Violence: Six Sideways Reflections by Slavoj Žižek
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This review is a bit of a confessional since I think the major failing of this book is me reading it, sorry about that.
I learned a lot by reading this, one thing I just now realized is why I was never a good student in school. It is so much clearer now, but on any assignment I would become focused on individual bits and not step back and take in the big picture.
This relates since with this book I could never get past Žižek's colorful quirks to get a feel for his grand scheme of society.
It started out OK and I was digging his distinction between Objective violence and Systemic Violence but then he brings up the Liberal Communists and the examples he has are Bill Gates and George Soros, and this should have tipped me off that I was not really his target audience. I mean aside from the Gates Foundation I figure Bill Gates is pretty far from communist, but I say to my self “hey maybe your definition of communist is just too provincial, wait for some explanation”. Even at that point I thought it was odd to use those two since they are a fairly unique pair and I wonder if maybe the unstated first characteristic is you have to be a billionaire.
But then I get hung up on these details when he defines what Liberal Communists belive, and right off I am stuck on another detail. When he quotes Oliver Malnuit's 10 commandments of the liberal communists
1.Give everything away for free (no copyright)
Bang! I'm stumped, because if there is one thing I know about Microsoft it is that they do NOT give anything away for free (well, any of the good stuff) and they are WAY into copyrights.
Then he goes off on Gates and it turns out he is really turned of by Philanthropy, and I kind of get it since you could argue (and I think this is one of his points) the millions a billionaire give away is just a token amount compared what they get from the rest of society, there is some kind of hypocrisy in that. But I mean if you are going to be an SOB billionaire I'd prefer if you wiped out a few diseases before you die. There I go again being provincial!!
Then I get stuck on why focus on Gates (he kind of dropped Soros after a few sentences), instead of other Billionaires where the most obvious one is Steve Jobs. Why not go after him, or some other even more ruthless rich guys? I get off track again and think maybe he just really loves his iPhone, but that is just me getting distracted again.
At some point he quotes John Gray's book Straw Dogs (which I read two years ago, and liked) where Gray says science has replaced religion as the source of moral authority. Since it was quoted I guess Zizek felt that made it an objective fact. This may be true for him and his friends but he has obviously never been to Texas or watched a republican primary debate.
Then he says “Muslim radicals are ready to risk everything engaged in the nihilist struggle up to the point of self-destructions”. I can't let go of this in my mind since even though Muslim radicals may be crazy they are not nihilists. If he is going to put a new twist on nihilism I wish he would have clarified it. Of course my elementary understanding of religion as involving belief and nihilism as denying any the validity of beliefs may be flawed.
But Newt Gingrich made a similar logical argument that in the future our country will be an atheist America ruled by Muslim radicals. Once I've made fun of Newt for such talk it is hard to stop when I see something I think is similar.
Other distractions are dismissing Tibetan Buddhism with an off hand comment where he says what the Dalai Lama says, but it is not in quotes and after googling it I find he has a history of ridiculing Mr Lama. Later he dispatches Zen Buddhism with even less information. So in two sentences two major strains of Buddhism are dismissed completely.
When I read this stuff I stop to think there may be a valid points, and he may even be right, but he gives no reasons and I'm supposed to accept it right then? From what I have read about Religion in general I kind of feel there are a million interpretations of what it is and how people use it, but for Zizek it is plain as day and it is just a few comments and then off to Nip/Tuck.
He laments that liberalism has a strong bias since it thinks child brideship , infanticide, incest and clitoridectomy are thought bad yet there is pressure in liberal societies to undergo plastic surgery and Botox injections in order to remain competitive in the sex market
I mean really... child brideship , infanticide, incest and clitoridectomy is on par with rich people getting plastic surgery?
Then there is the ease that a proposition is proved by people do the opposite. Like “Today in our allegedly permissive society, however, this asceticism assume the form of its opposite, a generalized superego injunction, the command 'Enjoy' we are all under spell of this injunction” and the narcissistic self fulfillment of “utterly ascetic disciplines of jogging, eating health foods”
So if people indulged it proves his point and if they diet it also proves his point. It just seems too easy to me.
Then people who are against the death penalty are horribly arrogant while those who think they have the right to kill somebody are the humble ones. Again I can imagine heated and intelligent discussions on the Death penalty with legitimate points on each side, but to use arrogance as the sole reason
(that is the only one he gives us here) to dismiss somebody who thinks it is wrong, just seems ludicrous to me.
At the very end he goes over what he examined and on each point he says he showed so and so and with each one I kept saying “If you explained or showed that I sure missed it”. In the end I probably just missed that he was writing as an intellectual and I was trying to read him as if he were a social scientist, so I might have been appeased if he had a few more bar graphs and a little less irrelevant nip/tuck references.
Ah, well...like I said at the start, I am not his target audience and I have problems getting past what I see as logical inconsistencies and I am only of average intelligence while I am positive Zizek is way smarter than me. Of course if I had to do a book report on this I doubt I would even get a C grade since I missed his whole point.
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