Notes on seeing Slavoj Zizek in Amsterdam last night


Slovoj Zizek spoke at the Westerkerk (Church) in Amsterdam, and I’m happy to report he kept up the reputation of a witty provocative intellectual giant. Forgive me as I mangle some of his thoughts together with my own.

These recollections are splintered and fragmented by the rather dull Q & A period that caught me off guard and distracted me. Zizek asked, “what happens on the days after the revolution” by using a clever analogy of the next day after the final scenes of V for Vendetta? This baffled some on the panel who had not heard of the graphic novel, or the movie, which in turn baffled me.

I would have answered Jerusalem by Alan Moore, provides an example of what happens after the revolution. It all happens again, and again, in a kind of eternal return, a past present future all-at-once. If you ask the question how does the revolutionary event change the day to day perception of the people, or how can the changes be sustained over time? The principle of eternal return, exhibited by Alan Moore in his book, makes a good start.

Zizek rapped hard on Ecology, and on catastrophe of the ecological variety, (Rene Thom) and relations with global capitalism. He seemed critical of the carry-on-regardless attitude of those who make token gestures to save the planet like recycling, buying organic food and biodiesel, without addressing deeper causes at root: consumerism and neoliberal attitudes. As you suspect, he communicated this in his unique terse, dynamic language.

He spoke on how the symptom of any problem, can often be misread as the cause, he constructively criticized the leftist political movements for these symptomatic solutions to problems. Interestingly to me, 'Simtome' is latin for Symtom, and was a phrase introduced by Lacan and used by Zizek which was borrowed from James Joyce.
“"the symptom can only be defined as the way in which each subject enjoys (jouit) the unconscious in so far as the unconscious determines the subject."--Jaques Lacan.

Zizek went on to describe how, paradoxically some far-right parties in Poland support workers union rights, something that traditionally you might associate with the left. Another example is how the European Union (who the leave campaign branded as those unelected officials in brussels) in reality helped to avert far worse humanitarian disasters than we currently see around us. Paradoxically, intervening with fully legitimate elections and parties such as the aforementioned in Poland, so as to avert openly racist, xenophobic and homophobic policy spreading. Totalitarianism, may at times result in a better outcome for the people than open democratic elections.

Zizek points out, to his horror, that the voting people, for the most part across Europe are against immigration and integration, preferring insular and right leaning political policy and strong right leaning leaders. The attacks upon the character of Jeremy Corbyn by the UK right wing press are all based on his inability to admit hes a serial killer.

The decision by Angela Merkel to go ahead and open the borders to the immigrants, going against the popular will of the German voting public, is another example of overpowering of the will of the people with a higher executive order, arguably for the good of humanity? In these examples, Zizek argues some leaders are in favour of progressive ideass to help refugees, or to curb xenophobia and racism, to do the right thing from a humanitarian point of view, that may mean going against the democratic will of the majority of the voting public. Man...this forced me to think in new ways.

The message on Brexit was a similar, the will of the voting public in Europe is right leaning, democracy has led to those with the most hatred and ignorance winning at the polls. The left are left shocked without an alternative strategy to capitalist democratic principles. Bernie Sanders in the U.S, and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, both seem capable of making such a progressive strategy for an alternative. Currently the political leadership in the UK and USA, seems to me the worst political leadership in the history of both countries. A shambles, a disgrace, an example of what democracy and capitalism, combined with media coercion lead to: Donald Trump.

I think that the UKIP movement and the Leave campaign were both riding an old guard conservative Trojan horse, designed to bring back the old white classicist, racist, greedy guts, Tory principles back into number 10, with a new rule book of xenophobia. Hatred of the poor, the vulnerable, mentally and/or physically disabled, those on welfare, artists, and more or less anybody that is not them and not slaving away for some global capitalist monster or other. The shit stained threads are unravelling between the Nigel Farage, Richard Mercer, Steve Bannon, Julian Assange, Dominic Clements and Cambridge Analytica. A complex of forces are always at play, but how much can you blame the media for coercing people to leave the European Union? How insular and xenophobic where millions of brits before the leave campaign provided a bus to jump on? Hard questions, but necessary.

