Author Topic: An extract I'd like to discuss  (Read 1048 times)

Cain

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An extract I'd like to discuss
« on: June 21, 2012, 02:38:12 pm »
I've been re-reading Zizek's Welcome to the Desert of the Real, one of the good bits of politic-social criticism he did, before deciding that outright trolling Sensible Liberals was a more profitable and interesting use of his time.  There are a few good bits from the start of the book I want to quote here, because I think they are worth discussing.

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At this point, of course, an obvious cricitism imposes itself: is not such tolerant Hollywood wisdom [Spielberg's A Land Before Time] a caricature of truly radical postcolonial studies? To this, we should reply: is it really? If anything, there is more truth in this simplified flat caricature than in the most elaborated postcolonial theory: at least Hollywood distils the actual ideological message out of the pseudo-sophisticated jargon.

Today's hegemonic attitude is that of 'resistance' - all the poetics of the dispersed marginal sexual, ethnic, lifestyle 'multitudes' (gays, the mentally ill, prisoners ...) 'resisting' the mysterious central (capitalized) Power. Everyone 'resists' - from gays and lesbians to Rightist survivalists - so why not draw the logical conclusion that this discourse of 'resistance' is the norm today, and, as such, the main obstacle to the emergence of the discourse which would actually question the dominant relations?

So the first thing todo is to attack the very core of this hegemonic attitude, the notion that 'respect for Otherness' is the most elementary ethical axiom:

I must particularly insist that the formula 'respect for the Other' has nothing to do with any serious definition of Good and Evil. What does 'respect for the Other' mean when one is at war against an enemy, when one is brutally left by a woman for someone else, when one must judge the works of a mediocre 'artist,' when science is faced with obscurantist sects, etc.? Very often, it is the 'respect for Others' that
is injurious, that is Evil. Especially when it is resistance against others, or even hatred of others, that drives a subjectively just action.

The obvious criticism here is: do not Badiou's own examples display the limit of his logic? Yes, hatred for the enemy, intolerance of false wisdom, and so on, but is not the lesson of the last century that even - and especially - when we are caught up in such a struggle, we should respect a certain limit - the limit, precisely, of the Other's radical Otherness? We should never reduce the Other to our enemy, to the bearer of false knowledge, and so forth: always in him or her there is the Absolute of the impenetrable abyss of another person. The twentieth century's totalitarianism, with its millions of victims, shows the ultimate outcome of following to the end what appears to us a 'subjectively just action' - no wonder, then, that Badiou ended up directly supporting Communist terror.

This, precisely, is the line of reasoning we should reject; let us take the extreme case, a mortal and violent struggle against a Fascist enemy. Should we show respect for the abyss of the radical Otherness of Hitler's personality beneath all his evil acts? It is here that we should apply Christ's famous words about how he has come to bring the sword and division, not unity and peace: out if our very love for humanity, including (whatever remains of) the humanity of the Nazis themselves, we should fight them in an absolutely ruthless and disrespectful way. In short, the Jewish saying often quoted apropos of the Holocaust ('When somebody saves one man from death, he
saves the whole of humanity') should be supplemented with: 'When somebody kills just one true enemy of humanity, he (not not kills, but saves) the whole of humanity.' The true ethical test is not only the readiness to save victims, but also - even more, perhaps - the ruthless dedication to annihilating those who made them victims.

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The recent Dreamworks animated blockbuster Shrek (Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, 2001) expresses this pre-dominant functioning of ideology perfectly: the standard fairytale storyline (the hero and his endearingly confused comic helper go to defeat the dragon and save the princess from its clutches) is clothed in jokingly Brechtian 'extraneations' (when the large crowd observes the wedding in the church, it is given instructions how to react, as in the faked spontaneity of a TV show: 'Laugh!', 'Respectful silence! '), politically correct twists (after the kiss between the two lovers, it is not the ugly ogre who turns into a beautiful prince, it is the beautiful princess who turns into a plump ordinary girl), ironic stabs at feminine vanity (while the sleeping princess awaits her saviour's kiss, she quickly arranges her hair so that she appears more beautiful), unexpected reversals of bad into good characters (the evil dragon turns out to be a caring female who later helps the heroes), up to anachronistic references to modern mores and popular culture.

