Monday, April 13, 2020

Žižek Panics

Pandemic!: Covid-19 Shakes the WorldPandemic!: Covid-19 Shakes the World by Slavoj Žižek
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is more of a pamphlet, really, than a book. But if you want to get a handle on what this pandemic means, this is the best that there is. Žižek is brilliant, as usual, but much more readable than he sometimes is.

I don't guess he's terribly widely read. I wonder how it is that he has developed such a fine voice in English. He is not shy about exposing his awkward spoken voice. In writing, I am quite sure that I have no voice. I wonder if that is in relation to my native laziness. Native laziness is deadly now.

Well, if I can't be so brilliant as Žižek is, at least I can quibble. I think he's wrong that the Chinese don't trust their government. The bulk of the Chinese population surely does, even while they too might quibble with the published numbers.

If the intellectual and cosmopolitan Chinese don't trust their government - and plenty of them have good reason not to - and if they aren't entirely self-serving, which plenty of them certainly are - even they must find the arc of Chinese history turning inevitably toward democracy. There is plenty of recent history to show this.

Chinese leadership is just glad that we fulfil all their propagandistic fantasies about the U.S. - us. Even the propagators of Chinese propaganda never quite believed what they were wanting their people to believe. But the propaganda is working now inside of China, even while no one expected it to become so true.

Second quibble, I can't tell what he means when he says:

. . . we should resist the temptation to treat the ongoing epidemic as something that has a deeper meaning: the cruel but just punishment of humanity for the ruthless exploitation of other forms of life on earth. If we search for such a hidden message, we remain premodern: we treat our universe as a partner in communication.

I take Bruno Latour's word for it, that 'we have never been modern.' That makes postmodern a sham as well, though I feel less certain on that score. But I can't tell if Žižek is being ironic, or if he's just focused on the word "punishment."

His call for a new communism is surely meant more as salvation than retribution. But it's still "premodern" of us to think that we deserve to survive at all. Who but the universe would be our partner in that communication? The proof of the communication being in its conclusion.

Anyhow (whatever?) there is more sense here than in a zillion other words. You go Žižek!

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