December 15, 2011

"All we say now can be taken from us – everything except our silence. This silence, this rejection of dialogue, of all forms of clinching, is our 'terror', ominous and threatening as it should be" [Zizek]

Slavoj Zizek at St. Mark's Bookshop - 26.10.
[Pitkä lisäys sitaattiin sekä joitain korjauksia osassa II,1 - klo: 16.25]

Occupy first. Demands come later
[, The Guardian,
Critics say the Occupy cause is nebulous. Protesters will need to address what comes next – but beware a debate on enemy turf.

What to do after the occupations of Wall Street and beyond – the protests that started far away, reached the centre and are now, reinforced, rolling back around the world? One of the great dangers the protesters face is that they will fall in love with themselves. In a San Francisco echo of the Wall Street occupation this week, a man addressed the crowd with an invitation to participate as if it was a happening in the hippy style of the 60s: "They are asking us what is our programme. We have no programme. We are here to have a good time."

Carnivals come cheap – the true test of their worth is what remains the day after, how our normal daily life will be changed. The protesters should fall in love with hard and patient work – they are the beginning, not the end. Their basic message is: the taboo is broken; we do not live in the best possible world; we are allowed, obliged even, to think about alternatives.

In a kind of Hegelian triad, the western left has come full circle: after abandoning the so-called "class struggle essentialism" for the plurality of anti-racist, feminist, and other struggles, capitalism is now clearly re-emerging as the name of the problem. So the first lesson to be taken is: do not blame people and their attitudes. The problem is not corruption or greed, the problem is the system that pushes you to be corrupt. The solution is not "Main Street, not Wall Street", but to change the system where Main Street cannot function without Wall Street.

There is a long road ahead, and soon we will have to address the truly difficult questions – not questions of what we do not want, but about what we do want. What social organisation can replace the existing capitalism? What type of new leaders do we need? What organs, including those of control and repression? The 20th-century alternatives obviously did not work.

While it is thrilling to enjoy the pleasures of the "horizontal organisation" of protesting crowds with egalitarian solidarity and open-ended free debates, we should also bear in mind what GK Chesterton wrote: "Merely having an open mind is nothing; the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid." This holds also for politics in times of uncertainty: the open-ended debates will have to coalesce not only in some new master-signifiers, but also in concrete answers to the old Leninist question, "What is to be done?"

The direct conservative attacks are easy to answer. Are the protests un-American? When conservative fundamentalists claim that America is a Christian nation, one should remember what Christianity is: the Holy Spirit, the free egalitarian community of believers united by love. It is the protesters who are the Holy Spirit, while on Wall Street pagans worship false idols.

Are the protesters violent? True, their very language may appear violent (occupation, and so on), but they are violent only in the sense in which Mahatma Gandhi was violent. They are violent because they want to put a stop to the way things are – but what is this violence compared with the violence needed to sustain the smooth functioning of the global capitalist system?

They are called losers – but are the true losers not there on Wall Street, who received massive bailouts? They are called socialists – but in the US, there already is socialism for the rich. They are accused of not respecting private property – but the Wall Street speculations that led to the crash of 2008 erased more hard-earned private property than if the protesters were to be destroying it night and day – just think of thousands of homes repossessed.

They are not communists, if communism means the system that deservedly collapsed in 1990 – and remember that communists who are still in power run today the most ruthless capitalism. The success of Chinese communist-run capitalism is an ominous sign that the marriage between capitalism and democracy is approaching a divorce. The only sense in which the protesters are communists is that they care for the commons – the commons of nature, of knowledge – which are threatened by the system.

They are dismissed as dreamers, but the true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are, just with some cosmetic changes. They are not dreamers; they are the awakening from a dream that is turning into a nightmare. They are not destroying anything, but reacting to how the system is gradually destroying itself. We all know the classic scene from cartoons: the cat reaches a precipice but goes on walking; it starts to fall only when it looks down and notices the abyss. The protesters are just reminding those in power to look down.