Instead of praising these displacements and reinscriptions too readily as potentially 'subversive' and elevating Shrek into yet another 'site of resistance' , we should focus on the obvious fact that, through all these displacements, the same old story is being told. In short, the true function of these displacement and subversions is precisely to make the traditional story relevant to our 'postmodern' age - and thus to prevent us from replacing it with a new narrative. No wonder the finale of the film consists of an ironic version of 'I'm a Believer', the old Monkees' hit from the 1960s: this is how we are believers today - we make fun of our beliefs, while continUing to practise them, that is, to rely on them as the underlying structure of our daily practices.

In the good old German Democratic Republic, it was impossible for the same person to combine three featurcs: conviction (belief in the official ideology), intelligence, and honesty. If you believed and were intelligent, you were not honest; if you were intelligent and honest, you were not a believer; if you were a believer and honest, you were not intelligent. Does not the same also hold for the ideology of liberal democracy? If you (pretend to) take the hegemonic liberal ideology seriously, you cannot be both intelligent and honest: you are either stupid or a corrupted cynic. So, if I may indulge in a rather tasteless allusion to Agamben's Homo sacer, I can risk the claim that the predominant liberal mode of subjectivity today is Homo sucker: while he tries to exploit and manipulate others, he ends up being the ultimate sucker himself. When we think we are making fun of the ruling ideology, we are merely strengthening its hold over us.

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There are two lessons to be drawn from this ideological constellation. First, we should be careful not to attribute to the Other the naive belief we are unable to sustain, transforming him or her into a 'subject supposed to believe', Even a case of the greatest certainty - the notorious case of the 'Muslim fundamentalist' on a suicide mission - is not as conclusive as it may appear: is it really so clear that these people, at least, must 'really believe' that, after their death, they will wake up in heaven with seventy virgins at their disposal (recall the story of a suicide terrorist who, before going to accomplish his mission, even sprinkled himself with perfume, so that he would smell nice for the virgins)?

What if, however, they are terribly unsure about their belief, and they use their suicidal act as a means of resolving this deadlock of doubt by asserting this belief: 'I don't know if I really believe - but, by killing myself for the Cause, I will proof in actuality that I believe .. .'?

Similarly, we should avoid the conclusion that Aleksandr Fadeyev, the arch-Stalinist writer and president of the Soviet Writers' Union who shot himself after hearing Khrushchev's secret report at the Twentieth Congress, must have been an 'honest believer': in all probability, he was fully aware of the utter corruption of the system; what he believed in was the big Other, that is, the public appearance of the socialist New Man, and so on. Consequently, he did not kill himself because he learnt anything new in Khrushchev's report; none of his illusions was shattered - what was shattered was his belief in the 'peformative force' of the ideological illusion itself.

"The thoughts of all men arise from the darkness. If you are the movement of your soul, and the cause of that movement precedes you, then how could you ever call your thoughts your own? How could you be anything other than a slave to the darkness that comes before? Only the Logos allows one to mitigate that slavery. Only knowing the sources of thought and action allows us to own our thoughts and our actions, to throw off the yoke of circumstance."
- R. Scott Bakker, The Darkness That Comes Before

Cain

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Re: An extract I'd like to discuss
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2012, 03:00:52 pm »
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And, mutatis mutandis, does not the same hold for all of us today - for 'progressive' Western intellectuals who pass high judgements about how either workers in our societies or Third World crowds cravenly betrayed their revolutionary vocation and succumbed to nationalist or capitalist temptations? Take the repellent figure of the comfortable, well-paid English or French 'radical Leftist' condemning the Yugoslav masses for succumbing to the ethnic siren songs in the late 1980s: it was these 'radical Leftists' who were actually on trial, and who miserably failed the test in their misperception of the post-Yugoslav war.

The same goes even more for the liberal multiculturalists who deplore the rise of New Right violence in Western societies: by adopting an arrogant patronizing attitude towards the phenomena they condemn, they fail the test. . .. Yes, the reborn patriots are right: today we really need new courage, and it is the lack of this courage (which is ultimately always also the courage to question one's own position) which is most conspicuous in the reaction of American (and European) intellectuals to September 11 and its aftermath.

