On the plague of fantasies

28 03 2011

Video from here

In a talk I once heard, Slavoj Zizek addresses the classical technique used by medieval clerics to stave off what we would call “impure thoughts”. In that mental exercise, the cleric is told to envision the beautiful body while old and frail, deprived of its youthful characteristics. Or better yet, imagine what is below the surface of that comely flesh: bones, blood, bile, and other nasty things. In the standard interpretation, such unsavory things are the stuff of reality: what lies under the surface. In Zizek’s reading of things, however, following Lacan, the Real is what falls between appearances. In this case, it is the woman’s flesh itself, its pure appearance that is the reality. The fantasy is trying to get “below the surface”, precisely because what is below the surface isn’t there in the first place. The thing that drives reality, the reason we are compelled to do things, is the fantasy: the objet petit a in “Lacanese”.

The other example the Slovenian philosopher uses is the current financial crisis. Zizek says that even if we knew what would happen in 2008 (and many people did know) would that have changed anyone’s behavior? Would anyone not have issued sub-prime loans, not de-regulated the banking industry, have done anything not to “live beyond their means” etc.? No, probably not. Really, the reality of how this played out is the following: those who could least afford it got hosed, and the bankers made off with all the money, even more than they had in the first place. Were any of them thrown in prison? Were any of them shamed or deprived of power? No. That, my friends, is the reality.

As much as we would like to condemn the ignorance of those who fall for the “bread and circuses” , it is precisely the “fantasy” in this case that moves the real world. It is the fantasy, the commodity fetishism, the lust to expropriate more of the workers’ surplus value, that is the reality that drives us. So when we see it in Lady Gaga, video games, and the antics of wayward famous actors, why are we so shocked? Would we even be here without those things? How many of our parents conceived us after a movie, or on some “dream vacation”, or in hope of a “Leave It to Beaver” style life? How many of us earn our living from these consumerist “fantasies”? We live and die by capitalist fantasy, and to pretend some sort of rational just market exists above this smacks of foolish superstition. These things drive our reality, they are the things that make our world go round.

So if anything, such “economic disaster porn”, hollow-headed libertarian propaganda like the above video is the real perverse fantasy. Not because I don’t think it’s right; it may very well be. But worrying about a system which you have no intention or desire of actually changing seems like degenerate mental masturbation. What are we going to do? Return to the gold standard? Have people print their own money? Dismantle the American empire overnight; this thing that gave us the Internet, penicillin, and the Acton Institute? Stock up on “gold, guns, God, and grub”? Not fucking likely. When people start talking about expropriating the expropriators and throwing some powerful people in real prison, then I might have time for this bullshit. In the meantime, I will keep mocking these people as they deserve.

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19 responses

28 03 2011
Stephen

Wow, that video gave me hope for humanity – in its mind-blowing ability to create unintentional comedy, that is.

“Where… Is the empathy?”

28 03 2011
Manuel

Another illusion is that this actually is capitalism. If you want to point to the decline that is the year to start.

28 03 2011
M.Z.

I’ll just go with the simple link. I don’t think the embed worked anyway.

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/258566/december-15-2009/prescott-financial—gold–women—sheep

28 03 2011
A Sinner

Yes, hang the bankers and then get rid of usury and introduce social credit. Then the surplus value returns to the workers rather than the capitalists, yet without state control of the means of production or prices or the market. The mechanisms of money and money supply are where the hidden exploitation ultimately crystallizes.

28 03 2011
Robert

Right you are Arturo, I am with you on this 100%. It’s a fantasy with no real insight nor real answers.

28 03 2011
TomC

Reminds me of this scene from Whit Stillman’s movie Barcelona:

Fred: Maybe you can clarify something for me. Since I’ve been, you know, waiting for the fleet to show up, I’ve read a lot, and…
Ted: Really?
Fred: And one of the things that keeps popping up is about “subtext.” Plays, novels, songs – they all have a “subtext,” which I take to mean a hidden message or import of some kind. So subtext we know. But what do you call the message or meaning that’s right there on the surface, completely open and obvious? They never talk about that. What do you call what’s above the subtext?
Ted: The text.
Fred: OK, that’s right, but they never talk about that.

28 03 2011
E

The people who post these videos are Libertarians who a lot of them are good meaning, but their leadership sells them b.s. You can’t bring down the system with economic boycotts and prepare for a survivalist lifestyle, the state can always come down on you. One has to wonder where these liberatarians were when COINTELPRO was in full effect repressing the left. Where were they during Reagan? Admittedly, a lot of their analysis appeals to me. A lot of the left have ran to this Libya campaign like it was the Second Coming. Is it is an oil war for maintaining the US hegemony in the world. But the Libertarian solutions are full of it. It is part of the American mentality of if you buy the right product everything will be alright. Respect the Constitution yes, but not through boycotts, but through shutting the country down with general strikes. It is messy, but it is something that has to be done, don’t buy gold, buy posterboard for picket signs.

28 03 2011
rr

It’s funny to you were and apparently so enamored with Marxism. To quote Raymond Aron, “Marxism is the opium of the intellectuals.” Whatever the flaws of capitalism and libertarianism, why pray tell should anyone take Marxism in any of its variations remotely seriously after all that transpired during the 20th century? I think this blog, but I’ve always been mystified with your attraction to Marxism, which is self-evident nonsense in my view.

