoj Žižek’in Gezi Direnişine Dair Mesajı (Žižek weighs in on the revolt in Turkey)

 

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İstanbul’un göbeğindeki küçük bir parkın ticari amaçlarla tahrip edilmesi gibi bir yerel meseleden kaynaklı gibi görünse de, Türkiye’de devam etmekte olan protestolar açıkça çok daha derin bir öfkeye işaret ediyor. Bu öfkenin yaygın bir şekilde, “ılımlı İslam” ülkesi modeli olarak algılanan, hızla gelişen bir ekonomiye sahip bir ülkede patlak vermesi, hastalığın nedenlerini de: vahşi neoliberal ekonomi ile dini-milliyetçi otoriterliğin kaynaştırılması girişimi. Bu iki sürecin de kurbanları aynı: Bağımsız sivil toplumun dayanışma ruhu ve kültürel hoşgörüsü; bir ulusun ahlaki sağlığının belkemiğini oluşturan ruhun ta kendisi. Buradan da anlıyoruz ki bu protestolar, serbest piyasanın toplumsal özgürlük anlamına gelmediğinin, ancak otoriter politikalarla bir arada bulunabileceğinin canlı kanıtıdır. Bu protestoların neden dünya çapında kurulu düzeni sarsan aynı küresel ajitasyonun bir parçası olduğunun da göstergesidir bu. Özgürlük ve kurtuluşa önem veren bütün insanlar, Türkiye halkına “Hoşgeldiniz!” demelidir. Şimdi aynı küresel mücadelenin parçalarıyız. İspanya, İsveç, Yunanistan, Türkiye… Ancak yan yana mücadele edersek bir şansımız olacak!

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Although triggered by the apparently modest local issue of protecting a park in the very center of Istanbul from commercial destruction, the ongoing protests in Turkey obviously refer to a much deeper malaise. The fact that protests exploded in a country widely perceived as a model of “moderate Islamism” with a booming economy are a key indicator of what causes this malaise: the prospect of combining the ravaging neoliberal economy with religious-nationalist authoritarianism. The victim of these two processes is the same: independent civil society with its spirit of solidarity and cultural tolerance, the spirit which forms the very backbone of the ethical health of a nation. As such, the protests are a living proof that the free market does not imply social freedom but can well coexist with authoritarian politics. This is why the protests are part of the same global agitation that is shaking the established order around the globe. All people who care about freedom and emancipation should thus say to the Turkish people: welcome! We are now part of the same global struggle! Spain, Sweden, Greece, Turkey… only if we fight together we have a chance!

Slavoj Žižek

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via Haber Boşnak

The beat of a different drum ~ Slavoj Zizek

Open Cyprus in Europe

“The heart of the people of Europe beats in Greece” with Slavoj Žižek

Slavoj Žižek, one of the most prominent contemporary thinkers, Alexis Tsipras, president of the parliamentary group of SYRIZA/EKM and Kostas Douzinas, professor of Philosophy of Law at the of Birkbeck University of London, will talk about the overthrow of the neo-liberal policies which generate the crisis, exacerbate the recession and impose austerity, leading to a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.
An energy and conviction that Slavoi Zizek verbalizes and makes him an adequate ambassador for Greece in their fight in Europe. As they said, »Solidarity is our weapon«. They said that the solidarity of their weapons, which was also Zizek warned in a speech that Europe must show its solidarity with the Greeks, or it too will fail, as it should be a core value of solidarity in Europe.

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Slavoj Žižek: The Empowerment of the Right and the Dissolution of the Left (Video)

“Slavoj Zizek was one of the speakers at the The empowerment of the Right, the dissolution of the Left event. The public sector is facing severe economy measures. The budgets for culture, education and health care are being cut. The measures are implemented by the political right. The political left, in this period of turmoil, does not seem to be able or willing to meet force with force and turn the tide. Has the left become unsettled? Does the binary division between left and right still apply to read the current political developments and state of flux? Can the left reinvent itself and find an answer to the spreading attitude of rigidity and xenophobia?” ~ via 