In the second part of Harmonienlehre, his major theoretical manifesto from 1911, Arnold Schoenberg develops his opposition to tonal music in terms which, superficially, almost recall late Nazi anti-Semitic tracts: tonal music has become a 'diseased', 'degenerated' world in need of a cleansing solution; the tonal system has succumbed to 'inbreeding and incest'; Romantic chords such as the diminished seventh are 'hermaphroditic', 'vagrant' and 'cosmopolitan' ... nothing easier than to claim that such a Messianic-apocalyptic attitude is part of the same 'deeper spiritual situation' which gave birth to the Nazi 'final solution'.

This, however, is precisely the conclusion we should avoid: what makes Nazism repulsive is not the rhetoric of a final solution as such, but the concrete twist it gives to it.

Another popular topic of this kind of analysis is the allegedly 'proto-Fascist' character of mass choreography displaying disciplined movements of thousands of bodies (parades, mass performances in stadiums, etc.); ifwe also see this in Socialism, we immediately draw the conclusion that there is a 'deeper solidarity' between the two 'totalitarianisms'. Such a procedure, the very prototype of ideological liberalism, misses the point: not only are such mass performances not inherently Fascist; they are not even 'neutral', waiting to be appropriated by Left or Right - it was Nazism which stole them and appropriated them from the workers' movement, their original site of birth.

It is here that we should oppose the standard historicist genealogy (the search for origins, influences, etc.) to the strict Nietzschean genealogy. Apropos of Nazism, the standard genealogy is exemplified by the search for the 'proto-Fascist' elements or kernel out of which Nazism grew (when, in Wagner's Ring' Hagen chases the Rhine gold; when the German Romantics aestheticized politics . . .); while the Nietzschean genealogy fully takes into account the rupture constitutive of a new historical event: none of the 'proto-Fascist' elements is Fascist per se, the only thing that makes them 'Fascist' is their specific articulation - or, to put it in Stephen Jay Gould's terms, all these
elements are 'ex-apted' by Fascism. In other words, there is no 'Fascism avant la lettre', because it is the letter itself (the nomination)
which makes Fascism proper out of the bundle of elements.

Along the same lines, we should radically reject the notion that discipline (from self-control to physical training) is a 'proto-Fascist' feature - the very predicate 'proto-Fascist' should be abandoned: it is the exemplary case of a pseudo-concept whose function is to block conceptual analysis: when we say that the organized spectacle of thousands of bodies (or, say, the admiration of sports which demand great effort and self-control like mountain climbing) is 'proto-Fascist', are we saying absolutely nothing, we are simply expressing a vague association which masks our ignorance.

So when, decades ago, kung fu films were popular (Bruce Lee, etc.), was it not obvious that we were dealing with a genuine working-class ideology of youngsters whose only path to success was the disciplinary training of their only possession, their bodies? Spontaneity and the 'let it go' attitude of indulging in excessive freedoms belong to those who have the means to afford it - those who have nothing have only their discipline. The 'bad' physical discipline, if there is one, is not collective training but, rather, jogging and body-building as part of the subjective economy of the realization of the Self's inner potentials ~ no wonder an obsession with one's body is an almost obligatory part of ex-Leftist radicals' passage into the 'maturity' of pragmatic politics: from Jane Fonda to Joschka Fischer, the 'latency period' between the two phases is marked by the focus on one's own body.

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A postmodern liberal democrat's first, quasi-automatic reaction to this joke would be: this, precisely, is the source of
Evil today - people who think they have a direct line to God (Truth, Justice, Democracy, or some other Absolute), and feel justified in denouncing others, their opponents, as having a direct line to Hell (Evil Empires or axes of Evil); against this absolutization, we should modestly accept that all our positions are relative, conditioned by contingent historical constellations, that no one has definitive Solutions, merely pragmatic temporary solutions.