29 03 2011
Arturo Vasquez

That’s not an argument. That is a prejudice.

29 03 2011
Arturo Vasquez

Marxism is a method of analyzing reality, not a religious affiliation.

29 03 2011
rr

And that’s not a response about your attraction to Marxism.

29 03 2011
The Western Confucian

Pinko commie!

No seriously, why use an almost universally discredited economic analysis, Marxism (“self-evident nonsense” as rr rightlky says), to critique the only school to have predicted the 2008 meltdown, which you yourself acknowledge “may very well be” right?

To say that libertarians have “no intention or desire of actually changing” the system is an expression of ignorance. Had you been reading even one libertarin site, LewRockwell.com, over the past decade, you would have found almost daily indictments of George W. Bush as a war criminal and more recent calls for Ben Bernanke to be tried for treason under the Constitution.

An no, the “American empire” did not “g[i]ve us the Internet, penicillin, and the Acton Institute” (byproducts, at best), although you and the Trotskyite neo-cons might think so; it has brought the American Workingman nothing but economic woe, as thinkers as diverse as Chalmers Johnson and Pat Buchanan agree.

29 03 2011
Arturo Vasquez

You make it seem that these Austrian lapdogs of the bourgeoisie are the only ones who saw all of this coming. Read Ernest Mandel’s Late Capitalism. This was a case of trying to buy off the working class but make a profit off them at the same time: a massive ponzi scheme doomed to fail.

And as for libertarian anti-militarism, that is never on the front burner of any of their agendas. I mean, they will make common cause with conservatives in getting rid of any social safety net and allowing people to be able to discriminate against anyone they want, but when it comes to legalizing pot or ending war, everyone on the right will just agree to disagree. I don’t see Ron Paul threatening to form a third party or anything, at least seriously.

29 03 2011
The Western Confucian

The “ponzi scheme [that was] doomed to fail” was identified by these “these Austrian lapdogs of the bourgeoisie” as well, who also saw it as “a case of trying to buy off the working class but make a profit off them at the same time,” taking it further, calling it “race cover,” as one said of Obama. Could McCain have pulled off such a scam withoit risking a risking a revolution?

You’re right that you “don’t see Ron Paul threatening to form a third party or anything.” He ran for the Libertarian ticket back in ’88. He’s reaching more people today as a Republican, as much as you or I would like to barf. Ron Paul has also argued that it would be unfair to dismantle the social safety net, when so many people have become dependent on it. Instead, he’s focused on ending the Empire and the Fed, surely things any decent person should agree upon.

In America, a left-right coaltion has threatened the statis quo in the past, in the ’20s and ’60s. It’s now our only hope.

29 03 2011
The Western Confucian

About the claim that “as for libertarian anti-militarism, that is never on the front burner of any of their agendas,” LewRockwell.com, perhaps the top libertarian site, bills itself as “anti-state, anti-war, pro-market.” Antiwar.com, edited by the gay dude who gave the keynote address at Pat Buchanan’s nomination back in the ’90s, speaks for itself.

You might not agree with all of these sites’ claims. I don’t. But a day doesn’t go by in which I don’t read leftist sites with which I agree even less, such as the “hard left” at CounterPunch. America should not be about ideological purity.

29 03 2011
The Western Confucian

Please forgive the spelling mistakes; my wife’s (Korean) computer has no spell-check function and, back in the ’80s as a punk-rocker, I rebelled against my father’s advice to learn how to type.

About the much-maligned “bourgeoisie,” I will only say that they should be heroes, not villains, as European aristocrats and communists would have it. Let us be “a nation of shopkeepers” and stay out of foreign wars and entanglements.

30 03 2011
Steven P. Cornett

Gee, West, I’m glad I didn’t forget my parent’s advice on typing. Dyslexic as my fingers may be, it allowed me to write all my papers in college.

Arturo, are all these illusions really making the world go around? It may seem so to one that denies that there is a truth and thinks all one has to do is manipulate perception, as the world controllers of Huxley’s Brave New World or Orwells 1984 believed.

What about the real world, hmmm. What about the world beneath the appearences?

Does the war in Libya (oh, wait! It’s Kinetic Military Action!, making it sound so much more GI Joe-like. Forgive me the lapse) really as noble as Obama makes it? Or is it yet another waste of our resources and lives to bring that nation into the orbit of the global elite and their “Ampire.” Afterall, they haven’t even gotten Gadaffi out, and yet the rebels have already created a national oil company and National Bank. Glad somebody has their priorities straight, eh?

In reality, the price of gasoline in terms of the US dollar in 1965, when it was 90% fine Silver at 0.7736 Troy Ounces, comes out to $0.143/gallon, which is cheaper than it was in 1931 when it was $0.17/gallon. This means that in reality, all your illusion machine has brought us is real poverty, real death and the real collapse of our society under the weight of these lies. The gas prices, and the food prices as well, are skyrocketing because of the dollar printing the Federal Reserve is doing under the name QEn, all of which is to allow the government of the U.S. to kite checks to keep the wars and the socialist “safety net” going for a few months longer.

It won’t last, and you don’t have to be a Austrian Economist to see it. No lie lasts forever, and no lie can be lived forever.

Eventually, the love of evil brings darkness and death.

30 03 2011
Steven P. Cornett

BTW, here is the web story about the price of gasoline in silver coin instead of Federal Reserve monopoly money.

3 07 2013
bb creams

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