Sunday, November 6, 2016

Zizek Hearts Trump

Slavoj Zizek succeeded in creating a firestorm when he declared his support for Donald Trump. If his goal was to be even a more shameless self-promoter than Trump, he succeeded.

When he said that he preferred Trump to Hillary, he was making a lesser of two evils argument, but, whatever he intended, he did say it. The words were not even ambiguous. They were not even Zizekian double talk.

Zizek said it on television; he was addressing the general public. He was speaking as a public intellectual. We have every right to accept him at his word. What he may or may not have meant does not matter.

I will emphasize this point because some people, infatuated with Zizek’s double talk, have argued that we should never take him literally. It’s all just poetry isn’t it?

And some people have argued that if you watch Zizek’s self-presentation, his clownish madman demeanor, no sane individual would ever take what he says seriously. The point is cogent and reasonable. And yet, given the state of mind of today’s college students, you never know.

One notes in Zizek’s appearance an argument against psychoanalysis. After all, the man was psychoanalyzed. I can see the billboards now: Get yourself psychoanalyzed; you can be just like Zizek.

But, I digress.

Whatever Zizek meant-- and I for one am willing to take him at his word-- when a public intellectual or a public official or a company leader offers advice or sets out a policy, his words mean what any reasonable person thinks they mean.

For example, if a respected philosopher tells people to “enjoy your symptom” as Zizek famously did, he does not own the language and cannot make the words whatever he says they mean.

A reader has every right to believe that Zizek is telling him to enjoy his symptom. After all, in the psychoanalytic world, no one is going to cure or to treat your symptoms, so why not just lay back and enjoy them. Surely, Zizek is aiming at some superego function, but that too is immaterial.

What matters is this: let’s say that your symptom is kleptomania. What should you do to enjoy it? And if your symptom is being sexually attracted to four year old children, what does it mean when someone tells you to enjoy it? If your symptom is that you think you can fly, what would you need to do to enjoy it?

It matters little whether Zizek meant or did not mean any of the above. If you are going to make grandiose public pronouncements, you are responsible for what any rational individual takes them to mean.

If someone draws any of the conclusions I have offered he is well within his rights. If Zizek did not want people to draw such conclusions he should have articulated his point differently.

Did Zizek mean it when he asserted that he preferred Trump to Clinton? Apparently, he did. If you, reader, believe that his opinion ought to guide your choice of a candidate, you are within your right to take his advice and to go out and vote for Trump.

Of course, as a number of people have noted Zizek was thinking as a Hegelian. He was looking for a candidate who would break things up in Washington, the better to prepare for a great awakening. You may like or not like the idea, but, in truth, most Trump supporters think exactly the same thing.

Zizek might, as we are advised, be politically sophisticated, but his thinking is not as sophisticated as his followers would think. Yet, he was correct when hes declared Trump to be “a centrist liberal.” Who was it who said that Trump embodied New York values?

For those who have not kept up with the debate, some people have found good reason dialectical reasons to vote for Trump. They argue that if the country enters a recession next year, we can then blame Trump and the Republican Party. It would lead to a return of progressives to power. You must have noticed that, outside of the White House, the Obama years have been a catastrophe for the Democratic Party, in Congress, in governorships and in state legislatures.

On the other hand, all of those Republican officials have not been able to stop the rising tide of political correctness on college campuses and in the media. They have done nothing to slow down the flood of immigrants who are coming into the country. And they have done nothing to deal with the out-of-control government debt.

And yet, the Democrats have Trump on their side.

Were it not for Donald Trump, we would be debating whether we should take the Democratic Party off life support. Thanks to Trump, and thanks to Bill Clinton-- who encouraged Trump to run-- the Democratic Party is having something of a revival—a great reawakening, if you will.

I have opined that Trump is a Trojan Horse, sent by the Clintons into the confines of the Republican Party, the better to destroy it from within and to provide that only path for Hillary to get to the White House.

As for the blame game, some Republicans who support Clinton believe that things are going to get very bad next year when the bill for the Obama years comes due. Or, as the old saying went: Apres nous, le deluge. They would prefer that Hillary gets blamed for it.

Of course, Zizek believes that we are living in “end times” and that history is about to bring down the curtain on global capitalism. He has been saying this for quite some time. It’s a good way to avoid accepting that Marxist and Leninist and Maoist political economies have ended in miserable failure. They have ended because in practice they have been as efficient as the bubonic plague in destroying human life..