The falsity of this stance was denounced by Chesterton: 'At any street corner we may meet a man who utters the frantic and blasphemous statement that he may be wrong. Every day one comes across somebody who says that of course his view may not be the right one. Of course his view must be the right one, or it is not his view.' Is the same falsity not clearly discernible in the rhetoric of many a postmodern
deconstructionist? Chesterton is quite right to use the strong term 'blasphemous', which must be given its whole weight here: the apparently modest relativization of one's own position is the mode of appearance of its very opposite, of privileging one's own position of enunciation. Compare the struggle and pain of the 'fundamentalist' with the serene peace of the liberal democrat who, from his safe subjective position, ironically dismisses every full-fledged engagement, every 'dogmatic' taking sides.

So are we preaching the old lesson of how the ideological meaning of an element does not dwell in this element itself, but hinges on the way it is 'appropriated', articulated into a chain?

Yes - with one fateful proviso: that we should summon up the courage to abandon 'democracy' as the Master-Signifier of this chain. Democracy is today's main political fetish, the disavowal of basic social antagonisms: in the electoral situation, the social hierarchy is momentarily suspended, the social body is reduced to a pure multitude which can be numbered, and here the antagonism is also suspended.

A decade ago, in the State of Louisiana's governor elections, when the only alternative to the ex-KKK David Duke was a corrupt Democrat, many cars displayed a sticker: 'Vote for a crook - it's important!' In the May 2002 French presidential elections, Front National leader Jean-Marie le Pen got through to the final round against the incumbent, Jacques Chirac, who is suspected of financial impropriety. Faced with this unenviable choice, demonstrators displayed a banner reading 'L'arnaque plutot que la haine [Swindling is better than hating]'.

That is the ultimate paradox of democracy: within the existing political order, every campaign against corruption ends up being co-opted by the populist extreme Right. In Italy, the ultimate outcome of the 'clean hands' campaign which destroyed the old political establishment centred on Christian Democracy is Berlusconi in power; in Austria, Haider legitimized his rise to power in anti-corruption terms; even in the USA, it is accepted common wisdom that Democratic Congressmen are more corrupt than Republican ones. The idea of a 'honest democracy' is an illusion, as is the notion of the order of Law without its obscene superego supplement: what looks like a contingent distortion of the democratic project is inscribed into its very notion - that is, democracy is democrassouille. The democratic political order is of its very nature susceptible to corruption. The ultimate choice is: do we accept and endorse this corruption in a spirit of realistic resigned wisdom, or can we summon up the courage to formulate a Leftist alternative to democracy in order to break the vicious cycle of democratic corruption and the Rightist campaigns to get rid of it?

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The ultimate result of global subjectivization is not that 'objective reality' disappears, but that our subjectivity itself disappears, turns into a trifling whim, while social reality continues its course. Here I am tempted to paraphrase the interrogator's famous answer to Winston Smith, who doubts the existence of Big Brother ('It is You who doesn't exist! '): the proper reply to postmodern doubts about the existence of the ideological big Other is that it is the subject itself who doesn't exist.... No wonder that our era - whose basic stance is best encapsulated by the title of Phillip McGraw's recent bestseller, Self Matters, teaching us how to 'create your life from the inside out' - finds its logical supplement in books with titles like How to Disappear Completely: manuals about how to erase all traces of one's previ-
ous existence, and 'reinvent' oneself completely.

This is wherewe find the difference between Zen proper and its Western version: the true greatness of Zen is that it cannot be reduced to an 'inner journey' into one's 'true Self'; the aim of Zen meditation is, on the contrary, a total voiding of the Self, the acceptance that there is no Self, no 'inner truth' to be discovered. This is why the authentic Zen masters are fully justified in interpreting the basic Zen message (liberation lies in losing one's Self, in immediately uniting with the primordial Void) as identical to utter military fidelity, to immediately following orders and performing one's duty without consideration for the Self and its interests - that is, in asserting that the standard antimilitaristic cliche about soldiers being drilled to attain the stain of mindless subordination and carry out orders like blind puppets, is identical to Zen Enlightenment. This is how Ishihara Shummyo made this point in almost Althusserian terms of an act of interpellation which grasps the subject directly, bypassing hysterical doubt or questioning:

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Zen is very particular about the need not to stop one's mind. As soon as flintstone is struck, a spark bursts forth. There is not even the most momentary lapse of time between these two events. If ordered to face right, one Simply faces right as quickly as a flash of lightning ... If one's name were called, for example, 'Uemon,' one should Simply answer 'Yes,' and not stop to consider the reason why one's name was called ... I believe that if one is called upon to die, one should not be the least bit agitated.

