Sunday, August 28, 2016

News for Individuals Performing for the Big Other...

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Shakespeare, "As You Like It" (Act II Sc VII)
Hello Dolly!

... and now, a word from our sponsors...

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ideological Neverlands

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
― J.M. Barrie, "Peter Pan"

Monday, August 22, 2016

Abandoning the Ideologically Induced Anamorphic Dream....


...or why the Sixties hippy ideology was doomed from the start to fail. The injunction from the underlying consumerist "dream" never changed.

"You Must Enjoy!"

Giving birth "culturally" to the Post-Modern Era in Capitalism's assimilation and transformation of its' dissent into new consumer products culturally laden with its' interpassive expression.

Dionysiacs

Forever Sustaining the Liberal Ideology

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Feeling Hyper?

I resemble everyone
but myself, and sometimes see
in shop-windows
despite the well-known laws
of optics,
the portrait of a stranger,
date unknown,
often signed in a corner
by my father.
- A. K. Ramanujan, "Self Portrait"

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Secular Church of Politics

from Patheos
I write about politics again not because I have any hopes (nor fears) about what the results of the 2016 election will bring; I write only because the language the Clinton Consensus is using has theological significance.

The hell-language of the consensus tells an important story of changes in modernity that every believer should understand. They also conceal some very interesting things about the same.

Followers of Clinton are using scare tactics (finger on nuke button, negotiating with Iran, foreign policy disaster–whole world going to hell scenarios) that would’ve made Father Arnal from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, who said the following, jealous:
The horror of this strait and dark prison is increased by its awful stench. All the filth of the world, all the offal and scum of the world, we are told, shall run there as to a vast reeking sewer when the terrible conflagration of the last day has purged the world. The brimstone, too, which burns there in such prodigious quantity fills all hell with its intolerable stench; and the bodies of the damned themselves exhale such a pestilential odour that, as saint Bonaventure says, one of them alone would suffice to infect the whole world. The very air of this world, that pure element, becomes foul and unbreathable when it has been long enclosed. Consider then what must be the foulness of the air of hell. Imagine some foul and putrid corpse that has lain rotting and decomposing in the grave, a jelly-like mass of liquid corruption. Imagine such a corpse a prey to flames, devoured by the fire of burning brimstone and giving off dense choking fumes of nauseous loathsome decomposition. And then imagine this sickening stench, multiplied a millionfold and a millionfold again from the millions upon millions of fetid carcasses massed together in the reeking darkness, a huge and rotting human fungus. Imagine all this, and you will have some idea of the horror of the stench of hell.
The imagery is shocking, yet it should be recognizable to those who’ve been exposed to the demonic-Trump-trope used by Hillary and her followers. You might not have noticed it because you here such scare tactics in politics all the time, especially among supposedly secular Democrats–some of whom have admitted to helping create the Trump-monster by consistently vilifying moderate Republicans over the years. these sorts of use of it is all the more shocking because, in a typically Irish Jansenist way (cry not for the collapse of the Irish church!), it goes against the Church’s tacit agreement with the modern world. The agreement goes something like this…

The Church overused hellfire language during the medieval period. Delumeau’s Sin and Fear: The Emergence of the Western Guilt Culture 13th to 18th Century documents this overuse in its full gory. In our late modern period the pendulum has swung the other way. In many ways, this is a necessary corrective. You’d be hard-pressed to hear a hellfire sermon in a Catholic church on any given Sunday. Hell has gone into remission for theology.

However, as William T. Cavanaugh argues persuasively in his Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church, this does not mean that hellfire has disappeared from the face of the earth. It has migrated to another sphere: secular politics. Mark Lilla’s The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West, a recent bestseller, is an important account of how the threat of “religious violence” has been used by the modern nation-state in order to scare its citizens to accept the nation-state’s monopoly on violence. Lilla, as a secular intellectual with an interest in politics, actually believes in the story that there is no salvation outside the state. As you can see, hellfire hasn’t disappeared, instead the threat of hellfire is reserved only for the state, which is capable of real salvation (from the Original Sin of religious violence). This tactic of harnessing only the negativity of the doctrine of Original Sin shall fail as it did for the Church. It’s only a matter of time….

For example, the dissatisfaction around the American elections, the EU democracy deficit, and protests following the 2008 crash bailouts are but a few of the many signs of the Western nation-state leaking legitimacy. The sea of faith in the state is receding.

