And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Causes of Belief

Slavoj Žižek, "The ethical beauty of persuasion without believing" (Google translated from Turkish)
(before: Woman convinces what she believes, man believes what she believes)

If you pretend to believe, if you make you believe what you believe, if you put on the mask of faith, you will believe, faith will come to you little by little.

How do we connect the subject to this formula of Pascal's? Are women people stuck in stage one? But what about the idea of persuasion (pretending) so as not to drown in faith?

For example, if my love suffocates me, I exclude it through rituals, act as if I am in love, get married, etc. so that I can distance myself from my love and give myself a breathing space.

Could it be that we pretend to be men in order to transfer faith in our masculinity to someone else? Which brings us to what happened in Rossellini's late-stage masterpiece, General della Rovere, in which the Germans arrested an unskilled robber/con artist (played wonderfully by Vittorio de Sica) in Genoa in the winter of 1944/45.

The Germans offer him a deal: he will leak secret information by convincing the imprisoned political prisoners that he is the legendary Resistance hero General della Rovere and will learn the true identity of the important Resistance leader "Fabrizio".

But this unskilled robber gets so caught up in his role that he eventually takes full ownership of the role and chooses to be shot as a General. The unskilled robber pretends to be a General, makes him believe that he is a General, but does he follow Pascalian logic and ultimately believe it himself?

Of course he wouldn't, he would just be crazy if he really believed that. The ethical beauty of the film is that despite knowing exactly who he is until the bitter end, this unskilled robber is still ready to lay down his life as General della Rovere.

From the Void That Cannot Hold Itself Back

Turkish: Işık Barış Fidaner

Salvador Dali, "Christ of Saint John of the Cross" (1951)
“Where there is no love, put love–and you will find love.” 
~St. John of the Cross, (1542-1591)

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Sunday, June 26, 2022

On Thoughts...

Slavoj Žižek, "Transcendent Object: Thinking" (Google translated from Turkish)
In the representation of the object "belonging to reality", an empty excess is marked while the multiplicity of sense is synthesized. This excess is the imposition of X, which is the unknown basis of perceived phenomenal sensations. Let's look at Findlay's accurate formula:
Appearances always refer to a Transcendent Object—X—and although we know nothing about it, that X is nevertheless the objective conjugation of the compounding synthesis actions of thinking selfconsciousness. If conceived in this way, the Transcendental Object can be considered a Numen or a Thinking (Gedankending). If you refer to Think, though, in this way, you are not resorting to categories, you are making an empty synthesis gesture that does not actually put anything objective in front of you. (Kant and the Transcendental Object)
That is, the Transcendent Object is the opposite of Ding-an-Sich: it is "empty" in the sense of being exempt from any "objective" content. To arrive at its concept, you must abstract the sensible object from all sensible contents, you must abstract it from all the sensations that act from object to subject in the name of the Thing (Ding). The remaining empty X is the pure objective conjugation/effect of the subject's autonomous-spontaneous synthesis activity. Paradoxically: The Transcendent Object is the part of "self" that is relative to the subject, the part that the subject puts on; it is just the "putting" of an indeterminate X.

This "empty synthesis gesture," which adds nothing positive to the thing, that adds no new sensible properties to it, but nevertheless constitutes that thing with the faculty of being an empty gesture, that makes it an object, is the most basic form of the act of symbolism, its zero-ground. On the first page of his book, Findlay states: "According to Kant, the Transcendent Object is no different from the objects that the senses perceive and that we can judge and know... it is only the comprehension of these same sensible objects in terms of some inherent property that is not visible, which in these respects is not judgeable or knowable."

It is precisely this inrepresentational excess that adds itself to this X, the set of sensible properties, precisely Gedankending: it bears witness that the unity of the object does not exist in itself, but is established as a result of the synthesis activity of the subject.

From "Playing with the Negative"

Turkish: Işık Barış Fidaner

The circle looks from square to triangle: window, page, curtain, screen, mirror, frame.

See "Nature and Idea: The Triangle and the Circle", "There is a village in the distance" Ahmet Kutsi Tecer

Shake your love! whatever!

On roads not taken... for all the wrong reasons

In the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey
Butane in my veins and I'm out to cut the junkie
With the plastic eyeballs, spray-paint the vegetables
Dog food stalls with the beefcake pantyhose

Kill the headlights and put it in neutral
Stock car flamin' with a loser and the cruise control
Baby's in Reno with the vitamin D
Got a couple of couches, sleep on the love-seat

Someone came in sayin' I'm insane to complain
About a shotgun wedding and a stain on my shirt
Don't believe everything that you breathe
You get a parking violation and a maggot on your sleeve
So shave your face with some mace in the dark
Savin' all your food stamps and burnin' down the trailer park
Yo, cut it

Soy un perdedor
I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?
(Double-barrel buckshot)
Soy un perdedor
I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?

Forces of evil in a bozo nightmare
Ban all the music with a phony gas chamber
'Cause one's got a weasel and the other's got a flag
One's on the pole, shove the other in a bag
With the rerun shows and the cocaine nose-job

The daytime crap of the folksinger slob
He hung himself with a guitar string
A slab of turkey-neck and it's hanging from a pigeon wing
You can't write if you can't relate
Trade the cash for the beef for the body for the hate
And my time is a piece of wax falling on a termite
That's choking on the splinters

Soy un perdedor
I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?
(Get crazy with the cheeze whiz)
Soy un perdedor
I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?
(Drive-by body pierce)

Yo, bring it on down

(I'm a driver, I'm a winner)
(Things are gonna change I can feel it)

Soy un perdedor
I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?
(I can't believe you)
Soy un perdedor
I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?

Soy un perdedor
I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?
(Sprechen Sie deutsch, baby?)
Soy un perdedor
I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?
(Know what I'm sayin'?)

Saturday, June 25, 2022

On Democracy's New 'Masters'


Işık Barış Fidaner, "Luhmann: Second-order Cybernetics is Analytical Discourse" (translated from Turkish)
Dynamistic Echology resonates well with Niklas Luhmann's Ecological Communication (1985) [1]. The key concept that connects Luhmann to psychoanalysis is self-referential.

When we say self-referential, the Essential-Cursor that comes to mind (S1) It is well known that there is a self-referential element in the master's discourse that blindly repeats itself, so it is also called empty signifier or floating signifier.

But S1 The self-referentiality of is tainted by the particularity of the cursor himself. To distill the element of pure self-referential, we must focus on the truth of the Master's discourse, that is, on the crossed-out subject ($) that brings about the discourse of hysteria. The only reason the Essential-Cursor is self-referential is because it captures the hysteria of the $, which fuels the desire for presence in speech and language [2].

Even if there is a traditional disagreement between Hakim Efendi and the hysterical who questions dominance, this lack of coordination has gradually transformed over the past 50 years into increasingly hysterical masters, who can take advantage of their own hysterical defeatism to strengthen their own dominance. In the capitalist discourse formulated by Lacan to express this development, the Efendi discourse is S1 and $ is replaced. This new hysterical mastery is called "self-remitting autopoiesis" in Luhmann's work [3].