I am forced to reconsider ideology I have clung to for a while, that open source democracy and representative democracy are practically good and solutions to the current political economic system. I have to rethink the idea of a constitutional framework like a safe-guard against abuses at a transnational scale, a legally binding document which prevents the violation of basic human rights. To paraphrases to quotes: Never underestimate the stupidity of people in large groups, monarchy is rule by one imbecile, democracy by 500 imbeciles"

At one point Zizek said that if most white people were to hear how he talks with his black friends they would be appalled, and understand his lack of political correctness.
He touched on the subject of Zionism and right-wing conspiracy theories, putting forward another paradoxical reality by describing Zionist Anti-Semitism. He highlighted mass murderer Anders Brevic as an example of a violent terrorist holding right-wing, Zionist inspired paranoid fantasies about immigration and the arayan superior white races. He went on to point out that some conspiracy theorists propose that there is a Judeo Muslim conspiracy behind the turmoil in Europe and the near east, his point being that those wafting the flames can always find another conspiracy linking whatever bogeyman they have to the most recent world events. The imagination of the paranoid specializes in making links where there were previously none, inversely the imagination of the pronoid also makes links but to the betterment and wider understanding of a situation.

Over the past 12 months wild conspiracies are surfacing, for the first time, within the mainstream political sphere. Fully cracked and crazed far-right white supremacy, and Eugenics most toxic and devoutly blind. Other journalists have traced the rise of the American right and Trump, to 4chan message boards, Reddit, Pepe the frog, and the ranting fat mouth zealot Alex Jones, and the trajectory fantastical conspiracies about the global elite, the globalists and their attempt to create prison planet earth, usually with help from George Soros, Hillary Clinton. I think these are somewhat easy meat for a pop conspiracy theory, royals and bankers always turn something up. Zizek didn’t speak explicitly about Cambridge Analytica and Richard Mercer, and the relations to Nigel Farage, Dominic Clements and the well funded leave campaign. To me, this is the cutting edge of conspiracy research right now. There are thousands of slimy tentacles.

Some of the most stimulating parts of his talk for me, were where he quoted and improvised on Peter Sloterdijk, who should have been on the panel but had an unfortunate accident. Zizek riffed on the new anthropocene period, where humanity can no longer ignore its footprint all over the face of planet earth, and that these big boots are designed and paid for by capitalist expansion, commodification, and so a complete ignorance to the ecological threats noticeably now upon us. Melting glaciers, earthquakes, fires, floods, famine.

Furthermore, Zizek pointed out some cruel Hegelian reversals, a company capitalizing on newly uncovered, dry land, revealed due to the melting ice caps in Greenland. The company imply that this new green land, in Greenland, is, green land. To mean green, as in ecologically friendly. Such is the power of marketing and the endless tricks up their muddy sleeves.

I was fascinated to hear Zizek discuss his friends in America, and their research into the predictive ability of computers, versus humans, with particular focus on personal questions such as: will this marriage or relationship last. The computer program is fed a whole array of data sets stretching back in time, and calculates the approximate scenario. The punchline is that the computer program knows you better than you know you. Other artificially intelligent software has been disrupting the stock market too, according to Zizek, and produces more accurate stock predictions than a highly paid Wall Street human. (if you can call anybody who works on Wall Street fully human?)

I imagine this is due to the susceptible nature of humans, emotions, desires, complexes, delusions and amplifications, improvisations, which lead us to spur of the moment decisions. Quick to judge and impatient people, rarely representative of the long game perspective of intelligent machine learning.

Zizek joked that perhaps the way to get rid of the clown, Gert Wilders, is with help from computers like this which simply outsmart the dumb, or those playing dumb. I’m here reminded of an unanswered question “why are our politicians and world leaders not wired up to a simple lie detector, a polygraph, or some such device built sense bullshit, in real time?” Direct democracy connected to a hierarchy of values based on an verifiable, transparent system. Call it the Bushit detector, in Honor of the master of Bullshit George W. Bush. Catalogue name: Nightmare Bushit' Whirl.

