Slavoj Zizek, "Whether Russia, China or Europe, the culture of debate is becoming more barbaric" (Google translated)
In China, a former president is being taken away, in Russia war propaganda is becoming more brutal, in Europe the woke left is acting in a more authoritarian manner. Where has the freedom of debate gone?
In Moscow, authorities have started checking the condition of air raid shelters in schools. Nobody saw the official order. However, the Russian authorities report that the order had come to "bring the air raid shelter into a working condition". Is this just a theatrical game or serious preparation for nuclear war?
Ultimately, it doesn't matter: even if this measure is just part of psychological warfare, it can contribute to an atmosphere where anything is possible, as the Russian leadership can become caught up in the unintended consequences of its own words. Such actions contribute to the nervous state we all find ourselves in. No wonder sleep tourism (“traveling to destinations where you can sleep well”) is booming.
The gradual disintegration of our political and social space
Although tourist hotels are part of our world, we tend to perceive them as something excluded from our crazy reality, as a place to just relax. Let's take Lebanon: Decades ago, it was a place to go to relax. Now it's a place to flee, a place where a new form of honest robbery has been witnessing lately. People go into a bank with a gun and rob it, asking only for their own money, which they can't withdraw normally since the financial system collapsed.
The gradual disintegration of our political and social space is progressing on different levels. So let's start with a recent case from China, where the order of undisturbed appearances is maintained at all costs. The procedure for electing the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the real seat of power, has become completely opaque. The election will take place behind closed doors. At the end of the Communist Party Congress, the names are merely announced and confirmed by a unanimous decision.
Hu Jintao, who disturbs the picture of the party congress
But at the last congress in October 2022, an unexpected crack appeared in this monolithic building: Former Chinese President Hu Jintao - Xi Jinping's predecessor as party leader - was unceremoniously dragged off the stage shortly after the arrival of foreign media. He looked disoriented and, while two assistants helped him stand up, spoke briefly to Xi, who he had been sitting next to in the front row.
Although the official statement only spoke of ill health and temporary weakness, Hu's resistance and defiance were clearly visible - for a moment the appearance was distorted. Another reading is also possible: Xi himself staged this incident in order to make his brutal power visible - however, this reading suggests that the new Chinese leadership can no longer cling to undisturbed appearances: it has to disturb him, to assert their full authority.
Modern Russian slavery
At the opposite end of the reign of appearances, open profanity has recently reached a new level. On October 24, the Russian state-controlled television network RT suspended host Anton Krasovsky after he claimed on the show that Ukrainian children in the 1980s who saw Russian troops as occupiers needed to be “drowned”.
Okay, he's been suspended. But what kind of ideological constellation made his statements possible? What I find much worse, however, is what happened on October 23, when a video clip was released purporting to show the Russian leader of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, being presented with Ukrainian prisoners of war by his teenage son. The footage was shared by Alex Kokcharov, who tweeted: "In this video from Grozny, Chechnya, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov's 16-year-old son 'gives' his father three Ukrainian prisoners of war captured in Ukraine. If this is not a fake but a real situation, then this is modern day slavery.”
Barbaric Scenes in Russia
The video apparently shows Russian soldiers approaching Kadyrov; the prisoners, identified as Ukrainians, are hunched over, their faces covered with masks and their hands tied behind their backs. What makes this scene so obscene is not its immediate content, but the way that content is presented: a 16-year-old boy gives his father three prisoners as gifts, as if prisoners of war were private property and even minors could own them. And the fact that all of this is being recorded and shown publicly. What will happen to these prisoners, how will the new owner "use" them?
The ideology of gender identity
And the western woke left? In late October 2022, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, gave a lecture by Helen Joyce, known for her view that men and women are being "redefined" by trans activists, with laws and policy being "reshaped in a way that the self-identified gender identity is preferred over biological sex”.
Joyce clearly supports the rights of trans people, but what she rejects is gender identity ideology, that is, the idea “that people should be considered male or female based on how they feel and what they state, not based on their biology “. Gonville and Caius students have organized protests. And the college's LGBT representatives called for Joyce's performance to be canceled because they were "unanimously disgusted with the dissemination of such views." The tutors even opened a "safe space" for students during the lecture, blaming the "pain and anger of many students, staff and colleagues at Caius" for the decision. The college's Masters joined them, stating that while freedom of speech "is a fundamental principle,
I disagree on two counts because I think the contrast between biology and my "I explain what I feel" identity is not well defined: where is the Freudian subject of the unconscious, which is neither biological nor a is a matter of "feeling"? We become sexual subjects when our biological characteristics are "mediated" through complex symbolic structures, structures that function on a different level than our "feelings." No matter how sincere, feelings can be deceiving.
Refusal to debate an expression of fear?
But I think the debate about the role of biology and/or social/symbolic structures in the formation of our sexuality is a perfectly legitimate topic. How fragile must Joyce's opponents be if they find such a debate so threatening that they even need a "safe space" to protect themselves? Doesn't her refusal to debate reflect the fear that such a debate might reveal the weakness of her position?
They are also aware that the logic of "I explain what I feel" can also be used directly in a racist and sexist way: a thoroughbred straight sexist would also need a "safe space" to avoid LGBT+ people whom he distrusts.
The new woke Left acts in an authoritarian manner
Duane Rouselle's characterization of Woke as "racism in the age of the many without the one" may seem problematic, but it hits the mark: in almost exact contrast to traditional racism, which fights a foreign invader who poses a threat to the unity of the one (e.g. immigrants and Jews for our nation), the woke culture responds to those suspected of not really abandoning old forms of the one (“patriots”, advocates of patriarchal values, Eurocentrists...).
For all its declared opposition to the new forms of barbarism, the woke left fully participates in it, promoting and practicing flat discourse without irony. Although she advocates pluralism and encourages difference, her subjective position of utterance - the place from which she speaks - is extremely authoritarian, excluding debate and forcing exclusions, often based on arbitrary premises.