Slavoj Žižek: “Violence” | Talks at Google

Slavoj Žižek: “Violence” | Talks at Google


>>Again, welcome. We’re very honored to have
with us today a noted sociologist, philosopher, cultural critic, Slavoj Zizek. Slavoj is a
senior research, right, in the Institute of Sociology at the University of Lubljana in
Slovenia, a professor in the European Graduate School. He has been a visiting professor at
several universities including the University of Chicago, Columbia, Princeton, and many
others. And he’s currently the international director of Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities
at Birkbeck College in the University of London. The Wikipedian horde has deemed him an intellectual
outsider and a confrontational maverick. And he comes to us today to discuss his recent
book “Violence” a book which challenges us to look deeper in to the topic of violence.
To see beyond the ephemeral manifestations of violence, gunshot and explosion, the clash
of metal on metal, blood stains, and to discuss systemic violence, the violence inherent in
our systems of living our way of life. And in a sense our age is an age–of the age of
technological and biological exploration is an age of philosophical exploration as well.
I know that many of us at Google are familiar with this. And to quote Slavoj himself which
I found on the Internet, of course, “The age of philosophy is in a sense, again, that we
are confronted more and more often with philosophical problems in everyday level. It is not just
that you withdraw from daily life into a world of philosophical contemplation; on the contrary,
you cannot find your way around daily life itself without answering certain philosophical
questions is unique time when everyone is in a way are forced to be some kind of philosopher.”
So, let’s take this opportunity, please, for everyday philosophy and welcomes Slavoj Zizek
to Google>>ZIZEK: I hope this works, yeah. Thanks
very much, I’m really glad of being here, you know why, because let me begin with a
funny association which came on my mind now. You know of what from my communist youth,
this scene here now reminds me. And the communism when I was young, you’d not only have to work
in factories in Slovenia but you get so called hours of ideological education, you know like,
exactly like now, like, during lunch time, workers has to sit through some boring short
talk which ruin your lunch about, I don’t know, great result of our construction of
socialism and so on, and so on. I feel right back in those times, well, sorry for ruining
your lunch. So, in contrast to the kindness of the good guy who introduced me, I would
say, please, don’t let me terrorize you if your mind is with your computer, go on,
go on. I would feel better about it. What–I was thinking about what to do here, of course,
I don’t want to give the resume of a book. I never was able to be so arrogant, like,
I know some guys. Poet and so on who treat themselves as classics, you know, like, they
open their own book, read a paragraph and say, “Let’s now look at what the thinker wanted
to say,” now, I will–the proper dialectical way to approach this book is, I think, to
do the opposite of the book. To focus not on violence but on what violence reacts to,
usually on the everyday texture of our lives, everyday ideology. Now, your first reaction
probably would [INDISTINCT] here but aren’t we beyond ideology? I mean, am I an old Marxist
from, you know, like, the species which basically died around 1990 who still believe in big
causes and so on. No, I will try to convince you that ideology is, of course, not in the
sense of big world view vision to impose on society, but ideology in the sense of complicated
network of ethical, political, social, whatever prejudices, which, even if we are unaware
of them, still determines the way we function. It’s still something which structures our
lives. What is ideology? Maybe some of you know this but I cannot resist repeating this
story because it works perfectly, namely, do you remember? You must, my God; it was
endlessly reproduced on Google. That unfortunate interview of Donald Rumsfeld some five years
ago just before the Gulf War when he wanted to explain why, where is the danger of Saddam
and he used his famous parallel–he basically, they have a whole theory of knowledge claiming
that there are–you remember, known knowns, things we know that we know. Then, like, we
know that Saddam is the boss of Iraq. Then he went on–there are, there are known unknowns.
There are things we know that we don’t know. Like, for example, I don’t know–I know
there are some cars in front of this building but I don’t know how many they are. But
I know that I don’t know this, you know. Then he went on, there are unknown unknowns.
In the sense of things that we even don’t know that we don’t know then. Like, his
ideas was–the known unknown was how many and where Saddam has his weapons of mass destruction,
like, we don’t know but we know that we don’t know. But then his paranoia was what
if there are unknown unknowns, some secret weapons that we don’t even know what they
are, yet, they’re more radically unknown. Now, my claim is that–okay, there goes this
idea, my claim, my joke here is that if you have a little bit of a sense for structural
analysis thinking, you’ll see immediately that something is missing here, a fourth term,
known knowns, we know what we know. Known unknowns, we know what we don’t know, or
then, unknown unknowns, the totally other, like, we don’t even know what we don’t
know. Something is missing the most interesting category, not the unknown, not the known unknowns,
but the un-unknown knowns, not think we know that we don’t know, but think we don’t
know that we know, that’s the unconscious [INDISTINCT] ideologically. Although silent
prejudices, which determine how we act, how we react, and we, in a way, there are so much
the texture in to which we are embedded, that we literally don’t even know that we know
them. And I think this was why you were in such trouble in Iraq. Not so much that you,
there was some mystery that you didn’t know. The U.S. Army and administration basically
didn’t know what they already know. All the unconscious political military prejudices
as it where which determined their activity, which is why I don’t know if some of you
know it or not. To give you another example, I’m sorry of repeating myself; I hope you
are a new public here. The analysis–because of which and again it was mocked endlessly
in Google. It brought me some negative thing but I still think it works perfectly. Or these
unknown knowns are the structure of toilets in our Western civilization. It’s ideology
at its purest. Now, will you say, am I crazy? Where is ideology? Did you notice something,
I simplified the analysis but I know I simplified but basically it’s called cycling [ph]. What
do we get? We get three basic types of toilets. The French one, where, sorry for relative
vulgarity, where the hole is in the back of the toilet so that shit falls directly into
the hole and disappears–I mean, not the hole, I mean, not just the bowl but the hole where
it then, you know, get in. Then we have the German type where the hole, where the shit
disappears is in front so that the shit is somehow displayed there. You know Germans
have all this ritual of, I’m not kidding, around 50 percent of toilets, check it up,
if you go to Germany are still structured like this that the shit is displayed there
and they have this old ritual, every morning you should smell your shit, check it for traces
of, I mean, Erica Yong, in her Fear of Flying makes wonderful a comment, she said, she writes,
“A nation which get such toilets, they–no wonder, they imagine Auschwitz and all the
horrors.” Okay. Then, you have the Anglo-Saxon, American and so on, toilets which are mixed
its–not doesn’t matter where the hole is because it’s all full of water so that the
shit floats freely there. Now, I was always intrigued by this, I asked my friend’s architects
in one of the other country, “Why this?” And they try to give me utilitarian answers, like,
Germans said; isn’t it natural to inspect your shit? French said, if shit smells, let’s
get rid of it. Americans and English men said, let’s be practical, it should float in water
so that it doesn’t smell and so on. But obviously, it’s not purely a utilitarian level.
