Dec 6, 2011

Slavoj Zizek: "we "feel free" because we lack the very language to articulate our unfreedom"

Such a powerful message, I just had to quote it in case the full publication is restricted (Slavoj Zizek. "Actual Politics." Theory & Event 14.4 (2011). Project MUSE.). Slavoj Zizek talks about ongoing political developments and what can/needs to be done:

Don't fall in love with yourselves, with the nice time we are having here. Carnivals come cheap - the true test of their worth is what remains the day after, how our normal daily life will be changed. ... There is a long road ahead, and soon we will have to address the truly difficult questions - questions not about what we do not want, but about what we DO want. What social organization can replace the existing capitalism? What type of new leaders we need? The twentieth-century alternatives obviously did not work.
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... is the change really possible? Today, the possible and the impossible are distributed in a strange way. In the domains of personal freedoms and scientific technology, the impossible is becoming increasingly possible (or so we are told): "nothing is impossible," we can enjoy sex in all its perverse versions; entire archives of music, films, and TV series are available for downloading; space travel is available to everyone (with the money); we can enhance our physical and psychic abilities through interventions into the genome, right up to the techno-gnostic dream of achieving immortality by transforming our identity into a software program. On the other hand, in the domain of social and economic relations, we are bombarded all the time by a You cannot ... engage in collective political acts (which necessarily end in totalitarian terror), or cling to the old Welfare State (it makes you non-competitive and leads to economic crisis), or isolate yourself from the global market, and so on. When austerity measures are imposed, we are repeatedly told that this is simply what has to be done. Maybe, the time has come to turn around these coordinates of what is possible and what is impossible; maybe, we cannot become immortal, but we can have more solidarity and healthcare?
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In an old joke from the defunct German Democratic Republic, a German worker gets a job in Siberia; aware of how all mail will be read by censors, he tells his friends: "Let's establish a code: if a letter you will get from me is written in ordinary blue ink, it is true; if it is written in red ink, it is false." After a month, his friends get the first letter written in blue ink: "Everything is wonderful here: stores are full, food is abundant, apartments are large and properly heated, movie theatres show films from the West, there are many beautiful girls ready for an affair - the only thing unavailable is red ink." And is this not our situation till now? We have all the freedoms one wants - the only thing missing is the red ink: we "feel free" because we lack the very language to articulate our unfreedom. What this lack of red ink means is that, today, all the main terms we use to designate the present conflict - "war on terror," "democracy and freedom," "human rights," etc. etc. - are FALSE terms, mystifying our perception of the situation instead of allowing us to think it. You, here, you are giving to all of us red ink.