What does Europe want? Beyond the multiculturalist deadlock

What does Europe want? Beyond the multiculturalist deadlock

Back in the 1930s, Hitler offered anti-Semitism as a narrative explanation for the troubles experienced by ordinary Germans – from unemployment to moral decay and social unrest. Simply evoking the “Jewish plot” made everything clear by way of providing a simple “cognitive mapping.”

Does today’s hatred of multiculturalism and of the immigrant threat not function in a similar way? Strange things are happening, financial meltdowns occur which affect our daily lives, but these events are experienced as totally opaque, and the rejection of multiculturalism introduces a false clarity into the situation: it is the foreign intruders who are disturbing our way of life.

There is thus an interconnection between the rising anti-immigrant tide in Western countries (which reached a peak in Anders Behring Breivik’s killing spree one year ago this week) and the ongoing financial crisis: clinging to ethnic identity serves as a protective shield against the traumatic fact of being caught in the whirlpool of non-transparent financial abstraction – the true “foreign body” which cannot be assimilated is ultimately the infernal self-propelling machine of the Capital itself.

There are things which should make us think in Breivik’s ideological self-justification as well as in reactions to his murderous act. The manifesto of this Christian “Marxist hunter” who killed more than sventy people in Oslo is precisely not a case of madman’s rambling; it is simply a consequent exposition of “Europe’s crisis” which serves as the (more or less) implicit foundation of the rising anti-immigrant populism – its very inconsistencies are symptomatic of the inner contradictions of this view.

The first thing that is striking is how Breivik constructs his enemy: the combination of three elements (Marxism, multiculturalism, Islamism), each of which belongs to a different political space – Marxist radical Left, multiculturalist liberalism, Islamic religious fundamentalism. The old Fascist habit of attributing to the enemy mutually exclusive features (“Bolshevik-plutocratic Jewish plot” – Bolshevik radical Left, plutocratic capitalism, ethnic-religious identity) returns here in a new guise.

Even more indicative is the way Breivik’s self-designation shuffles the cards of the radical Rightist ideology. Breivik advocates Christianity, but remains a secular agnostic: Christianity is for him merely a cultural construct to oppose Islam. He is anti-feminist and thinks women should be discouraged to pursue high education; but he favours a “secular” society, supports abortion, and declares himself pro-gay.

Furthermore, Breivik combines Nazi features (for example, his sympathy for Saga, the Swedish pro-Nazi folk singer) with the hatred for Hitler: one of his heroes is Max Manus, the leader of the Norway anti-Nazi resistance. Breivik is not so much racist as anti-Muslim: all his hatred is focused on the Muslim threat.

And, last but not least, Breivik is anti-Semitic, but pro-Israel, since the State of Israel is the first defence line against the Muslim expansion – he even wants to see the Jerusalem Temple rebuilt. His view is that Jews are alright as long as there aren’t too many of them – or, as he wrote in his “Manifesto”:

“There is no Jewish problem in Western Europe (with the exception of the UK and France) as we only have 1 million in Western Europe, whereas 800 000 out of these 1 million live in France and the UK. The US on the other hand, with more than 6 million Jews (600% more than Europe) actually has a considerable Jewish problem.”

His figure thus realizes the ultimate paradox of a Zionist Nazi – how is this possible?

His figure thus realizes the ultimate paradox of a Zionist Nazi - how is this possible? Click To Tweet

[Extract. Appeared in ABC on July 24th 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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