Then I asked myself a simple question, “Where did they already hear, this trinity?” Let’s
call it a French-German-English-Anglo-Saxon civilization. Do you know that already 200
years ago, there was around Hegel’s in French evolution time. There was this popular idea
among philosophers and so on about so called European trinity, claiming that the spiritual
backbone or fundamental structure of Europe is composed of these three nations. Each of
the three stands for a certain political principle and for a certain sphere of society. Germans
are politically conservative and instead of society privilege there is–the Germans said,
a nation of poets, thinkers and so on, culture. France is a revolutionary and the preferred
political sphere is politics. Anglo-Saxon universe is more, how do you call it, liberal
centrist, utilitarian, the political sphere is economy. And then I got it. That’s it,
that’s the key. French revolutionary, shit disappears; liquidate it as soon as possible.
You Anglo-Saxon, more pragmatic, float it there, let’s see how it is, utilitarian approach.
Germans, metaphysical and poets, reflect on it and so on, you know, conserve it. And then
I spoke with architects and they admitted it, crazy as it may sound. That’s the only
way to ultimately account for a totally vulgar object like the concrete structure of a toilet.
You see now my point which is slightly more serious–not only a tasteless joke—that
even to account for the most elementary, vulgar object how it is structured–the goal, I wouldn’t
say worldview but basic attitude towards civilization and so on, it’s not just a utilitarian object-—this
is what interests me, this type of ideology. Ideology which is, all this set of cultural
and so on prejudices which structure our daily lives and you don’t even have to be fully
aware of them, especially today in our so called “cynical era” where very interesting
things are happening. How do we deal with ideology today?–Maybe you know it, it’s
also endlessly in Google—-the wonderful anecdote about Niels Bhor, you know Copenhagen,
the quantum physics guy. The story is a wonderful one. The story is that, once a friend visited
him in Demark, in the countryside where he had a house—for, go there on weekend, whatever–and
the friend, also a scientist saw above the entrance a horseshoe—-I don’t know how
it is here but in Europe, horse shoe above the entrance door is a superstitious item
destined to prevent evil spirits to enter the house-—So, the shocked friend ask him,
“Wait a minute. Are you crazy? Why do you have this here, do you believe in it? Aren’t
you a scientist?” Niels Bhor answered him, “My God! I’m not crazy, I’m a scientist.
Of course I don’t believe in this thing.” Then the friend asked him, “If you don’t
believe in it, why do you have it there?” Ahh, he gave a wonderful answer–Niels Bhor—he
said, “Of course I don’t believe in it but I have it there because I was told that
it works even if you don’t believe in it.” That’s how ideology functions today, we
are all cynics—-who will believes what and so on but we somehow rely on it that it will
work even if you don’t believe in it [INDISTINCT]. We, in this sense, we live in a cynical era,
not cynical in the usual sense, bad people manipulating, but in a much more refined way.
We practice beliefs without believing in them as it were. And this is what fascinates me
in ideology. Especially today, the old image of ideology was, you have some explicit beliefs
and then privately you let it know, “Oh, I’m not crazy as that,” and so on. Today,
it’s the opposite, what was most private is now public and vice versa-—privately,
we like to play that we are not crazy to believe in some stupid ideology we just–what is ideology
today, explicitly? I think some kind of vaguely Dalai Lama spiritualized hedonism, no? It’s
no longer, do this, sacrifice yourself—-inspite of what Republicans are saying they—-just
react to it, basically ideology today is some kind of a vague injunction, be truly yourself,
realize your potentials or whatever and so on and so on. But I claim we believe much
more than we appear to believe. We obey or whichever way you put it much more than we
appear to do. And this again, is what all these tension between, let me call it, explicit
beliefs or absence of beliefs and this cobweb of-—to put it in the terms of your great
philosopher, Donald Rumsfeld—-of the unknown knowns, this is the crucial dimension. At
the end—-I hope I would have time, I would really like to mention briefly even the whole
Sarah Palin phenomenon, I think is–you cannot understand it without, not toilets, let’s
forget that but–sorry. Okay, let me go a little bit further here, did you noticed another
extremely interesting phenomenon about which I’ve written and which points in the same
direction. What my friend, Austrian philosopher, Robert Pfaller—-you can Google him to be
tasteless, you know, I will endlessly repeat this joke being here. At least on the German
Google, you find him. He proposed a wonderful category of Interpassivity. The idea is, that
it’s not only that, we like in what we philosophers call, Coming of Reason, that we like to manipulate
others. So, you see in the back others are active for you. Robert Pfaller drew attention
to a much more mysterious phenomenon, opposite one, of what he calls Interpassivity where
we transpose onto the other our passive reaction, others are passive for us. The most elementary
phenomenon and I love it, this, I think this is arguably the greatest contribution of American
civilization to world cultural heritage—-Canned laughter on TV. You know, when this-—just
think about it, it’s a much more mysterious phenomenon than it may appear. It’s not,
as some wrong Pavlovian psychologist think, the function of you hearing the laughter there
as part of the soundtrack is not automatically to trigger your laughter. No, it works so
that literally the TV set laughs for you-—at least that’s how it works with me. Really
the same thing as–remember those, I always like them, in Tibetan Buddhism those praying
wheels or mills and so on where you write down the prayer, you turn it around or even
better you let the wind turn it around and then you can masturbate, whatever, it doesn’t
matter-—objectively you pray. You pray to—-here it’s the same, it laughs for you-—that’s
my experience, you know, in the evening you arrive home, dead tired, you put on some stupid
show with canned laughter on TV, Cheers, Friends, whatever and you don’t even laugh—-the
mystery is admitted at the end of the show, you feel relief as if you have laughed, that’s
the mystery, how it works. In my thesis—-back to Donald Rumsfeld topic—-is that it’s
the same with beliefs, it’s not so much that we believe, we need as it where another
one to believe for us. From—-this is how our ritual functions, for example, take Santa
Clause, I mean, of course nobody believes, I mean, parents, if you ask parents they said,
“No. We are not crazy. We pretend to believe not to disappoint our children,” but I can
guarantee if you ask then the children they said, “No. I’m not crazy. We pretend to
believe not to disappoint our parents and to get presents and so on…” You got the
point, nobody has to believe only if every individual actually existing presupposes another
agency to believe then, belief functions—-the whole system of believe functions. The first
to use this structure consciously, politically, you know, the old Israeli Prime Minister Golda
Meir, who when asked, “Do you believe in God?” Of course she didn’t, I mean, that’s
the irony. Israel who makes this claim of the West Bank like, “God gave us this land”
and I like it for that, about the misunderstanding, is the most atheist country in the world.
According to statistic that I read there, between 60 and 70 percent of the Israeli Jews
don’t believe in God. And the irony is that–so, Golda Meir was asks this, her answer was,
“No. I don’t believe in God,” No, she did not, she just answered, “I believe in
Jewish people and Jewish people believe in God.” But the point is that, there are no
individual Jews who have really to believe in God. Everybody just has to evoke this specter,
and so, the most terrifying experience is when you learn not that you don’t believe
but that the other which was in a way the guarantor of your belief doesn’t believe.
