Zizek’s anecdotes in The Universal Exception

The Universal Exception
The Universal Exception
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While fully justified at its own level, the notion of censorship at work in this criticism, with its Foucauldian background of Power, which, in the very act of censorship and other forms of exclusion, generates the excess it endeavours to contain and dominate, nonetheless seems to fall short at a crucial point: what it misses is the way in which censorship not only affects the status of the marginal or subversive force that the Power discourse endeavours to dominate, but, at an even more radical level, causes a split within the Power discourse itself. One should ask here a naive, but nonetheless crucial question: why does the army so strongly resist publicly accepting gays into its ranks? There is only one possible consistent answer: not because homosexuality poses a threat to the alleged ‘phallic and patriarchal’ libidinal economy of the army community, but, on the contrary, because the army community itself relies on a thwarted/disavowed homosexuality as the key component of the soldiers’ male-bonding.

From my own experience, I remember the way that the old infamous Yugoslav People’s Army was homophobic in the extreme – when someone was discovered as having homosexual inclinations, he was instantly turned into a pariah, before being formally dismissed from the army – and yet, at the same time, everyday army life was excessively permeated by an atmosphere of homosexual innuendo. For instance, while soldiers were standing in line for their meal, a common vulgar joke was to stick a finger into the arse of the person ahead of you and then to withdraw it quickly, so that when the surprised victim turned around, he did not know who among the soldiers sharing a stupid obscene smile had done it. A predominant way of greeting a fellow soldier in my unit, instead of simply saying ‘Hello!’, was to say ‘Smoke my prick!’ (‘Pusi kurac!’ in Serbo-Croat); this formula was so standardized that it had completely lost any obscene connotation and was pronounced in a totally neutral way, as a pure act of politeness.


There is a well-known anecdote about Picasso: during World War II, a German officer visited his studio and, upon seeing Guernica, was shocked by the modernist confusion of the painting. He then asked: ‘Did you do this?’ Picasso calmly replied: ‘No, you did this!’ Today, many liberals, when faced with violent outbursts like the riots in Paris, ask us, the few remaining Leftists who still count on a radical social transformation: ‘Didn’t you do this? Isn’t this what you want?’ And we should reply, like Picasso: ‘No, you did this! This is the result of your politics!’


[Extract from The Universal Exception, 2006, pp. 155-156 & 326. Get it from Amazon.]

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