Slavoj Žižek, author of The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christ has taken a deep dive into the hellish scenarios presented by the Clinton Consensus with an article entitled “The Hillary Clinton Consensus is Hurting Democracy” in Newsweek of all places. He recognizes how much Trump has been painted as a demonic villain by the coalition of Clinton supporters who have very little in common with each other, have no constructive program, other than the consuming desire to scapegoat Trump:
Alfred Hitchcock [a Roman Catholic, by the way] once said that a film is as good as its villain—does this mean that the forthcoming U.S. elections will be good since the “bad guy” (Donald Trump) is an almost ideal villain? Yes, but in a very problematic sense. For the liberal majority, the 2016 elections represent a clear-cut choice: the figure of Trump is a ridiculous excess, vulgar and exploiting our worst racist and sexist prejudices, a male chauvinist so lacking in decency so that even Republican big names are abandoning him in droves. If Trump remains the Republican candidate, we will get a true “feelgood election”—in spite of all our problems and petty squabbles, when there is a real threat we can all come together in defence of our basic democratic values, like France did after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015.
But then he sneakily deflects the infernal language back at the Clintonites:
This same stance was brought to the extreme with the U.S.’s first female secretary of state Madeleine Albright, a big Clinton supporter who served in her husband’s administration from 1997 to 2001. On CBS’s 60 Minutes (May 12, 1996), Albright was asked about that year’s cruise missile strikes on Iraq known as Operation Desert Strike: “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright calmly replied: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price—we think the price is worth it.” Let’s ignore all the questions that this reply raises and focus on one aspect: can we imagine all the hell that would break out if the same answer would be given by somebody like Putin or the Chinese President Xi? Would they not be immediately denounced in western newspapers as cold and ruthless barbarians? Campaigning for Hillary, Albright said: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” (Meaning: who will vote for Sanders instead of Clinton.) Maybe we should amend this statement: there is a special place in hell for women (and men) who think half a million dead children is an affordable price for a military intervention that ruins a country, while wholeheartedly supporting women’s and gay rights at home.
Then he finally goes into what’s really being protected by these distractions:
Trump is not the dirty water that should be thrown out to keep safe the healthy baby of U.S. democracy, he is himself the dirty baby who should be thrown out in order to shine a light on the uneasy nature of the Hillary consensus. The message of this consensus to the Leftists is: you can get everything, we just want to keep the essentials, the unencumbered functioning of the global capital. President Obama’s “Yes, we can!” acquires now a new meaning: yes, we can concede to all your cultural demands without endangering the global market economy—so there is no need for radical economic measures. Or, as Todd McGowan, professor of film theory and history at the University of Vermont, put it (in a private communication): “The consensus of ‘right-thinking people’ opposed to Trump is frightening. It is as if his excess licenses the real global capitalist consensus to emerge and to congratulate themselves on their openness.”
This is the real hell hiding behind it all. It is a hell produced by those who take huge solace in thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders we are not going to be judged. Unwittingly, their actions give the Church back a field for employing hell-language legitimately in a late modern context.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Preemptive Arguments... ;)

The New World Order...

Progressive liberalism = Sacred :: Classical liberalism = Profane

NBPP and BLM activists, get ON with it. Let the Divine Violence BEGIN so that we can all live in the subsequent peace under our OWN laws!

"But there do exist, I can assure you, souls that are feeling and pure; it exists, that tender, imperious and irresistible passion, the torment and delight of magnanimous hearts; that deep horror of tyranny, that compassionate zeal for the oppressed, that sacred love for the homeland, that even more sublime and holy love for humanity, without which a great revolution is just a noisy crime that destroys another crime; it does exist, that generous ambition to establish here on earth the world's first Republic."
- Robspierre on the Eight Thermidor 1994, the day before his execution

In summary.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Is Life Spiraling Out of Control?

:P

I'm a mess
Even at my best
I'm dismantling my chances
Even as I win
A bunch
I got tripwires to finesse
I'm a mess

Now I ain't right
If there's a test tonight
I will ask for an extension
As I slide my desk
A bit
Toward the conman dressed in white
I ain't right

In fact it's messier still
That mess is a hook that drags me along
And now that mess has an entourage
All dressed in dungarees
What went wrong?

I confess
And like a chess piece, yes
I have rolled under your piano
That you don't play
A lot
But I'm sorry,
I digress
I'm a mess

So let me out
Don't want to be your mouse
I want to find a softer spot
For my crash landing
Not much to talk about
Let me out

In fact it's messier still
That mess on the loose and leading the mob
They march with pitchforks and torches now
They have your old ID disavow

Friday, August 12, 2016

Tu No Parla Americano!

from Newsweek
Alfred Hitchcock once said that a film is as good as its villain—does this mean that the forthcoming U.S. elections will be good since the “bad guy” (Donald Trump) is an almost ideal villain? Yes, but in a very problematic sense. For the liberal majority, the 2016 elections represent a clear-cut choice: the figure of Trump is a ridiculous excess, vulgar and exploiting our worst racist and sexist prejudices, a male chauvinist so lacking in decency so that even Republican big names are abandoning him in droves. If Trump remains the Republican candidate, we will get a true “feelgood election”—in spite of all our problems and petty squabbles, when there is a real threat we can all come together in defence of our basic democratic values, like France did after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015.

But this cosy democratic consensus is not healthy for politics and the Left. We need to take a step back and turn the gaze on ourselves: what is the exact nature of this all-embracing democratic unity? Everybody is in there, from Wall Street to Bernie Sanders supporters to what remains of the Occupy movement, from big business to trade unions, from army veterans to LGBT+, from ecologists horrified by Trump’s denial of global warming and feminists delighted by the prospect of the first woman-president, to the “decent” Republican establishment figures terrified by Trump’s inconsistencies and irresponsible “demagogic” proposals.

