Thursday, October 31, 2019

Why is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?

It has been suggested that a raven is like a writing test because both are very annoying. But perhaps it is because both are characterised by the mindless parroting of the utterances of others.

Monday, October 28, 2019

How the Left Views Its' Role in Society

Slavoj Zizek, "Today's protests indicate the scale of troubles in our paradise"
Anti-establishment protests are popping up all over the world, in countries with different political systems, and various levels of wealth. We may be entering an era of widespread civil unrest.

A couple of weeks ago, Chinese media started promoting the claim that “demonstrations in Europe and South America are the direct result of Western tolerance of Hong Kong unrest.” In a commentary published in Beijing News, former Chinese diplomat Wang Zhen wrote
"the disastrous impact of a 'chaotic Hong Kong' has begun to influence the Western world,"
i.e., that demonstrators in Chile and Spain were taking their cues from Hong Kong.

An editorial in Global Times accused Hong Kong demonstrators of "exporting revolution to the world".

"The West is paying the price for supporting riots in Hong Kong, which has quickly kindled violence in other parts of the world and foreboded the political risks that the West can't manage," it warned.

"There are many problems in the West and all kinds of undercurrents of dissatisfaction. Many of them will eventually manifest in the way the Hong Kong protests did," the Global Times’ editor Hu Xijin said in a video commentary. "Catalonia is probably just the beginning," was the ominous conclusion.
Although the idea that demonstrations in Barcelona and Chile have taken cues from Hong Kong is far-fetched, it is all too easy to claim that these outbursts - Hong Kong, Catalonia, Chile, Ecuador, Lebanon, not to mention the Yellow Vests - cannot be reduced to a common denominator. In each of the cases, the protest against a particular law or measure (higher prices for gasoline in France, an extradition-to-China law in Hong Kong, an increase in public transport fares in Chile, long prison terms for pro-independence Catalan politicians in Barcelona, etc.) ignited a general discontent which was obviously already there, lurking and waiting for a contingent trigger to explode. Thus, even when the particular law or measure, which triggered the discontent, was repealed, protests persisted.

New Realities

Two weird facts cannot but strike the eye here. First, “Communist” China discreetly plays on the solidarity of those in power all over the world against a rebellious populace by warning Western leaders not to underestimate the dissatisfaction in their own countries. It assumes, beneath all ideological and geo-political tensions, they all share the same basic interest in holding onto power.

Secondly, the “trouble in paradise” aspect: protests are not only taking place in poor, and desolate, countries but in nations of (relative, at least) prosperity. States which were, until now, presented as success stories. At least financially.

Although these protests betray the growing inequalities which belie official success stories, they cannot be reduced to economic issues. The dissatisfaction they express indicates the growing (normative) expectations of how our societies should function, expectations which also concern factors not directly related to the economy, such as collective or individual freedoms, dignity, even meaningful life. Something that was, until recently, accepted as normal (a certain degree of poverty, full state sovereignty, etc.) is now perceived as a wrong to be combatted.

This is why, when evaluating these protests, we should consider also the new explosion of ecological movements and the feminist struggle. Meaning the real one, which involves thousands of ordinary women, not its sanitized American "MeToo" version.

Mexican Movement

Let’s just focus on one case. In Mexico, massive feminist mobilization involves “the conversation about life, dignified life and rage."

Allow me to quote Alejandra Santillana Ortiz, a member of Ruda Colectiva Feminista, “What does life mean for us? What are we referring to when we speak of putting life at the center? For us, life is not a declarative abstract," she believes. "It necessarily involves talking about dignity and everything that makes it possible to enable dignity.”

So, we are not debating here abstract philosophical speculations on the meaning of life, but reflections rooted in concrete experiences which prove how the most ordinary daily life - things like taking a subway – are impregnated by dangers of brutal violence and humiliation.

“How can a person have peace of mind knowing that on the metro in Mexico City, an integral part of the commute in the city, thousands of women have been kidnapped in a matter of months and that this all took place in public and in broad daylight? And if you aren’t kidnapped, you must consider the very high probability that you will be assaulted, or that you will encounter violent aggression of some kind," Santillana Ortiz observes. "This is the reason why there are there separate women-only cars on trains, but even then there are men who get on these cars.”