Luhman makes an important distinction between first-order observation and second-degree observation. First-order observation is a naïve ontology of reality. In the contemporary philosophical environment, this naivety belongs to the latest fashionable "new materialisms" and "object-oriented ontologies." This naïve claim to ascertain "objective reality" is based on fetishist denial and is worthy of the Master's discourse.

Luhmann's preferred second-order observation can not only sink into the self-referentiality of observing his environment, but can also observe the self-referentiality of another observer. This formula immediately brings to mind the analytical discourse obtained by making a quarter turn to the discourse of hysteria. The hysterical is embedded in its own self-referentiality, while the analyst can observe the self-referential hysteria. In Luhmann's words, the analyst can see that "hysteria cannot see what it cannot see," which is a very good formula for the psychoanalytic symptom to become a blind spot.

The famous May 1968 protests, which coincided with the meteoric rise of environmentalism in the 1960s and 1970s, marked the beginning of a global transformation that shifted the emphasis of capitalist domination from prohibition to permissiveness [4]. Lacan is known to have called the 1968 protesters "naïve hysterics who actually wanted a new Master." The lenient new Master, which replaces the traditional prohibitive Master discourse, has two alternative references: either it refers to the power-knowledge of the University discourse, which is indirectly fed by the self-referentiality of hysteria, or it refers to the direct "self-referential autopoiesis" of the hysterical masters in capitalist discourse, which is even worse than the university discourse.

Luhmann's conclusion that environmentalists were first-degree observers echoes Lacan's reasoning about the 1968 protesters: They were naïve ontologists who remained buried in their own self-reference. In other words, they were Masters, but they were actually hysterical.

Like the Lacanian analyst who dealt with the hysterical subject, Luhmann advised ecologists not to assume the position of protesters, content with directly observing the environment and gathering statistics, but rather "observing the protester" and thus seeing that "the protester cannot see what he cannot see"; in other words, he suggested that they observe and interpret the protestant/hysterical symptom in a dynamistic way, that is, they should be echolologists, not ecologists.


Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD (Boğaziçi University). He is the Editor of Irrelevant Things, the Editor of Žižekian Analysis, and the Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


[1] Thanks to Guilherme Preger for drawing attention to this issue. See "Dynamistic and Dynamistic Specificity", "Echology, Ecosystems, Ecosite"

[2] See "Hysteria is complaint, complaint by complaint"

[3] On the hysterical masters in Lacan's capitalist discourse, see "Lacan on the discourse of capitalism; Critical prospects" Bert Olivier

[4] "Beyond Ecological Crisis: Niklas Luhmann's Theory of Social Systems" Hannes Bergthaller

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Kynical Fools (w/o power) or Cynical Knaves (w/power)?

Slavoj Žižek, "Employment: Regiment and Irony" (Google translated from Turkish)
A normal person is too immoral to believe, but too moral to know. (Sigmund Freud)
We should not assume that the opposites between which we make dialectical transitions are symmetrical: Hegel says that the two transitions (between 'authentic' authority and external coercion) neither follow the same logic nor can substitute each other. The best example of this dialectical asymmetry is the cynical-irony dichotomy.

The sarcastic's main gesture is to expose that 'genuine authority' is subtlety, arguing that the only ingredient that makes authority effective is allegiance for the sake of brute force or material gain; the ironist doubts the credibility of those who seem to be cold-blooded with utilitarian calculations – these distant states of reckoning are probably a cover for a much deeper commitment to him.

The cynical immediately disdain the ridiculous spectacle of the dignified official; the ironist may recognize that the number of obscene insults or indifference [to ignore] is in fact an expression of devotion.

For example, in the case of love, the sarcasm's specialty is to explain that the deep spiritual relations that are enthusiastically declared are actually tactics to exploit the lover by sexual and similar means, while the ironist enters into a melancholic mood by considering your ridicule, even humiliation, of your inability to admit the true depth of your devotion to him.

Perhaps the most ironist artist was Mozart – it is enough to mention the masterpiece of Così fan tutte. The 'Soave il vento' trilogy can of course be read sarcastically, as an imitation of a sad farewell displayed by those who barely hide their joy from the erotic schemes they will soon translate; ironically, the subjects singing the song, including Don Alfonso, the manipulator who planned the intrigue, are nevertheless genuinely complacent about this sad state of affairs – such unexpected circumstance escapes the sarcasm's comprehension.

At first glance you might think that the cynic is putting a much more radical distance than the ironist: Isn't irony 'top-down' a compassionate contempt (which remains within the symbolic order) – that is, the distance that the subject who looks at the world from the elevated position of the great Other puts on people because he realizes that all of the banal earthly pleasures they are attracted to are ultimately futile – is cynicism not based on the 'earthly' point of view that frustrates our belief in the binding power of the Word, the symbolic pact? Doesn't he argue that the only real substance that 'comes from below' and has meaning and significance is arbitrariness: Diogenes the Cynic in the face of Socrates?

But the real relationship is the opposite: the cynical starts from a correct premise by saying that "there is no great Other"—the symbolic order is a fiction—but the great Other 'does not work' comes to the erroneous conclusion that the role played by fictions can be ignored: the cynic becomes a slave to the symbolic context containing the definitions on which he leans in order to attain Thing-Arbitrariness, since he fails to realize that the subject's relation to the reality of arbitrariness is in any case regulated by symbolic fiction, he is trapped worse in the symbolic ritual he ridicules in the eyes of the public.

This is what Lacan means by the phrase 'kanman is the rope' (those who do not bleed are entangled/mistaken: les non-dupes errent): Those who are not fooled by symbolic fiction are mistaken, entangled, and miss the end of the rope. The ironic, seemingly 'soft' approach is a far more effective way of untying the knots that hold the symbolic universe together – after all, the side that manages to take on the absence of the Other is ironic, not cynical.

Perhaps based on the diligence-irony dichotomy, one aspect of the 'spiritual' divide/rift that still exists between the East (former Communist Eastern Europe) and the West can be identified. The attitude that persists in the East is cynical distrust of the binding authority of the Word, the symbolic pact, while the West suspects that the cynical subject is not so 'free' in his utilitarian-calculative behavior, that he is caught in a web that surrounds him with internal obstacles and symbolic debts that he cannot admit.

The most common interpretive attitude in psychoanalysis is almost a paragon of cynicism: isn't psychoanalytic interpretation in essence the act of detecting the 'despicable' motives (sexual lust, unacknowledged aggression) that hide behind seemingly 'noble' gestures, such as the spiritual exaltation of the lover or heroic bountifulness?

But this approach is a little too smooth; The real enigma that psychoanalysis seeks to explain can be the opposite: how can the actual behavior of a person who declares himself free and free from 'prejudices' and 'moral constraints' bear witness to countless inner moles, unacknowledged prohibitions, etc.? How can someone who freely 'enjoys life' systematically 'pursue unhappiness' and organise and prepare his own failure in various ways? What could be his interest in this work, how could he pervert enjoy it?

The proof that cynicism in practice relies heavily on the symbolic bond rather than undermining it—proof that this is the reliance and the conjugation of the cynical distance is this dependence—is the characteristic that seems to contradict the cynical attitude of distrust that gives Eastern European Socialism its character: in these countries the power of the Word was believed almost paranoidly.