But what disappears in this apparently all-embracing conglomerate? The popular rage which gave birth to Trump also gave birth to Sanders, and while they both express widespread social and political discontent, they do it in the opposite sense, the one engaging in Rightist populism and the other opting for the Leftist call for justice. And here comes the trick: the Leftist call for justice tends to be combined with struggles for women’s and gay rights, for multiculturalism and against discrimination including racism. The strategic aim of the Clinton consensus is to dissociate all these struggles from the Leftist call for justice, which is why the living symbol of this consensus is Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple who proudly signed the pro-LGBT letter and who can now easily forget about hundreds of thousands of Foxconn workers in China assembling Apple products in slave conditions—he made his big gesture of solidarity with the underprivileged, demanding the abolition of gender segregation.

This same stance was brought to the extreme with the U.S.’s first female secretary of state Madeleine Albright, a big Clinton supporter who served in her husband’s administration from 1997 to 2001. On CBS's 60 Minutes (May 12, 1996), Albright was asked about that year’s cruise missile strikes on Iraq known as Operation Desert Strike: “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" Albright calmly replied: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price—we think the price is worth it.” Let’s ignore all the questions that this reply raises and focus on one aspect: can we imagine all the hell that would break out if the same answer would be given by somebody like Putin or the Chinese President Xi? Would they not be immediately denounced in western newspapers as cold and ruthless barbarians? Campaigning for Hillary, Albright said: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” (Meaning: who will vote for Sanders instead of Clinton.) Maybe we should amend this statement: there is a special place in hell for women (and men) who think half a million dead children is an affordable price for a military intervention that ruins a country, while wholeheartedly supporting women’s and gay rights at home.

Trump is not the dirty water that should be thrown out to keep safe the healthy baby of U.S. democracy, he is himself the dirty baby who should be thrown out in order to shine a light on the uneasy nature of the Hillary consensus. The message of this consensus to the Leftists is: you can get everything, we just want to keep the essentials, the unencumbered functioning of the global capital. President Obama’s “Yes, we can!” acquires now a new meaning: yes, we can concede to all your cultural demands without endangering the global market economy—so there is no need for radical economic measures. Or, as Todd McGowan, professor of film theory and history at the University of Vermont, put it (in a private communication): “The consensus of ‘right-thinking people’ opposed to Trump is frightening. It is as if his excess licenses the real global capitalist consensus to emerge and to congratulate themselves on their openness.”

And what about poor Bernie Sanders? Unfortunately, Trump hit the mark when he compared his endorsement of Hillary to an Occupy partisan endorsing Lehman Brothers. Sanders should just withdraw and retain a dignified silence so that his absence would weight heavily over the Hillary celebrations, reminding us what is missing and, in this way, keep the space open for more radical alternatives in future.
-Slavoj Zizek, "The Hillary Clinton Consensus is Damaging Democracy"
A NY Times Reporter's Description of a Republican 'Trump' Fund Raiser

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Get Together

...if you dare.

I JUST WANT to Belong...!

from the Philosophical Salon
Segregated toilet doors are today at the center of a big legal and ideological struggle. On March 29, 2016, a group of 80 predominantly Silicon Valley-based business executives, headlined by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Apple CEO Tim Cook, signed a letter to North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory denouncing a law that prohibits transgender people from using public facilities intended for the opposite sex. “We are disappointed in your decision to sign this discriminatory legislation into law,” the letter says. “The business community, by and large, has consistently communicated to lawmakers at every level that such laws are bad for our employees and bad for business.” So it is clear where big capital stands. Tim Cook can easily forget about hundreds of thousands of Foxconn workers in China assembling Apple products in slave conditions; he made his big gesture of solidarity with the underprivileged, demanding the abolition of gender segregation… As is often the case, big business stands proudly united with politically correct theory.

So what is “transgenderism”? It occurs when an individual experiences discord between his/her biological sex (and the corresponding gender, male or female, assigned to him/her by society at birth) and his/her subjective identity. As such, it does not concern only “men who feel and act like women” and vice versa but a complex structure of additional “genderqueer” positions which are outside the very binary opposition of masculine and feminine: bigender, trigender, pangender, genderfluid, up to agender. The vision of social relations that sustains transgenderism is the so-called postgenderism: a social, political and cultural movement whose adherents advocate a voluntary abolition of gender, rendered possible by recent scientific progress in biotechnology and reproductive technologies. Their proposal not only concerns scientific possibility, but is also ethically grounded. The premise of postgenderism is that the social, emotional and cognitive consequences of fixed gender roles are an obstacle to full human emancipation. A society in which reproduction through sex is eliminated (or in which other versions will be possible: a woman can also “father” her child, etc.) will open unheard-of new possibilities of freedom, social and emotional experimenting. It will eliminate the crucial distinction that sustains all subsequent social hierarchies and exploitations.

One can argue that postgenderism is the truth of transgenderism. The universal fluidification of sexual identities unavoidably reaches its apogee in the cancellation of sex as such. Recall Marx’s brilliant analysis of how, in the French revolution of 1848, the conservative-republican Party of Order functioned as the coalition of the two branches of royalism (orleanists and legitimists) in the “anonymous kingdom of the Republic.” The only way to be a royalist in general was to be a republican, and, in the same sense, the only way to be sexualized in general is to be asexual.

