“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

tarrying with pacifism

Since LI is dedicated to the destruction of Mars – which is like the mouse that fucked the elephant, n’est-ce pas? – the question arises: Mistah LI, are you a pacifist?

No. LI is not a pacifist. But – borrowing language from the world’s greatest vendor of snakeoil, Mr. G. Hegel his own self – I do want to preserve the resistant and always crushed negation of the pacifistic moment.

The true insanity of Mars is not that Mars is in perpetual war, but that peace and war are secondary to the war structure. Pacifism is premised on the fact – a fact acknowledged by all the sane - that states are the primary political actors in the international order, and that wars are things that they engage in or do not. But this is not what the insane, the underground man, or the mouse that fucks the elephant, sees. No sir. We see that it is war and its structures that govern states. We see Mars, looming all around us. We see that we live in a Republic in which people can calmly claim that, for instance, we have been at war with Iran for the last thirty years, and they could be right! After all, war is no longer declared anymore. It creeps in on little cats feet. It was what everybody who was anybody knew yesterday, when they denied that they knew it and derided those who claimed that they knew it. War, which at one point in the development of liberal democracies were ritualized to the point that they were actually declared, according to some book of rules, never really were declarable things, perhaps – Mars arose from the capitalist turn like Dracula coming out of his coffin when the time was ripe.

Tarrying is the term Zizek scooped out of the preface to Mr. Hegel’s Rotten Bottom Cabinet of Potions, also known as the Phenomenology of Spirit. Now, Zizek, what do we know about Zizek? LI’s far flung correspondent in NYC, Mr. T., knows more about the man than we can even imagine. But I want to quote both the translation from the Preface of the P.d.G quoted at the beginning of Z’s book and a passage in which Zizek uses the phrase in his own way, which turns out to be a passage appropriate to the anxieties of elephant fucking mice and underground men.

Here’s the passage from Hegel:

Lacking strength, Beauty hates the Understanding for asking of her what it cannot do. But the life of Spirit is not the life that shrinks from death and keeps itself untouched by devastation, but rather the life that endures it and maintains itself in it. It wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself. This tarrying with the negative is the magical power that coverts it into being. – Hegel, Preface (stolen from marginal comments written on a found copy of the libretto of Zauberfloete, obviously).

And here’s Zizek:

‘The crucial, hitherto underestimated ideological impact of the coming ecological crisis will be precisely to make the ‘collapse of the big Other” part of our everyday experience, i.e., to sap this unconscious belief in the ‘big Other’ of power: already the Chernobyl catastrophe made ridiculously obsolete such notions as “national sovereignty”, exposing the power’s ultimate impotence. Our “spontaneous ideological reaction to it, of course, is to have recourse to the fake premodern forms of reliance on the “big Other” (“New Age consciousness”: the balanced circuit of Nature, etc.). Perhaps, however, our very physical survival hinges on our ability to consummate the act of assuming fully the “nonexistence of the Other,” of tarrying with the negative.”

Such banging of the chords! But we hear certain things we like, there. Well, this post is actually about a 2001 article in Peace and Change by Michael Clinton entitled, Coming to Terms with Pacifism: the French case, 1900-1918. But I’ll reserve that for my next post.


Amerigo Sciurofascista said...

Ah! Zizek! The inedible in pursuit of the ineffable, the strident in pursuit of the strumpet. Was there ever anyone who could pack more nonsense into a single paragraph, yet ironically intend for it be taken as nonsense, and therefore be taken seriously? One might stipulate that the passage of coconuts along the Gulf Stream made the notion of national sovereignty obsolete long before Chernobyl. One might, indeed, chitter at the moon, sacrifice to the Squirrel God and claim this has made national sovereignty obsolete. One might even cite the transnational corporations and the international bodies that nurture them as the agents of obsolescifying national sovereignty, then counter-cite the reaction to this in the form of nationalism. What is it about popular philosophical content providers that makes them hate agency so?

roger said...

Mr. J.A.S, I can't defend all the zigzagging of Zizek's career, his addiction to the limelight, but in fairness -- the Tarrying book was written in the very early nineties, as the Imperium was being broken up, and before, at least in Eastern Europe, the slogans of globalization had really penetrated. Especially in Yugoslavia. Granted, Zizek has a weakness for discovering firsts or finding symbolic moments that explain everything in a flash. Still, Chernobyl was a big moment in the collapse of Soviet prestige, since it was such a public display of all the embedded vices of the system. It was such a naked fuckup, which the leadership thought could be treated as just another thing to cover up. Which is a legacy task now being carried out by the flaks for the Nuclear Power industry, the American press, and the IAEA.

Amerigo Sciurofascista said...

Roger, the critique of transnationals goes back much further than the trendy nonsensical, catch phrases of globalism. The term itself is just a rebranding of a long unfolding process. The currency and regional penetration of the oppositional slogans du jour doesn't make any difference. The reason for being of the Communist countries was at least nominally opposition to capitalist exploitation. The myth of state omnipotence has never had believers outside the court itself, and very few true believers within it. State sovereignty has always had a partial grounding in being able to enforce the concept with violence. If you can't expel invaders, no sovereignty. Zizek benefits from having much better readers than he deserves. They will reliably extract whatever limited sense there is in his convoluted, jargonized bloviations.