The state and the ruling Party would be in a grave panic at the slightest public criticism, acting as if an explosion that would overthrow the entire socialist system could be triggered by the force of a few vague critical insinuations in a vague poem featured in a small fanzine or in an article published in an academic philosophical journal.

That is why, looking at the present in retrospect, 'real Socialism' achieves a nostalgic sympathy because it testifies to the survival of the legacy of the Enlightenment (the belief in influencing society through rational discussions) in those countries. Perhaps that was why it was possible to undermine 'real Socialism' by peaceful movements of civilised society operating at the level of the Word – believing in the might of the Word was the Achilles heel of that system.

The point here is again the overlap of opposites in ideology: 'Ideologically' is not only the deception that mysteries the brute force it disguises as 'authentic' sovereignty and reverence for the Master, but also – even more so – our inability to understand by some illusions that the authoritative types are penetrating from within and 'caught' us, that is, that we depend on that Master to avoid the impasse of our own desire at the level of the unconscious libidinal economy, even though we think we are bowing to external coercion.

This cynical-ironist dichotomy is perhaps not any duality in the set of complementary ideological procedures; this duality may give us the key to the fundamental impasse that creates the radical ambiguity of the notion of ideology, since it shows that the opponent of an ideological procedure is eventually understood to be just as ideological.

It reduces cynical, ideological chimeras to crude reality, seeking the real ground underlying elevated ideological fictions; the ironist suspects that reality itself may not be so real, but may have been constructed like a fiction governed by an ever-already unconscious fantasy. Both attitudes fall into the well he has dug himself: the mocker's hollow is his naïve belief in ultimate reality, which lies outside the web of symbolic fictions; The ironist's well-off is the opposite: to reduce reality to fiction.

So how will this vicious circle be broken? How can one avoid these two positions undermining each other with a paradox similar to that in Escher's painting of two hands drawing each other with a pencil? Lacan guides us by distinguishing between reality (which is constructed like fiction) and Reality that resists symbolization.

From Indivisible Kalan

Turkish: Işık Barış Fidaner

See "Naman-i Pir: Kanman is Rope, Meaning: Al Nam! (les noms du père: les non-dupes errent)" Jacques Lacan

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Ukraine Again... Naturally

Slavoj Žižek, "Pacifism is the wrong response to the war in Ukraine"
The least we owe Ukraine is full support, and to do this we need a stronger Nato

For me, John Lennon’s mega-hit Imagine was always a song popular for the wrong reasons. Imagine that “the world will live as one” is the best way to end in hell.

Those who cling to pacifism in the face of the Russian attack on Ukraine remain caught in their own version of “imagine”. Imagine a world in which tensions are no longer resolved through armed conflicts … Europe persisted in this world of “imagine”, ignoring the brutal reality outside its borders. Now it’s the time to awaken.

The dream of a quick Ukrainian victory, the repetition of the initial dream of a quick Russian victory, is over. In what looks more and more as a protracted stalemate, Russia is slowly progressing, and its ultimate goal is clearly stated. There is no longer any need to read between the lines when Putin compares himself with Peter the Great: “On the face of it, he was at war with Sweden taking something away from it … He was not taking away anything, he was returning … He was returning and reinforcing, that is what he was doing … Clearly, it fell to our lot to return and reinforce as well.”

More than focus on particular issues (is Russia really just “returning”, and to what?) we should read carefully Putin’s general justification of his claim: “In order to claim some kind of leadership – I am not even talking about global leadership, I mean leadership in any area – any country, any people, any ethnic group should ensure their sovereignty. Because there is no in-between, no intermediate state: either a country is sovereign, or it is a colony, no matter what the colonies are called.”

The implication of these lines, as one commentator put it, is clear: there are two categories of state: “The sovereign and the conquered. In Putin’s imperial view, Ukraine should fall into the latter category.”

And, as it is no less clear from Russian official statements in the last months, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Finland, the Baltic states … and ultimately Europe itself “fall into the latter category”.

We now know what the call to allow Putin to “save his face” means. It means accepting not a minor territorial compromise in Donbas but Putin’s imperial ambition. The reason this ambition should be unconditionally rejected is that in today’s global world in which we are all haunted by the same catastrophes we are all in-between, in an intermediate state, neither a sovereign country nor a conquered one: to insist on full sovereignty in the face of global warming is sheer madness since our very survival hinges on tight global cooperation.

But Russia doesn’t simply ignore global warming – why was it so mad at the Scandinavian countries when they expressed their intention to join Nato? With global warming, what is at stake is the control of the Arctic passage. (That’s why Trump wanted to buy Greenland from Denmark.) Due to the explosive development of China, Japan and South Korea, the main transport route will run north of Russia and Scandinavia. Russia’s strategic plan is to profit from global warming: control the world’s main transport route, plus develop Siberia and control Ukraine. In this way, Russia will dominate so much food production that it will be able to blackmail the whole world. This is the ultimate economic reality beneath Putin’s imperial dream.

Those who advocate less support for Ukraine and more pressure on it to negotiate, inclusive of accepting painful territorial renunciations, like to repeat that Ukraine simply cannot win the war against Russia. True, but I see exactly in this the greatness of Ukrainian resistance: they risked the impossible, defying pragmatic calculations, and the least we owe them is full support, and to do this, we need a stronger Nato – but not as a prolongation of the US politics.

The US strategy to counteract through Europe is far from self-evident: not just Ukraine, Europe itself is becoming the place of the proxy war between US and Russia, which may well end up by a compromise between the two at Europe’s expense. There are only two ways for Europe to step out of this place: to play the game of neutrality – a short-cut to catastrophe – or to become an autonomous agent. (Just think how the situation may change if Trump wins the next US elections.)

While some leftists claim that the ongoing war is in the interest of the Nato industrial-military complex, which uses the need for new arms to avoid crisis and gain new profits, their true message to Ukraine is: OK, you are victims of a brutal aggression, but do not rely on our arms because in this way you play in the hands of the industrial-military complex …

The disorientation caused by the Ukrainian war is producing strange bedfellows like Henry Kissinger and Noam Chomsky who “come from opposing ends of the political spectrum – Kissinger serving as secretary of state under Republican presidents and Chomsky one of the leading leftwing intellectuals in the United States – and have frequently clashed. But when it comes to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, both recently advocated for Ukraine to consider a settlement that could see it dropping claim to some land to achieve a quicker peace deal.”

In short, the two stand for the same version of “pacifism” which only works if we neglect the key fact that the war is not about Ukraine but a moment of the brutal attempt to change our entire geopolitical situation. The true target of the war is the dismantlement of the European unity advocated not only by the US conservatives and Russia but also by the European extreme right and left – at this point, in France, Melenchon meets Le Pen.

The craziest notion floating around these days is that, to counter the new polarity between the US and China (which stand for the excesses of western liberalism and oriental authoritarianism), Europe and Russia should rejoin forces and form a third “Eurasian” block based on the Christian legacy purified of its liberal excess. The very idea of an “Eurasian” third way is a form of today’s fascism.