The first thing to note here is that transgenderism goes together with the general tendency in today’s predominant ideology to reject any particular “belonging” and to celebrate the “fluidification” of all forms of identity. Thinkers like Frederic Lordon have recently demonstrated the inconsistency of “cosmopolitan” anti-nationalist intellectuals who advocate “liberation from a belonging” and in extremis tend to dismiss every search for roots and every attachment to a particular ethnic or cultural identity as an almost proto-Fascist stance. Lordon contrasts this hidden belonging of self-proclaimed rootless universalists with the nightmarish reality of refugees and illegal immigrants who, deprived of basic rights, desperately search for some kind of belonging (like a new citizenship). Lordon is quite right here: it is easy to see how the “cosmopolitan” intellectual elites despising local people who cling to their roots belong to their own quite exclusive circles of rootless elites, how their cosmopolitan rootlessness is the marker of a deep and strong belonging. This is why it is an utter obscenity to put together elite “nomads” flying around the world and refugees desperately searching for a safe place where they would belong–the same obscenity as that of putting together a dieting upper-class Western woman and a starving refugee woman.

Furthermore, we encounter here the old paradox: the more marginal and excluded one is, the more one is allowed to assert one’s ethnic identity and exclusive way of life. This is how the politically correct landscape is structured. People far from the Western world are allowed to fully assert their particular ethnic identity without being proclaimed essentialist racist identitarians (native Americans, blacks…). The closer one gets to the notorious white heterosexual males, the more problematic this assertion is: Asians are still OK; Italians and Irish – maybe; with Germans and Scandinavians it is already problematic… However, such a prohibition on asserting the particular identity of white men (as the model of oppression of others), although it presents itself as the admission of their guilt, nonetheless confers on them a central position. This very prohibition makes them into the universal-neutral medium, the place from which the truth about the others’ oppression is accessible. The imbalance weighs also in the opposite direction: impoverished European countries expect the developed West European ones to bear the full burden of multicultural openness, while they can afford patriotism.

And a similar tension is present in transgenderism. Transgender subjects who appear as transgressive, defying all prohibitions, simultaneously behave in a hyper-sensitive way insofar as they feel oppressed by enforced choice (“Why should I decide if I am man or woman?”) and need a place where they could recognize themselves. If they so proudly insist on their “trans-,” beyond all classification, why do they display such an urgent demand for a proper place? Why, when they find themselves in front of gendered toilets, don’t they act with heroic indifference–“I am transgendered, a bit of this and that, a man dressed as a woman, etc., so I can well choose whatever door I want!”? Furthermore, do “normal” heterosexuals not face a similar problem? Do they also not often find it difficult to recognize themselves in prescribed sexual identities? One could even say that “man” (or “woman”) is not a certain identity but more like a certain mode of avoiding an identity… And we can safely predict that new anti-discriminatory demands will emerge: why not marriages among multiple persons? What justifies the limitation to the binary form of marriage? Why not even a marriage with animals? After all we already know about the finesse of animal emotions. Is to exclude marriage with an animal not a clear case of “speciesism,” an unjust privileging of the human species?

Insofar as the other great antagonism is that of classes, could we not also imagine a homologous critical rejection of the class binary? The “binary” class struggle and exploitation should also be supplemented by a “gay” position (exploitation among members of the ruling class itself, e.g., bankers and lawyers exploiting the “honest” productive capitalists), a “lesbian” position (beggars stealing from honest workers, etc.), a “bisexual” position (as a self-employed worker, I act as both capitalist and worker), an “asexual” one (I remain outside capitalist production), and so forth.

This deadlock of classification is clearly discernible in the need to expand the formula: the basic LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) becomes LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual) or even LGBTQQIAAP (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Allies, Pansexual). To resolve the problem, one often simply adds a + which serves to include all other communities associated with the LGBT community, as in LGBT+. This, however, raises the question: is + just a stand-in for missing positions like “and others,” or can one be directly a +? The properly dialectical answer is “yes,” because in a series there is always one exceptional element which clearly does not belong to it and thereby gives body to +. It can be “allies” (“honest” non-LGBT individuals), “asexuals” (negating the entire field of sexuality) or “questioning” (floating around, unable to adopt a determinate position).

Consequently, there is only one solution to this deadlock, the one we find in another field of disposing waste, that of trash bins. Public trash bins are more and more differentiated today. There are special bins for paper, glass, metal cans, cardboard package, plastic, etc. Here already, things sometimes get complicated. If I have to dispose of a paper bag or a notebook with a tiny plastic band, where does it belong? To paper or to plastic? No wonder that we often get detailed instruction on the bins, right beneath the general designation: PAPER–books, newspapers, etc., but NOT hardcover books or books with plasticized covers, etc. In such cases, proper waste disposal would have taken up to half an hour or more of detailed reading and tough decisions. To make things easier, we then get a supplementary trash bin for GENERAL WASTE where we throw everything that did not meet the specific criteria of other bins, as if, once again, apart from paper trash, plastic trash, and so on, there is trash as such, universal trash.

Should we not do the same with toilets? Since no classification can satisfy all identities, should we not add to the two usual gender slots (MEN, WOMEN) a door for GENERAL GENDER? Is this not the only way to inscribe into an order of symbolic differences its constitutive antagonism? Lacan already pointed out that the “formula” of the sexual relationship as impossible/real is 1+1+a, i.e., the two sexes plus the “bone in the throat” that prevents its translation into a symbolic difference. This third element does not stand for what is excluded from the domain of difference; it stands, instead, for (the real of) difference as such.

