Ex oriente schmucks
Slavoj Zizek has always been a Dr Fell(*) to me -- the Thomas Friedman of the left, if you like. There's no getting away from the guy.
I'm glad to say he has more or less disgraced himself with a mighty thumbsucker and finger-wagger on the recent sansculotte insurrection in England:
We are told again and again that we are living through a debt crisis, and that we all have to share the burden and tighten our belts. All, that is, except the (very) rich. The idea of taxing them more is taboo... What should the poor do? ....Locating meaning? Ideological constellation? Worldless? Drivel like this is the sort of thing that helped drive me out of the lit-crit-biz decades ago.
As with the car burnings in the Paris banlieues in 2005, the UK rioters had no message to deliver.... This is why it is difficult to conceive of the UK rioters in Marxist terms, as an instance of the emergence of the revolutionary subject; they fit much better the Hegelian notion of the ‘rabble’ .... This was zero-degree protest, a violent action demanding nothing....
The protesters, though underprivileged and de facto socially excluded, weren’t living on the edge of starvation. People in much worse material straits, let alone conditions of physical and ideological oppression, have been able to organise themselves into political forces with clear agendas....
Alain Badiou has argued that we live in a social space which is increasingly experienced as ‘worldless’: in such a space, the only form protest can take is meaningless violence. Perhaps this is one of the main dangers of capitalism: although by virtue of being global it encompasses the whole world, it sustains a ‘worldless’ ideological constellation in which people are deprived of their ways of locating meaning.
But more important than Dr Z's penchant for portentous pomo rodomontade is, of course, his shallow and thoroughly bourgeois dismissal of the English rioters.
I've always felt -- ever since the Watts riots of the early 60s -- that the response to such events is a pons asinorum, an infallible indicator of one's fundamental outlook. Are you going to stand in some sense with the 'rabble', or find some reason to disapprove of them? Z. has chosen the latter. Though he couches his objections in "left" phraseology, telling off the Brit urban mob for not being Bolshie enough, it comes to the same thing as the fear and loathing the shopkeeper or schoolteacher or middle manager express with phrases like "burning down their own neighborhoods" and "what do they expect to achieve?" And good Lord, the man even waves the great liberal palladion of raising taxes on the rich. Now there's a hardened Marxist cadre for you. Peace, bread, land, and a carefully calibrated progressive tax structure. Raise high the red flag!
Rationality is overrated. You can tie yourself in some sad knots with it. Not that Zizek's post-whateverist word-salad has much to do with rationality in any positive sense of the term, but it does exhibit a certain mimicry of connected discourse that might lead a gullible reader to believe that he was observing rationality -- personified by a Mitteleuropaisch academic carpetbagger -- pondering irrationality, as played by the worldless chaverie of England.
In any case, irrationality is underrated -- or at least, the irrationality of the mob is underrated; and even the irrationality of the elites is preferable to their rationality. True, no Lenin emerged visibly from the London looters. But if Bolshevism is the engine of revolution, then irrational bloody-mindedness like theirs is the fuel it runs on.
Let's have more riots, I say, and less hollow blether about 'worldlessness'. Oh, and more car-burning too. Lots and lots of car-burning, and the sooner the better.
Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare;Englished by Tom Brown:
Hoc tantum possum dicere, non amo te.
I do not love thee, Doctor Fell;The original Doctor Fell was an interesting character -- a much more interesting character than Slavoj Zizek, though an arch-royalist and a high-Church Tory to the bone. He's been on my mind a bit since I recently spent a few days at his old stompin' grounds.
The reason why I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well:
I do not love thee, Doctor Fell.