So what will happen “when voters in Europe and America, faced with soaring energy costs and broader inflation driven by sanctions against Russia, might lose their appetite for a war that seems to have no end, with needs that are only expanding as both sides head for a protracted stalemate”? The answer is clear: at that point, the European legacy will be lost, and Europe will be de facto divided between an American and a Russian sphere of influence. In short, Europe itself will become the place of a war that seems to have no end …

What is absolutely unacceptable for a true leftist today is not only to support Russia but also to make a more “modest” neutral claim that the left is divided between pacifists and supporters of Ukraine, and that one should treat this division as a minor fact which shouldn’t affect the left’s global struggle against global capitalism.

When a country is occupied, it is the ruling class which is usually bribed to collaborate with the occupiers to maintain its privileged position, so that the struggle against the occupiers becomes a priority. The same can go for the struggle against racism; in a state of racial tension and exploitation, the only way to effectively struggle for the working class is to focus on fighting racism (this is why any appeal to the white working class, as in today’s alt-right populism, betrays class struggle).

Today, one cannot be a leftist if one does not unequivocally stand behind Ukraine. To be a leftist who “shows understanding” for Russia is like to be one of those leftists who, before Germany attacked the Soviet Union, took seriously German “anti-imperialist” rhetoric directed at the UK and advocated neutrality in the war of Germany against France and the UK.

If the left will fail here, the game is over for it. But does this mean that the Left should simply take the side of the west, inclusive of the rightist fundamentalists who also support Ukraine?

In a speech in Dallas on 18 May 2022, while criticizing Russia’s political system, the ex-president Bush said: “The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq.” He quickly corrected himself: “I mean, of Ukraine,” then said “Iraq, anyway” to laughter from the crowd, and added “75”, referring to his age.

As many commentators noted, two things cannot but strike the eye in this rather obvious Freudian slip: the fact that the public received Bush’s implicit confession that the US attack on Iraq (ordered by him) was “a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion” with laughter, instead of treating it as an admission of a crime comparable to the Russian invasion of Ukraine; plus Bush’s enigmatic continuation of his self-correction “Iraq, anyway” – what did he mean by it? That the difference between Ukraine and Iraq doesn’t really matter? The final reference to his advanced age doesn’t affect in any way this enigma.

But the enigma is dispelled the moment we take Bush’s statement seriously and literally: yes, with all differences taken into account (Zelenskiy is not a dictator like Saddam), Bush did the same thing as Putin is now doing to Ukraine, so they should be both judged by the same standard.

On the day I am writing this, we learned from the media that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition to the US has been approved by the UK home secretary, Priti Patel. His crime? Nothing other than to render public the crimes confessed by Bush’s slip of tongue: the documents revealed by WikiLeaks revealed how, under Bush’s presidency, “the US military had killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents during the war in Afghanistan, while leaked Iraq war files showed 66,000 civilians had been killed, and prisoners tortured.” Crimes fully comparable with what Putin is doing in Ukraine. From today’s hindsight, we can say that WikiLeaks disclosed dozens of American Buchas and Mariupols.

So while putting Bush on trial is no less illusory than bringing Putin to the Hague tribunal, the minimum to be done by those who oppose Russian invasion of Ukraine is to demand Assange’s immediate release. Ukraine claims it fights for Europe, and Russia claims it fights for the rest of the world against western unipolar hegemony. Both claims should be rejected, and here the difference between right and left enters the stage.

From the rightist standpoint, Ukraine fights for European values against the non-European authoritarians; from the leftist standpoint, Ukraine fights for global freedom, inclusive of the freedom of Russians themselves. That’s why the heart of every true Russian patriot beats for Ukraine.
Partial Variation on article above...

Slavoj Zizek, "For Putin, Germany is also a potential colony" (Google translated from German)
Today we encounter pacifists on both the right and left who call on Ukraine to make concessions to Russia. For a genuine leftist, however, this is unacceptable. Because in Ukraine, Europe is defending its Protestant heritage against authoritarian orthodoxy.

In a speech in Dallas on May 18, 2022, former President Bush criticized Russia's political system: "The result is a lack of control and balance in Russia and one man's decision to launch a totally unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq." He quickly corrected himself, "I mean, in Ukraine," and then, to the laughter of the crowd, said, "In Iraq anyway," adding "75," his age. As many commentators have noted, two things are striking about this rather blatant Freudian slip: the fact that the public did not appreciate Bush's implicit admission that the US attack on Iraq (which he ordered) was "a wholly unwarranted and brutal invasion"; laughed at instead of taking it as an admission of a crime comparable to the Russian invasion of Ukraine; and Bush's enigmatic continuation of his self-correction “Iraq anyway” – what did he mean by that?

That the difference between Ukraine and Iraq doesn't really matter? The last clue to his advanced age doesn't change this mystery. But the riddle is solved the moment we take Bush's statement seriously and literally: Yes, for all the differences (Zelenskyj is not a dictator like Saddam), Bush did the same thing that Putin is doing to Ukraine now, so both should be judged by the same standard....

critique of Zizek

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Zizek on What it Means to be Human...

ARION MCNICOLL, "AI will deepen divisions, say Yuval Noah Harari and Slavoj Zizek"
Audiences at this year’s HowTheLightGetsIn festival heard a stark warning about the risks of artificial intelligence

Humans should worry less about what is natural and more about how our efforts to create artificial intelligence could end up deepening divisions between us, two leading thinkers have said.

During a packed event at the HowTheLightGetsIn festival at Hay-on-Wye on the Jubilee weekend, the historian and best-selling author of Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari, and philosopher Slavoj Žižek appeared together on a panel for the first time to discuss whether nature should be regarded as humanity’s friend or foe.

In a wide-ranging discussion, the two celebrity intellectuals rejected the binary choice. Nature is neither our friend nor our enemy, they said, neither good nor bad. Instead it exists outside morality, even if moral terms may be hard to resist. “If we have a mother nature, then this mother is a dirty bitch!” Žižek said, pouring scorn on the notion of nature as a benevolent caregiver.

Surprised to find themselves on the same side of the argument (“when will the knives come out?” Žižek wondered aloud), they suggested that the distinction between the natural and the non-natural was itself artificial.

Over the past few centuries, our scientific and technological successes have helped to convince us that humans are somehow above nature, they said. The notion that human-led innovations and incidents such as nuclear reactors, the Covid-19 vaccine or even the war in Ukraine are “natural” may sound peculiar. But given their existence doesn’t violate any natural laws and they are made of the same physical material as everything else, then in a sense they are. For this reason, Harari said “You can’t get morality and ethics out of the laws of nature.”

And yet, Žižek said, what we call “nature” is culturally mediated. Things we put in the category today are different from those considered natural in the 16th century. Our sense of the natural is also deeply ideological, Harari said. When homosexuality was considered “unnatural”, that was a political statement. Nature doesn’t offer us moral rules or attempt to determine what is right and wrong; nature just is.

These definitions are about to be challenged again, Harari said, given we are on the verge of creating what he called “inorganic life”, in the form of advanced artificial intelligence. By definition “artificial” today, it may be considered natural in the future.

Humans, meanwhile, may be heading in the opposite direction. With gene therapy and bionic implants, we are also on the cusp of changing our biological makeup in radical ways. That might thrill transhumanists, said Harari, but we should exercise caution. Dictators have long dreamt of this power.