Žižek on Living, Dying, and Virtual Reality

Spekülatif Realizm ve Transendental Materyalizm (1-4) Afrika Pazar

correlationist propaganda

Spekülatif Realizm ve Transendental Materyalizm -1-  AfrikaPazarSayi348

Spekülatif Realizm ve Transendental Materyalizm -2- AfrikaPazarSayi349

Spekülatif Realizm ve Transendental Materyalizm -3- AfrikaPazarSayi350

Spekülatif Realizm ve Transendental Materyalizm  -4- AfrikaPazarSayi351

Audio from Zizek’s Lecture – Cardiff 3rd March (via MarxLacanZizek)


via MarxLacanZizek

Slavoj Žižek – Shoplifters of the World Unite

Zizek weighs in heavily on the meaning of the riots…

Repetition, according to Hegel, plays a crucial role in history: when something happens just once, it may be dismissed as an accident, something that might have been avoided if the situation had been handled differently; but when the same event repeats itself, it is a sign that a deeper historical process is unfolding. When Napoleon lost at Leipzig in 1813, it looked like bad luck; when he lost again at Waterloo, it was clear that his time was over. The same holds for the continuing financial crisis. In September 2008, it was presented by some as an anomaly that could be corrected through better regulations etc; now that signs of a repeated financial meltdown are gathering it is clear that we are dealing with a structural phenomenon.

We are told again and again that we are living through a debt crisis, and that we all have to share the burden and tighten our belts. All, that is, except the (very) rich. The idea of taxing them more is taboo: if we did, the argument runs, the rich would have no incentive to invest, fewer jobs would be created and we would all suffer. The only way to save ourselves from hard times is for the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer. What should the poor do? What can they do?

Although the riots in the UK were triggered by the suspicious shooting of Mark Duggan, everyone agrees that they express a deeper unease – but of what kind? As with the car burnings in the Paris banlieues in 2005, the UK rioters had no message to deliver. (There is a clear contrast with the massive student demonstrations in November 2010, which also turned to violence. The students were making clear that they rejected the proposed reforms to higher education.) This is why it is difficult to conceive of the UK rioters in Marxist terms, as an instance of the emergence of the revolutionary subject; they fit much better the Hegelian notion of the ‘rabble’, those outside organised social space, who can express their discontent only through ‘irrational’ outbursts of destructive violence – what Hegel called ‘abstract negativity’.

There is an old story about a worker suspected of stealing: every evening, as he leaves the factory, the wheelbarrow he pushes in front of him is carefully inspected. The guards find nothing; it is always empty. Finally, the penny drops: what the worker is stealing are the wheelbarrows themselves. The guards were missing the obvious truth, just as the commentators on the riots have done. We are told that the disintegration of the Communist regimes in the early 1990s signalled the end of ideology: the time of large-scale ideological projects culminating in totalitarian catastrophe was over; we had entered a new era of rational, pragmatic politics. If the commonplace that we live in a post-ideological era is true in any sense, it can be seen in this recent outburst of violence. This was zero-degree protest, a violent action demanding nothing. In their desperate attempt to find meaning in the riots, the sociologists and editorial-writers obfuscated the enigma the riots presented.

The protesters, though underprivileged and de facto socially excluded, weren’t living on the edge of starvation. People in much worse material straits, let alone conditions of physical and ideological oppression, have been able to organise themselves into political forces with clear agendas. The fact that the rioters have no programme is therefore itself a fact to be interpreted: it tells us a great deal about our ideological-political predicament and about the kind of society we inhabit, a society which celebrates choice but in which the only available alternative to enforced democratic consensus is a blind acting out. Opposition to the system can no longer articulate itself in the form of a realistic alternative, or even as a utopian project, but can only take the shape of a meaningless outburst. What is the point of our celebrated freedom of choice when the only choice is between playing by the rules and (self-)destructive violence?

Alain Badiou has argued that we live in a social space which is increasingly experienced as ‘worldless’: in such a space, the only form protest can take is meaningless violence. Perhaps this is one of the main dangers of capitalism: although by virtue of being global it encompasses the whole world, it sustains a ‘worldless’ ideological constellation in which people are deprived of their ways of locating meaning. The fundamental lesson of globalisation is that capitalism can accommodate itself to all civilisations, from Christian to Hindu or Buddhist, from West to East: there is no global ‘capitalist worldview’, no ‘capitalist civilisation’ proper. The global dimension of capitalism represents truth without meaning.

