Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Saving Face in a Democracy...



...on the nature of neighbors
The recent expulsion oF illegal Roma (“Gypsies”) from France back to Romania sparked protests across Europe from both the liberal media and top politicians–and not only those on the Left. The expulsions, however, proceeded–and they are the tip of a much larger iceberg of European politics.

Incidents like these have to be seen against the background of a long-term re-arrangement of the political space in Western and Eastern Europe. Until recently, the political space of European countries was dominated by two main parties that addressed the entire electoral body–a right-of-center party and a left-of-center party. The latest electoral results in the West, as well as in the East, signal the gradual emergence of a different polarity. We have one predominant centrist party which stands for global capitalism as such, usually with a liberal cultural agenda (tolerance toward abortion, gay rights, religious and ethnic minorities, etc.). Opposing this party is an ever stronger anti-immigrant populist party that, on its fringes, is accompanied by directly racist neo-Fascist groups. How did we get here?

When the Communist regimes disintegrated in 1990, we entered an era in which the predominant form of the exercise of state power became a depoliticized expert administration and coordination of interests. In this new context, the only way to introduce passion into such a nonpolitical realm, to actively mobilize people, is through fear: fear of immigrants, fear of crime, fear of godless sexual depravity, fear of ecological catastrophe and also fear of harassment (Political Correctness is the exemplary liberal form of the politics of fear).

Consequently, the notion of “toxic subjects” gained ground. While toxic subjects originate from popular psychology warning us against emotional vampires, the frontier of toxic subjects is expanding. The predicate “toxic” covers a series of properties that belong to totally different levels (natural, cultural, psychological, political).

Socially, what is most toxic is the foreign Neighbor–the strange abyss of his pleasures, beliefs and customs. Consequently, the ultimate aim of all rules of interpersonal relations is to quarantine (or at least neutralize and contain) this toxic dimension, and thereby reduce the foreign Neighbor–by removing his otherness–to an unthreatening fellow man. The end result: today’s tolerant liberal multiculturalism is an experience of the Other deprived of its Otherness–the decaffeinated Other who dances fascinating dances and has an ecologically sound holistic approach to reality while features like wife beating remain out of sight.

The mechanism of such neutralization was best formulated in 1938 by Robert Brasillach, the French Fascist intellectual, condemned and shot in 1945, who saw himself as a “moderate” anti-Semite. Brasillach put it this way: “We grant ourselves permission to applaud Charlie Chaplin, a half Jew, at the movies; to admire Proust, a half Jew; to applaud Yehudi Menuhin, a Jew; and the voice of Hitler is carried over radio waves named after the Jew Hertz. … We don’t want to kill anyone, we don’t want to organize any pogrom. But we also think that the best way to hinder the always unpredictable actions of instinctual anti-Semitism is to organize a reasonable anti-Semitism.”

Is this same attitude not at work in the way our governments are dealing with the “immigrant threat”? After righteously rejecting direct populist racism as “unreasonable” and unacceptable for our democratic standards, they endorse “reasonably” racist protective measures. Or, as today’s Brasillachs tell us: “We grant ourselves permission to applaud African and Eastern- European sportsmen, Asian doctors, Indian software programmers. We don’t want to kill anyone, we don’t want to organize any pogrom. But we also think that the best way to hinder the always unpredictable violent anti-immigrant defensive measures is to organize a reasonable anti-immigrant protection.”

This vision of detoxification of the Neighbor presents a clear passage from direct barbarism to barbarism with a human face. It practices the regression from the Christian gospel (love thy neighbor) back to the Greco-Roman privileging of tribe over the barbarian Other. Cloaked as a defense of Christian values, it is itself the greatest threat to our Christian legacy.
-Slavoj Zizek, "Barbarism With A Human Face"

5 comments:

FreeThinke said...

If ONLY we could stop agitating ourselves and learn to SETTLE DOWN and BENEFIT from the SUCCESSES of the PAST by EMULATING them.

The thing that is killing humanity, of course, is the absurd notion that human beings are innately EQUAL and SHOULD reach a point where ALL people are living on an IDENTICAL, IDEALIZED level determined by "INTELLECTUALS."

This mulish insistence that the impossible can and MUST be achieved is the root of all the strife, brutality and injustice born of AGGRESSION fueled by a perverse legitimizatiin and glorification of ENVY, SPITE and MALICE –– the absolute ANTITHESIS of CHRIST'S EXAMPLE.

FreeThinke said...

The only hope we could ever have of "overcoming racism" would be if we just SHUT UP and STOPPED YAPPING ABOUT IT.

... In the meanwhiile:

There are mouths to be kissed
Before mouths to be fed,
And a lot in between
In the meanwhile.

And a person should celebrate what passes by.


... There are mouths to be kissed
Before mouths to be fed,
And there's many a tryst
And there's many a bed
To be sampled and seen

There are mouths to be kissed
Before mouths to be fed,
And there's many a tryst
And there's many a bed,
There's a lot I'll have missed
But I'll not have been dead
When I die!

And a person should celebrate
Everything passing by.


~ Stephen Sondheim - excerpted from "I Shall Marry the Miller's Son" - A Little Night Music (1973)

Or as AUntie Mame put it, "The purpose of life is to LIVE! LIVE! LIVE!" };^)>

Speedy G said...

Note to Self

Z said...

"Is this same attitude not at work in the way our governments are dealing with the “immigrant threat”?
No, it isn't the same attitude. Not at all. the huge majority of those who want to stop illegal immigration do not hate the immigrant, there is nothing that smacks of 'anti semitism,' and I find that offensive.

By the way, Romanian gypsies also have stolen from, for an example I witnessed about 35 years ago, flatware in a hospital cafeteria...in America. Sadly, while one of my closest friends in LA is a Romanian, those in Europe are hated for thievery, buglary, etc.

-FJ said...

there is nothing that smacks of 'anti semitism,'

You wouldn't find many of the new skill's-based "legal immigration" guidelines resultant from a "fear" of the immigrant's "otherness"? ie - - Preferences to English speakers, ban on collecting social welfare benefits, etc?