[省思] Slavoj Žižek’s speech at ‘Occupy Wall Street

Source: 1) English transcript 2) Chinese translation

【Forewords and Summarizing thoughts

我向來對#OWS這種中產階級後裔「新無產階級」學子的群眾運動並不看好,但 Zizek 的演說顯然讓人看到他對理想主義的堅持和信念改造的努力。講聖靈那段讓我很驚訝,彷彿看到Milbank在他身上的潛移默化。最後,他雖然沒有指出為何「增富人稅」、「全民健保模式」、和「新經濟制度」在全球化消費主義與競爭下是可能的,卻隱約指向了核心的救贖契機:我們必須成為一個有神學倫理信念和行動力的後自由社群- NOT FOR A BETTER LIVING STANDARD, BUT A BETTER (MORE MEANINGFUL AND FRUITFUL) LIFE.

  1. “[They are saying] we are all losers, but the true losers are down there on Wall Street. They were bailed out by billions of our money. We are called socialists, but here there is already socialism — for the rich. They say we don’t respect private property. But in the 2008 financial crash-down more hard-earned private property was destroyed than if all of us here were to be destroying it night and day for weeks. They tell you we are dreamers; the true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers; we are awakening from the dream that is turning into a nightmare. We are not destroying anything; we are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself. We all know the classic scene from cartoons. The cartoon cat reaches a precipice, but it goes on walking, ignoring the fact that there is nothing beneath its ground. Only when it looks down and notices it he falls down. This is what we are doing here. We are telling the guys there on Wall Street, ‘Hey! Look down!

     『(他們說)我們全是失敗者,其實真正的失敗者就在華爾街裡,他們要靠我們付出數以十億計的金錢救濟才能脫困;有人說我們是社會主義者, 但其實這裡早就存 在社會主義——是專為富人而設的社會主義;他們又說我們不尊重私有產權,但在2008年的金融海嘯裡,許多人辛勤工作買來的私有產業都被摧毀了,數量之 巨,就算我們這裡所有人日以繼夜去動手破壞,幾個星期也破壞不完;他們又告訴大家,我們這群人正在作夢,其實真正在作夢的,是那些以為現有的一切將會永遠 持續下去的人。我們不是在作夢,我們是在喚醒一個正在變成噩夢的夢想;我們沒有破壞任何東西,我們只是在目擊這個制度如何自我毀滅。大家都熟悉這段卡通片 情節:那隻卡通貓走到懸崖邊上,還是繼續跑出去,沒理會下面已經空空如也,只有當牠向下看時,方才發現這個事實,然後就掉下去了。我們在這裡正是要做這樣的事情:我們要告訴華爾街那些傢伙:「喂!看看下面!」
  2. [inaudible] “… In April 2011, the Chinese government prohibited on TV, films, and in novels all stories that contain alternate reality or time travel. This is a good sign for China; it means people still dream about alternatives, so we have to prohibited this dreaming. Here we don’t think of prohibition because the ruling history has even oppressed our capacity to dream. Look at the movies that we see all the time. It’s easy to imagine the end of the world — an asteroid destroying all of life, and so on — but we cannot imagine the end of capitalism. So what are we doing here? Let me tell you a wonderful old joke from Communist times. A guy was sent to work in East Germanyfrom Siberia. He knew his mail would be read by censors, so he told his friends, ‘Let’s establish a code. If a letter you get from me is written in blue ink, it is true what I say; if it is written in red ink, it is false.’ After a month, his friends get a first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter: ‘Everything is wonderful here. The stores are full of good food, movie theatres show good films from the West, apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink.’ This is how we live. We have all the freedoms we want, but what we are missing is red ink: the language to articulate our non-freedom. The way we are taught to speak about freedom, ‘war on terror,’ and so on, falsifies freedom. And this is what you are doing here: You are giving all of us red ink. !
    2011年4月,中國政府禁止了電視、電影和小說裡一切含有「另類現實」或描寫時間旅行的故事情節,這對中國來說是個好的徵兆:人們仍然夢想另有出路,因 此政府才要出手禁制。在這裡我們就連禁制都不必要,因為統治體制連我們夢想的能力也早就壓制下去了。看看我們常看的電影,我們很容易就想像出世界末日—— 比如一顆隕石掉下來殺死所有生命之類——可是我們卻很難想像資本主義的末日。那麼我們正在這裡幹甚麼?讓我告訴大家共產時代一個精采的老笑話:有個傢伙從西伯利亞給派到 東德工作,他知道自己的郵件都會被人監看,因此他告訴朋友:「我們定一個暗號,假如我的信件用藍墨水寫,裡面說的都是真話;如果我用紅墨 水,說的都是假話。」一個月後他的朋友收到他第一封信,都是用藍墨水寫成的:「這兒一切都美好,商店裡塞滿了好吃的食品,戲院播放著來自西方的好電影,住宅又大又豪華。唯一買 不到的東西就是紅墨水。」這就是我們的生活模式。我們擁有一切想要的自由,但卻缺少了紅墨水:能夠清楚表達我們「非自由」的語言。我們被灌輸的那種談論自 由的方式,例如「反恐戰爭」之類詞語,已經篡改了自由的意義。而你們正在給大家送上紅色的墨水。