Mexico may be an extreme case here, but it is just an extrapolation of tendencies found everywhere. We live in societies in which brutal male violence boils just beneath the surface, and one thing is clear: Political Correctness is not the way to beat it.

What also makes Mexico an obvious example is a secret solidarity between this persisting male brutality and the state apparatuses that we expect to protect us from it. “There is a kind of formation of a violent society without punishment in which the state is part of that violence. A great many of the crimes that have been committed in recent years in Mexico have the state and its functionaries or the police directly involved," Santillana Ortiz continues. "Or, through judges or those in the justice system, the state guarantees generalized impunity in this country.”

The terrifying vision of “generalized impunity” is the truth of the new wave of populism, and only vast popular mobilization is strong enough to confront this obscene complicity of state and civil society.

This is why the ongoing protests express a growing dissatisfaction that cannot be channeled into established modes of political representation.

However, we should avoid, at any cost, celebrating these protests for their distance towards established politics. Here, a difficult “Leninist” task lies ahead: how to organize the growing dissatisfaction in all its forms, including the ecological and feminist elements, into a large-scale coordinated movement? If we fail in this, what awaits us is a society with a permanent state of exception and civil unrest.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Peter Handke

Slavoj Žižek, "The Nobel Committee honors an apologist for genocide"
Peter Handke has compared Bosnian Serbs laying the siege on Sarajevo with Native Americans laying siege on a camp of white colonizers

Peter Handke’s Nobel win is the latest in a series of unfortunate incidents surrounding the Nobel prize in literature, from the weird decision to give it to Bob Dylan in 2016 to last year’s sexual assault scandal. When Handke called for the prize to be abolished in 2014 he said it was a ‘false canonization’ of literature. The fact that he has now won it proves he was right.

This is what Sweden is today – if the Nobel committee had any courage they would give the peace prize to Julian Assange (one of the true heroes of our time), yet instead they would rather honor an apologist for genocide.

This is the most recent sign of what Robert Pfaller called the ‘interpassivity’ of Western leftists: they like to be authentic through an Other who lives authentically on their behalf. For years Handke interpassively lived his authentic life, freed from the corruption of Western consumerist capitalism through Slovenes (his mother was Slovene): for him, Slovenia was a country in which words related directly to objects (in stores, milk was called ‘milk’, avoiding the pitfall of commercialized brand-names, etc.).

Slovenia’s independence and willingness to join the European Union have unleashed in him a violent aggressiveness: he dismissed Slovenes as slaves of Austrian and German capital, saying they sold their legacy to the West. All this because his interpassive game was disturbed, i.e. because Slovenes no longer behaved in the way which would enable him to be authentic through them. No wonder, then, that he has turned to Serbia as the last vestige of authenticity in Europe, comparing Bosnian Serbs laying the siege on Sarajevo with Native Americans laying siege on a camp of white colonizers.

In short, as Gilles Deleuze put it, ‘si vous êtes pris dans le rêve de l’autre, vous êtes foutu!‘ (‘If you’re trapped in the dream of the other, you’re fucked!’): we Slovenes were trapped in Handke’s dream, expected to live according to it. The supreme irony of all this is that he has chosen as his authentic Other which enables him to cling to his Yugoslav nostalgia Milošević, the very politician most responsible for the death of Yugoslavia.

In his Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel mentions the ‘silent weaving of the spirit’: the underground work of changing the ideological coordinates, mostly invisible to the public eye, which then suddenly explodes, taking everyone by surprise. This is what was going on in ex-Yugoslavia in the 70s and 80s, so that when things exploded in the late 80s, it was already too late, the old ideological consensus was thoroughly putrid and collapsed in on itself. Yugoslavia in the 1970s and 1980s was like the proverbial cat in the cartoon who continues to walk above the precipice – he only falls down when, finally, he becomes aware that there is no firm ground beneath his legs. Milošević was the first to force us all to really look down into the precipice. The main agents of this secret corruption were nationalist poets, and to avoid the illusion that the poetic-military complex is a Balkan specialty, one should mention at least Hassan Ngeze, the Karadžić of Rwanda who, in his journal Kangura, was systematically spreading anti Tutsi-hatred and calling for their genocide.