Amerigo Sciurofascista said...

Just to be clear, I intend to strangle the last Lacanian with the guts of the last Squirrel. I take this very seriously.

new york pervert said...

I agree with Mistah Scruggs: Zizek is essentially inedible, and this is why he was also talking about Big Black Dick a while back, the puny little jerk-off.

The most sickening thing he does is to do all sorts of magic tricks to prove that unwanted futures have already happened when they haven't. It's not that they haven't happened at all, it's that they have never happened to the extent Zizek says they have. He does this to prove that there has been sufficient quantitative change in certain phenomena in the world to produce a qualitative change in Zizek's online existence, where he'll choke himself from 'eating alone,' as the Mafia says.

I hope his bank account collapses long before the Dow Jones does. He reminds me of Akeworth Alemu, and Ethiopian I knew in the subbasement of the UN in a temp job one time. Akeworth kept saying about the job toting computers around and getting twits to let me copy serial numbers from their computers without taking offense from their bad behaviour 'You can do it, New York Pervert, you can do it...' in tones of the Wizard of Fucking Oz. With all this confidence in me, the job was discerned as over by me, of course, and I quit immediately (I've been stuck in subbasements 3 times, and it just won't do at all.)

roger said...

Guys, guys -- one fuckin' reference here! I liked the word tarrying, thought I'd be cute, quote a little Z., broaden the horizons, please the Long Sunday crowd, and look what happens! I'm never gonna get popular if I can't quote the occasional trendy thinker. Condemned to be an intellectual wallflower...

A year or so ago I had a few posts about Leo Strauss, urged on to do it by a few readers, and I never got such a violent response.

roger said...

ps - Mr. NYP, what is this about Black Dick?

Patrick said...

I think Zizek wrote a piece about talking to some big buck about his dootsey--said something about could he slap it on his thigh. All your sought-after audience just analyzed this to death, worshipping his every sweat bead(Zizek's, unfortunately, naturally they've completely forgotten about the stud after having appropriately felt sorry for how Zizek exploited him...I mean, you gotta be realistic, Zizek's the one with the career, so they condemned him for insensitivity and then 'got on with it', as they like to say when imitating Brits...). I think it's just a few months back, with, natch, Ms. Dean as quarterback and moderator in the duchies she rules.

Well, I'm sorry if'n Mistah Scruggs and I blew your spot, but I think I can't make the apology Zizek needs to make to the human race.

new york pervert said...

Or maybe it was that he said could you swat a mosquito with it, something like that. Everybody was properly outraged and then breathed a sigh of relief when it was okay to go back to vaporous bullshits about the internets again. Wasn't Nietzsche the one always talking about the end of the race of giants or some such torrid stuff? Well, Zizek marks the point where that race's disappearance was at least a generation old, unless there was somebody else to do it.

Amerigo Sciurofascista said...

Guys, guys -- one fuckin' reference here!

My pet rattlesnake saw a picture of him, sickened and then died, Roger. My honey badger whimpers and hides under the couch when his name is mentioned. The squirrels I'm rehabilitating go out to buy crack and quote him as their excuse. Think about that! Seriously though, what makes him so awful is he makes his living providing rhetorical ammo for highbrow muddled cluckers, who then use it against the less credentialed or less well read. It's like Mr. NYP said: reason goes out the window, discourse becomes a mob action production of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? Tangentially, this increases the tragedy of Mencken-conservatism's decline. What else could do justice to the spectacle of eggheads lining up to play three card monte, jostling for rank and bickering about meconnassaince while they wait to be fleeced?

Condemned to be an intellectual wallflower

In social life, being ostracized by the right people can sometimes be a good thing. Back when I had a future, I dreamed of being fired by The Economist for clever trolling, with a mutually binding severance agreement that kept all parties quiet. Then on to a tenured faculty position, the adulation of adjuncts seeking career and being attacked by David Horowitz. Fate was not so kind to me.

roger said...

Ah, Mistah Scruggs -- a few posts back, when you displayed unexpected exhaustion in ferretting out squirrels, I was worried. I thought your supplies of piss and vinegar were running low. Like the Bogart character in High Sierra, of whom another character says, "Dillinger had a word for guys like you. He said they was just rushing towards death," I was thinking your elan vital was ebbing in the perpetual wrestle with the moronic inferno, and the police were closing in. I was expecting, any day now, to see your diary entry on Kos. But no! Just as I myself was about to go soft, and write that crucial post declaring that, when all is said and done, strategically, looked at in the finer light of World History, and smoothing out some necessary triangulation in order to incorporate progressive policy in a friendly, populist way, Hilary Clinton really is presidential timber - just as I was about to go out and buy a H.C. bumpersticker (a strange impulse, since I don't own a bumper to stick it to), Mr. Scruggs comes out of the foothills, blazin'.

ahfukit said...

(What's all this talk about big Black Dick going soft. 6'll getcha 9 that's a miff.)