Zizek said words to the effect that if you don't address the likes of Gert Wilders and Marie Le Pen, and Nigel Farage then what else are you standing for? This is the fight for Europe. To figure out our common ground and shared weirdness, and to basically agree to tolerate each others manias. Respect my atheism because of it, not in spite of it. Please respect my beliefs because...not, in spite, of them.

The phrase ‘spaceship earth’ leapt into my ear when i heard it in the context of Peter Sloterdijk. Due to its use by Buckminster Fuller in the title of his book : Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth. I have yet to look into Sloterdijk's recontextualization of the term, for Fuller it approximated all-around-the-world synergy and shared resources, doing more with less.

Zizek proposed that in the future, countries will need to figure out temporary land loans in the wake of ecological crisis, and of other unforeseen problematic relations between sovereign states in times of dire catastrophe. I can imagine solving the refugee crisis by giving a certain people, defined by their homelessness, land, perhaps only temporarily, but under a sovereign agreement. Ending the status of immigrant and native. If people are not living on the land (i.e the billions of square meters on earth currently not occupied by humans, but capable of sustaining a life of relative comfort) why not let them. Maybe add the stipulations of no guns, and no claim to land ownership. I can dream of a return to the sovereignty of our planetary biosphere, DNA-RNA systems, life, not the borders on a map defined by death, war and coercion.

The big man seemed kind and forgiving to me, and was open for lively debate, passionate and open to changing his mind based on new evidence. I found this to be refreshing, I hope he continues on his current trajectory.

--Steven Pratt

Amsterdam 25/03/2017.

All thinking people oppose terrorism

one year after Brussels was bombed
London was struck by a thoughtless coward
one man with a knife
and a car and a familiar agenda
to cause a spree of terror in the minds of the people
across the mediasphere through
targeting random people
in whatever fundamentalist reality tunnel
this fucker inhabited

all thinking people oppose terrorism
the chaos of the indiscriminate
attacks so devilish in simplicity
a desperate act from a lonely suicidal
maniac driven by who knows what
kind of a broken mind?

all thinking people oppose terrorism
that species of violence and will
to kill based on inflicting a lasting fear
here, in the simplicity, lies the terror
any car and any knife could
take any human life!
both the terrorists and the state are
clear in agreement about that

all thinking people oppose terrorism
but differ on their way to stop it
and on why it started, and, what
else and who else are to blame,
violence united in violence
violence and terrorism know no
nation or religion or race or sex
be indiscriminate in equal condemnation
of terrorism and violence, and war
think different.

all thinking people oppose terrorism
stop the war stop the killing stop
the robbery stop the lies,
oppose the causes of hatred and
the demonization of entire cultures
oppose the use of theistic
terminology such as 'evil'
which plays into the hands of the devil
that master of distraction, obfuscation
and fear mongering

all thinking people oppose terrorism
some people finacially support it
keeping hands clean
selling arms to unstable lunatics to
inflict terror in another land
terror by another brand
the terrorismometer is broken

all thinking people oppose terrorism
some say that false flags are waving
terror as a set-up and a pretext for
cultural division, increase in
state powers and surveillance and
racial profiling and security investment
sheep dipped dupes and manchurian
candidates and strange coincidences
intelligence operations and....and....but

all thinking people oppose terrorism
and so explode with the opposite
everyday love bombing and attacking hate
with thermonuclear peace weapons
killing softly with his song
an unquestionable force for good
with the power of forgiveness blazing

all thinking people oppose terrorism
and should resist the rush to revenge
resist the urge to hate
let the violence become the exclusive
signiture of terrorism
all violence is degrading to the human
stop the wheels stop the killing and the
mockery and the fighting talk
and spare a thought for the victims
and their friends and families and join them
with opposing terrorism
everywhere everywhen.

"All thinking people oppose terrorism both domestic & international but one should not be used to cover the other.--Amiri Baraka

These programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power.”--Ed Snowdon.