This is why I don’t think one can distinguish political and ethical considerations from literature. Almost a century ago, referring to the rise of Nazism in Germany, Karl Kraus quipped that Germany, a country of Dichter und Denker (poets and thinkers), has become a country of Richter und Henker (judges and executioners) – today, in our era of ethnic cleansing, the same reversal is going on. Even in his most apolitical texts (just recall the puffy poetry of Himmel über Berlin), Handke acted as the first term in the couple of Dichter und Henker. Apolitical ruminations on the complex nature of soul and language are the stuff ethnic cleansing is made of.

No Second Troy

Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great,
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn
?
- William Butler Yeats, "No Second Troy" (~1916)
Maud Gonne MacBride

JP +/-

Slavoj Zizek, "European leftists are rejecting the Kurds over their reliance on the US. It is just another disgusting betrayal"
Must they sacrifice themselves on the altar of anti-imperialist solidarity? While the sovereign states around them are gradually sinking into a new barbarism, Kurds are the only glimmer of hope

Well over a hundred years ago, Karl May wrote a bestseller, Through Wild Kurdistan, about the adventures of a German hero, Kara Ben Nemsi. This immensely popular book established the perception of Kurdistan in central Europe: a place of brutal tribal warfare, naïve honesty and sense of honour, but also superstition, betrayal, and permanent cruel warfare. It was almost a caricature of the barbaric Other in European civilization.

If we look at today’s Kurds, we cannot but be surprised by the contrast to this cliché – in Turkey, where I know the situation relatively well, I have noticed that the Kurdish minority is the most modern and secular part of society, at a distance from every religious fundamentalism, with developed feminism, etc. (Let me just mention a detail that I learned in Istanbul: restaurants owned by Kurds have no tolerance for any sign of superstition…)

The stable genius (Trump’s self-designation) justified his recent betrayal of Kurds (he effectively condoned the Turkish attack on the Kurdish enclave in northern Syria) by noting that “Kurds are no angels”. Of course, since, for him, the only angels in that region are Israel (especially on the West Bank) and Saudi Arabia (especially in Yemen). However, in some senses, the Kurds ARE the only angels in that part of the world.

The fate of the Kurds makes them the exemplary victim of the geopolitical colonial games: spread along the borderline of four neighboring states (Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran), their (more than deserved) full autonomy was in nobody’s interest, and they paid the full price for it.

Do we still remember Saddam’s mass bombing and gas-poisoning of Kurds in the north of Iraq in the late 1980s? More recently, for years, Turkey has played a well-planned military-political game, officially fighting Isis but effectively bombing Kurds who are really fighting Isis.

In the last decades, the ability of the Kurds to organize their communal life was tested in almost ideal experimental conditions: the moment they were given a space to breathe freely outside the conflicts of the states around them, they surprised the world.

After Saddam’s fall the Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq develop into the only safe part of Iraq with well-functioning institutions and even regular flights to Europe. In northern Syria, the Kurdish enclave centered in Rojava was a unique place in today’s geopolitical mess: when Kurds were given a respite from their big neighbors who otherwise threatened them all the time, they quickly built a society that one cannot but designate as an actually-existing and well-functioning utopia.

From my own professional interest, I noticed the thriving intellectual community in Rojava where they repeatedly invited me to give lectures – these plans were brutally interrupted by military tensions in the area.

But what especially saddened me was the reaction of some of my “Leftist” colleagues who were bothered by the fact that Kurds also had to rely on the US military protection.

What should they have done, caught in the tensions between Turkey, Syrian civil war, the Iraqi mess and Iran? Did they have any other choice? Should they sacrifice themselves on the altar of anti-imperialist solidarity?

This “Leftist” critical distance was no less disgusting than the same distance towards Macedonia. A couple of months ago, the discussion was around how to resolve the problem of the name “Macedonia”.

The solution proposed was to change the name to “North Macedonia,” but this was instantly attacked by radicals in both countries. Greek opponents insisted that “Macedonia” is an old Greek name, and Macedonian opponents felt humiliated by being reduced to a “Northern” province since they are the only people who call themselves “Macedonians.”

Imperfect as it was, this solution offered a glimpse of an end to a long and meaningless struggle with a reasonable compromise. But it was caught in another “contradiction”: the struggle between big powers (the US and EU on the one side, Russia on the other).