The reason for this failure of every classification that tries to be exhaustive is not the empirical wealth of identities that defy classification but, on the contrary, the persistence of sexual difference as real, as “impossible” (defying every categorization) and simultaneously unavoidable. The multiplicity of gender positions (male, female, gay, lesbian, bigender, transgender…) circulates around an antagonism that forever eludes it. Gays are male, lesbians female; transsexuals enforce a passage from one to another; cross-dressing combines the two; bigender floats between the two… Whichever way we turn, the two lurks beneath.

This brings us back to what one could call the primal scene of anxiety that defines transgenderism. I stand in front of standard bi-gender toilets with two doors, LADIES and GENTLEMEN, and I am caught up in anxiety, not recognizing myself in any of the two choices. Again, do “normal” heterosexuals not have a similar problem? Do they also not often find it difficult to recognize themselves in prescribed sexual identities? Which man has not caught himself in momentary doubt: “Do I really have the right to enter GENTLEMEN? Am I really a man?”

We can now see clearly what the anxiety of this confrontation really amounts to. Namely, it is the anxiety of (symbolic) castration. Whatever choice I make, I will lose something, and this something is NOT what the other sex has. Both sexes together do not form a whole since something is irretrievably lost in the very division of sexes. We can even say that, in making the choice, I assume the loss of what the other sex doesn’t have, i.e., I have to renounce the illusion that the Other has that X which would fill in my lack. And one can well guess that transgenderism is ultimately an attempt to avoid (the anxiety of) castration: thanks to it, a flat space is created in which the multiple choices that I can make do not bear the mark of castration. As Alenka Zupančič expressed it in a piece of personal communication: “One is usually timid in asserting the existence of two genders, but when passing to the multitude this timidity disappears, and their existence is firmly asserted. If sexual difference is considered in terms of gender, it is made — at least in principle — compatible with mechanisms of its full ontologization.”

Therein resides the crux of the matter. The LGBT trend is right in “deconstructing” the standard normative sexual opposition, in de-ontologizing it, in recognizing in it a contingent historical construct full of tensions and inconsistencies. However, this trend reduces this tension to the fact that the plurality of sexual positions are forcefully narrowed down to the normative straightjacket of the binary opposition of masculine and feminine, with the idea that, if we get away from this straightjacket, we will get a full blossoming multiplicity of sexual positions (LGBT, etc.), each of them with its complete ontological consistency. It assumes that once we get rid of the binary straightjacket, I can fully recognize myself as gay, bisexual, or whatever. From the Lacanian standpoint, nonetheless, the antagonistic tension is irreducible, as it is constitutive of the sexual as such, and no amount of classificatory diversification and multiplication can save us from it.

The same goes for class antagonism. The division introduced and sustained by the emancipatory (“class”) struggle is not between the two particular classes of the whole, but between the whole-in-its-parts and its remainder which, within the particulars, stands for the universal, for the whole “as such,” opposed to its parts. Or, to put it in yet another way, one should bear in mind here the two aspects of the notion of remnant: the rest as what remains after the subtraction of all particular content (elements, specific parts of the whole), and the rest as the ultimate result of the subdivision of the whole into its parts, when, in the final act of subdivision, we no longer get two particular parts or elements, two somethings, but a something (the rest) and a nothing.

In Lacan’s precise sense of the term, the third element (the Kierkegaardian chimney sweeper) effectively stands for the phallic element. How so? Insofar as it stands for pure difference: the officer, the maid, and the chimney sweeper are the male, the female, plus their difference as such, as a particular contingent object. Again, why? Because not only is difference differential, but, in an antagonistic (non)relationship, it precedes the terms it differentiates. Not only is woman not-man and vice versa, but woman is what prevents man from being fully man and vice versa. It is like the difference between the Left and the Right in the political space: their difference is the difference in the very way difference is perceived. The whole political space appears differently structured if we look at it from the Left or from the Right; there is no third “objective” way (for a Leftist, the political divide cuts across the entire social body, while for a Rightist, society is a hierarchic whole disturbed by marginal intruders).

Difference “in itself” is thus not symbolic-differential, but real-impossible — something that eludes and resists the symbolic grasp. This difference is the universal as such, that is, the universal not as a neutral frame elevated above its two species, but as their constitutive antagonism. And the third element (the chimney sweeper, the Jew, object a) stands for difference as such, for the “pure” difference/antagonism which precedes the differentiated terms. If the division of the social body into two classes were complete, without the excessive element (Jew, rabble…), there would have been no class struggle, just two clearly divided classes. This third element is not the mark of an empirical remainder that escapes class classification (the pure division of society into two classes), but the materialization of their antagonistic difference itself, insofar as this difference precedes the differentiated terms. In the space of anti-Semitism, the “Jew” stands for social antagonism as such: without the Jewish intruder, the two classes would live in harmony… Thus, we can observe how the third intruding element is evental: it is not just another positive entity, but it stands for what is forever unsettling the harmony of the two, opening it up to an incessant process of re-accommodation.