If you know a little bit of literature, that’s so shocking. You remember Age of Innocence,
Edith Wharton—-at the end, the guy-—okay, I speak in cinema terms—-Daniel Day Lewis
is told by his son that Winona Ryder, his dead wife, knew all the time about his affair
with Michelle Pfeiffer but pretended not to know. When he learns–everything gets ruined.
That’s I think our much more fundamental need than directly to believe, to have another
one as protected innocence. So let me go on a little bit here after we return to ideology,
to explicit ideology—-how do these prejudices function, they are something much more complex
than the way they appear. Recently, three months or two ago, I gave a talk at Harvard,
at the end of the talk we were invited–you know, this is the most boring part of academic
meetings, where we have an official dinner, where, you know, people who are really bored
by each other, you have to pretend and so on—-So, the older professor who was coordinating
dinner, 10 of us said, “Okay. Since, we don’t know each other well, please, can
everybody here present him or herself. State your name, position, state you work, field
of interest and your sexual orientation.” Now, this shocked me a little bit. For my
European sensitivity, like my idea was almost, you know, like what’s–none of your business,
no. But now, I don’t want to play the vulgar anti-America, American bashing because, you
know, this bar of discretion is less different in Europe. Immediately, I remember how a friend
of mine visited me the previous summer in Europe and we went to the Slovene coast where-—Slovenia,
you know, we where already under communism, sexually, culturally, a very liberal country
so, as in most of Europe in the last 20 years. Most of the women were simply with naked breasts,
no bra on the beach, it’s considered totally normal nobody even notices it. Here, I’m
told it’s not so normal like I was told you can even get arrested or what. And typically
that friend of mine leftist, liberal, whatever you want—-self oppressed, almost harassed,
aggressed, and totally traumatized. So, here we have a nice difference and again, I think
that the formula which is closer to me, I don’t think discretion means oppression, the
proper attitude is the one maybe, you know, the anecdote Gore Vidal, your writer gave
the best formula of discretion, he’s a well known bisexual. He was asked in a TV interview
some years ago, “Was your first sexual experience with a man or with a woman?” You know what
was his answer? I was too polite to ask. That attitude is for me the proper one. Let me
go on a little bit to show you why I am hated in some, not only rightist but even more maybe
leftist circles.
I think that today when different cultures are thrown together in what we call globalization,
I think we should break the spell of this liberal multi-culturalist injunction, “understand
each other, we should understand more each other”, and so on. First, it’s impossible
to fully understand each other because I claim we don’t even understand ourselves like, you
know, it’s not that we are separate entities who fully know what we are and then we should
open, no liberals always slide this endless task, “Oh, there is still something that
eludes me in that culture,” and so on. I think quite the opposite. I don’t want to
understand all other stupid cultures; I can be stupid for them. I think we need precisely
a code of discretion. We need a code which tells us how to politely, politely, sincerely
politely ignore each other. I don’t want–if I live in a building here in a big condominium
where for example, where, you know, all races are there, I don’t want to understand everybody.
I want to be treated nicely in a non racist way by others and I want to treat others like
that. I think this sense of proper distance is very important. And I don’t think we miss–now
I go even a step further. I don’t think we miss anything deep in this way. Let’s say
do I really understand you? Well, first as a psychoanalyst a counter question would be,
“But do you realty understand yourselves?” I claim that another post-modern multicultural
myth is that we are the stories we are telling ourselves about ourselves. That’s the moment
of truth which is by the great liberal motto is articulated among others by the philosopher
Richard Rorty. The basic freedom is the freedom to tell your story, your side of your story.
The best expression of this attitude is the well known motto which sounds very deep. I
hate it, I think it’s wrong. The motto of tolerance which is an enemy is somebody whose
story we didn’t yet hear. It sound so deep, you know like, if you are just a foreigner
for me, I see you as evil, impenetrable enemy, then I hear all your boring details which
I don’t care about, your dreams, your fears and all of a sudden I see, “Oh, you are
a human person like me,” and so on and so on. This is getting as boring as–and this
is ideology at its purest as Batman and all these movies, did you notice how in the last
installments of this heroic sagas, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, what everybody emphasizes
is how they are no longer flat cartoon heroes. We see also the anxieties, fears of the–as
if this makes them somehow deeper these films. No, this is ideology at the purest, why? Now,
it sounds very nice, this, and even in Europe we can be worse in political correctness than
you, we practice a so called living libraries maybe it’s going–that is to say in some
countries I know about Iceland, and United Kingdom where some local communities do again
this living libraries which means the authorities pay members of sexual religious race minorities,
just to visit the majority families, spend the evening with them and tell them about
their lives, their fears and so on. The idea is precisely this one, when you get to know
a guy, his inner life, you no longer can, and he no longer could be your enemy. Of course
at a certain level, this works and I’m fully for it. But there is a limit, the limit is,
let’s just do something. Let’s replace this generality with a concrete name. Would
you al say, “Oh my God, Hitler was our enemy because we were not ready to hear his side
of the story or whatever”. No, Hitler really, and others, really was an enemy. And he was
telling him a story about himself, and that story was a lie. And that’s my point. That’s
a very interesting and tragic, difficult to accept insight of psychoanalysis. It’s basically,
what I ironically refer to as the X files insight. Truth is out there, truth is not
in your story, in what you are telling yourself about yourself. What we are telling yourself
about yourself is basically a lie that you construct in order to cope with usually some
horrible dimension, and so on, and so on. It’s wonderful to look at all these worst
nations, worst in the sense of maybe in an unjust way. Identify it with horrible crimes
and to look what stories they were telling ourselves to justify their position, attitude,
because, again a very radical conclusion. Let me give you two extreme examples here,
one, so that I will be balanced, one from Europe, one from the Far East. Europe, if
there is a book that you should read I think; it’s a very interesting book. Shattering,
its—Aldous Huxley, yes, the guy of The Brave New World, who wrote a book called Eminence
Grise, The Grey Eminence. It’s a biography of a guy, a priest called Pere Joseph; father
Joseph, who was basically the State Department foreign ministry guy of Cardinal Richelieu
during the 30 years war in Europe. Now, this guy in his politics was a monster, the worst
you can imagine. He saved France by ruining Europe, in what sense? In this 30 years war
between Protestant and Catholics, he concluded a pact with. Protestant Sweden against Catholic
Hapsburg Austria to prevent unification of Germany. Ruthless, torturing, poisoning, whatever
you want. So, even if we play this stupid game of who was ultimately responsible for
the rise of Hitler? This guy is maybe the best candidate because we all know that what
laid the foundation for Marxism, the ultimate cause was the so called delay of Germany in
becoming a united nation state. And this delay was decided again, at the end of the 30 years
war so, a bad guy. Now, what intrigued Huxley is that every evening after finishing his
dirty drop of poisoning, plotting and so on this same guy Pere Joseph wrote wonderful
mystical meditations. He had regular correspondents with some feminine convent and exchange mystical
notes with sisters there. The mystery is that, no way to avoid the conclusion this is gold,
authentic stuff. You know, you cannot dismiss it as, “Oh, the guy was cheating and so
on and so on,” sorry, it’s the level of who would be the top of guys. Saint Theresa,
John of the Cross. It’s the real thing. So, that’s what bothered so terribly Huxley.
