SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

November 26, 2013

Watson: Social critic Slavoj Zizek will rock you

(Continued)

But can Americans bring that same savvy and awareness to other gods that beckon? What about more beguiling appeals, maybe those that court our emotions, desires, comfort and ego? Zizek challenges us to consider our posture toward consumption. How do our purchases and our identity meet? What arrangements exist behind our consumerism?

Zizek explores our guilt and our logic, or lack of both. In the film, you may recognize some of the ways that we think about the notion that we may have or incur responsibilities simply by participating in an organized society.

Furthermore, he points out, the dominant paradigms around us often demand an obedience to and an acceptance of all sorts of rules, norms, injustices, irrationalities and behavioral dictates.

He isn’t quite cynical, but close to it. His allegiances are to freedom, democracy, egalitarianism (i.e., each individual has standing, equally), mindfulness and seeing clearly. He believes that we should be more perceptive about our dreams and more aware of our fears, and then understand the deals and actions we take to manage them.

Zizek asks, how do we live a principled life? Can we live a principled life and exist and function in a society at all? Ideologies and cultures, usefully, do provide frames, filters, to steer us, but they can easily become corrupt, excessive, defensive, exclusive or destructive.

He comes close to saying that societal order itself is intrinsically corrupt, but he doesn’t say it. He does ask, can societies exist only if we base things on lies? And though he cautions about state power, he is very direct in declaring that it is delusional to think that even the best, most free state won’t require a strong, regulatory government.

He gives capitalism a mixed grade. In fact, he gives just about everything a mixed grade. But then, that is (again) his central message — that very little in life can remain pure and innocent in execution, and therefore, very little in life deserves our unwavering support. Living in reality inevitably leads both theories and men to yield somewhere, make compromises and maybe disappoint us.

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