If you want to understand Occupy Wall Street, it helps to know a little about the ideas of Slavoj Žižek.
Many people first heard of Slavoj Žižek because of the "you can have sex with animals" speech that he gave to the Repeat After Me crowd at #Occupy Wall Street. I actually think most people misinterpreted what he was really saying, by the way, although I don’t think the proper interpretation really helps his case much so I’m not and take the time to go into much explanation. Let’s just all agree that it was a weird thing to say, Shelley?
But I first actually heard of Žižek in the expanded content of the DVD for one of my favorite films, Children of Men. More on that in a second. I’m no expert on Žižek and you are going to be an expert by reading this post, either – but I do think you’ll understand his ideas a little bit more and how they directly relate to what were seeing going on on the ground with Occupy Wall Street. I’m not arguing for or against his ideas here. I’m snarky a few times is I don’t agree with them but my goal is primarily to point out those ideas in a clear way.
Who is Žižek? Let’s ask the Wikipedia!
Slavoj Žižek (pronounced [?slavoj ??i??k]; born 21 March 1949) is a Slovenian philosopher and critical theorist working in the traditions of Hegelianism, Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis. He has made contributions to political theory, film theory, and theoretical psychoanalysis.
If you really want to understand what’s going on at #Occupy Wall Street, you have to know that there is an ideological basis to it and it relates to the Hegelianism, Marxism and Lacanian post-structural stuff that was being tossed around in the debate video I found that Jacobin magazine posted. Žižek is part of that and so it’s no accident that he was at #Occupy. This is pretty dense graduate school philosophy stuff but Žižek is a lot more fun than reading Hegel, so take a few minutes and listen to Žižek — especially the animated video I post at the end here.
One of the reasons that Žižek is a lot more interesting then Marx or Hegel is that he’s a "cultural critic" who makes lots of references to popular culture; movies, music, shopping trends and current events.
First, here’s Žižek talking about Children of Men. As I mentioned, this is one my favorite movies – it’s a tremendously well executed and rich, complex world that has two of the best action sequences in the history of film for my money. Žižek has some interesting stuff to say about it this thing I want you to note here is that Žižek is a ant capitalist and that’s one clear tie-in to the Occupy movement.
Also, you’ll note that Žižek makes the word "film" have two syllables. I only mention this to goof on him, so there.
Remember the riots in London a couple of months ago? The essay Shoplifters of the World Unite is something Žižek wrote about it but it also discusses other uprisings. It predates the U.S. Occupy movement but in the lest paragraph, he could be describing what’s happening now.
But even in Greece, the protest movement displays the limits of self-organization: protesters sustain a space of egalitarian freedom with no central authority to regulate it, a public space where all are allotted the same amount of time to speak and so on. When the protesters started to debate what to do next, how to move beyond mere protest, the majority consensus was that what was needed was not a new party or a direct attempt to take state power, but a movement whose aim is to exert pressure on political parties. This is clearly not enough to impose a reorganization of social life. To do that, one needs a strong body able to reach quick decisions and to implement them with all necessary harshness.
This is a pretty constant theme in Žižek’s work that I’ve found – he doesn’t want reform or working with political parties. This is about revolution. This is why I think the people who believe that #OWS is really about reforming the financial system don’t get it. They don’t understand tho the #Occupy movement fits into the larger picture of protests
Here’s the must-see animated part I mentioned earlier .This is a great video. Fun to watch, very clever and creative. Yet – evil and nihilistic.
Let’s talk about the ideas. You may have noticed that there really aren’t any demands or specific objectives coming out of the New York City General Assembly. There’s a reason for this that may not be obvious to many outside observers and the of that is contained in this video — namely, the idea that making minor fixes to the system is pointless when the real goal is bringing down the entire system.
This video addresses that idea. One of the big points made in the video is that giving to charity is a bad thing because charity doesn’t encourage the destruction of capitalism, but actually slows down this distraction by making capitalism and its inequities more bearable.
And again we see the theme – the whole system needs to be destroyed. That’s the goal.