The first conclusion to be drawn from the riots, therefore, is that both conservative and liberal reactions to the unrest are inadequate. The conservative reaction was predictable: there is no justification for such vandalism; one should use all necessary means to restore order; to prevent further explosions of this kind we need not more tolerance and social help but more discipline, hard work and a sense of responsibility. What’s wrong with this account is not only that it ignores the desperate social situation pushing young people towards violent outbursts but, perhaps more important, that it ignores the way these outbursts echo the hidden premises of conservative ideology itself. When, in the 1990s, the Conservatives launched their ‘back to basics’ campaign, its obscene complement was revealed by Norman Tebbitt: ‘Man is not just a social but also a territorial animal; it must be part of our agenda to satisfy those basic instincts of tribalism and territoriality.’ This is what ‘back to basics’ was really about: the unleashing of the barbarian who lurked beneath our apparently civilised, bourgeois society, through the satisfying of the barbarian’s ‘basic instincts’. In the 1960s, Herbert Marcuse introduced the concept of ‘repressive desublimation’ to explain the ‘sexual revolution’: human drives could be desublimated, allowed free rein, and still be subject to capitalist control – viz, the porn industry. On British streets during the unrest, what we saw was not men reduced to ‘beasts’, but the stripped-down form of the ‘beast’ produced by capitalist ideology.

Meanwhile leftist liberals, no less predictably, stuck to their mantra about social programmes and integration initiatives, the neglect of which has deprived second and third-generation immigrants of their economic and social prospects: violent outbursts are the only means they have to articulate their dissatisfaction. Instead of indulging ourselves in revenge fantasies, we should make the effort to understand the deeper causes of the outbursts. Can we even imagine what it means to be a young man in a poor, racially mixed area, a priori suspected and harassed by the police, not only unemployed but often unemployable, with no hope of a future? The implication is that the conditions these people find themselves in make it inevitable that they will take to the streets. The problem with this account, though, is that it lists only the objective conditions for the riots. To riot is to make a subjective statement, implicitly to declare how one relates to one’s objective conditions.

We live in cynical times, and it’s easy to imagine a protester who, caught looting and burning a store and pressed for his reasons, would answer in the language used by social workers and sociologists, citing diminished social mobility, rising insecurity, the disintegration of paternal authority, the lack of maternal love in his early childhood. He knows what he is doing, then, but is doing it nonetheless.

It is meaningless to ponder which of these two reactions, conservative or liberal, is the worse: as Stalin would have put it, they are both worse, and that includes the warning given by both sides that the real danger of these outbursts resides in the predictable racist reaction of the ‘silent majority’. One of the forms this reaction took was the ‘tribal’ activity of the local (Turkish, Caribbean, Sikh) communities which quickly organised their own vigilante units to protect their property. Are the shopkeepers a small bourgeoisie defending their property against a genuine, if violent, protest against the system; or are they representatives of the working class, fighting the forces of social disintegration? Here too one should reject the demand to take sides. The truth is that the conflict was between two poles of the underprivileged: those who have succeeded in functioning within the system versus those who are too frustrated to go on trying. The rioters’ violence was almost exclusively directed against their own. The cars burned and the shops looted were not in rich neighbourhoods, but in the rioters’ own. The conflict is not between different parts of society; it is, at its most radical, the conflict between society and society, between those with everything, and those with nothing, to lose; between those with no stake in their community and those whose stakes are the highest….Read More 

via London Review of Books

Reading The UK Riots: Slavoj Zizek and Living in the End Times (via Reading The Riots)

Let us assume that most of the rioters are indeed stupid and mindless and all that, still these riots do have a political significance. These youths are symptoms of capitalism; they are an inevitable consequence of the internal dynamics of capitalism itself. The riots show us that things cannot go on the way they are. As Marx once put it, capitalism reproduces itself in such as way as to create the conditions of possibility for its own destruction. That most of the rioters are “mindless thugs” doesn’t of course mean that the corporations are not so as well.

Zizek was and remains right after all; the capitalist multicultural society is totally bankrupt. The guy has been telling you that communism is the only solution and you have been mocking him; now get your “Big Society” up in your arses and go to hell with your hypocritical nimbysims my dear neo-liberals. It’s not even interesting to see those who supported the Arab revolutions condemn the riots in London. If this is not hypocritical nimbyism, then what is?