Far from denouncing this stance as a monstrous perversion, we should perceive in it an indication of how authentic Zen differs from its Western appropriation which reinscribes it into the matrix of 'discovery of one's true Self'. The logic of an 'inner journey' , brought to the end, confronts us with the void of subjectivity and thus compels the subject to assume his or her full desubjectivization; the paradoxical Pascalian conclusion of this radical version of Zen is that, since there is no inner substance to religion, the essence of faith is proper decorum, obedience to the ritual as such. What Western Buddhism is not ready to accept is thus that the ultimate victim of the 'journey into one's Self' is this Self itself.

More generally, is this not the same lesson as Adorno's and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment? The ultimate victims of positivism are not confused metaphysical notions, but facts themselves; the radical pursuit of secularization, the turn towards our worldly life, transforms this life itself into an 'abstract' anaemic process - and nowhere is this paradoxical reversal more evident than in the work of de Sade, where the unconstrained assertion of sexuality deprived of the last vestiges of spiritual transcendence turns sexuality itself into a mechanical exercise devoid of authentic sensual passion. And is not a similar reversal clearly discernible in the deadlock of today's Last Men, 'postmodern' individuals who reject all 'higher' goals as terrorist and dedicate their life to survival, to a life filled with more and more refined and artificially excited/aroused minor pleasures? In so far as 'death' and 'life' designate for Saint Paul two existential (subjective) positions, not 'objective' facts, we are fully justified in raising the same Paulinen question: Who is really alive today?

What if we are 'really alive' only if we commit ourselves with an excessive intensity which puts us beyond 'mere life'? What if, when we focus on mere survival, even if it is qualified as 'having a good time', what we ultimately lose is life itself? What if the Palestinian suicide bomber on the point of blowing him- or herself (and others) up is, in an emphatic sense, 'more alive' than the American soldier engaged in a war in front of a computer screen against an enemy hundreds ofmiles away, or a New York yuppie jogging along the Hudson river in order to keep his body in shape? Or, in psychoanalytic terms, what if a hysteric is truly alive in his or her permanent excessive questioning of his or her existence, while an obsessional is the very model of choosing a 'life in death'? That is to say, is not the ultimate aim of his or her compulsive rituals to prevent the 'thing' trom happening - this 'thing' being the excess of life itself? Is not the catastrophe he or she fears the fact that, finally, something will really happen to him or her? Or, in terms of the revolutionary process, what if the difference that separates Lenin's era from Stalinism is, again, the difference between life and death? There is an apparently marginal feature which makes this point clearly: the basic attitude of a Stalinist Communist is that of following the correct Party line against the 'Rightist' or 'Leftist' deviation - in short, steering a safe middle course; for authentic Leninism, in clear contrast, there is ultimately only one deviation, the Centrist one - that of 'playing it safe' , of opportunistically avoiding the risk of clearly and excessively 'taking sides'. There was no 'deeper historical necessity' in the sudden shift of Soviet policy trom 'War Communism' to the 'New Economic Policy' in 1921, for example - it was just a desperate strategic zigzag between the Leftist and the Rightist line, or - as Lenin himself put it in 1922 - the Bolsheviks made 'all the
possible mistakes'. This excessive 'taking sides', this permanent zigzagging imbalance, is ultimately (revolutionary political) life itself - for a Leninist, the ultimate name of the counterrevolutionary Right is the 'Centre' itself, the fear of introducing a radical imbalance into the social edifice.