How is it possible to have both in the same person, a ruthless, manipulator and undoubtedly
authentic, mystic with the deepest imaginable spiritual experience. Huxley’s answer was
to blame Christianity in the sense of there is something in our Christian fixation on
the way of the cross, Christ suffering which opens up a door for this kind of political
manipulation, so he turned towards the east. “Oh, is there any better there?” My favorite
book on that topic, I advise you to read it. Brian Victoria, himself that Buddhist priest,
Zen At War. This guy did something very simple, he simply made a research into how did the
Japanese Zen community relate to the Japanese military expansion and invasion of China and
all that stuff in the late, throughout the 30’s and early 40’s. And the discovery
was shocking, except, with the exception of literally three, four, five decedents. They
not only, fully supported it, they even provided justification for it. The true color is to
read the works from that time of a guy who some of you and I see there are who are like
me and unfortunately old enough to be around. Who was very popular here in the hippy time,
60’s early 70’s, D. T. Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki. You know, the big model of introducing
Buddhist tradition here. Were in the 30’s he was writing slightly different texts. For
example, he wrote a text where he celebrated Chinese, Japanese Invasion of China as he
put it the work of love and the Chinese people should learn that the spark which is killing
them is a spirit of love but what’s more important is that the same Suzuki provided a wonderful
argumentation on how an ordinary soldier should train himself psychologically to be able to
kill without having traumas. And he gives a wonderful description of how this Buddhist
attitude of overcoming your false self helps you. He said, “When you are still identified
with your false self and think you are the substantial agent, then of course it’s traumatic.”
The only way to put it is I have a sword and I’d stuck it into you. But he says, if you
go through, Buddhist enlightenment, then the whole perspective changes.
You are just an observer. You see your sword moving in the air and you see the enemy somehow
getting stuck on it and so on. It’s depersonalized. He even went so far, Suzuki, I should say
that for ordinary people who don’t have time to do meditation–don’t–the military
discipline is the easiest way to achieve enlightenment in the sense of overcoming your false self.
He says, when you learn that–when the officer says, “Shoot,” you shoot without a moment’s
reflection, you are above your false self, and so on, and son on. Now, what’s the conclusion
here? Let me be very clear–again, to avoid the misunderstanding. I’m not saying, “Oh,
you see all this Japanese Buddhist stuff is just a mask of militarism.” No, the truly
difficult thing is to accept that, like Pere Joseph, that Suzuki’s meditations are absolutely
authentic. It’s the real gem, the real stuff, but this doesn’t prevent you from legitimizing
with it or doing quite horrible things, and so on, and so on. So, you see my point here?
My point is that our truth is not the inner life, mystical stories we are telling or whatever.
I’m even tempted to claim in a more radical psychoanalytic way that what we deal is our
inner life, stories we are telling ourselves, the narrative we construct to face what we
are doing is always a zero level ideology, a kind of a protective screen. So now, let
me go a step further. All these rules of discretion, unwritten rules, how do they function? Here,
we are in for some surprises considering, for example, censorship. Let me take the genre
which you will maybe agree, it’s the most popular I think–or your only competition,
more people than Google, more people probably look for hard core porn. That’s your only
competitor. So, if you have the misfortune of looking at some of the hardcore porno,
but especially full-featured fillers. Did you–where is censorship there? You will say,
“But there is no censorship,” my god, you can see everything. What can be more uncensored
that’s going to–there is nowhere. If you get a full feature one hour, one hour and
a half of hard core film, of course, you cannot show just sex, there must be a minimal narrative
which somehow justifies it narratively, I mean, you know. And did you notice how absolutely
ridiculously stupid and self-mocking these narratives always are? Like, I remember how
it’s embarrassing even now for me to think. When I was young, you know, the usual story.
Housewife is alone at home, a plumber comes, fixes the hole in the kitchen and then the
housewife said, “But I have another hole to fix. Can you–or maybe…” I mean, you are
embarrassed. I claim this is not that they’re so stupid. There is a precise function of
censorship here, which is you cannot have it both ways. You can see it all. But the
price you pay is to sabotage emotional involvement in the sense of having an engaging story,
and so on, and so on. No wonder that the French cinema director, Kathrin Brea Romans [ph],
who tries to do precisely this both; emotionally engaging serious drama, plus, full sex. It
cannot somehow really penetrate the big market. Now, you’re telling me–as many critics made
fun of me. They told me, “Man, but you are crazy. Where do you live? This kind of plumber
or housewives stories they are 40 years old.” And I ask him, “Okay, what’s in today?” And
what they told me I think it’s even worse. It’s so-called Gonzo sex, which is wrong.
It’s like embedded journalism. It’s that the camera is part of the action in the sense
that they don’t even pretend that it’s a story. They make fun of it. You know, in Gonzo sex,
you see the camera man, the camera man tells to be actors, move like that. A woman, who
is being screwed smiles to the camera. Am I okay like this? They make fun. I think this
is the high point of censorship. They’re afraid of even a minimum of narrative. At this level,
we find rules of–we find rules of discretion and all that. Okay. So then, time is up–well,
unfortunately, there are many other things, nonetheless. What’s the basic constellation
that I want to develop here? That whenever we are dealing with, if you give me another
five to ten minutes, what always fascinated me in ideology is the following thing; it’s
this tension which is always here between what is explicitly said and what is understood.
You are supposed to know it, but it’s prohibited to publicly state it. This is the mystery
of customs and it’s crucial for out social co-existence, and it’s here that ideology
inscribes itself. What do I mean by this? Did you notice that whenever you want to penetrate
a certain social circle, you have to know the rules from nation to company like Google
to at class or whatever. But did you notice that there is always something mysterious
with the rules. It’s not enough to know the rules. You must know as it were meta-rules
which tells you how to deal with the rules. That is to say, isn’t it that always I claim?
There are rules which prohibit you something, but if you follow them, you are an idiot.
Between the lines, they call you to, like, do it silently, and so on and so on. Like,
I didn’t claim, I don’t know. In my own country, ex-socialist, I’m not saying that
you are any better, but it was more open there. And in all communist systems, like, or–what
you call it, corruption and all that was like that. Corruption was prohibited officially,
which meant you just had to know and it was exactly codified, you know. For example, I
remember, for a doctor, you have a quick examinations so that you didn’t have to wait two, three
months so much at that point make the prices for bribery in German marks. It was 200 marks
and so on. But–again–so, we have–especially sexual prohibition such as like this. No,
don’t do it means–if you are a man, do it but discreetly, and so on. So, we have prohibitions
which are effectively functions as something to be violated, and even much more interesting.
