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