This is the easy part. The protesters should beware not only of enemies, but also of false friends who pretend to support them but are already working hard to dilute the protest. In the same way we get coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, ice-cream without fat, those in power will try to make the protests into a harmless moralistic gesture.

In boxing, to clinch means to hold the opponent's body with one or both arms in order to prevent or hinder punches. Bill Clinton's reaction to the Wall Street protests is a perfect case of political clinching. Clinton thinks that the protests are "on balance … a positive thing", but he is worried about the nebulousness of the cause: "They need to be for something specific, and not just against something because if you're just against something, someone else will fill the vacuum you create," he said. Clinton suggested the protesters get behind President Obama's jobs plan, which he claimed would create "a couple million jobs in the next year and a half".

What one should resist at this stage is precisely such a quick translation of the energy of the protest into a set of concrete pragmatic demands. Yes, the protests did create a vacuum – a vacuum in the field of hegemonic ideology, and time is needed to fill this vacuum in a proper way, as it is a pregnant vacuum, an opening for the truly new.

The reason protesters went out is that they had enough of the world where recycling your Coke cans, giving a couple of dollars to charity, or buying a cappuccino where 1% goes towards developing world troubles, is enough to make them feel good. After outsourcing work and torture, after the marriage agencies started to outsource even our dating, they saw that for a long time they were also allowing their political engagements to be outsourced – and they want them back.

The art of politics is also to insist on a particular demand that, while thoroughly "realist", disturbs the very core of the hegemonic ideology: ie one that, while definitely feasible and legitimate, is de facto impossible (universal healthcare in the US was such a case). In the aftermath of the Wall Street protests, we should definitely mobilise people to make such demands – however, it is no less important to simultaneously remain subtracted from the pragmatic field of negotiations and "realist" proposals.

What one should always bear in mind is that any debate here and now necessarily remains a debate on enemy's turf; time is needed to deploy the new content. All we say now can be taken from us – everything except our silence. This silence, this rejection of dialogue, of all forms of clinching, is our "terror", ominous and threatening as it should be.

Slavoj Žižek thoughts on Occupy Wall St at St. Mark's Bookshop Oct 26 2011
Parasta poliittis-journalistista Zizekiä! Kyseessä on samana päivänä The Guardian'issa ilmestyneen kolumnin laajempi, monipuolisempi ja syvempi versio [ks. transkriptio, luku 3]. Alun Judith Butleriin liittyvä gender-melancholy-mourning-prohibition-modernity-pohdinta on hiukan teoreettisempaa laatua, mutta sillä on tietty kytkentänsä tekstin perustematiikkaan.

Kyseessä on epäily Occupy-líikkeessä vallitsevasta liberaalin vasemmiston nostalgisesta melankoliasta vailla selkeää poliittista tavoitetta ja perusteluja [jotkut pitävät Occupy'a samanlaisena huuhaana kuin hippiliikettä].

Tämän syytöksen Zizek haluaa kuitenkin osoittaa liikkeen skeptikoiden sekä oikeisto-kriitikoiden harhaksi ja väärennökseksi, koska [pessimismistään huolimatta] Zizekille Occupy ilmentää uutta poliittista lähtökohtaa, jota ilmaisemaan ei vielä ole löydetty selkeitä sanoja tai ohjelmaa.

Tämänkään vuoksi ei pidä suostua pakko-keskusteluun vastustajan kanssa poliittis-demokraattisen proseduurin ehdoilla eli vastustajan omien juristien maaperällä.

On ajateltava tilanne uusiksi ja opittava kysymään oikeita kysymyksiä - on oltava kärsivällinen - jopa vaiettava, kunnes tilanteen luonne on riittävästi hahmottunut ja selkiytynyt, mutta pidettävä samalla mielessä, että liikkeen synnyttämä poliittinen tyhjiö on myös konservatiivisen oikeiston intresseissä, jotka muistuttavat jossain määrin Occupy'n ideaa.