The communism Zizek talks about does not yet exist, has never existed; the communisms in Soviet Russia or China were versions of military state capitalism rather than being pure communism as I understand it. Of course no one wants to return to the Stalin era; but something has to be done and the only viable solution seems to me to be an updated communism based on absolute equality and driven by infinite justice. Rather than being a form of military state capitalism, this communism is an economico-political representation of a philosophy of nature which is not only in touch with that which is non-human, but also in touch with that which is truly human. It doesn’t restrict reality to the one imposed upon humanity and the world by capitalism.

Of course not all the rioters are “mobs” or “mindless thugs” although there are many among them who are. Mindless thugs are those who are incapable of making a distinction between the right targets and the wrong. The right targets are the big corporations and government buildings and the capitalist state institutions. The bad targets are the houses and little shops of innocent people. To understand why there is no difference between these mindless thugs and some members of the British army one only needs to remember the inordinate measure of recent burning and looting in Afghanistan and Iraq carried out by the UK and US, as well as the British Army’s bomber pilots who carried out a raid on the 8th of August in 2011, which slaughtered 33 Libyan children, along with 32 women and 20 men in Zlitan, a village near Tripoli. I don’t know if it is worth  mentioning the 18 people killed in Cyprus during the demonstrations in 1950’s, and the gold and other natural resources stolen from the African countries throughout centuries. If Britain has ever been Great that’s only because it filled itself with the blood of slaves from all around the world. But you already know these dear reader, I’m just writing them for those who still live in narcissistic illusions of British greatness, civility and splendour even. If you look at the big picture in this context, it becomes clear why there is no difference in nature between those rioters whom we have chosen to situate within the category of “mobs and mindless thugs” and some members of the British army. As for the rioters who are not mobs and mindless thugs, their destructive behaviour is more than welcome and greatly appreciated. I will leave the upper class British bankers who looted billions from the public purse and the 29 thousand children who died of starvation in 90 days in Africa to another article. Let it suffice for the time being to say that the British left is as much bankrupt as the British middle and the British right. The Great Britain is doomed indeed…

Cengiz Erdem

Slavoj ZizekLiving In The End Times (Verso, 2010)

The idea of an imminent apocalypse or reckoning is as old as civilisation itself, yet our constant unease at the state of the world and the economy implies that the End Times are no longer an abstract event on the horizon, but something that is already upon us which we have chosen to ignore.

This remarkable and very important book identifies the four horsemen of our apocalypse. The four things that will be our undoing due to their fundamental incompatibility with our societal and political ideology are The Environment, Economic (and Social) Division, Bio-genetics and Intellectual Property. It was the second of these which rode into town this week. What these four have in common is that they will affect everyone indiscriminately, regardless of wealth or position. They can only be addressed by the global collaboration of citizens and governments. The existing dominant system of Western Capitalism is not only completely unable to deal with these threats, but it denies their existence while encouraging and accelerating their effects. All the big headlines and news stories of the future will be based around these four single issues. Unequipped and unwilling as we are to tackle them, they will bring about our destruction.

The West cannot even countenance the mention of these four issues, having spent 30 years crushing and discrediting anything that hints at Communism. Yet the only way through is by collective collaboration. Capitalism won in 1989, with Fukayama’s End Of History. Now there are no alternatives to Capitalism, everyone is in it. However, China is just putting the finishing touches to a superior and more efficient version, Capitalism 2.0:  Capitalism with no human rights. Their dynamic use of slavery and violent oppression, as we recall from the Greeks and the Romans, will create a highly streamlined system, which will soon surpass Europe and the US. Looking at the recent downgrade of the US, it already has.

Zizek makes our predicament and ill-preparedness abundantly clear. Young people are more aware and ready to address world problems which the older generation are happy to ignore. With retirement in sight, the policy makers don’t care. What message does it give out when global corporations are devastating the world in front of our eyes, taking money and wrecking lives with no-one to stop them? The parallel to the riots is obvious. If the young people on the streets are “mindless thugs” then what are the corporations?… Read More

via Reading The Riots