[Abstract from CBC:] Come with us on a journey, through the logic, the musings, and the divergent thoughts of a philosopher with rock star status. Slavoj Zizek examines the Occupy movement, the Arab Spring and everything from HBO’s ‘The Wire’ to Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight Rises’.


Anna Maria Tremonti: Now, you know, I’ve got another clip I want you to hear. I was in Victoria, British Columbia, where municipal officials from around the province were debating the decriminalization of marijuana, and … take a listen to what one of the speakers have to say.

‘There’s a lot of people employed in growing marijuana, and trafficking it, and transporting. It also employs an awful lot of police and probation officers and … why would you devalue marijuana by making it decriminalized? What are all those poor people gonna do?’

Tremonti: Now that of course is tongue-in-cheek but it’s the idea that that system, even a system that’s not good, is actually functioning in a way that I guess…

Did you notice how the very same people who are for legalization of drugs, are fanatical about… Click To TweetSlavoj Zizek: Now you said something crucial. What is maybe the fundamental message when something appears to be undermining the system or subverting it, look at it closely, maybe at the deeper level it’s part of the system. That’s the big lesson I took from my socialist youth. I  mean when I was living in a communist country. How, you know, black market and all those things that those in power were officially fighting – well that’s what enabled people to survive. Precisely through those illegal activities the system maintained itself in a viable state. But another thing, this may shock you, I’m sceptical about this liberal attempts let’s legalize drugs and so on, because did you notice how the very same people who are for legalization at least of soft drugs, are fanatical about even being more tough on smoking and …

Tremonti: I’ve wondered about that myself.

Zizek: Yeah like why is smoking elevated to almost, I would say, the absolute sin. I think today there are two sins: paedophilia and smoking. I don’t smoke and I am for all the tough measures against tobacco companies. But still I think, I’m sorry to tell you that, maybe, just maybe, drugs are nonetheless generally more dangerous.

What is for us so irritating, as if we feel threatened by the figure of a chain smoker? Click To TweetWhat is for us so irritating, as if we feel threatened by the figure of a chain smoker? I think it’s ideology.  I think smoking is a nice proof of how we don’t really believe in a consumerist society. We are solicited to consume, but in a safe way. That’s my mantra. This idea of having the pleasure provided by a product, but deprived of it’s dangerous affect …

Tremonti: In fact in New York they want to ban soft drinks of a certain size. So what do you make of our society with those kinds of contradictions?

Zizek: We want to be limitless consumerist but we want to do it in the safe way. And what I’m afraid of here is how this narcissistic economy – like, enjoy, do it, but safely – is an expression of new type of subjectivity that I don’t like. Even in the matter of sex. I know noticed passionate love is considered too risky. You know, like,  the idea is ‘ok, change partners, but take it easy.’ It’s all this Buddhist pseudo-hedonist logic of ‘don’t get too involved with things.’ Do know that dating and marriage agencies in France and in English language domain, the verb we use is to fall, to fall in love. They both based their propaganda, their publicity sorry, by playing with this words and their slogan is ‘we will enable you to find yourself in love without the fall.’ But what disappears in this way is the very magic of love. For me, passionate love is the fall.

Tremonti: I’m gonna bring this all the way back to Occupy. You seem to be saying that there may not be a way to change, that the people who are asking for change, don’t know what that changes and so there will not be the change that …

Zizek: But I’m a little bit more of an optimist precisely, paradoxically, because I’m even more pessimist. But the world is changing, I mean capitalism today is no longer capitalism 20 years ago. So my first thing when people say ‘things cannot change’ my answer to them is ‘but they are changing like crazy all around the world.’

Tremonti: Let me ask you something else though. A lot of people like the status quo. I mean a lot of people didn’t take part in Occupy, but if you looked at the demonstrations in Tahrir Square, if you went along the edges, you could talk to people in Egypt who were opposed to what was happening. I’m not judging, I’m just saying that existed, right. Isn’t that part of the struggle that in fact those who take to the streets think they represent everyone, but they don’t.

Zizek: I mean let’s be frank here, and I’m for the radical left. In the radical movement for change and revolution, in the most ecstatic moments, there were never more than ten, maybe twenty percent of the people. But what fascinated me in New York is how many people nonetheless silently sympathized. Two days after my speech there on Zuccotti Park, real Wall Street banker approached me and said: ‘You know, I work in a big bank there, but you are onto something. I see the  problem you’re describing, you are right there.’ You know, like this is for me the true success of the movement …

Tremonti: Well let me ask you …

Zizek: This silent solidarity …

Tremonti: That speaks to something else. We tend to like to label people, in the media especially, right? But is it time to forget this left and right divide? Is that the wrong language now? Is something changing?

Zizek: It depends on what we mean by left and right. If we mean this standard struggle in the last 200 years, then yes, I agree. We will have to think over this standard divides. Yes …

Tremonti: You’re not looking for the answer, you’re asking us to think about what the answers could be.

Zizek: Yes, even you know, ironically when people ask me am I still a Marxist? I say yes, on condition that you turn around, you know the famous thesis 11 on Feuerbach ‘philosophers we’re interpreting too much the world the time is to change it.’ I claim maybe the lesson for us now is the opposite one. Maybe in the 20th century, we tried to change the world too much too quickly and the time has come to think to interpret it again

Tremonti: And you’re making us to, thank you for coming in.

Zizek: I was very glad to be here, thank you very much.

[Appeared on CBC’s The Current on October 8th 2012.]

Slavoj Žižek

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, and a senior researcher at the Institute for Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London. He has also been a visiting professor at more than 10 universities around the world. Žižek is the author of many books; his latest are Against the Double Blackmail and Disparities.

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