Zizek ei todellakaan haikaile vanhan kommunismin perään - päinvastoin, mutta vasemmistolaisesta globaalin [muunlaista ei nykymaailmassa voisi ollakaan] oikeudenmukaisuuden tavoitteesta hän ei tingi tuumaakaan.

Hätkähdyttävä, joskaan ei minulle uusi, on kuitenkin se äärimmäinen arvio, jonka Zizek Alain Badiouta siteeraten esittää koskien parlamentaarisen demokratian kykyä ja mahdollisuuksia puuttua kapitalismin todellisiin ongelmiin:

The key to actual freedom rather resides in the apolitical, what appears to be apolitical. Network of social relations. From the market to the family where the change needed if we want an actual improvement is not political reform but a change in apolitical social relations of production.

So Anne Applebaum is right. We do not vote about who owns what, about relations in a factory and so on. All this is left to process outside the political sphere proper. And it is illusory to expect that one can effectively change things by simply extending our parliamentary democracy into this sphere, for example by organizing democratic banks under people’s control. Radical changes in this domain should be made outside the sphere of legal rights. Such democratic procedures, of course, can play a very positive role. No matter how radical their anti-capitalism is, the solution they seek resides in applying representative democratic mechanisms but again, and Applebaum is right, they live out of control, the economic sphere proper and so on.

In this sense only, don’t misunderstand here, I think that Alain Badiou was right in his claim that today, it sounds terrible, the name of the enemy, he wrote once, is not capitalism, empire, exploitation or anything similar, the name of the enemy today is democracy. Now you will say, “ha ha, now we got you, totalitarian!” or whatever. No no no, I claim, what he only wanted to say is that our too blind attachment to formal democratic party state mechanism prevents our approaching a true problem.

So again, I think what Applebaum accepts as the fact, “We can’t do anything, that’s it”. This precisely I claim is the starting point of the deep dissatisfaction which exploded in all anti-Wall Street protests. This precisely they feel that we have certain political multi-party system, obviously we are witnessing dangerous, even catastrophic phenomena in economy, and it’s obviously that this type of democratic system, the way it is now, cannot do the work; because it implies precisely this duality which is very nicely emphasized in Applebaum, between political sphere where we are all free but we have to follow the procedures, proper democratic procedures and so on, and economics sphere [?] of private relations, whatever, which is left out. It is obvious that the urgent task today is precisely to find a way to control or to regulate — I don’t like the word control here — precisely that sphere without of course returning to old 20th century totalitarian notions and practices.

Tässä kohdassa olemme päätyneet yhteiskuntapoliittiseen rajamaastoon, jota ei enää noin vain ylitetä tai jätetä, mutta jota ei toisaalta voi lopullisesti ja täydellisesti hyväksyä tai kunnioittaakaan, koska juuri se - mahdollistaessaan mm. sananvapauden samalla kuitenkin estää globaalin rakenteellisen oikeudenmukaisuuden toteuttamisyritykset.

Onko siis niin, että kapitalismi on kuin 'väärä' teoria, joka kuitenkin toimii siedettävän [?] joustavasti käytännössä, kun taas sosialismi/kommunismi on 'oikea' teoria, joka puolestaan toimii käytännössä niin jäykästi, että se lopulta romahtaa sekä siinä elävien kansalaisten kritiikkiin että taloudellisesti?

Mutta eikö ole lähes sietämätöntä hyväksyä tällainen poliittisen teorian umpikuja tai pattitilanne, josta ei näytä olevan mitään ulospääsyä? - - Silti ei pitäisi antaa periksi vajoamalla nostalgis-vasemmistolaiseen melankoliaan siitä tyydytystä hakien/saaden [ja järjestelmään samalla alistuen].

