Who are the “hateful eight” in Quentin Tarantino’s film of the same name? The ENTIRE group of participants – white racists and the black Union soldier, men and women, law officers and criminals – they are all equally mean, brutal and revengeful. The most embarrassing moment in the film occurs when the black officer (played by the superb Samuel L. Jackson) narrates in detail and with obvious pleasure to an old Confederate general how he killed his racist son, who was responsible for many black deaths. After forcing him to march naked in cold wind, Jackson promises the freezing white guy he will get a warm cover if he performs fellatio, but after the guy does so, Jackson reneges on his promise and lets him die. So there are no good guys in the struggle against racism – they are all engaged in it with the utmost brutality. And is the lesson of the recent Cologne sex attacks not uncannily similar to the lesson of the film? Even if (most of) the refugees are effectively victims fleeing from ruined countries, this does not prevent them from acting in a despicable way. We tend to forget that there is nothing redeeming in suffering: being a victim at the bottom of the social ladder does not make you some kind of privileged voice of morality and justice.
But this general insight is not enough – one has to take a close look at the situation which gave birth to Cologne incident. In his analysis of the global situation after the Paris bombings1, Alain Badiou discerns three predominant types of subjectivity in today’s global capitalism: the western “civilised” middle-class liberal-democratic subject; those outside the west possessed by the “desire for the westle desir d’Occident,” desperately endeavouring to imitate the “civilised” life-style of the western middle classes; and the fascist nihilists, those whose envy at the west turns into a mortal self-destructive hatred. Badiou makes it clear that what the media call the “radicalisation” of Muslims is Fascisation simple and pure:
“this fascism is the obverse of the frustrated desire for the west which is organized in a more or less military way following the flexible model of a mafia gang and with variable ideological colorisations where the place occupied by religion is purely formal.”
The western middle class ideology has two opposed features: it displays arrogance and belief in the superiority of its values (universal human rights and freedoms threatened by the barbarian outsiders), but, simultaneously, it is obsessed by the fear that its limited domain will be invaded by the billions outside, who do not count in global capitalism since they are neither producing commodities nor consuming them. The fear of its members is that they will join those excluded.
[Extract. Appeared in New Statesman, on January 13th, 2016. (full text).]