A supreme example of this third element, objet a, which supplements the couple, is provided by a weird incident that occurred in Kemalist Turkey in 1926. Part of the Kemalist modernization was to enforce new “European” models for women, for how they should dress, talk and act, in order to get rid of the oppressive Oriental traditions. As is well known, there indeed was a Hat Law prescribing how men and women, at least in big cities, should cover their heads. Then,

“in Erzurum in 1926 there was a woman among the people who were executed under the pretext of ‘opposing the Hat Law.’ She was a very tall (almost 2 m.) and very masculine-looking woman who peddled shawls for a living (hence her name ‘Şalcı Bacı’ [Shawl Sister]). Reporter Nimet Arzık described her as, ‘two meters tall, with a sooty face and snakelike thin dreadlocks […] and with manlike steps.’ Of course as a woman she was not supposed to wear the fedora, so she could not have been ‘guilty’ of anything, but probably in their haste the gendarmes mistook her for a man and hurried her to the scaffold. Şalcı Bacı was the first woman to be executed by hanging in Turkish history. She was definitely not ‘normal’ since the description by Arzık does not fit in any framework of feminine normalcy at that particular time, and she probably belonged to the old tradition of tolerated and culturally included ‘special people’ with some kind of genetic ‘disorder.’ The coerced and hasty transition to ‘modernity,’ however, did not allow for such an inclusion to exist, and therefore she had to be eliminated, crossed out of the equation. ‘Would a woman wear a hat that she be hanged?’ were the last words she was reported to have muttered on the way to the scaffold. Apart from making no sense at all, these words represented a semantic void and only indicated that this was definitely a scene from the Real, subverting the rules of semiotics: she was first emasculated (in its primary etymological sense of ‘making masculine’), so that she could be ‘emasculated.’”[1]

How are we to interpret this weird and ridiculously excessive act of killing? The obvious reading would have been a Butlerian one: through her provocative trans-sexual appearance and acting, Şalcı Bacı rendered visible the contingent character of sexual difference, of how it is symbolically constructed. In this way, she was a threat to normatively established sexual identities… My reading is slightly (or not so slightly) different. Rather than undermine sexual difference, Şalcı Bacı stood for this difference as such, in all its traumatic Real, irreducible to any clear symbolic opposition. Her disturbing appearance transforms clear symbolic difference into the impossible-Real of antagonism. So, again, in the same way as class struggle is not just “complicated” when other classes that do not enter the clear division of the ruling class and the oppressed class appear (this excess is, on the contrary, the very element which makes class antagonism real and not just a symbolic opposition), the formula of sexual antagonism is not M/F (the clear opposition between male and female) but MF+, where + stands for the excessive element which transforms the symbolic opposition into the Real of antagonism.

This brings us back to our topic, the big opposition that is emerging today between, on the one hand, the violent imposition of a fixed symbolic form of sexual difference as the basic gesture of counteracting social disintegration and, on the other hand, the total transgender “fluidification” of gender, the dispersal of sexual difference into multiple configurations. While in one part of the world, abortion and gay marriages are endorsed as a clear sign of moral progress, in other parts, homophobia and anti-abortion campaigns are exploding. In June 2016, al-Jazeera reported that a 22-year-old Dutch woman complained to the police that she had been raped after being drugged in an upmarket nightclub in Doha. And the result was that she was convicted of having illicit sex by a Qatari court and given a one-year suspended sentence. On the opposite end, what counts as harassment in the PC environs is also getting extended. The following case comes to mind. A woman walked on a street with a bag in her hand, and a black man was walking 15 yards behind her. Becoming aware of it, the woman (unconsciously, automatically?) tightened her grip on the bag, and the black man reported that he experienced the woman’s gesture as a case of racist harassment…

What goes on is also the result of neglecting the class and race dimension by the PC proponents of women’s and gay rights:

“In ‘10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman’ created by a video marketing company in 2014, an actress dressed in jeans, black t-shirt, and tennis shoes walked through various Manhattan neighborhoods, recording the actions and comments of men she encountered with a hidden camera and microphone. Throughout the walk the camera recorded over 100 instances coded as verbal harassment, ranging from friendly greetings to sexualized remarks about her body, including threats of rape. While the video was hailed as a document of street harassment and the fear of violence that are a daily part of women’s lives, it ignored race and class. The largest proportion of the men presented in the video were minorities, and, in a number of instances, the men commenting on the actress were standing against buildings, resting on fire hydrants, or sitting on folding chairs on the sidewalk, postures used to characterize lower class and unemployed men, or, as a reader commented on it: ‘The video was meant to generate outrage… and it used crypto-racism to do it.’”[2]

The great mistake in dealing with this opposition is to search for a proper measure between two extremes. What one should do instead is to bring out what both extremes share: the fantasy of a peaceful world where the agonistic tension of sexual difference disappears, either in a clear and stable hierarchic distinction of sexes or in the happy fluidity of a desexualized universe. And it is not difficult to discern in this fantasy of a peaceful world the fantasy of a society without social antagonisms, in short, without class struggle.
[1] Bulent Somay, »L’Orient n’existe pas,« doctoral thesis defended at Birkbeck College, University of London, on November 29 2013.

