Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Zizek At Strabucks

Continued from A Place For Themselves In Other People's Places

- Those late nights at Starbucks I was telling you about: most of the time I spent watching lectures by the Slovenian philosopher Zizek, one after the other. And this afternoon, when I walked into my back-up late-night Starbucks a couple blocks away at the Ralphs supermarket, who do you think I saw sitting there, just where I like to sit watching videos? Zizek himself! I stopped dead in my tracks. He soon became aware of me staring at him. I said:

- I've been watching you the past few days.

- How? I just arrived here.

- On Youtube.

- You know, we East Europeans are sensitive about being watched.

- Are you speaking at UCLA?

- Yes, probably, some problem about time, someone speaking first....

- Here. (I hand him a slip of paper with my web site address.)

- What's this?

- My writing.

- 'LatestWriting.com'. So big. Like no one else's writing counts, only your writing. You must be arrogant.

- I am. Maybe see you later.

- And that's all? Did you go to his lecture?

- I did, but didn't speak with Zizek.

- Why not? You must like him if you dedicated so many hours to him.

- I do. I agree with almost every conclusion he draws. I don't think there is another person in the world I could say that about.

- Then what?

- I'm not sure. Zizek praises the ecstatic experience of falling in love, but he also likes to point out how the ecstasy produced by high art or in religious experience was used by Nazis and wartime Japanese Buddhists to make killing easier. He talks about the "Other", meaning our submission to social instruction in the form of habits we've learned to practice without being aware, and the "others" which are people who seem to be different and hostile to us because they serve another "Other". I'm not sure I've got that right, I find it difficult to even listen to this kind of thing.

- It's from Lacan.

- Yes, I suppose so. Zizek underwent Lacanian pyschoanalysis and is a certified psychoanalyst himself.

- And you don't like the terminology?

- I don't like that he stops there, producing his explanations with these words. I want to know how ecstatic experience can lead to both bad and good results, I want to know why we are conscious of "the other" only when we we feel threatened by it.

- Are you saying you don't know yourself and expect Zizek to answer these questions for you? That doesn't sound like you. Do you know the answers?

- I have some ideas. Ecstatic experience in love leads you to focus complete attention on a single person. Ecstatic experience leading to violence takes you away from your individual choice towards conformity with your group.

- And why are we conscious of other groups only to hate them and unconscious of our conformity to our own?

- Because in one case we are in the midst of constructing a ritual, and in the other we are repeating by habit a completed story that tells us of our secure relation to the world.

- Love is individual, so it can have nothing to do with rituals, which are group actions, either in their formation or repetition?

- That's right.

- Then I understand.

- My problem with Zizek?

- Yes. I am now able to do a Lacanian psychoanalysis of you. Should I?

- Is Zizek my "other"?

- No. But you worry he may think you are his.

- Why would he if we agree on everything?

- You don't agree with terminology you suspect is used ritualistically. And rituals construct "the other".

- Not bad. Congratulations.