And yet, the philosopher has a point. If America cannot do better than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton it is in serious trouble. It is, as many believe, a declining civilization.

Allow me to offer some caveats here. If America is in serious trouble, the reason has more to do with the national debt than with the perambulations of the Hegelian World Spirit. The country is very close to bankrupt, not because of capitalism but because we spend too much borrowed money and create insufficient wealth. It has been driven by socialist redistributionist policies not by the World Spirit. If the world one day ceases to have faith in the almighty dollar, we are in very big trouble.

We might say that European civilization, another beacon of capitalism, is also in serious trouble. The reason might have something to do with capitalism, though it might also have to do with excessive regulations and high taxation. The Socialist president of France thinks so, and he might just have a point.

Europe’s other mammoth problem is: too many Muslim refugees. This has less to do with capitalism and more to do European guilt. Angela Merkel believed that she could do penance for German crimes by opening the nation to a flood of Muslim refugees. Some of the refugees are good people, but nearly none of them has the skill or the training needed to assimilate into German society. The story was laid out in frightening detail in a report prepared in the Netherlands for John Podesta. I dutifully linked to it in a previous post on  Multicultistan

Too many unassimilable refugees from alien cultures… it has nothing to do with late stage capitalism. It’s a function of being too generous, too charitable, too guilty and too much of a multicultural patsy.

As for capitalism, it is alive and well… in Asia. The autocrats who are running the nominally communist nation of China know well that socialism starves people. They saw what it did to China and want nothing of it.

They have been practicing free enterprise—albeit without its handmaiden liberal democracy—for four decades now and have created an enormous amount of wealth. They have moved hundreds of millions of people into the middle class and made starvation—an everyday reality under Mao— a forgotten memory.

In one sense, Zizek is correct to see that the West, and even America is in decline. To blame it on late-stage capitalism is simply incorrect. To say that capitalism is dying out is absurd on its face.

But, then again, being a philosopher means never having to say you are sorry ... and never having to admit you are wrong.


Trigger Warning said...

Of course we're in decline. Trump voters see it as a slippery slope. Clinton voters see it as a bobsled run (cf., Jay-Z/J-Lo Clinton extravaganzas).

Sam L. said...

Obama wanted our decline, said we should, and made it happen. After all, how many people know who Zizek is?

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: I have opined that Trump is a Trojan Horse, sent by the Clintons into the confines of the Republican Party, the better to destroy it from within and to provide that only path for Hillary to get to the White House.

Zizek is wrong on Trump, but I'm moving into agreement that the Democratic party has become the party of the professional class and protected minorities, and the Republicans are moving to the party of the white underclass.

It is really hard to tell which party is falling apart faster. There's some new shifting in alliances going on, and who can tell what will come out.

The Republican brand is poison to minorities, no matter how much Trump says "What do you have to lose?" It's not credible, yet.

But that may chance in the next 8 years. And a collapsing economy certainly would make whatever party is in the White House become the bigger poison.

Ares Olympus said...

p.s. Apparently we shouldn't expect a concession speech from Trump when he loses on Tuesday:
During a Sunday rally in Maryland, the Republican presidential frontrunner mocked candidates who praise their opponents during concession speeches, saying that if he loses the contest, Americans will probably not hear much from him again.

"They fight like hell for six months, and they're saying horrible things, the worst things you can imagine," Trump said. "And then one of them loses, one of them wins. And the one who loses says, 'I just want to congratulate my opponent. He is a brilliant man, he'll be a great governor or president or whatever.'"

He continued: "I'm not sure you're ever going to see me there. I don't think I'm going to lose, but if I do, I don't think you're ever going to see me again, folks. I think I'll go to Turnberry and play golf or something."

In the civilized world conciliation is considered good manners, but to Trump, its how losers act.

But in Trump's eyes, Winners figure out who else is to blame for their loss, and do their best to make sure those scapegoats pay, for the rest of their lives.

It also reminds me how Europe punished the German people severely after World War I, with war reparations, and this is what lead to the rise of the Nazi party in the 1920's and eventually World War II.

We didn't make the same mistake after World War II, but if for people like Trump, we can have some sense of how he'd govern as president, no mercy for his enemies, and whatever they do is proof of their bad character, not his.

So in my mind we can be glad this disasterous wannabe leader won't happen, or 70.9% chance by 538's cautious forecast.