It is thus a projerly Nietzschean paradox that the greatest loser in this apparent assertion of Life against all transcendent Causes is actual life itself. What makes life 'worth living' is the very excess of life: the awareness that there is something for which one is ready to risk one's life (we may call this excess 'freedom', 'honour', 'dignity', 'autonomy', etc.). Only when we are ready to take this risk are we really alive.[/size]
"The thoughts of all men arise from the darkness. If you are the movement of your soul, and the cause of that movement precedes you, then how could you ever call your thoughts your own? How could you be anything other than a slave to the darkness that comes before? Only the Logos allows one to mitigate that slavery. Only knowing the sources of thought and action allows us to own our thoughts and our actions, to throw off the yoke of circumstance."
- R. Scott Bakker, The Darkness That Comes Before

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Re: An extract I'd like to discuss
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2012, 03:28:31 pm »
Thats a lot for me to get through on my phone- i will read them after band practice tonight and throw in my two cents.
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Re: An extract I'd like to discuss
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2012, 03:54:13 pm »
I'm pretty sure Cain has been reading for a greater amount of time than I have been alive.

And it shows; the author makes several good points, but I can't really decipher his main point. All I get is that people raised from youth in the stereotypical 'West' are subject to the flavor of the month, and abandoning thought when they aren't presented with any obvious choices/paths. 'independent' thoughts and opinions are only accepted when there are not already clear-cut 'sides' to the issue.

Which then leads to people spouting anything they think, so they can be the first to say they had that opinion and get on the bestseller's list.

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Re: An extract I'd like to discuss
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2012, 04:37:47 pm »
I'm pretty sure Cain has been reading for a greater amount of time than I have been alive.

And it shows; the author makes several good points, but I can't really decipher his main point. All I get is that people raised from youth in the stereotypical 'West' are subject to the flavor of the month, and abandoning thought when they aren't presented with any obvious choices/paths. 'independent' thoughts and opinions are only accepted when there are not already clear-cut 'sides' to the issue.

Which then leads to people spouting anything they think, so they can be the first to say they had that opinion and get on the bestseller's list.

I think another thing going on in the above snippets is a generalization of that: that it is the nature of humans to make their own Uniforms. Which is interesting. I'm aware it's tribalism, but it seems the thesis is that tribalism goes all the way down to the lowest levels -- and so in any tribe which is large enough to become a miniature Machine, people automatically specialize and adopt Uniforms -- they are all part of the same tribe, but they are all different parts of that tribe. Sort of a collection of politics-neutral sub-tribes.

For the record, I'm also hopped up on energy drinks and sleep deprivation, sooooo this may be 169% bullshit.

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Re: An extract I'd like to discuss
« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2012, 04:40:07 pm »
I got a very wordy picking-apart of seemingly innocuous movies and how they reflect the times, Twid. It reads like a troll and a half (Shrek:lol: ) but media like that can be a pretty accurate barometer of where peoples collective heads are any given time. Like Fatal Attraction coming out when everybody was freaking out over AIDS: "Fucking around is DANGEROUS!") I was expecting him to analyze Rocky. He made a similar point with Bruce Lee, though. There's some stuff about commonly held ideas like the "Muslim suicide bomber" too. It's worth reading and kind of fun, besides. 

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Re: An extract I'd like to discuss
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2012, 04:50:04 pm »
Shrek is absolutely a reformation of the classic tale.  Another movie that came out around the same time "Happily N'Ever After" tried to do the same thing but didn't do it as well.  And, of course, Shrek drowned in endless sequels that don't capture the theme as well as the original.

I think the bits about zen being a negation of the individual, in the same way as military training, is pretty interesting.  It's something that Westerners have a hard time grappling with and I am curious about what sort of judgement the author means to imply toward Zen.
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Re: An extract I'd like to discuss
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2012, 05:10:08 pm »
I see a generally "Conservative" (in the anti-postmodern, pro-traditionalism sense) piece which follows a (disappointing) path from insightful critiques of modern moral relativity and subjectivism, to bland and predictable euphemisms for justifiable extremism. This may only be the part of the picture my personal filters allow me to see, but given the direction of the quotes I can see the following paragraphs going completely Ayn Rand.