[2] See https://thesocietypages.org/sociologylens/2014/11/18/nice-bag-discussing-race-class-and-sexuality-in-examining-street-harassment/.
- Slavoj Zizek, "The Sexual IS Political"

Saturday, August 6, 2016

On Democratic Elections and Other False Choices

Perhaps the key scene of the film (Benigni's "Life Is Beautiful") occurs when the child gets tired of the game which involves so many deprivations of the camp life (lack of food, the necesssity to hide for hours) and announces to the father that he wants to leave for home. Unperturbed, the father agrees, but then, with a feigned indifference, mentions to the son how glad their competitors will be if they leave now, when they are in the lead with so many points over the others... In short, he deftly manipulates the dimension of the other's desire, so that, when, finally, close to the doors, father says to the son "OK, let's go, I cannot wait for you all day!", the son changes his mind and asks him to stay. Of course, the tension of the situation is created by the fact that we, the spectators, are well aware that the father's offer to go home is a false choice, a pure bluff: if they were effectively to step out, the son (who is hiding in the barracks) would be immediately killed in the gas chamber. Perhaps, therein resides the fundamental function of the protective father: under the guise of offering a (false) choice, to make the subject-son freely to choose the inevitable through the competitive evocation of the other's desire.

Life Is Beautiful makes it clear how the so-called human dignity relies on the urgent need to maintain a minimum of protective appearance - are not all fathers doing something similar, although in less dramatic circumstances? Benigni's protective father ultimately accomplishes the work of "symbolic castration": he effectively separates the son from his mother, introduces him to the dialectical identification with the Other's (his peer's) desire, and thus accustoms him to the cruel reality of the life outside the family. The fantasmatic protective shield is the benevolent fiction allowing the son to come to terms with harsh reality - father does NOT protect the son from harsh reality of the camp, he just provides the symbolic fiction that renders this reality bearable. And is this not father's main function? Is it not that, if "becoming mature" means that we no longer need such a protective appearance, we in a sense NEVER become effectively "mature": we just displace the shield of the protective appearance onto a different level? In today's times, obsessed with "unmasking the false appearances" (from the traditional Leftist critique of the ideological hypocrisy of morality or power, to the American TV on which individuals in talk shows disclose publicly their innermost secrets and fantasies), it is touching to see such a pageant to the benevolent power of appearance.

What remains problematic in Benigni's film is the allegoric relationship between the film's narrative and the way the film addresses its spectator: is it not that, in the same way the father within the film constructs a protective fictional shield to render the traumatic reality of the concentration camp bearable, Benigni himself treats the spectators as children to be protected from the horror of the holocaust by a "crazy" sentimental and funny fiction of a father saving his son, the fiction that renders the historical reality of the holocaust somehow bearable?

As such, Benigni's film should be opposed to another recent film, Thomas Vinterberg's Celebration in which the father, far from protecting the children from trauma, is the very cause of the trauma. In one case, we have a father assuming an almost maternal protective role, knitting a protective web of fictions for his son, a kind of ersatz-placebo. On the other hand, we have the father at whose core we arrive through the dismantling of all protective fictions: at this point, we see him as what he is, as the brutal jouisseur, rapist of his own children... Celebration tells a lot about how today, with the False Memory Syndrome (of being molested by one's parents), the spectral figure of the Freudian Urvater, sexually possesing everyone around him, is resuscitated - it tells a lot precisely on account of its artificial and fake character. A closer look at Celebration tells us that there is something wrong and faked about all this pseudo-Freudian stuff of "demystifying the bourgeois paternal authority": today, such a "demystification" sounds and is false, it more and more functions as a postmodern pastiche, even as a nostalgic depiction of the good old times in which it was still possible really to experience such "traumas". Why?

The recent impasse with Binjamin Wilkomirski's Fragments points in the same direction: what everyone assumed to be authentic blurred memories of the author who, as a 3-4 years old child, was imprisoned in Majdanek, turned out to be a literary fiction invented by the author. Apart from the standard question of literary manipulation, are we aware to what extent is this "fake" revealing of the fantasmatic investment and jouissance operative in even the most painful and extreme conditions? Usually, we generate fantasies as a kind of shield to protect us from the unbearable trauma; here, however, the very ultimate traumatic experience, that of the holocaust, is fantasized as a shield - from what?

Along the same lines, the rapist enjoying father of the False Memory Syndrome, far from being the Real beneath the respectful appearance, is rather himself a fantasy formation, a protective shield - against what? Such a father-jouisseur is the ultimate guarantee that there is somewhere full, unconstrained enjoyment. So what if the true horror is the lack of enjoyment itself? The true horror is not the rapist Urvater against which the benevolent maternal father protects us with his fantasy shield, but the benign maternal father himself - the truly suffocating and psychosis-generating experience for the child would have been to have a father like Benigni, who, with his protective care, erases all traces of the excessive surplus-enjoyment. It is as a desperate defense measure against THIS father that one fantasizes about the rapist father.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Laugh Yourself to Death: the New Wave of Holocaust Comedies!"

Friday, August 5, 2016

Origins of the "Political Science" Fallacy?