The West put pressure on both sides to accept the compromise so that Macedonia could quickly join the EU and NATO, while, for exactly the same reason (seeing in it the danger of its loss of influence in the Balkans), Russia opposed it, supporting rabid conservative nationalist forces in both countries.

So which side should we take here? I think we should decidedly take the side of the compromise, for the simple reason that it is the only realist solution to the problem – Russia opposed it simply because of its geopolitical interests, without offering another solution, so supporting Russia here would have meant sacrificing the reasonable solution of the singular problem of Macedonian and Greek relations to international geopolitical interests. (Now that France has vetoed the fast-track inclusion of North Macedonia into the EU, will they be responsible for an unpredictable catastrophe in that part of Balkans?) Will the Kurds be dealt the same blow from our anti-imperialist “Leftists”?

That’s why it is our duty to fully support the resistance of the Kurds to the Turkish invasion, and to rigorously denounce the dirty games Western powers play with them.

While the sovereign states around them are gradually sinking into a new barbarism, Kurds are the only glimmer of hope. And it’s not only about Kurds that this struggle is fought, it’s about ourselves, it’s about what kind of global new order is emerging.

If Kurds will be abandoned, it will be a new order in which there will be no place for the most precious part of the European legacy of emancipation. If Europe turns its eyes away from the Kurds, it will betray itself. The Europe which betrays Kurds will be the true Europastan!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Battle of Point Pleasant

from Wikipedia
The Battle of Point Pleasant — known as the Battle of Kanawha in some older accounts — was the only major action of Dunmore's War. It was fought on October 10, 1774, primarily between Virginia militia and Indians from the Shawnee and Mingo tribes. Along the Ohio River near modern Point Pleasant, West Virginia, Indians under the Shawnee Chief Cornstalk attacked Virginia militia under Colonel Andrew Lewis, hoping to halt Lewis's advance into the Ohio Valley. After a long and furious battle, Cornstalk retreated. After the battle, the Virginians, along with a second force led by Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, marched into the Ohio Valley and compelled Cornstalk to agree to a treaty, ending the war.
Cornstalk
Preparations

Colonel Andrew Lewis, in command of about 1,000 men, was part of a planned two-pronged Virginian invasion of the Ohio Valley. As Lewis's force made its way down the Kanawha River, guided by pioneering hunter/trapper Matthew Arbuckle, Sr., Lewis anticipated linking up with another force commanded by Lord Dunmore, who was marching west from Fort Pitt, then known as Fort Dunmore. Dunmore's plan was to march into the Ohio Valley and force the Indians to accept Ohio River boundary which had been negotiated with the Iroquois in the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix.

The Shawnees, however, had not been consulted in the treaty and many were not willing to surrender their lands south of the Ohio River without a fight. Officials of the British Indian Department, led by Sir William Johnson until his death in July 1774, worked to diplomatically isolate the Shawnees from other Indians. As a result, when the war began, the Shawnees had few allies other than some Mingos.

Cornstalk, the Shawnee leader, moved to intercept Lewis's army, hoping to prevent the Virginians from joining forces. Estimates of the size of Cornstalk's force have varied, but scholars now believe Cornstalk was probably outnumbered at least 2 to 1, having between 300 and 500 warriors. Future Shawnee leader Blue Jacket probably took part in this battle.

Blue Jacket
Battle

Cornstalk's forces attacked Lewis's camp where the Kanawha River joins the Ohio River, hoping to trap him along a bluff. The battle lasted for hours and the fighting eventually became hand-to-hand. Cornstalk's voice was reportedly heard over the din of the battle, urging his warriors to "be strong." Lewis sent several companies along the Kanawha and up a nearby creek to attack the Indians from the rear, which reduced the intensity of the Shawnee offensive. Captain George Mathews was credited with a flanking maneuver that initiated Cornstalk's retreat.[3] At nightfall, the Shawnees quietly withdrew back across the Ohio. The Virginians had held their ground, and thus are considered to have won.

Aftermath

The Virginians lost about 75 killed and 140 wounded.[4] The Shawnees' losses could not be determined, since they carried away their wounded and threw many of the dead into the river.[5] The next morning, Colonel Christian, who had arrived shortly after the battle, marched his men over the battlefield. They found twenty-one dead braves in the open, and twelve more were discovered hastily covered with brush and old logs. Among those killed was Pucksinwah, the father of Tecumseh.