This is my favorite point. We have statements which allow you, even solicit you to use a
freedom, to do–they give you freedom on condition that you don’t choose it. They are much more
around than between. For example, I remember, when I was in Japan, French told me that,
usually, in their work contracts, you have guaranteed 40 days per year holiday. But they
told me it’s considered very impolite. You are not basically allowed to use more than
20 days. Then I ask him, then why don’t you write 20 days? They told me–and they were
quite justified. You are a total idiot. You don’t understand it. And they were right.
In what sense? Because in this way, by giving you an offer which then is supposed to be
rejected. Like, I give you 40 on condition that you use only 20. This is the basic link.
In this way, a link is created between people. Through this politeness and debt, don’t we
have many daily rituals like this? Like, for example, I don’t know how it is with you,
but in my country, let’s say–which is not true, “I am rich. One of you is poor. I invite
you to lunch.” Isn’t it clear that I will pay? But even in this country I think, you
have this ritual that when the bill arise, you have to insist just a little bit, not
too match that I will pay, I will pay. And we both know it’s a fake. But it’s in a way
a sincere fake or I don’t know, with apologies with my–maybe you know it. You can Google
her, she is my theoretical enemy, personally good friend, Judith Butler, Gender Travel
and so on. Once I behaved very rudely towards her, in a friendly way but I use vulgar words.
Like, I–I wanted to ask her if a friend of her is also a lesbian like her and I put it
and I’m ashamed. I said something like, “Is she also a degenerate stinking bitch like
you?” Okay, it wasn’t nice. So, I wonder why she felt hurt. So, afterwards, I called her
by the phone and told her, “Listen, Judie, my god, I don’t know what it was. It’s my
extremely bad taste. I really apologize.” She was very nice. And she told me, “Listen,
Slavoj, I know you. No problem. We are friends. Let’s be serious. No apology is needed.” But
did you get the paradox of this situation? She was able to say, “No apology is needed,”
only after I did apologize. That’s the normal logic. If I were not to apologize, she would
have been offended. And I would have been probably a little bit offended if she were
to say, “Good, I deserve the apology. Don’t do this again.” You see the paradox? I made
an offer of apology; she said it’s not necessary. But in this way, that’s how it functions normally.
This level of ideology fascinated me. This–how should I put it? It’s not only to put it in
ultimate terms. It’s not only that something is prohibited. It’s that prohibition itself
is prohibited to stay–to be stated publicly. That is the mystery why so many of my books
I deal extensionally with Stalinism. Stalinism is a very mysterious phenomenon. On the one
hand, it’s very a ruthless regime killing millions. On the other hand, it’s extremely
sensitive to maintaining appearances. What do you mean by this? Let’s imagine a crazy
scene. My dream, at least–we are Moscow 37, Central Committee, I’m Stalin. I give a speech,
you applause, we know that’s life. Okay. Then, one of you does a crazy thing. Stands up and
says, “Comrade Stalin, I don’t agree with you. I think you are totally wrong, blah,
blah, blah.” Okay. We know. No mystery here. If you would be the guy, the next day the
big question will be who has seen you last alive? Okay. But let’s imagine something else
that after–sorry to personalize. If there’s somebody has to be blamed, that’s life. After
you stand up and tell to him, “Are you crazy? We don’t talk to Comrade Stalin like this
in our country. We don’t attack him,” and so on. Like, this is–you will even have to
disappear even earlier. Sorry, don’t take it personally. That’s life. Now, what I mean
to say, you know, it wasn’t only prohibited to criticize Stalin. It was even more prohibited
to announce this prohibition publicly. It was a prohibition which worked only on condition
that it’s not publicly proclaimed or whatever. Now, slowly to draw to the end–if you allow
me, at least, I talk too much; at least, you will learn why my friends called me Fidel,
not for my communist leanings, but, you know, like, Fidel Castro, you know, comrades like
ten minutes and seven hours. It’s not my–okay, did you see a good, naive, but I like naively.
Hollywood Film; The Best of the Hollywood Left, They Live, by John Carpenter from 1988
with that wonderful totally naive paranoiac idea, it’s a story of an ordinary guy who
stumbles upon some mysterious sunglasses and when he puts them on, what he sees is what?
What he sees is, as it were the true ideological message. Like, the guy walks along the street,
sees a big publicity poster, “Visit Kavai [ph], you’ll have the holiday of your lifetime,
blah, blah, honeymoon.” Then, he puts the glasses on the wonderful colored picture,
disappears, all he sees is the order; reproduce, obey, enjoy, don’t think, consume or something
like this. Like, almost a Marxist dream, you know, the glasses which tell you directly
the social order. What’s–I think that what is–maybe even more interesting, the dysfunctioning
which is actual today, because today as we all know, we are addressed not only by publicity
but even by ideology at the level of not do your duty but enjoy, have a full spiritual
life and so on, and so on. You must have noticed this how–to put it in very simple terms,
there were three big stages of publicity. The original one is–let’s call it, naively
utilitarian publicity. You are solicited to buy something because you need it and because
of its quality. It’s like you need a Land Rover. Okay, publicity says it’s the best
car, it’s the strongest, greatest space; it doesn’t spend a lot of gasoline, whatever.
Then, we get this more consumerist publicity which is keeping up with the Jones’ status
symbol. There they refer to what status we give to you owning a Land Rover. It’s not–you
don’t by because you really need it, you buy to signal your social status. But that’s
not all, I claim today precisely after 68, we have different mode of publicity which
is neither utilitarian, these are good qualities, nor symbolic status but this typical “me”
generation. They refer to your–the–to yourself, to your potentials. The idea is buy Land Rover
and you will realize your potentials, you will feel free, you will feel authentic and
so on. It’s–as we all know, the experience. And unfortunately, although, I’m very much
for green topic, unfortunately, I claim that even, that even with organic food and so on,
let’s be frank, it’s mostly dead. Why do you buy those rotten two times more expensive
so called organic apples than the normal chemically produced perfectly red or whatever apples.
I don’t think you really believe that it’s so much better for your health. I also don’t
think that it’s a big, like, you don’t boast around, you see I have these staples. I think
basically it’s to make you feel good, you know, and not just a stupid consumer or if
it’s endangered, I do something, I’m more authentic, and so on, and so on. So, then,
in these conditions the ideological injunction is hidden, but often we have the opposite.
