Žižek on the Žhip of Fools Again
by John Kendall Hawkins
How can we dance when our earth is turning
How do we sleep while our beds are burning
- Midnight Oils, "Beds Are Burning"
Musing through Slavoj Žižek's new anti-tome, Pandemic 2! Chronicles of a Time Lost, his much-anticipated follow-up to Pandemic! Covid-19 Shakes the World, I recall reading somewhere in time how Bob Dylan, the Bard of Duluth, used to sit down at the kitchen table, presumably at some sad-eyed lady of the lowland's place (i.e., Lower East Side soho type), and read newspapers and clip out interesting pieces that he thought would make good subjects for songs.
Reading Pandemic! 2 is kind of like looking over the Bard's shoulders, in the early tarantella days of his career, as he peruses and muses over some NYT or Post piece about some old 'defunct' injustice like police brutality or racial disenfranchisement somewhere out there, away from the kitchen, where the riot squads were restless. Such a habit would account for a couple of stray songs off Desire that probably don't belong on the same album together -- "Joey" (Gallo) and "Hurricane" (Rubin Carter). Or maybe they do. WTF do I know about Mr. Alias Anything You Please, when it comes right down to it, other than what I've heard?
Reading Žižek is like that. In Pandemic 1 he was called out of his bed in his 'jamas and urgently asked to write a polemic against rising pandemic-driven values. He was up to the task. Žižek is always up to the task; he's not like other men that way. But looking over his shoulder this time, while he was with laptop in bed, it was a little more constricted, as he had Lacan in bed with him now. Reading Žižek this go, sometimes I felt like a me'nage à twat. Pandemic! 2 is largely an elaborate exercise in reader-response theory. He makes dialectical love to Hegel using a Lacanian psychoanalytic prophylactic. No one gets hurt that way and there's no hard feelings.
Žižek reads a paper, usually the Guardian, because he's about as Left as the Guardian is, I reckon, and responds with journal-type entries he calls chapters. Then I (sometimes) look up the piece and gauge his response and write a review of his responses, and then you, reader, respond-perform my read of Žižek, trotting out your little totemic dogmas and ideogrammatic nuances -- different from mine, and maybe post it to your Facebook timeline, where it becomes a feed to your hungry readership -- different from mine, who respond with Likes or retweets, and on and on it goes, reading/responding, until it's like a case of Narcissus with a small army of Echos ego-riffing at the same time, and nobody can tell who's Narcissus and who's Echo. Like Marx said all those years ago: Talk, talk, talk: Where is it getting you? Jeesh, no wonder Žižek is always bananas in his pajamas in the morning.
Well, as Žižek indicated in Pandemic! 1, he was called upon by publishers to respond to the Covid-19 'hysteria' sweeping the world like the Real pandemic behind Corona, and was especially caustic to liberal points of view, who wanted to connect the virus to Trump and his viral influence. In Pandemic! 2, he reiterates:
...we do not need psychoanalysis to explore the "pathology" of Trump's success -- the only thing to psychoanalyze is the irrational stupidity of Left liberal reactions to it, the stupidity that makes it increasingly probable that Trump will be reelected. To appropriate what is perhaps the lowest point of Trump's vulgarities, the Left has not yet learned how to grab Trump by his p****.
As Žižek points out late in this text, we have seen the rise of the vulgar and obscene with the new populism sweeping the globe, but though the p*ssy-grabbing St. Grobian was a buffoon;and we hope Caligula has yet to come, sow and canker.
Pandemic! 2 is, like P!1, a hoot in its own way. Žižek is all over the place, says things in a way here that makes me wonder about translation problems, or if I'm sane. Actalikes and zealots can work through these serious changes of chord, the way you do at an all-night jazz festival riffing of horns into the morning, where it helps if you're high to get to the upper registers of some players's abstract theorizing. Pandemic! 2 is segmented into 14 chapters of wholesome neo-commie goodness slices lathered with Lacanian pepperschnippel sandwiched between an Intro and concluding No Time (To Conclude) chapter. Pass the bong.
In his Introduction: Why A Philosopher Should Write About Bringing In The Harvest, Žižek uses the pandemic-driven agro crisis to take a potshot at capitalism. There's trouble in Gutersloh, a no-doubt paradisiacal town "north-by-northwest" in Germany; there's trouble in Tennessee, where still waters run deep; there's trouble in south Florida near MaralagoLand; trouble in Italy and Spain, UK, France, and Russia. As Dylan would croak, "Go all the way to the other side of the world / you'll find trouble there." And Žižek surely does:
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