Besides scalps, the Virginians reportedly captured 40 guns, many tomahawks and some plunder which was later sold at auction for 74£ 4s 6d.[1]

The Battle of Point Pleasant forced Cornstalk to make peace in the Treaty of Camp Charlotte, ceding to Virginia the Shawnee claims to all lands south of the Ohio River (today's states of Kentucky and West Virginia). The Shawnee were also obligated in the Treaty of Camp Charlotte to return all white captives and stop attacking barges of immigrants traveling on the Ohio River.[6]

Colonel John Field, an ancestor of United States Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, was killed in the battle.[7]

Legacy and historical controversies

In April 1775, before many of the Virginians had even returned home from Dunmore's War, the Battles of Lexington and Concord took place in Massachusetts. The American Revolution had begun and Lord Dunmore led the British war effort in Virginia. By the end of that year, the same militiamen who had fought at Point Pleasant managed to drive Lord Dunmore and the British troops supporting him out of Virginia.

Before his expulsion, Dunmore had sought to gain the Indians as British allies, the same Indians the militia had defeated at Point Pleasant. Many Virginians suspected he had collaborated with the Shawnees from the beginning. They claimed Dunmore had intentionally isolated the militia under Andrew Lewis, meaning for the Shawnees to destroy them before the Royal Army troops arrived. Dunmore hoped to eliminate the militia in case a rebellion did break out. However, there is no evidence to support this theory and it is generally discounted.

On February 21, 1908, the United States Senate passed Bill Number 160 to erect a monument commemorating the Battle of Point Pleasant. It cites Point Pleasant as a "battle of the Revolution". The bill failed in the House of Representatives.

Nevertheless, the Battle of Point Pleasant is honored as the first engagement of the American Revolution during "Battle Days", an annual festival in modern Point Pleasant, now a city in West Virginia.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

On the Lacanian Gaze

-Slavoj Zizek, "Marilyn Monroe & some thoughts on the Lacanian gaze"
Unfortunately, the Laura Mulvey 'male gaze'*1 distortion of the Lacanian/Sartrean gaze is the most well known among laymen. But it fails to capture a fascinating issue in modern psychoanalysis: to what extent have psychoanalysis and folk versions of psychoanalysis changed the libidinal structure of people. Surely, the very way our societies in the popular media discuss the structure of the mind that it is fair to say we now have, through self-conscious reflection, jungian anxieties and kleinian reactions etc. So it would surely be as certain to say feminism will inject its ideas into the romantic flirtation and change it. Let's look at the Lacanian gaze to understand this.

Marilyn Monroe offers up a vignette to help us:
“‘Men do not see me, they just lay their eyes on me’.

That is *2 :
suggestive of Lacan’s distinction between the function of the eye and the gaze—“mustn’t we distinguish between the function of the eye and that of the gaze?”