Since the pieces are long, I will post my take on the general theory:
Moral subjectivism, carried to its logical conclusion, destroys the Self (see: Zen) and ends up encouraging Fascism and "Communism" (despite its claimed opposition to these) because it subverts the individual's ability to question orders; therefore moral objectivism is preferable since it protects the Self and encourages critical thinking and thus raises a steep obstacle to Fascism (and Communism, and probably evolutionism and abortion clinics too).

Along the way, the author also attacks democracy, because it is too susceptible to corruption, and weakens a society and opens the door to extremism (because the only antidote the masses have discovered to solve democratic corruption is right-wing extremism).

So the idea is that we should abandon "respect for the Other" because it eventually leads to our own conquest, either politically or spiritually, and instead assert the inherent rightness of our own beliefs. Either I'm missing the point or I would have to say that I completely disagree.

But I might be wrong.
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Re: An extract I'd like to discuss
« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2012, 05:24:17 pm »
Or you might be right, v3x. I'll have to re-read the thing with an eye for trying to spot the agenda.
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Re: An extract I'd like to discuss
« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2012, 05:33:06 pm »
Or you might be right, v3x. I'll have to re-read the thing with an eye for trying to spot the agenda.

How the fuck did I forget the most important part?!

Okay. Wow. Disregard my prior post completely. I forgot not to be a namby-pamby rube idealist.

Cain

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Re: An extract I'd like to discuss
« Reply #10 on: June 21, 2012, 05:37:53 pm »
If you can figure out Zizek's agenda, you'll be doing well.

Zizek was a Communist, then a neoliberal, then a post-Marxist.
"The thoughts of all men arise from the darkness. If you are the movement of your soul, and the cause of that movement precedes you, then how could you ever call your thoughts your own? How could you be anything other than a slave to the darkness that comes before? Only the Logos allows one to mitigate that slavery. Only knowing the sources of thought and action allows us to own our thoughts and our actions, to throw off the yoke of circumstance."
- R. Scott Bakker, The Darkness That Comes Before

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Re: An extract I'd like to discuss
« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2012, 05:41:50 pm »
Shrek is absolutely a reformation of the classic tale.  Another movie that came out around the same time "Happily N'Ever After" tried to do the same thing but didn't do it as well.  And, of course, Shrek drowned in endless sequels that don't capture the theme as well as the original.

I think the bits about zen being a negation of the individual, in the same way as military training, is pretty interesting.  It's something that Westerners have a hard time grappling with and I am curious about what sort of judgement the author means to imply toward Zen.

Well, the author is not a fan of the Western bastardization of Buddhism, as he sees it.  He believes it places an emphasis on this "internal journey" he mentions in the text above, a subjective stance towards the world which is ultimately misleading.  Although the author does not go into detail in the quotes above (or this book, I believe) his basic psychoanalytic approach suggests that such subjective internal states are a smokescreen, that the subject's actions are all that matters.  Thus I think, while generally not a fan of religion, he is far more approving of Zen Buddhism than he is of Western Buddhism, or of most other religions (he also makes an argument in favour of St. Paul's interpretation of Christianity elsewhere, because it allows for the universalism of salvation, turning Christianity from a Jewish sect into a truly global religion.  That aside, he's not keen on religion, though he's also not keen on New Atheists).
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Re: An extract I'd like to discuss
« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2012, 06:03:35 pm »
I find myself agreeing with parts of the first excerpt.  "Respect for the other" is not and should not be universal.  I also agree with him that the term "respect" has been co-opted by the left to mean the same as "tolerate".

I do not respect a Gay person merely because he or she is Gay.  I simply find the descriptor to be irrelevant to me, much as I find the fact that someone is left-handed to be irrelevant.  I realize that a Gay person is just as likely to be a jackass as is a straight person.  My respect comes in when the person in question has demonstrated respectable qualities.

Pournelle and a few of his buddies wrote a great article called "Hyperdemocracy", which I think you would enjoy, Cain.
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Re: An extract I'd like to discuss
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2012, 06:09:45 pm »
Shrek is absolutely a reformation of the classic tale.  Another movie that came out around the same time "Happily N'Ever After" tried to do the same thing but didn't do it as well.  And, of course, Shrek drowned in endless sequels that don't capture the theme as well as the original.