“My biggest fear is that in this attempt to upgrade humans, we will actually downgrade ourselves,” Harari said. “If you give corporations and armies the technology to start messing with our DNA, to start messing with our brains, they may amplify certain human qualities that they need, like discipline… meanwhile, they don’t need other human qualities like compassion or artistic sensitivity or spirituality.”

Žižek agreed that the ability to enhance the human body could end up debasing humanity. Stalin, he noted, wanted to do exactly that: to create an army of genetically engineered workers who could labour beyond the limits of any human and survive on basic provisions.

Their vision went far beyond the commonplace fear that AI would put a few people out of work – or even that the robots might rise up against us. “The problem isn’t whether we will be enslaved by machines, but that this enslavement will strengthen the division between humans,” Zizek said. “Some people will control us, and some people will be controlled.”

It was a bracing thought for a bank holiday weekend, but just the sort of bold idea that HowTheLightGetsIn was created to invoke. Founder Hilary Lawson said one of his primary motivations for setting up the festival was a hope that philosophy would be taken more seriously.

“Back in 2008, people might have joked that philosophy was more for Parisian taxi drivers than the everyday person,” Lawson said. “It had walled itself in with arguments over the meaning of terms and words and definitions, which really didn’t seem to have much bearing on people and their everyday lives. For many at the time, philosophy was more associated with the Monty Python philosopher’s football match than it was with anything actually worth talking about. I wanted to see whether I could change that.”

On the evidence of Harari and Žižek’s discussion over the weekend, and the growing interest in the HTLGI festival which has been called “Europe’s answer to TED”, which today receives more than a million views on its website each month, that ambition has been successful.

“You don't need to be from a technical background to connect with questions about why we’re alive,” Lawson said. “We’re all philosophers really – it’s about what it means to be human.”

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Severance - Subjectivity's "Hollywood" 'Zero Point'? On Selling the "Post Human" Future.

 I gotta get me one of those Elon Musk's Neuralinks...

I woulda labelled this video, "Identity with an Incomplete Subjectivity"

The Muselmann - Subjectivity's "Psychoanalytic" 'Zero Point'?

Bruno Bettelheim

In short, is it not that today, in our resigned post-ideological era which admits no positive Absolutes, the only legitimate candidate for the Absolute are radically evil acts? This negative-theological status of the Holocaust finds its supreme expression in Giorgio Agamben's "Remnants of Auschwitz", in which he provides a kind of ontological proof of Auschwitz against revisionists who deny the Holocaust. He directly concludes the existence of the Holocaust from its' 'concept' (notions like the living-dead 'Muslims' are so 'intense' that they could not have emerged without the fact of the Holocaust) - what better proof is there that, in some of today's cultural studies, the Holocaust is in fact elevated to the dignity of the Thing, perceived as the negative Absolute? And it tells us a lot about today's constellation that the only Absolute is that of sublime/ irrepresentable Evil. Agamben refers to the four modal categories (possibility, impossibility, contingency, necessity), articulating them along the axis of subjectification- desubjectification: possibility ( to be able to be) and contingency (to be able not to be) are the operators of subjectification; while impossibility (not to be able to be) and necessity (not to be able not to be) are the operators of desubjectification - and what happens in Auschwitz is the point at which the two sides of the axis fall together:

Auschwitz represents the historical point at which these processes collapse, the devastating experience in which the impossible is forced into the real. Auschwitz is the existence of the impossible, the most radical negation of the contingency; it is, therefore, absolute necessity. The Muselmann [the 'living dead' of the camp] produced by Auschwitz is the catastrophe of the subject that then follows, the subject's effacement as the place of contingency and its maintenance as existence of the impossible.
Thus Auschwitz designates the catastrophe of a kind of ontological short circuit: subjectivity (the opening of the space of contingency in which possibility counts more than actuality) collapses into the objectivity in which it is impossible for things not to follow 'blind' necessity. In order to grasp this point, we should not consider the two aspects of the term 'impossibility': first impossibility as the simple obverse of necessity ('it couldn't have been otherwise'); then, impossibility as the ultimate unthinkable limit of possibility itself ('something so horrible cannot really happen; nobody can be so evil') - in Auschwitz, the two aspects coincide. We can even put it in Kantian terms, as the short circuit between the noumenal and the phenomenal: in the figure of the Muselmann, the living dead, the desubjectivized subject, the noumenal dimension (of the free subject) appears in empirical reality itself - Muselmann is the noumenal Thing directly appearing oin phenomenal reality; as such, it is the witness of what one cannot bear witness to. And, in a further step, Agamben reads the unique figure of Musselmann as irrefutable proof of the existence of Auschwitz:
Let us, indeed, posit Auschwitz, that to which it is not possible to bear witness, and let us also posit the Muselmann as the absolute impossibility of bearing witness. If the witness bears witness for the Muselmann, if he succeeds in bringing to speech an impossibility of speech - if the Muselmann is thus constituted as the whole witness - then the denial of Auschwitz is refuted in its very foundation. In the Muselmann, the impossibility of bearing witness is no longer a mere privation. Instead, it has become real; it exists as such. If the survivor bears witness not to the gas chambers or to Auschwitz but to the Muselmann, if he speaks only on the basis of an impossibility of speaking, then his testimony cannot be denied. Auschwitz - that to which it is not possible to bear witness - is absolutely and irrefutably proven.
We cannot but admit the finesse of this theorization: far from hindering any proof that Auschwitz really existed, the very fact that it is impossible directly to bear witness to Auschwitz demonstrates its existence. There, in this reflexive twist, lies the fatal miscalculation of the well-known cynical Nazi argument quoted by Primo Levi and others: 'What we are doing to the Jews is so irrepresentable in its horror that even if someone survives the camps, he will not be believed by those whose were not there - they will simply declare him a liar or mentally ill!' Agamben's counterargument is: true, it is not possible to bear witness to the ultimate horror of Auschwitz - but what if this impossibility itself is embodied in a survivor? If, then, there is a subjectivity like that of the Muselmann, a subject brought to the extreme point of collapsing into objectivity, such desubjectivized subjectivity could have emerged only in the conditions which are those of Auschwitz... None the less, this line of argument, inexorable as it is in its very simplicity, remains deeply ambiguous: it leaves unaccomplished the task of the concrete analysis of the historical singularity of the Holocaust. That is to say: it is impossible to read in two opposed ways - as the conceptual expression of a certain extreme position which would then be accounted for in terms of a concrete historical analysis; or, in a kind of ideological short circuit, as an insight into the a priori structure of the Auschwitz phenomenon which displaces, renders superfluous - or, at least, secondary - such concrete analysis of the singularity of Nazism as a political project and of why it generated the Holocaust. In this second reading, 'Auschwitz' becomes the name of something which, in a way, had to happen, whose 'essential possibility' was inscribed into the very matrix of the Western political process - sooner or later, the two sides of the axis had to collapse.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Welcome to the Desert of the Real"
Know any Refrigerator Mom's?

Autism - Subjectivity's "Neurological" 'Zero Point'? Psychology 2020 = Medicine circa 1865?

Paul Lutus, "Psychology's Fashion Pendulum"

Modern-day psychology plays a central role in cultivating professional victims. Because psychology is not a science (for reasons explained here), it has instead become a sort of opinion pendulum, swinging in step with popular fashions and beliefs.