In contrast, Mulvey's 'male gaze':
'concept is deployed politically to defend at the level of personal affect, where the “male gaze” can come to refer to a fantasy of an all-powerful gaze that punishes and torments: a gaze, I suggest, that metonymically comes to stand in for a ferocious primal father...'
Hence, the tendency to only think of the gaze in terms of Foucaldian power relations (a man's gaze is power over the woman and nothing more).
somewhat tellingly while Mulvey’s essay articulates the structure of an eroticized gaze—a male viewing position structured on a woman as the object of desire—it does little to address the position of the one “caught” in this gaze, or to use psychoanalysis to understand what is at stake when one is the object of a gaze.
So the question that causes feminists to blush, sometimes with anger, sometimes with embarrassment:
to ask the question of one’s desire is, many might argue, precisely what generates feminist inquiry and in this, feminist protest and questioning has been equated with the discourse of the hysteric. Indeed, the fundamental question at the heart of second wave feminism animates the hysteric’s ultimate question:
what is a woman?
The results of a properly feminist questioning would appear, at least in some expressions of post-feminist culture, to have resulted in a world dominated by feminist ideas. At the institutional level feminist knowledge is implicated in a range of social, political, and regulatory structures and processes. Perhaps more obviously, spectacles of female agency and desire are promoted among other imperatives to enjoy in neoliberal cultures of self-promotion. Yet, as many cultural theorists suggest, expressions of post-feminism (depending on how one defines the ‘post’) always operate—somewhat like Monroe—in a double movement between traditional articulations of femininity and feminism. Which is to say, that when one speaks from a feminist position of knowledge, the feminine question is expressed beneath the bar, and as Lacan notes, “as soon as you ask the question ‘What does a woman want?’ you locate the question at the level of desire, and everyone knows that, for woman, to locate the question at the level of desire is to question the hysteric.” That is, where the theory is mobilized in this way that places so much emphasis on the master’s desire (at the expense of a woman’s), it might be said to be an expression of hysterical discourse. I have previously argued that feminist discourses—as a form of hysterical protest—have bypassed the analyst’s discourse and moved into the university discourse where feminist knowledge production is taken as truth; here feminism’s knowledge product can intervene into the subject’s affective reality and provide a (seemingly legitimate) name for affect. But in doing so, I suggest, it Feminism as a signifier—of identity, knowledge, and universal truth— not only intervenes into the subject’s affects but defends against them and obstruct efforts towards (self) analysis.
In Lacan's gaze, we understand that the gaze provokes anxiety in the woman and is heavily involved in her libidinal desires. The movie, Black Swan, in dealing with the elegant art of ballet, and its covering over of the base eroticism of the woman's body with the beautiful aesthetic of dance:
... animates the anxiety triggered by the Real encountered in Lacan’s seminar X, where anxiety is felt in the gaze that signals what has been repressed. Feminist responses to the film’s articulation of this gaze functions to both deflect politically what is felt personally regarding the gaze.
Feminism becomes part of the libidinal structure of women inculcated by feminism:
I suggest, Black Swan metaphorises the problem of the gaze for the feminine subject where there is an excessive (moral) force or defence against it. For a woman, feminism may provide a defence against anxiety invoked in the gaze—whether metaphorically animated in film or popular culture, real experience, or both.
This can be seen with feminist critic responses to the movie:
'feminist critics such as Jacobs reacted at a political (feminist theoretical) level with the personal disgust of Nina in the film when confronted with the eroticism signaled in the gaze of the Other. This particular deployment works, I suggest, to defend against the problem of the Other’s gaze: specifically, the anxiety induced when caught in the gaze of the Other that is a reminder of the (Real) sexual realm so keenly reduced to social convention within feminist discourse and just as adamantly repressed...'
This strange tension between the acceptable (Lacanian university) discourse on women's desires and the hidden desires is plain to see in all the constant antagonisms in the media culture wars.

*1 In the heavily cited and rather unhelpful “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”.

*2 All quotes from: Alison Horbury, 'What Does Feminism Want?', Continental Thought & Theory, Volume 1, Issue 3
On the Pythonean Gaze

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Antigone, we barely knew ye!

Slavoj Žižek, "Greta Thunberg is not a caricatural woman, her approach is brutal"

What image of femininity is subtly imposed on us in the war against toxic masculinity?

In January, the American Psychological Association released guidelines describing how "traditional masculinity ideology" can hurt boys and men. The guidelines were the first to place toxic masculinity in the medical world, codifying, in some ways, an idea that had existed only in ideology and think pieces.

But set aside whatever you might think about toxic masculinity and its codification by the APA, because there's another question worth examining: What does the culture's understanding of toxic masculinity imply about our current image of femininity?

Slavoj Žižek, the Solvenian philosopher and cultural critic, recently raised this question in an interview with JOE U.K. Žižek said that putting toxic masculinity into a medical category is a "mystification" of what's "obviously a social-ideological category."

"I am all for women's rights, and so on, but look closely at this notion," Žižek said, later providing an example: "If I beat my wife, or women, it's not simply a psychological illness. It can be. But mostly, it's a form of brutal ideology. You know, it's a social-ideological — that's the first mystification."

But it's sometimes necessary to behave in ways that might fall under the category of toxic masculinity, Žižek said.

"The claim is that men, mostly, when they're in a difficult situation, instead of talking with others, friendly, they withdraw into themselves and react, decide to act alone in a radical way, even if it will hurt them," he said. "But sorry, in many situations, you need to act like this. It's called simple courage, my God."

By demonizing a specific part of traditionally masculine behavior, the culture is simultaneously idealizing a specific image of femininity, Žižek argued.