And this–I’m sorry, I don’t have time. I will conclude. Don’t be afraid. Who is the
boss? I don’t know him. Three minutes. We have the opposite where what you see is the
explicit order, and then what you–what you are able to see if you were to put these glasses
on is as it were the bribery, like, what the ideological text offers you between the lines,
the obscene enjoyment and so on. For example, let’s imagine Nazi Germany, you look at it
without glasses, the message is; sacrifice yourself for your country, enough of decadence,
of promiscuity, of Jewish immorality, do something for your country, or use your terms, my country
first and all that stuff. What do you get when you put the glasses on? It says, “Do
this, pretend to do this and we can have some fun. We can beat the Jews. We can blah, blah,
blah,” you know, all the dirty obscene sights. Wouldn’t it be the same, let’s say in the–in
some nice small–nice, ironically, of course–town in the American South, in the 20 surveys,
the official message is Christian values and so on, our country. Then, you put the glasses
on and you see, “Do this and we in Ku Klux Klan, you know, on weekend evening we can
have some fun, raping some black girls, lynching some guys and so on and so on.” That’s what
always fascinated me. How beneath the official message of sacrifice, duty for your nation
or whatever, ideology always offers you, how should I put it, some bribery in this sense,
some obscene–actually, I don’t have time to go into how this affects today’s nationalism,
since I do have to slowly come to the end. Now, I would also say that another procedure
of these two levels is–let me be frank, what were to happen if upon seeing this on TV advertisement
or in a newspaper, an ad saying, you know, this disgusting manipulation like in Starbucks
coffee, you know, like, you see a child star with wasted lips and then this message of,
are you aware with the cup of one cappuccino–with the price of cappuccino or whatever, you can
save this kid’s life, and so on, and so on. What’s the message if you put the glasses
on? If you asked me something like, don’t think, don’t politicized, forget about the
true causes of their poverty, contribute a little bit money and you can buy your consciousness.
I think, the reason we do it is to make us feel good. You know, we know people are starving
there but F three points off, I did my duty. I send my $5 per month there, I can live–so
basically, I think, we don’t pay really to help them, we pay to feel well and especially
to keep them at a distance there. A lot can be said here even about charity; why is charity
such a big thing today. But let me conclude now very, very briefly with Sarah Palin and
generally, what I can say as a naive external observer, you know, like Montesquieu, who,
in order to analyze France wrote his famous Persian letters, no? I know–okay, not an
envoy from Armadinajab, but let’s say Persian view upon United States. A couple of things,
I think that it’s crucial, not in any kind of deep psychological analysis. I think it’s
already in the message. What is the true message of a republican country that’s–partly, that’s
how I really–of message to their voters, this change, change, change. Then, of course,
it’s easy to say what Obama and his camp are repeating all the time. What change? Let’s
look at your politics. If you are basically saying is less taxes, less state power against
Washington, stronger foreign policy and so on and so on. But wait a minute, the Republican
Party is saying this for the last 20 years. So, where is the change? But I think that’s
the message is, the message is, you know, that French proverb [SPEAKS FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
the message is let’s do some changes which will guarantee that things basically stay
the same or how should I put it, or another much more ominous duality that I think. You
know, they play Republicans on this populace motif. Look, Sarah Palin, ordinary girl from
there, I mean, this giving voice to the rage of the ordinary people. We don’t know what
goes on. Washington corrupted, and so on, and so on just, the message is what, it’s–I
think it’s a much more refined message between the lines. The true message would be to put
it in complicated terms. I think something like that. You are furious. We are also. But
we all know very well that, I mean, you cannot run a country with this populace, with less
money here, more there. The message is I think, we guarantee to you that, how should I put
it, let’s pretend that we guarantee that discreetly we will keep our experts who will do it and
so on. They’re basically–the message is I think we are playing a game here. We will
have backroom boys who will know how to do it. And it’s the same as we’d, for example,
you know, when people tell me Bush, I claim, okay, Karl Rove impresses me, this backroom
boys who do the manipulation. So, my question to McCain would have been, “Okay. I don’t
care if you are sincere or not. Just tell me who is your Karl Rove or how should I put
it, no? Who will be the backroom boys who will be doing the job?” Another thing where
Democrats were failing. So, again, my point is that we shouldn’t be naive to get the Republican
message and maybe with Democratic, it’s similar. I’m not entering to go there. To get the Republican
message, you should definitely not take it literally, I’m not engaged here in any dark
plot like what dark–no, it’s in the message itself that is it’s redoubled by another
much more pragmatic message, and so on, and so on. Okay, I’m not going to details now.
Just another thing where I think Republicans succeeded. Did you notice that Sarah Palin,
there is something new about her from what I can judge? When until now we get feminine
women politicians who really made it, they–I’m now using–not using the terms in a precise
way but very vaguely, metaphorically. They were phallic women. They try to imitate and
be stronger than men. You know, like, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, and so on. Here
we have something, I think, maybe new. Here we have a woman who can be sarcastic, aggressive,
even, if I may use this horrible term which is not quite appropriate in the strict sacramentic
[ph] sense, maybe even castrating, castrating in the sense of revealing your fake, your
impotence without in anyway renouncing femininity. Sarah Palin does not play the game of, as
a woman I am more men than men. No, see, even in a magical way, unites three dimensions
of femininity. What’s her image; a, mother; b, teacher? It’s clear with this glasses and
hair. And she is the obvious sex object because that’s the dream, you know, prim teacher and
so on, but wait a minute, after she indeed move–puts the glasses off and unwraps her
hair and so on. So, she combines this in a masterful way with this sarcastic assertiveness.
Like, I think, it was really masterful the way it functioned, not at the level of argument
but as a discursive strategy that making fun of community organizer and so on, and so on.
It was feminine sarcasm, feminine making fun at masculine phallic authority at its best.
And I don’t think Democrats had found a way how truly to answer this because–okay, now,
this is cheap psychology, I know. But things, unfortunately, function in this level. It
brings, I think, they gently, softly evoke something which I’m afraid to say publicly,
but it’s clear. The way Barack Obama is skinny and big ears and so on, there is something
of a slightly emaciated weak guy in him, and I think all this is subtly referring to death.
But again, this is a problem for feminists, I claim today. How–this is the sad thing
because the Democratic, like, is so much caught in this politically correct feminism, and
so on, and so on, they didn’t even notice that what they were dreaming of, to have a
woman who wants power, but not by playing a weak, not by renouncing her femininity but
by violently asserting it, that if were Republicans beat Democrats at their own terrain that it’s
almost–it’s a very interesting paradox. And, you know, it would be wonderful to go into
this logic of how there are certain things which the left should have done, but only
a conservative can do it starting with, you know, only Nixon could have recognized China
and so on, all that, all that stuff. So, again, of course, these all is fake, fake, in the
sense that, no, I don’t believe she really is all that. Like yesterday, I also saw her
interview when she was talking about that war with Russia problem. And there, you could
have seen for a brief moment–I mean, the girl doesn’t know what she’s talking about,
but it doesn’t matter. We should not underestimate this–again, this ideology. You know, this
is where maybe Democrats are a little bit too naïve when they repeat this mantra. Let’s
talk about real causes and real issues, and so on, and so on. So, you should see–not–again,
my point is not a cheap psychoanalysis in the sense of let’s look into some deep Oedipal
complex. But just–let’s look into the message which is the old McLuhan [ph] phrase, which
is embodied in the–embodied in the annunciation, in the statement itself. You never say only
what you say. The mystery is that what you say, the way you say it, the style and so
on can give a different message, can undermine that message and so on. That’s for example
for me, the problem with so-called religious fundamentalists. Not that they are too fundamentalists,
but they are fake; they’re not fundamentalists at all, my most beloved one for example, beloved
in the sense of when I see him. Remember the good old Jimmy Swaggart, the Southern cause.
