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Slavoj Žižek on Examined Life

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[Man] This is where we should start feeling at home. Part of our daily perception of reality... is that this disappears from our world. When you go to the toilet, shit disappears. You flush it. Of course rationally you know it's there in canalization and so on, but at a certain level of your most elementay experience, it disappears from your world. But the problem is that trash doesn't disappear. I think ecology- The way we approach ecological problematic... is maybe the crucial field of ideology today. And I use ideology in the traditional sense of illusory wrong way of thinking and perceiving reality. Why? Ideology is not simply dreaming... about false ideas and so on. Ideology addresses very real problems, but it mystifies them. One of the elementay ideological mechanisms, I claim, is what I call the temptation of meaning. When something horrible happens, our spontaneous tendency is to search for a meaning. It must mean something. You know, like AIDS. It was a trauma. Then conservatives came and said it's punishment... for our sinful ways of life, and so on and so on. Even if we interpret a catastrophe as a punishment, it makes it easier in a way... because we know it's not just some terrifying blind force. It has a meaning. It's better when you are in the middle of a catastrophe. It's better to feel that God punished you than to feel that it just happened. If God punished you, it's still a universe of meaning. And I think that that's where ecology as ideology enters. It's really the implicit premise of ecology... that the existing world... is the best possible world, in the sense of it's a balanced world... which is disturbed through human hubris. So why do I find this problematic? Because I think that this notion of nature- nature as a harmonious, organic, balanced, reproducing, almost living organism, which is then disturbed, perturbed, derailed through human hubris, technological exploitation and so on, is, I think, a secular version of the religious story of the Fall. And the answer should be- not that there is no fall- that we are part of nature, but on the contrary, that there is no nature. Nature is not a balanced totality which then we humans disturb. Nature is a big series... of unimaginable catastrophes. We profit from them. What's our main source of energy today? Oil. What are we aware- What is oil? Oil reserves beneath the earth are material remainders... of an unimaginable catastrophe. Are we aware- Because we all know that oil- oil- oil is- oil is composed of the remainders of animal life, plants and so on and so on. Can you imagine what kind of unthinkable catastrophe... had to occur on Earth? So that is good to remember. No. You call this porn? My God. You can have a half of a hamburger. There is some cheese sandwich. Then you can have a muffin and some juice. Ecology will slowly turn, maybe, into a new opium of the masses... the way, as we all know, Marx defined religion. What we expect from religion is a kind of an unquestionable highest authority. It's God's word, so it is. You don't debate it. Today, I claim, ecology is more and more taking over this role... of a conservative ideology. Whenever there is a new scientific breakthrough- biogenetic development, whatever- it is as if the voice... which warns us not to trespass, violate a certain invisible limit... like, "Don't do that. It would be too much." That voice is today more and more the voice of ecology. Like, "Don't mess with D.N.A. Don't mess with nature. Don't do it"- this basic conservative... partly ideological mistrust of change. This is today ecology. Another myth which is popular about ecology- namely a spontaneous ideological myth- is the idea that we Western people... in our artificial technological environment... are alienated from immediate natural environments- that we should not forget... that we humans are part of the living Earth. We should not forget that we are not abstract engineers, theorists who just exploit nature- that we are part of nature, that nature is our unfathomable, impenetrable background. I think that that precisely is the greatest danger. Why? Think about a certain obvious paradox. We all know in what danger we all are- global warming, possibility of other ecological catastrophes and so on and so on. But why don't we do anything about it? It is, I think, a nice example... of what in psychoanalysis we call disavowal. The logic is that of, "I know very well, but I act as if I don't know." For example, precisely, in the case of ecology, I know very well there may be global warming, everything will explode, be destroyed. But after reading a treatise on it, what do I do? I step out. I see- not things that I see now behind me- that's a nice sight for me- I see nice trees, birds singing and so on. And even if I know rationally this is all in danger, I simply do not believe that this can be destroyed. That's the horror of visiting sites of a catastrophe like Chernobyl. You- In a way, we are not evolutionarily- We are not wired to even imagine something like that. It's in a way unimaginable. So I think that what we should do... to confront properly the threat of ecological catastrophe... is not all this New Age stuff... to break out of this technological manipulative mold... and to found our roots in nature, but, on the contrary, to cut off even more these roots in nature. We need more alienation from our life-world, from our, as it were, spontaneous nature. We should become more artificial. We should develop, I think, a much more terrifying new abstract materialism, a kind of a mathematical universe where there is nothing. There are just formulas, technical forms and so on. And the difficult thing is to find poetry, spirituality, in this dimension... to recreate-if not beauty- then aesthetic dimension... in things like this, in trash itself. That's the true love of the world. Because what is love? Love is not idealization. Every true lover knows that if you really love a woman or a man, that you don't idealize him or her. Love means that you accept a person... with all its failures, stupidities, ugly points. And nonetheless, the person's absolute for you. Everything life- that makes life worth living. But you see perfection in imperfection itself. And that's how we should learn to love the world. True ecologist loves all this.

Video Details

Duration: 10 minutes and 35 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Views: 467
Posted by: leeoliveira on Jul 6, 2010

Excerpt from "Examined Life" documentary by Astra Taylor in which Slavoj Žižek tell us what true ecologists love.

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