Zizekillä ei tietenkään ole antaa suoria ratkaisuja, mutta on jotain [nimitän sitä 'raskaaksi' toivoksi], josta hän ei halua luopua, kuulostipa se sitten joidenkin korvaan [kuten Zizek itse arvelee] miten säädyttömältä tahansa:

'what in Christianity they call the work of love, which is slow, patient, hard work.'

And again, the crucial thing is to avoid this duality of either “oh we just have a good time, forget consequences” or this call for cheap pragmatism. What is important is that that taboo is broken. We know the system is potentially in a serious crisis. At the same time we know that the 20th century is over not only in the mechanic calendar sense. Which is to say that the 20th century solution — Stalinist communism, the traditional democracy and so on — don’t work. There is work to be done and I think only this refined interaction between educated intellectuals and so called ordinary people, where again we should not, absolutely not act as the ones — as we say in Lacanian theory — subjects supposed to know. All we can do is provide the tools to formulate the right questions. And with this interaction with those apparently formless demands from the people, maybe there is a hope that something new will emerge. Because, you know, what always — I repeat this always, I’m sorry, some of you already know these phrases; what terrifies me is this idea of “oh now we have a wonderful carnival.” Yeah but screw it, what interests me is the day after. My primordial fear is that the movement will slowly disperse and then what? Ten years after you will meet with your friends, drink bear, and “oh my God, what a wonderful time did we have there but now I have to go back to my banking job now.” Someone has to imagine. The process of thinking has to begin. So again, it’s patience. It’s precisely — sorry, for some of you it may be obscene — what in Christianity they call the work of love, which is slow, patient, hard work.

First part of the talk is a theoritical discussion on melancholy, mourning and prohibition, addressing Judith Butler and Freud. It's followed by a discussion on Wall Streets protests, including (1) a dissection of Anne Applebaum's recent column in the Washington Post that claims democracy is incompatible with globalization, but also that the Occupy protests (which react to the consequences of globalized economy) are incompatible with democracy (2) the idea of a fake leftist melancholia as it applies to these protests (3) the need to preserve the vacuum the protests create, by refusing to engage in a dialogue with those in power, just yet. Later parts of the unscripted talk discuss the obscene pact of Zionism that allows pro-Zionism and anti-Semitism to co-exist in the same group (like American Christian fundamentalists). Towards the very end, there's a brief mention of the anticipated pact between the Egyptian army and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Tästä linkistä löytyy sekä video Zizekin puheesta että sen transkriptio, joten puheen kuunteleminen seuraamalla sitä samanaikaisesti tekstistä on mahdollista: - [parasta Zizekiä!]

At the end of the talk he inquires into the status of st marks bookshop, in danger of closing due to high rent -


Sammalkieli said...

Tämänkään vuoksi ei pidä suostua pakko-keskusteluun vastustajan kanssa poliittis-demokraattisen proseduurin ehdoilla eli vastustajan omien juristien maaperällä.

Onko tämä nyt se lupaamasi "vastaus" vai pelkkä "ruukinmatruunalainen" takinkääntö [tai oikeammin pahinta mahdollista populismia edustava ruukinmatruunalainen ristiinargumentointi].

Rauno Rasanen said...

Ei ole. Se on Zizekiä. Lue ensin nuo jutut ja mieti sitten, mitä niissä sanotaan.

Ironmistress said...

Ei ole olemassa "ruukinmatruunalaista takinkääntöä" tai "ruukinmatruunalaista ristiinargumentointia".

Sensijaan on olemassa tolkullisuus ja sen ymmärtäminen, että jos vähän on hyvä, niin paljon ei ole erinomainen.

Anonymous said...

Valaistuneeksi jokiastuja-wannabe-arhatiksi Ruukinmatruuna on harvinaisen riidanhaluinen

(ei ehkä tässä, mutta noin yleensä).

Raunolta hyvää Zizekkiä taas, keep it coming.