I had the misfortune of seeing one of his shows. My god, the official guy’s message
is, you know, Christianity, repent for your sins against ego, hedonism, but his show is
one big ego-trip. The way he delivers his messages undermines the message. But he doesn’t
necessarily undermine you, it can also sustain you. I was too long, I know. Thanks very much
for your patience. I’m just sad we don’t have more time. Thanks very much. Is this a limit,
do we still have time for democracy or no democracy?
>>[INDISTINCT].>>ZIZEK: Okay.
>>Yeah, we have the good fortune of having the room for the next extra half hours, so
I think we can take two or three question.>>ZIZEK: Okay.
>>Please use the mics for the question.>>ZIZEK: I’m sorry.
>>Thanks for coming today and speaking to us. I have a question. I guess, from my perspective,
I grow up in America. I went through the public school system in America. And I really didn’t
get any background or even introduction to philosophy until I went to college. And I
don’t know if it’s similar in Europe, but I’m just kind of curious of why you think
there are certain subjects that are stressed more to younger individuals as they’re going
up. And, you know, something like philosophy that seems very important to me, and what
do you think if anything can be done about that?
>>ZIZEK: Oh, my god. This is a big question because my first reaction is that you know
that in the last years, unfortunately, because I think this is a good thing in Europe. The
key, I think, is–one good thing about Europe–you in the United States you have elementary school
and you come out, is it nine or ten years? And then you have this college, two years
or whatever and you go to university, but in Europe, this two years expand into four,
we call it, lyceum, gymnasium, high school. High school is not just a short passage. High
school is where you get serious education, all sciences are covered, and there, we get
philosophy. Unfortunately, Europe is now becoming more like United States. But the reason, I’m
an optimist here is that I think that what–when I was interviewed, as it was kindly pointed
out, I really think that now we need more and more philosophy in the sense of delinquent
problems, which if you want it or not are philosophical, even the self problems that
everybody of us confront. For example, problems like abortion, brain biogenetics and so on,
my god, to get an opinion on that, it’s not just an abstract question of ethics. You have
implicitly to decide, “Are we free beings? Are we free at all?” And here, again, the
analysis that I made through that glasses, it brings out some very funny results. For
example, I was always perplexed by the standard Catholic answer, which is don’t mess biogenetically
with brain because if you do it, you diminish man to a biological animal, but we have immortal
soul, blah, blah. My god, my problem here was–wait a minute, if you believe we have
an immortal soul, what’s then the problem with messing with brain? I mean I cannot touch
the soul. So I think the true message in between lines of this Catholic anti–anti-biogenetic
brain sciences experiment is a different one. It’s a–let’s–it’s better not to know some
things. Let’s avoid knowing that because knowing too much there may deprive us of our
dignity, may diminish our freedom and so on and so on. So, again, it’s not only this.
It’s other prob–where I think effectively that we are at such a crucial moment, now,
truly, not in the religious sense of a catastrophe but in a sense of apocalyptic moment that
we have to make decisions which are much more radical.
>>Thank you for coming today. I had a question about how you normally respond to claims that
Marxism and radicalism is dead?>>ZIZEK: I mean, no, mystery here and the
mystery is rather this one to put–I will be very short. Why do I consider myself still
some kind of a Marxist without any illusions and so on. Look, the question we have today
is that–the only serious question is this one. Is Fukuyama Francis, right or not? Even
most of today’s left, isn’t did there are Fukuyamaists as it were? They basically adapt
liberal democracy, some kind of capitalism as if not the best at least the least worst,
the least bad system, and yet, the idea is just–you know, when I was young we’ll have
a saying, we want socialism with a human face. What even the left today basically offers
is global capitalism with the human face. Make it a little bit better as Bill Gates
would put it, create this capitalism. You can have your cake and it eat it, you can
have profit and help the poor, whatever, to make it more. So my question is, is this all?
Is this our ultimate horizons? Or are there crises, antagonisms on the horizon? Which
for which in the long term–and by long term, I don’t mean this 200 years, but 10, 15 years,
20, global capitalism will not be enough to solve them. I think there are from biogenetics,
even Francis Fukuyama, you know, his next book on human freedom or whatever, he explicitly
says that this biogenetic possibilities undermine his vision of global capitalism, that one.
Then ecology, I claim and so on, so I think if you want to know my argument in detail,
now, I will do an unfair thing and refer to an another book of mine, In Defense of Lost
Causes, in the last chapter, I try precisely to argue where I see and only in this sense,
I’m a Marxist. I claim, let’s not be so sure, this liberal democratic capitalism, maybe
is not the ultimate horizon. We should just keep our mind open. I’m not now saying of
course, oh, will there be–that there will be a new Leninist party or whatever, no, that
is over. But we should, that’s the limit of my Marxism. I even don’t see a solution because,
you know, all Marxist–always have this satisfaction the train of history is on my side or should
I put it, you know, like we are just realizing historical necessity, no, I don’t think. I’m
only saying I see ominous signs here and there, and I want that if global capitalism will
be able to cope with it in the long terms. One of the problem, I see purely economic
is the one with which you are dealing a lot, you again, as Googlers, namely, the problem
of intellectual property. I think that more and more it’s exploding as a problem because
I think that intellectual property if you pardon me the expression is in its nature
closer to communism than to capitalism. You have to force it. It’s very difficult to contain
it within the limits of private property, which is why you get all these paradoxes.
If you allow too strong logic of private property to determine the domain of knowledge, intellectual
achievements, then you get somebody like Bill Gates. I have nothing against him; I’m just
saying that if you have a guy who in 30 years becomes from a nobody, tinkering in his garage,
to the richest man on the earth. Doesn’t this show that market mechanism, you cannot
in any way say that, his wealth reflect his achievement or how should I put it, you know,
it’s just market cannot reflect it properly. So that would be my answer, but read the book,
I talk too much. Now, aha, you want it balanced, left, right, left, right, okay, right again.
Okay.>>I’ve enjoyed your talk very much; I came
a little bit late, so I didn’t hear whether you said anything about it, but I was wondering
if you’ve used the toilets here at Google? We have an optical sensor in our toilets.
>>ZIZEK: What do they–does it do?>>Well, when you stand up, it flushes.
>>ZIZEK: Yeah, I’m used to them from the airport and here.