During psychology's relatively short history, the majority of beliefs and practices that have held sway over clinicians' thinking have been abandoned for cause, replaced by new, equally dubious notions. For example, in the 1960s, psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim declared that autistic children were produced by "refrigerator moms", mothers who, according to Bettelheim, were not competent to bond emotionally with their children, eventually resulting in a complete incapacity for emotional attachment in the children. It need hardly be added that Bettelheim's position had no supporting evidence whatsoever, a fact which didn't hinder its acceptance at all, more the rule than the exception in psychology.

Apart from a lack of evidence, the "refrigerator moms" idea had some serious, practical defects. By seeming to demonizing motherhood, this idea had the effect of driving a lot of perfectly good clients away from the services offered by psychologists. In the final analysis, psychology is a business, and businesses don't thrive by driving customers away (more on this below). Also, no amount of talk therapy, behavioral modification or drugs, applied to either the mothers or the children, seemed to improve the condition of autism sufferers. Obviously if autism were the result of specific parental behavior, changing parental behavior should have changed the condition, but this isn't what was observed. For these and other reasons, in recent times psychology's fashion pendulum has swung away from Bettelheim's harsh indictment of motherhood and apple pie.

But of all the factors working to change psychology's outlook, none is more important than some widespread changes in society outside the clinic doors. From a baseline attitude that individuals must accept individual responsibility for their actions, an idea that has been gradually eroding away in modern times, we are on the cusp of declaring everyone a victim of something — parents, society, genes, acts of God — and any throwbacks presuming to hold individuals responsible for their own fates and actions are accused of "blaming the victim," an inspired phrase and one perfectly in tune with modern times.

Before judging Bruno Bettelheim's error too harshly, one should realize that Bettleheim was a NAZI death camp survivor... and sought to draw parallel's between the behaviour of autistic children with the psychology induced in Death Camp survivors, such as himself.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022


Slavoj Žižek, "Yoğulluk (absential): The Sine qua non of it, (S)ontenuntangible Occasion, (S)ontenland Occasion"
Terrence Deacon states in his book Incomplete Nature (2011) that, as the title suggests, the only scientific way to explain the mind's exit from matter is through the ontological incompleteness of nature: 'The mind did not actually come out of matter, it came out of the constraints in matter.' This constraint is an internal obstacle or a limit that prevents certain possible things from happening, and the fact that these roads are not fastened is not accidental, it is necessary (even if it seems to be accidental)...

The phenomenon that provides invention and spirituality in humans is precisely that we use 10 percent of our brains: the emptiness of unappealed possibilities activates creative invention. In a sense, it is like the statue of the Venus of Milo: the missing woman's hands makes us imagine different versions of how the statue could be completed, whereas if the statue were complete, we would inevitably feel a rough fullness.

So how does this constraint work? Deacon's starting point is this: You cannot relate the phenomena of 'function, attribution, purpose, or value' to physical matter, because each of these phenomena is 'incomplete one way or another': 'Longing, desire, passion, appetite, mourning, loss, enthusiasm – all of which are based on a similar inner incompleteness, based on an indispensable lack of it.' These phenomena cannot be explained in physical terms or attributed to physical processes, because in them what Deacon calls 'absential' or 'angelic property' is not found in these physical terms and processes. The processes of vitality, feeling, and the higher mind of humans cannot be explained by calculations and cybernetic processes, and biology cannot be derived from, reduced to, or predicted by physics: 'Computations and cybernetic processes cannot contain emotion because they have no rational-dynamic organization.'

Deacon focuses on two aspects of the yotes:
1) The first meaning of socialism is the existence of a higher level, which cannot be seen from the point of view of the lower level, that is, an excess of self-organization that resides in existing matter (if we divide an organism into its material components, it is futile that we look for what constitutes the dynamic unity of the organism between those components – if we want to grasp this unity, we must conceive of that organism as the minimum ideal form that repeats itself through the continuous transformation of its components). [(s)incorrigible occasion]

2) The second meaning of socialism is the inherent purity of an organism, its orientation towards the future (an organism does things that can only be explained by reference to its future state, and by definition it cannot exist in its present state, it is like trying to accomplish another task by doing one task, mating, building a nest, etc.). [(s)on-page occasion]
But the sons have another, and far more radical meaning, in which Deacon draws parallels between the inclusion of zero in mathematics and the realism.

From Disputes

Turkish: Işık Barış Fidaner

A Little Melodrama...

Slavoj Žižek, "Our lives are structured like melodramas"
On the one hand, it is not accurate to put the fact that the woman is according to and for someone else, the narcissistic reflection of the man, the image of the masculine woman, and on the other hand, it is not very accurate to put the 'real woman herself' beyond the masculine discourse. In fact, I would like to suggest the opposite: the notion of  'the woman herself' is the last bastion of masculine fantasy, and when you follow the mundane predicaments of men's discourse on women to the end, you will come much closer to the 'real woman'. Here is that woman who is beyond that masculine symbolic order and who is called semiotic and so on, which can never be expressed... This notion of the strangeness is the last bastion of the masculine fantasy, let's call it so.

Now let's come to the other side. According to the man, division is excluded. In order to escape the inconsistency of his own desire, the man draws a line between the phallic field – the field of sexual pleasure, the field of intercourse with the sexual partner – and the non-phallic field – the non-sexual sphere of public activity. At that point, we encounter the paradoxes of the by-product-should-be-states mentioned in rational theories of choice: the man subordinates his relationship with the woman to the realm of ethical goals: if he is forced to choose between the woman and the ethical duty, profession, duty, etc., the man will immediately choose the duty; but he is also aware of genuine happiness, of personal fulfillment, of this and that cannot be achieved without association with the woman. So roughly speaking, what is the conspiracy of the masculine economy? You see that all the time in good Hollywood melodramas. What is the number of melodramas?

I can give you a lot of examples, but I shouldn't take up your time. The logic goes like this: A man sacrifices his love for a woman in the name of a high cause—revolution, work, anything that is claimed to be non-sexual—but his message between the lines is that his sacrifice of that love is precisely the undisputed proof of that love, in fact the woman is his everything; At the most glorious moment of melodrama (which is crucial to understanding the masculine sexual position), the woman finally realizes that the fact that the man who betrayed her, who abandoned her, sacrificed the woman, is in fact the undisputed proof of his love for the woman. The key phrase of melodramas is "I actually did it for you" if you pay attention, it is said just as you leave the woman.

This is the trick that a man is plotting: A woman is your supreme good, but in order to be worthy of her, you must betray her. I believe in melodramas. My motto is that our lives are structured like melodramas, where you find your own structure.

From Questioning the Truth

Turkish: Işık Barış Fidaner

Lost Objects

Slavoj Žižek, "Little by Little Arzula(la)tan Idealism Against Sparkling Turn-Turn(tüley)en Materialism"
The Derridian Deconstructionist Lacan reads as follows:
[staging has begun]

As soon as we enter the symbolic order, we lose forever the immediacy of pre-symbolic Truth, for our object of true desire ('mother!') has become impossible and inaccessible. Every positive object we encounter in reality is at best a substitute for this lost origin, a substitute for this incestuous Ding, rendered inaccessible precisely by the phenomenon of language – such is the 'symbolic emasculate'. Thus, man's existence through language is marked by an irreducible and constitutive deficiency. The signs we plunge into prevent us from attaining the universe Thing forever. The so-called 'external reality' is already 'structured like language', that is, the meanings there are always-already overdetermined by the symbolic framework that structures our perception of reality. The symbolic agency of the forbidding father ('Father's-Name') is at best personifying the impossibility identical to the phenomenon of symbolic order, embodying it – 'whoever speaks is forbidden to him arbitrarily'.