I think the bits about zen being a negation of the individual, in the same way as military training, is pretty interesting.  It's something that Westerners have a hard time grappling with and I am curious about what sort of judgement the author means to imply toward Zen.

Well, the author is not a fan of the Western bastardization of Buddhism, as he sees it.  He believes it places an emphasis on this "internal journey" he mentions in the text above, a subjective stance towards the world which is ultimately misleading.  Although the author does not go into detail in the quotes above (or this book, I believe) his basic psychoanalytic approach suggests that such subjective internal states are a smokescreen, that the subject's actions are all that matters.  Thus I think, while generally not a fan of religion, he is far more approving of Zen Buddhism than he is of Western Buddhism, or of most other religions (he also makes an argument in favour of St. Paul's interpretation of Christianity elsewhere, because it allows for the universalism of salvation, turning Christianity from a Jewish sect into a truly global religion.  That aside, he's not keen on religion, though he's also not keen on New Atheists).

He doesn't seem too keen on the Eastern kind either, but at least it's honest about wanting to dissolve the Self.

This is the first I've read (or heard) of Zizek, but so far my impression is that he sees everything in extremes and assumes every path will eventually reach its extreme if it isn't modulated by some other extreme. Now, that I can sort of get along with (I've always said the Democrats' main problem in balancing the increasingly extremist GOP is they keep aiming for the center, which keeps the center of political gravity well to the right of center).

My objection is to Zizek's declaration that "respect for the Other" is wrong, which I tend to think is a dangerous assertion. Obviously the axiom applies "so open-minded your brain falls out," but to shut out the possibility that your opponent is as human as you are, even if the outward expression of their belief seems barbaric, is to encourage the same kind of behavior on your part. One can appreciate the humanity of one's enemies while still standing firm against the unacceptable actions of one's opponent.

If Zizek is sincere in his assertion that internal subjective states are a smokescreen, then why does it matter to him whether one's internal subjective state is one of respect for the Other? He seems to be trying to have it both ways.
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Re: An extract I'd like to discuss
« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2012, 04:42:54 am »
I'd never heard of Badiou before now, so stop me if I'm getting this all mixed up - but I don't see any conflict between having respect for "absolute Otherness" and declining to tolerate said otherness.  I think you can have any combination of respect and tolerance.

I neither respect nor tolerate stinging insects in my immediate vicinity - I'll kill them with whatever tool is handy at the time. I neither know nor care how painful it is for them die of wasp spray, because I don't ascribe any real value to them and dammit I'm allergic. If I did respect them, I'd try to find alternatives to killing them (some way to move their nest away from my door?) or failing that a miminally painful way to kill them. But I don't, so I'm cool with whatever method.

I tolerate, but do not respect, the software "fixes" that a particular coworker keeps submitting. They're universally worthless code; if they don't actually create a bug, they warp the architecture in such a way that all future programming becomes needlessly difficult. But I tolerate it, because getting into a code turf war with him is more trouble than it's worth (especially as I'm technically on a different project.) Maybe that's not a very good example because if I didn't have to tolerate them I wouldn't - say I tolerate but don't respect rocks? (I don't hold them to be of any real value, but their presence doesn't bother me.)

I respect, but do not tolerate, murderers. They're people too; I don't pretend to understand their thought process, but then I don't understand a lot of things. (A lot of people don't understand me either, for that matter.) But I'm quite willing to support whatever is necessary to keep them from killing more people, even if that infringes on their personal liberties or is uncomfortable for them. But because I do have respect for them as people, I'm against needlessly harming or humiliating them. If they need to be kept in jail, fine, but there's no call to put hoods on their heads and make them pose naked. The difference between them and wasps is that if someone enjoyed pulling all the limbs off of a wasp one by one, I'd find that distasteful and probably not want to be friends with that person - but I'd support imprisoning someone who enjoyed pulling the limbs off of murderers one by one.

Again, I'm not really sure what end point he's trying to build up to, but throwing out respect just because the established order claims to value it seems... unfounded?

The other stuff I still have to chew on.
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