"Modern society," says Mr. Chesterton, "is intrinsically insecure because it is based on the notion that all men will do the same thing for different reasons.... And as within the head of any convict may be the hell of a quite solitary crime, so in the house or under the hat of any suburban clerk may be the limbo of a quite separate philosophy. The first man may be a complete Materialist and feel his own body as a horrible machine manufacturing his own mind. He may listen to his thoughts as to the dull ticking of a clock. The man next door may be a Christian Scientist and regard his own body as somehow rather less substantial than his own shadow. He may come almost to regard his own arms and legs as delusions like moving serpents in the dream of delirium tremens. The third man in the street may not be a Christian Scientist but, on the contrary, a Christian. He may live in a fairy tale as his neighbors would say; a secret but solid fairy tale full of the faces and presences of unearthly friends. The fourth man may be a theosophist, and only too probably a vegetarian; and I do not see why I should not gratify myself with the fancy that the fifth man is a devil worshiper.... Now whether or not this sort of variety is valuable, this sort of unity is shaky. To expect that all men for all time will go on thinking different things, and yet doing the same things, is a doubtful speculation. It is not founding society on a communion, or even on a convention, but rather on a coincidence. Four men may meet under the same lamp post; one to paint it pea green as part of a great municipal reform; one to read his breviary in the light of it; one to embrace it with accidental ardour in a fit of alcoholic enthusiasm; and the last merely because the pea green post is a conspicuous point of rendezvous with his young lady. But to expect this to happen night after night is unwise...."
from GK Chesterton, "The Mad Hatter and the Sane Household"

---

The very men who most loudly proclaim their "materialism" and their contempt for "ideologues," the Marxian communists, place their entire hope on what? On the formation by propaganda of a class-conscious group. But what is propaganda, if not the effort to alter the picture to which men respond, to substitute one social pattern for another? What is class consciousness but a way of realizing the world? National consciousness but another way? And Professor Giddings' consciousness of kind, but a process of believing that we recognize among the multitude certain ones marked as our kind?

---

I argue that representative government, either in what is ordinarily called politics, or in industry, cannot be worked successfully, no matter what the basis of election, unless there is an independent, expert organization for making the unseen facts intelligible to those who have to make the decisions. I attempt, therefore, to argue that the serious acceptance of the principle that personal representation must be supplemented by representation of the unseen facts would alone permit a satisfactory decentralization, and allow us to escape from the intolerable and unworkable fiction that each of us must acquire a competent opinion about all public affairs. It is argued that the problem of the press is confused because the critics and the apologists expect the press to realize this fiction, expect it to make up for all that was not foreseen in the theory of democracy, and that the readers expect this miracle to be performed at no cost or trouble to themselves. The newspapers are regarded by democrats as a panacea for their own defects, whereas analysis of the nature of news and of the economic basis of journalism seems to show that the newspapers necessarily and inevitably reflect, and therefore, in greater or lesser measure, intensify, the defective organization of public opinion. My conclusion is that public opinions must be organized for the press if they are to be sound, not by the press as is the case today. This organization I conceive to be in the first instance the task of a political science that has won its proper place as formulator, in advance of real decision, instead of apologist, critic, or reporter after the decision has been made. I try to indicate that the perplexities of government and industry are conspiring to give political science this enormous opportunity to enrich itself and to serve the public. And, of course, I hope that these pages will help a few people to realize that opportunity more vividly, and therefore to pursue it more consciously.
- Walter Lippmann, "Public Opinion" (Intro)(1922)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

In Awe of the Objective Reporting of the Main Stream Media

If you do a Donald Trump word search on Google, and you use various combinations of the most popular descriptive adjectives, you get the following results.

In ascending order:
dickwad 1
puerile 85,000 (not a popular term in the Midwest)
boorish 115,000
soulless 240,000
patronizing 248,000
egotistical 253,000
megalomaniac 261,000 (this one would score higher if it were not six syllables, therefore rendering it unusable in headlines)
vengeful 304,000
callous 395,000
grandiose 406,000
combative 407,000
birther 425,000
condescending 452,000 (could be combined with patronizing for a higher score)
mean-spirited 453,000
misogynistic 479,000 (misleadingly low because “woman hater” gets over a million)
foul-mouthed 500,000
disagreeable 503,000
arrogant 509,000
lunatic 524,000
immature 525,000 (should probably be combined with puerile)
xenophobic 532,000
fascist 554,000
authoritarian 571,000
braggart 586,000
obnoxious 606,000
narcissistic 635,000
boring 643,000 (wow, this one really shouldn’t make it past the fact-checkers)
haughty 645,000
obsessive 707,000
superficial 713,000
psychopathic 784,000
thin-skinned 785,000
vulgar 967,000
bully 1.4 million
self-obsessed 2.5 million
vicious 9.1 million
rude 13.3 million
cruel 13.3 million
liar 16.2 million
angry 19.3 million
And the winner—drum roll, please:
idiot 20.5 million
Source

Isn't it time that American Reporters became eligible to receive the much coveted Horst Wessel Award for Journalistic Excellence? They've certain done their part to earn it!

Power, Betrayal, and Brexit

A psychotic is... someone who unify's and confuses one's personal authority with one's symbolc authority.
"A fool who thinks he’s a king is no crazier than a king who thinks he’s a king."
- Slavoj Zizek
The post-modern "Father" is a psychotic. He pretends to be your friend AND your boss. The post-modern world is a world filled with "authentic psychopaths". Think Barrack Obama, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. (Video starting @ 19:45 -->) We need to return to the use of EXTERNAL symbols of power which confer "authority".