Thursday, August 22, 2013

Austerity Love

What if our Self is this void itself, what if its core is not some positive content, but the “self‐relating negativity” (Hegel), the very ability to negate every determinate content?
- Let's have some fun with this sentence.
- Who wrote it?
- Slavoj Zizek, a Slovenian philosopher. He argues that we live in times of ideology, that we need theory to understand what is happening.
- What is ideology?
- Ideas we act upon that we are unconscious of. Ideas we learn from others in our lives within a group. Unconscious learning, unconscious teaching at the same time.
- Give me an example.
- At our times of economic difficulty governments practice "austerity", when economically it makes no sense. We are told to tolerate others different from ourselves, as if that is an improvement, but in fact means leaving economic relations unchanged, to leave things as they are. We are told to enjoy ourselves, not discriminate between desires, it'll keep us healthy.
- We are supposed to be unconscious of how we got these ideas?
- Yes. And they are supposed to be promoted by people with power.
- And the powerful people promote them unconscious where they came from?
- Yes. But the ideology serves their interests.
- But not the interests of everyone else.
- No. Ideology is unconscious learning, and teaching, that affects politics, that gives some groups more power than others. Suffer for your overspending, tolerate everyone, enjoy yourselves, but don't think about economic relations between people.
- Don't think about economic relations that benefit the people "promoting" the ideas.
- Yes. Here's that sentence again:
What if our Self is this void itself, what if its core is not some positive content, but the “self‐relating negativity” (Hegel), the very ability to negate every determinate content?
Zizek thinks that all ideas are ideology. All ideas are learned unconsciously, so they have to be negated.
- What is negating?
- Made nothing.
- How?
- Obviously, we can't make nothing the idea being passed between people in society. We make the idea nothing by showing to ourselves that, for example, economic troubles caused by speculation are not cured by spending less, or that tolerating people different from ourselves allows us to disregard them, gives us an excuse to not care about them, that indulging in pleasure for our health means not wondering whether some pleasures are better for getting us ready for learning and understanding and sympathizing with others.
- So we negate austerity, tolerance, healthy pleasure. Then what?
- We come up with, for Zizek, communism, practical politeness, love.
- Love comes out of negation?
- "The world is nothing to me if I can't love."
- What do you think?
- We do learn unconsciously, but we can't see "ideology" in the world, or ourselves. No one ever saw in himself a void that is a core ability to negateDo you know what I think?
- I just asked.
- These words themselves are examples of unconscious learning. This kind of language itself is unquestioned.
- I keep asking you to question it.
- It's not so easy! Let's try it like this. If austerity in economics is ignorant of the speculation that was the real cause of difficulty, what is the real self we are ignorant of when we talk of the void that is a core ability to negate? 
Love?
- What happens when we fall in love?
- The one we love is everything.
- Good. In Zizek's world, when we negate an idea, we add to it. Private property is theft, we say, meaning it results in many people having no property at all. This leads us to the idea of sharing, which has its own problems, do we share children, homes? We create solutions, but they hold us back, and we are unconscious of them holding us back, satisfied as we are with their past success. In this process, there is no description of where the new ideas come from, how we create them. We just do it.
- Like falling in love.
- If falling in love is unconscious learning.
- And you don't think it is?
- I think it is the opposite. That it is even the proof that it is possible for us to learn consciously. Imagine that piece by piece, we reorient our relation to the world, putting the world in relation also to the person we love. We do this effortlessly, because we want to do it, it is our nature to want to do it.
When its done, the period of falling is done.
- And love ends.
- No. Love begins! We've constructed out of all these effortless re-orientations a sense of home around the person we love, and we live in that sense of home.
- What is the sense of home?
- Detachment from, safe from everything outside.
- Mystical experience. Nirvana.
- Yes. Falling in love is conscious learning. It gets us a home. We don't have to negate that home, because we know where it came from. We will get thrown out of it anyway. We'll find we don't know very much about the one we love, and have to search for the explanation, or the world will change, and we'll have to remake our home. In neither case do we negate. We have to do what we did before effortlessly, by desire, when we fell in love, but now we have to do it experimentally, testing out each relation to the world. We act on what we know, trying to learn more, at all times consciously.
- World negating love is a sort of like austerity economics?
- Yes. And in general, seeing the world in terms of ideology, we fall in love with ideas. But it is austerity love, making ourselves unconscious of personal experience.