"So, I think that the secret trick of this category of toxic masculinity is to promote a very precise — I'm almost tempted to say — masculine cliché of women: Women like dialogue, they are friendly, non-violent, and so on, and so on," he said. "What is so fashionable today is to construct a certain image of femininity, which is an ideological construct, as you know, more gentle dialogical, interactive — so on, so on — which fits perfectly today's global capitalism."

In signature fashion, Žižek offered a provocative example of (what he said is "almost") toxic masculine behavior being used productively: Greta Thunberg's speech to the United Nations about climate change.

"She's not this caricatural woman," he said. "You know, like, 'Solve, let's have a dialog.' — 'No! Fuck you! What dialogue? Act!' And so on, you know? That's the women I like!"

Žižek said cultural critics shouldn't get caught in the trap of the so-called toxic masculinity war. "Let's analyze it precisely," he said. "What is sold to us as a critique of toxic masculinity? What image of femininity is subtly imposed on us in this way?"

Friday, October 4, 2019

On the Fight for the Soul of the Democrat Party

Slavoj Zizek, "Impeaching Trump is not a left-wing project — progressive Democrats shouldn't be fooled"
This is about one individual, and Russia. And it conveniently skims over all we know about US institutions and what they stand for

about our current ideological predicament. Trump is portrayed as an individual pursuing his own private interests, not as the representative of a state and its apparatuses. Edward Snowden immediately got this point, commenting that “a whistleblower's complaint, which triggered US President Donald Trump's impeachment inquiry, is strategically ‘quite wise’ in its focus on the president versus an institution.… Congress could be more than happy to throw an individual abusing their office under the bus, in a way that they are not willing to do when they themselves are implicated by the same allegations.… This whistleblower is doing something [that's] a little bit unusual. They're alleging that an individual is breaking the law who, of course, is the president, [who] is historically unpopular at this moment.”

It is acceptable to criticize an individual who breaks the law while he pursues his interests or private pathological inclinations (revenge, lust for power and glory, and so on) — but it is much more difficult to discern a crime in the activity of a state institution, a criminal activity which is performed by personally honest individuals dedicated to their job. Evil and crime are here not individualized but inscribed into the very functioning of the institution.

Trump is undoubtedly a repellant person lacking a basic moral compass; however, what about the systematic violations of human rights in the continuous activities of the US intelligence agencies.? The true enemy are not idiosyncratic figures who act as a disturbance for the establishment itself; the true enemy are honest patriotic bureaucrats ruthlessly pursuing the goals of the United States.

To name names, the model of such a patriotic bureaucrat is James Comey, the FBI director deposed by Trump. Although, at the level of facts, Comey was probably mostly truthful in his critique of Trump (see his memoir A Higher Loyalty), one should nonetheless admit that his “higher loyalty” to the principles and values of the US leaves untouched what one cannot but call the criminal tendencies inscribed into the US state institutions — in other words, all that was revealed by Assange, Snowden and Manning.

One should also not forget that the movement to impeach Trump is mostly motivated by the desire to prove that Russia influenced the last presidential elections, enabling Trump to win. While there probably was Russian meddling (in the same way that the US tries to influence elections all around the world; they just call their interventions “a defense of democracy”), focusing on this one aspect ignores why Hillary Clinton was actually defeated in 2016. Her ruthless struggle against Bernie Sanders and the leftist wing of the Democratic Party should take centerstage here.

Bernie Sanders was right to warn that “if for the next year, year-and-a-half, going right into the heart of the election, all that the Congress is talking about is impeaching Trump and Trump, Trump, Trump, and Mueller, Mueller, Mueller, and we're not talking about healthcare, we're not talking about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, we're not talking about combating climate change, we're not talking about sexism and racism and homophobia, and all of the issues that concern ordinary Americans. What I worry about is that works to Trump's advantage.”

Impeaching Trump is not a leftist project. It is a centrist-liberal project whose secret aim is also to prevent the progressive wing of the Democratic Party from taking over. We should bear that in mind.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Russia/Ukrainegate

Take off the revolutionary's mask, and it's the CIA
Take off the terrorist's mask, and it's the CIA
Take off the news man's mask, and it's the CIA
Take off the Film-maker's mask, and it's the CIA
Take off the whistleblower's mask, and it's the mother*cking CIA
-Caitlin Johnstone

Best part starts about 6:30