This separation/crack that forever separates the Lost Thing from the symbolic images that can never hit it draws the boundaries of the ethics of desire: the phrase 'compromise your desire' can only mean: Do not endure any substitution of the Thing, and keep the separation/crack of desire open. In our daily lives, we constantly fall into the imaginary traps that promise to heal the vanguarding wound of symbolization; Such is the woman who will make full sexual intercourse possible, and so is the totalitarian political ideal that will form the full real community. The basic maxim of the ethics of desire consists of desire itself: it is necessary to maintain desire in its unsatisfied state. In a sense, this is the heroism of lack: in the psychoanalytic panacea, the goal is to enable the subject to heroically assume the deficiency that constitutes itself; it is to make it withstand the division that fuels desire [perseverance/ desiration, etc. scolding/ar-zulalama]. One of the productive ways that saves us from this impasse is the possibility of glorification: it is to select an empirical, positive object and raise it to the dignity of the 'Thing', to make it represent the impossible Thing. This way you stick to your desire without getting caught up in the deadly vortex of the Thing. Because of this (mis)reading of Lacan, some German philosophers regarded Antigone's clinging to her desire as a negative attitude, i.e., a case study of being lost in the suicidal yar of the fatal obsession of the Thing who failed to glorify – whereas Lacan had not already presented Antigone as an exemplary case of the psychoanalytic ethic of 'compromising your desire'?

[staging finished]
At first glance, this Lacan reading seems very convincing and says 'of course!' – whereas the translation of Lacanian concepts into modern structuralist and/ or existentialist philosophemees such as philosopheme should be suspicious. To put it bluntly, this reading is Lacan's 'idealistic' distortion. It is the problematic of the Truth of 'materialistic' impulses that must be confronted with the problem of 'idealistic' desire and constitutive lack. In other words, according to Lacan, 'Truth' is not a pure negative category in the Kantian style, it is not the name of a boundary that does not give secrets about its own beyond. The Truth of the Impulse, on the contrary, is the agency of desire ["phallic you!"], the force that 'nudges/ sustains' desire [fellik fellik]. This 'active' (not pure negative) [causative] status of impulses in the sense of pre-symbolic 'libido' led Lacan to develop the myth of 'lamel'. In this legend, Lacan applies – instead of conceptual formulas – a mythical narrative – 'real creation', that is, he applies what happened before symbolization, before the symbolic order even appeared.

However, let this not make you think that impulse Truth has a complete ontological status and that formal-symbolic constructions are filled with this positive substance. Interestingly, Lacan's treatment of the concept of impulse is similar to Einstein's treatment of gravity in his theory of general relativity. Einstein 'de-essencetized' gravity by reducing it to geometry: gravity is not an essential force that 'bends, stalks, pokes' space; gravity is the name for curvature [bending, torsion, twisting] in space. Similarly, Lacan 'de-essentialized' impulses: the impulse is not a positive vanguard force; The impulse is a purely geometric, topological phenomenon, the name of the curvature in space in which desires reside, that is, the name of the following paradox: The path that leads to the object is not to go directly to the object (this is the surest way to miss the object), but to 'spin around'. This pure topological 'decay' of the natural instinct, which can be satisfied by the direct consumption of the object, is the impulse: charge → rise → flood.

From Questioning the Truth
Turkish: Işık Barış Fidaner

— What's the moment?

What a contradiction this is.

— Fıransa?

What about Fıransa?

— It's a moment!

That's what Firan commanded.

— I was left without Fıran.

You know, my Firans? Let me add you all to Fıran!

— I fell to the end of the Fıran-şip because of the Fıran-şip.

Last Fıran is the best deserter!

See "Substance: free, apologetic, already, itself", "The Denialist Folding and Confessional Membrane: The Head-Man, the Arch-Cross, the Ambition (2)", "Inception and Ontoanalysis: The Topch in the Beginning is the Lack of the Other", "Let Us Be Hawkers: Flying is Forgetting That You Have Fallen", "Impulsive Motivation (se faire)", "Component Drive (partial drive)" Laplanche, Pontalis, "The Cognitive Worker and the Sweatshop Worker: Capital That Brings the Two Banks Together" Slavoj Žižek, "Inertia creeps in" Massive Attack, "The dignity of the Thing" Slavoj Žižek, "Impulsive montage" Jacques Lacan, "Brecht and the Yar-Ejection: New Customs to the Old Village" Erika Hughes, "Puppets Boss" Metallica, "Unobtainium", "Whatever the Moment Wants" Rammstein, "Yerçek" Rammstein

Thanks to mugwort for the phrase "Fallik you!"

Saturday, June 4, 2022

An Appeal to Being MORE Politically Incorrect...

Scotty Hendricks, "Why Slavoj Zizek thinks political correctness is dumb"
Zizek is on the left and dislikes political correctness. How does that work out?

Slavoj Zizek is a well-known philosopher and cultural critic; loved as much for his eccentricities and provocative statements as his thought. He is well known for being a kind of communist. However, his left-wing stances are tempered by a passionate dislike for one thing that many young leftists hold dear – political correctness.


In the above video clip, Zizek explains why he thinks political correctness is not merely a term for politeness nor a conspiracy against the American way of life but is a way of using language in ways that hides the problems of society without actually doing anything to solve them.

The first thing that he talks about is the “totalitarianism” that he equates with political correctness. It is worth saying that he denies any agreement with the American right, which tends to view political correctness as a plot to “destroy the American way of life” and that he doesn’t mean people who are PC are out to restore Stalinism. What he means is that what we call “political correctness” can be used to amplify old authoritarian methods.

As he says in the video:
“Imagine you or me, I’m a small boy. It’s Sunday afternoon. My father wants me to visit our grandmother. Let’s say my father is a traditional authority. What would he be doing? He would probably tell me something like, “I don’t care how you feel; it’s your duty to visit your grandmother. Be polite to her and so on.” Nothing bad about this I claim because I can still rebel and so on. It’s a clear order.

But what would the so-called post-modern non-authoritarian father do? I know because I experienced it. He would have said something like this, “You know how much your grandmother loves you, but nonetheless I’m not forcing you to visit her. You should only visit her if you freely decide to do it.” Now every child knows that beneath the appearance of free choice there is a much stronger pressure in this second message. Because basically your father is not only telling you, you must visit your grandmother, but you must love to visit it. You know he tells you how you must feel about it. It’s a much stronger order.”
By giving the order “go visit your grandmother” in kinder, gentler language the order not only takes on the air of a request but becomes a more comprehensive statement. Zizek, who has written at length on how difficult it can be to escape ideologies that seem natural or non-controversial, notes that this is the same authoritarianism as the days of old, but is harder to fight because of its presentation.

