‘Things cannot go on the way they are’

An intriguing (though depressing and plausible!) talk by Slavoj Žižek about the prospects faced by Western democracy. He paints a grim picture of a society where “all small personal pleasures will be kept” but democracy is gone. As he puts it: “things cannot go on indefinitely the way that they are”. Do we face an all or nothing situation? Radical action or conclusive destruction?

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  1. I had the privilege to listen to Zizek some time January this year. Derivative in many ways, but that’s alright. Not to be original is not a serious flaw. It never was in fact. While assuming that it is polemics, certain things Zizek says need to be put in perspective. I stopped taking him seriously the moment he said that Gandhi was more “violent” than Hitler (http://atrocitynews.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/gandhi-more-violent-than-hitler/). It’s fashionable these days to attack Gandhi and Gandhism and find faults with his kind of nonviolence.
    Interestingly, those who attack Gandhi wouldn’t dare to live like him for a single day of their lives, the simple reason being that they cannot do so. A life that follows the Sermon on the Mount to the letter is not something Gandhi’s critics would embark on even for a joke although there’s nothing funny about it. Gandhi defies European rationalism and any rationalism for that matter. His insights into the nature of colonialism are profound and the success of the Black Civil Rights Movement in the United States lead by Martin Luther King is proof of the universality of his views. Though rarely acknowledged, in almost every area of humanities and social sciences you are bound to come across his insights in one form or another. There is no writer, activist, researcher or revolutionary in the 20th century who is untouched by Gandhi’s views.
    To merely say that Ambedkar who lead the Dalit struggle against upper caste oppression “was better than Gandhi” is to miss the framework of the Gandhi-Ambedkar debate which is colonialism. Unfortunately in the past three or four decades the Holocaust Industry crooks (that Norman Finkelstein talks about in his book The Holocaust Industry) have made the suffering of every other group on this planet look irrelevant compared to that of the Jews under the Nazis. In the most shameful and degrading manner they profited from that suffering as Finkelstein shows with documented evidence. The space for thinking other things has seriously been curtailed for obvious reasons.
    The modernization of Europe beginning with the Renaissance cannot be understood without colonialism as the background for most of the path-breaking changes. Colonialism not only is the background to the Gandhi-Ambedkar debate but also the background to Gandhi being Gandhi and Ambedkar being Ambedkar. Most western intellectuals – Zizek is not an exception in this regard – refuse to acknowledge colonialism and its avatar globalization or corporate colonialism as the essence of any attempt to give a historical framework to notions such as development or underdevelopment or radical change for that matter. Capitalism as an institution exists in the west thanks to neocolonialism. You cannot be anti-capitalist without attacking the base which is colonialism. Revolutionary socialism will destroy this base before anything else.

    • I largely agree with what you’re saying and I believe that Zizek would too. As I read the ‘Gandhi is more violent than Hitler comment’ Zizek is suggesting that Hitler stayed within the socio-political parameters of capitalism (playing at stretching them in order to save them) while Gandhi was genuinely revolutionary:

      Nazism was not radical enough, it did not dare to disturb the basic structure of the modern capitalist social space (which is why it had to invent and focus on destroying an external enemy, Jews). This is why one should oppose the fascination with Hitler according to which Hitler was, of course, a bad guy, responsible for the death of millions–but he definitely had balls, he pursued with iron will what he wanted. … This point is not only ethically repulsive, but simply wrong: no, Hitler did not ‘have the balls’ to really change things; he did not really act, all his actions were fundamentally reactions, i.e., he acted so that nothing would really change, he stages a big spectacle of Revolution so that the capitalist order could survive.

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