>>You get up and you don’t have to touch anything and I was wondering if–to me it
seems that we have some sort of ideology here that technology will address even the most
fundamental human problems and will sort of transform us and I was wondering…
>>ZIZEK: No, no, no, what my answer here would just have been–no, maybe I am too naïve,
utilitarian, but my–I always thought that they come up with this, because people care
about bacteria with that and the point is rather I think, how to prevent you touching
something. Wasn’t this the origin was to keep you–so it’s a–but on the other hand,
I agree with you and I’ve seen even–no, this is, I mean there it’s to go on and on, for
example, in Japan, I was told, you know, that it’s also a nice cultural detail that in many
public toilets, so I was told, there is music while you are shitting on the toilet, why?
Because people are so sensitive and embarrassed by potential sounds you make while you are
shitting and so on. So the idea is the only way to make it tolerable is to have a background
of music enough, and so on, and so on. So, I totally—how should I put it–maybe even
more than eating, shitting is a measure of civilization. In the sense of, if you want
to see the basic of a civilization, it’s not look at how people eat, look at how people
shit. The true color for me would have been in–and I read somewhere, there are already,
the plans which are even worse that–sorry for vulgarity, you will not even have to do
that the–sorry, obscene gestures to press the shit out. That there is some kind of vacuums
stuff, you know and so, it will just be done for you, totally, how that would we know.
That will be pretty terrible, I mean, no? But again, yes–again, I love details like
this, because I think that through them, you get that ideology, which is like for example
in my books, I love another detail. Did you notice for example, if you know a little bit
about history of totalitarianism and how, if you look at Hitler when he speaks or a
Fascist leader, people applaud; Hitler accepts the applause. Look at the communist leaders
speaking, people applause, what does the communist do? Stands up and joins the applause. This
tells everything, it’s totally different logic, Stalin is dictator, is not a master, it’s
a perfect servant of the people. It’s always, I’m not thinking myself, I’m only you, and
it points out a totally different logic, which can be substantiated by the other claims.
For example, I write in a book on Upper Bamum Gulag, that every year on Stalin’s birthday,
all the arrested in Gulag, all the people imprisoned there where collected, even in
the darkest years of Stalinism, were assembled and have to sign a telegram, wishing Comrade
Stalin all the best for birthday, and wishing him greater, even success in building socialism
and so on. Now think about it, you cannot even imagine the same thing in Fascism. Well,
together all the Jews in Auschwitz and make them, all the best wishes telegram to Hitler
and so on. You see, I love these details, like your electronic toilet, or whatever,
which, you know, a small meaningless feature, but like crystal, it shows, it condenses a
fundamental difference. You know, sorry to…>>So, you give a great example about how
the TV is a proxy for our laughter, so I’m going to ask an obvious question, what do
you–what is God essentially a proxy for or do you use Him or Her for?
>>ZIZEK: God?>>Yes.
>>ZIZEK: It all depends on what we–on, I mean, first I don’t think there is one God,
I mean, I’m an atheist, so, sorry. So, if we talk about God, of course, it’s about how
God functions, as an idea, representation and so on and so on. I think God is many things,
but I think, what God is–it’s a very nice question that you ask, because I think that
God is at its most fundamental and radical, not so much a determinant proxy, but the very
structure of having a proxy. God is the original proxy, I don’t know, but He knows for me.
I don’t but He does in Christ. I’m not compassionate enough, you know, God is this very formal
structure, it is by alone anything. I don’t think we can get over God as simple as that.
There is in the very structure of language not that shit about, is there a gene for emotions
of God? But more in a purely semantic way; the moment we are in language, there is a
divine dimension that we presuppose it, that we practice it in a way. So, again, I would
say, God is originally this very dimension of having a proxy, or how should I put it.
And it’s original, this dimension. I don’t think there ever was originally, a humanity
which fully lost itself. No, it’s from the beginning that we have these gaps. What do
I mean by this? Let’s take a little–let’s say we are half-French, I see you, I stumble
on you tomorrow on the street here and we say can’t–and I tell you, nice to meet
you, how are you? We both know that probably, I’m in a way, lying. First, I don’t really
care how are you, if I were really to give a full right to tell me to F… off. It’s
none of your business how I am. Or–but you know what I mean, we–it’s a lie, but it’s
a sincere lie. It’s wrong to say hypocrisy. So I don’t think that we have to presuppose
that there was an original, phenomenal, logical moment when–when people said, “How are you?”
They really meant it, authentically. No, the gap is–from the very beginning here, others–others
believe for you, others feel for you and God would have been–God is this very other dimension,
there has to be what Jacques Lacan calls–Jacques Lacan precisely calls this dimension the Big
Upper. The one for whom we have to maintain appearances and so on and so on. So, yes,
it’s a very nice question and I love to dwell on this, all these, thanks very much.
>>Thank you so much for coming it’s been fascinating. Google famously has an informal
motto, “Don’t be Evil,” as the next tunnel observer, what do you think our unknown knowns
are?>>ZIZEK: No, I’m not saying that the true
message is–it’s not simply like, oh, in a Freudian way, you know, when you say, this
woman is not my mother then Freud said, ha, ha, ha, the negation, blah, blah. So I’m not
saying that you are fundamentally evil. But what does interest me is what is the model
of evil which is presupposed in it, nonetheless the inherent logic is that, you know, because
why warn them precisely against this? What is the model of evil here? What is–why the
need to react against this? I think it’s not–these kinds of injunctions are never general injunctions.
Like of course, nobody should be evil. No, but which is evil is there? It is–I don’t
know, you leave the perception, but you, being the most powerful search machine and so on,
are open to the temptation of manipulation, I don’t know. The question to be asks would
have been, what dimension of evil? On the other hand, generally, I think that in a way
evil is good. No, no, I’m not part of some crazy, pseudo-dialectic. What I’m saying is
that, what is evil? Evil is something which as it were brutally interrupts the normal
run of things. Evil is a cut and so on, which is right, for example, for traditional pagan
religions, Jesus Christ is evil embodied and in a way, they are right. Because the message
of Christianity is–it’s over with that karma, everything circulates and so on; it’s a
cut. So I claim that this, “Don’t be Evil,” it’s more like, we are doing something terribly
great, let’s not do it too fast or whatever. And I totally, accept this, I think. I totally
accept this, what you are doing is evil, which means, it shakes things the way they were.
I mean, something, you are doing something which is in a way crazy. You also are changing
what means being human. I mean, you know, how it changes our perception that basically,
if we are not a total idiot, I’m close to it, but hope not totally total, like, you
know, it’s no longer that by bibliography, whatever, you get everything. This life in
a permanent presence as it were, no? So, I would say that it’s a negative recognition
that there is a radical dimension to what you are doing. It affects the normal community
life, and so on, and so on. And my conclusion is that, in order to say don’t be evil,
you must already dwell in that space of evil and I congratulate you for it. Thank you very
much.

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