In another section of the clip, he remarks:
“Do you know that when civil war exploded in Yugoslavia, early ’90s and already before in the ’80s, ethnic tensions. The first victims were these jokes; they immediately disappeared. Because people felt well that, for example, let’s say I visit another country. I hate this politically correct respect, oh, what is your food, what are your cultural forms. No, I tell them tell me a dirty joke about yourself and we will be friends and so on.

So you see this ambiguity — that’s my problem with political correctness. No it’s just a form of self-discipline, which doesn’t really allow you to overcome racism. It’s just oppressed controlled racism. And the same goes here.”
For Zizek, political correctness doesn’t address any of the problems, like racism, it hopes to solve, but instead regulates them. Given his historic dedication to the left-wing notions of actually solving those problems, you can easily understand why he wouldn’t like something that claims to do everything but accomplishes nothing in that area.

In this way, politically correct language can actually be better at maintaining old systems of oppression than at fixing them, since now you’re talking about them in cleaned up language rather than the direct, blunt language that makes the issue plain.

Before a few of you start telling racist, sexist, or otherwise humiliating jokes for the hell of it; he is not endorsing that at all.

He is merely saying that context is everything and that we should be less concerned about the specific language or jokes used and more concerned about how we use them. If a joke or word is used to humiliate people and keep them down, it and the person who uttered it should be condemned. If a joke is used to break the ice, address the elephants of race and gender in the room, and help to bring people together in a way that is not humiliating or patronizing he suggests it is permissible and even useful.

To quote him directly:
“Because it’s easy to be a non-racist in this political correct way oh I respect your food, your national identities, no. When does it happen real contact with another? I claim it’s very difficult to arrive at it without a small exchange of an obscenity. It works in a wonderful way. So I claim for me and ideal post racist situation is let’s say I am an Indian and you are an African American. We are telling all the time dirty jokes to each other about each other about ourselves, but in such a way that we just laugh and the more we are telling them the more we are friends.

Why? Because in this way we really resolved the tension of racism. What I’m afraid, now coming back to your question, with political correctness is that it’s a desperate reaction. They know they cannot solve the real problem so they escaped into controlling how we speak about it. And by real problem I don’t to mean in a primitive way just economic redistribution and so on, but even the symbolic fact of actual social relationship and so on.”
His stance reminds me of another great thinker’s ideas of language and our attempts to clean it up without changing how we feel about what it refers to.

His stance against political correctness ties back into his ideas about ideology, in particular how ideologies create systems in which they become self-reinforcing.

In a 2007 essay called Tolerance as an Ideology Category, Zizek addressed similar issues of tolerance being used as a tool to perpetuate repressive systems rather than as a tool to address them. He opens the essay with a bold claim:
“Why are today so many problems perceived as problems of intolerance, not as problems of inequality, exploitation, injustice? Why is the proposed remedy tolerance, not emancipation, political struggle, even armed struggle? The immediate answer is the liberal multiculturalist’s basic ideological operation: the ‘culturalization of politics’ – political differences, differences conditioned by political inequality, economic exploitation, etc., are naturalized/neutralized into ‘cultural’ differences, different ‘ways of life,’ which are something given, something that cannot be overcome, but merely ‘tolerated.'”
This critique of “tolerance” is little different than his critique of political correctness,

Most criticism of political correctness comes from the right, where it is viewed as either “Cultural Marxism,” censorship, or evidence that people are too sensitive. Zizek is a curious example of a left-wing critic of the practice. While his tendency to tell dirty jokes might be a bit off-putting and his enjoyment of riling people up intemperate; he does base his arguments not on wanting to “go back to the way things were” but instead on a sincere dedication to actually changing oppressive systems for the betterment of all and not just changing how we talk about them.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Linguistic Caritas

Slavoj Žižek, "Principle of charity"
In his book Treatises on Truth and Interpretation, Donald Davidson developed what he called the Principle of Charity, which states that "this insightful assumption of the human mind can also be in vain": "disagreement, like compromise, can only be plausible if there is tremendous agreement in the background" – that is: "the fact that makes it possible for us to interpret anything is that we can priorially exclude the possibility of committing enormous errors." As Davidson emphasizes, this assumption is not something we choose or don't choose, it is a priori principle of speech, a prerequisite that we quietly adopt and abide by when we deal with others:
Since understanding is not an option but a prerequisite for a functioning theory, it is pointless to suggest that adopting it brings an enormous risk of error... Understanding is imposed on us; Whether we want to or not, if we want to understand others, we have to consider them right in many things. (Davidson)
Davidson's Principle of Understanding is then another name for the Lacanian "great Other" who is the ultimate guarantor of Truth, and it is necessary to refer to it even when lying or when the interlocutor is being deceived, precisely for the trick to work.

(From the Fragile Absolute)

In addition to Donald Davidson's 'principle of understanding', it can be argued that there is also the Freudian principle of understanding on which psychoanalytic treatment is based: everything the patient has to say, even the most complex free associations, is meaningful, interpretable.

(From the Fear of True Tears)

Turkish: Işık Barış Fidaner

Fear of Lightness?

Slavoj Žižek, "Throwing the Baby and facing the dirty water"
I've always been disgusted by the custom of sharing the main dishes in a Chinese restaurant.

Recently, when I expressed this disgust and insisted on finishing my plate on my own, I became the victim of an ironic "stray psychoanalysis" from my desk neighbor:
Wasn't this disgust, this resistance to sharing food, exactly the symbolic expression of the fear of sharing a sexual partner, that is, the fear of lightness?
The first answer that came to my mind was, of course, a variation of Quincey's warning against the "art of murder" – the real source of intimidation is not lightweight, but sharing Chinese food:
Many people who took the path of sin by participating in an innocent group of sexes that they did not care much about at that time ended up sharing the main dishes in the Chinese restaurant as a result!
(Enjoy Your Symptom)

The humor of the [quoted above] joke is to reverse the standard relationship between superficial excuse and unacknowledged desire: Sometimes the real challenge is to be able to confess the superficial value of appearance—we invent multiple fantasizing scenarios just to obscure it with "deep meanings."

Perhaps my "real desire," that is, what my refusal to share Chinese food expresses, is that I am fascinated by the fantasy of group sex.

Even so, the real point is this: This fantasy that structures my desire is always a defense against my "mouth" impulse (oral drive), it is this mouth impulse that drives me completely...

Here we find the exact equivalent of the following example given by Darian Leader:

The man who went to the restaurant with his girlfriend said to the waiter, "Table for two, please!" instead of saying, "Two-person bedroom, please!"

We must reverse the standard Freudian explanation that says, "Surely the man's mind was on the sex he planned to have at night after dinner!"

The intervention of this sexual fantasy from the stranger is always a defense mechanism that obscures the mouth impulse that the man actually cares more about.

(Universal Exception)

The purpose of psychoanalytic treatment is not to pour dirty water and keep the baby safe, that is, to get rid of symptoms, morbid tics and keep the healthy Ego core safe, but rather to throw away the baby and confront the patient with "dirty water", that is, to suspend the patient's Ego and confront him with symptoms and fantasies that structure his arbitrariness.

(Fantasy Epidemic)

Turkish: Işık Barış Fidaner