    The corner of Wall Street and Broadway, showin...
    Wall Street
  3. “There is a danger: Don’t fall in love with yourselves. We have a nice time here. But remember: Carnivals come cheap. What matters is the day after when we will have to return to normal life. Will there be any changes then? I don’t want you to remember these days, you know, like, ‘Oh, we were young, it was beautiful…’ Remember that our basic message is, ‘We are allowed to think about alternatives.’ A taboo is broken. We do not live in the best possible world. But there is a long road ahead. There are truly difficult questions that confront us. We know what we do not want, but what do we want? What social organization can replace capitalism? What type of new leaders do we want? Remember: The problem is not corruption or greed; the problem is the system which pushes you to be corrupt. Beware not only of the enemies, but also of false friends who are already working to dilute this process in the same way you get coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, ice cream without fat. They will try to make this into a harmless moral protest, a decaffeinated protest. But the reason we are here is that we have had enough of the world where to recycle Coke cans to give a couple of dollars to charity, or to buy a Starbucks cappuccino where one percent goes to Third World starving children is enough to make us feel good. After outsourcing work and torture, after immense agencies are outsourcing even our love life… MIC CHECK!… We can see that for a long time, we allowed our political engagement also to be outsourced. We want it back.
    這次運動有一個危機:請大家不要自我感覺良好。不錯,我們在這裡很開心,但請你們記著:搞一個嘉年華會很容易,真正重要的是在我們回到正常生活後那天。到 時候是否有任何事情改變了?我不希望大家回憶這段日子的方式,就是「噢,我們那時候多年輕,那次運動真美好……」之類。要牢記著我們最基本的信息:「我們 可以思考其他的生活方式。」一個禁忌被打破了。我們並不是活在可能裡最好的世界。但在我們面前還有一條漫長的道路,要面對一些真正困難的問題。我們知道自 己不想要甚麼,可是我們想要甚麼?怎麼樣的社會組織能夠取代資本主義?我們希望擁有甚麼類型的新領袖?記著:問題不在於腐敗和貪婪;問題在於一個把人推向 腐敗的制度。不只要提防你的敵人,也要防範那些虛假的盟友,他們已經開始把這個運動淡化,就像製造沒有咖啡因的咖啡、沒有酒精的啤酒、沒有脂肪的冰淇淋一 樣。他們試圖把這次運動變成一次無害的道德抗議,一次「脫咖啡因」的抗議。然而我們來到這裡的原因,正正就是受夠了這個偽善的世界:循環再造一堆可樂罐以 捐兩塊錢做善事,又或者去星巴克買杯卡布奇諾咖啡,把1%捐贈給第三世界的飢餓兒童,就足以感覺良好。當我們把工作和酷刑都外包了,甚至連愛情生活都 外包給婚姻介紹所之後……我們可以看見,在一段很長的日子裡,我們容許自己的政治參與也「外包」了,假別人之手進行。現在我們要把這個權力取回來。
  4. “We are not Communists, if Communism means the system which collapsed in 1990. Remember that today those Communists are the most efficient, ruthless capitalists. In China today we have a capitalism which is even more dynamic than your American capitalism but doesn’t need democracy, which means, when you criticize capitalism, don’t allow yourselves to be blackmailed that you are ‘against democracy.’ The marriage between democracy and capitalism is over. A change is possible.
    我們不是共產主義者——假如所指的是在1990年已經崩潰的那個共產主義的話。別忘記今天的那些所謂共產主義者,只是一群最有效率、最不擇手段的資本主義 者。今日存在於中國的是一個比美國的資本主義動力更強,卻又不需要民主的資本主義制度。因此當你批評資本主義時,不要讓別人扣上「反民主」的帽子。民主與 資本主義之間的聯姻已經終結了。改變是可能的事情。!
  5. “Now, what we consider today possible? Just follow the media. On the one hand, in technology and sexuality — everything seems to be possible. You can travel to the moon, you can become immortal by biogenetics, you can have sex with animals or whatever. But look at the field of society and economy — there, almost everything is considered impossible. You want to raise taxes a little bit for the rich, they tell you it’s impossible. We lose competitivity. You want more money for healthcare, they tell you, ‘Impossible! This means a totalitarian state.’ Is there something wrong with the world where you are promised to be immortal but they cannot spend a little more for healthcare? Maybe we have to set our priorities straight. We don’t want higher standards of living; we want better standards of living! The only sense in which we are Communists is that we care for the commons: the commons of nature, the commons of what is privatized by intellectual property, the commons of biogenetics. For this, and only for this, we should fight. Communism failed absolutely, but the problems of the commons are here. They are telling you we are not American here, but the conservative fundamentalists who claim they are ‘really’ Americans have to be reminded of something: What is Christianity? It’s the Holy Spirit. What is the Holy Spirit? It’s an egalitarian community of believers who are linked by love for each other and who only have their own freedom and responsibility to do it. In this sense the Holy Spirit is here now, and down there on Wall Street there are bankers who are worshiping blasphemous idols. So all we need is patience.今天的人們相信有甚麼是可能做到的?看看媒體的報導。這邊廂,由科技到性慾,好像甚麼都有可能。你能夠去月球旅行,用生物基因科技達到長春不老,可 以跟動物做愛,諸如此類。但另一邊廂,一碰上社會經濟的範疇,幾乎一切都被視為不可能。你想加一點富裕階層的賦稅嗎?他們會告訴你不可能,我們將因此失去 競爭力;要把多些錢投入公共醫療保障嗎?他們會說:「不可能!這做法等於極權國家。」當人們得到允諾將要長春不老的同時,卻不允許花多一點錢在醫療保障上 ——這樣的世界不是很有問題嗎?也許我們應該把事情的優先次序搞明白:我們不是要求「更高」的生活水準;我們要的是「更好」的生活水準!要說我們跟共產主 義者有甚麼唯一的相似之處,那就是我們關心普羅群眾:大自然裡的群眾;活在知識產權私有化底下的群眾;在生物基因科技下的群眾。我們應該為此而戰鬥,也只 為此而戰鬥。共產主義徹底失敗了,可是群眾面對的問題仍在。那些人告訴你,我們聚集在這兒的都不是真正的美國人。但我們要提醒那些自稱「真正」美國人的保 守原教旨主義人士:甚麼是基督精神?是聖靈。甚麼是聖靈?是一群信仰者組成的一個平均主義團體,他們以互愛的精神彼此連繫,並且只憑自由意志與義務責任心 去實踐這個理想。這麼看,聖靈現在其實就在這裡,而在華爾街那頭的銀行家,都是一群褻瀆偶像的崇拜者。因此我們需要的只是耐心。
  6. “The only thing I’m afraid of is that we will someday just go home, and then we will meet once a year, drinking beer and nostalgically remembering what a nice time we had here. Promise ourselves that this will not be the case. You know that people often desire something but do not really want it. Don’t be afraid to really want what you desire. Thank you very much!
    我唯一害怕的,是我們有一天就此回家,然後每年在這兒聚聚頭,喝喝啤酒,懷緬我們在這裡曾經擁有過的美好時光。我們要向自己承諾不要變成那樣。大家都知道,人們總是渴望一些東西,卻又不是真的想爭取它。不要害怕爭取你渴望的東西。多謝各位!』

A few thoughts:

1) Žižek is still incredible. He really wants to make something out of this weak and loose movements comprised of these young white students from middle-class family. The bold lines I made in the above transcript is the key concepts consistent in all Žižek’s post-Marxist project.

Concerning the « outsourcing of labor and torture » in Zizekian thoughts, Charles Lai on facebook made an excellent footnote (which Žižek himself has elucidated in various places):

This is a tricky part. In my own opinion he is referring to Hannah Arendt’s definition of ‘labour’ and ‘work’: ‘Labour’ is essentially those activity that sustains life, including not only production but also household activities such as breathing, eating, etc. The Latin origin of the word ‘torture’ comes from the word ‘necessity’. Torture is therefore to take away someone’s ability to breath, eat, etc. As for ‘work’ it means the ‘work of mind’, activities that concern the mental life: love, hate, think, etc
So when he say ‘torture’ he doesn’t really mean punishment, but daily household activities such as cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc. Activities to maintain life. So I think it is more appropriate to say ‘當我們把生活和思想都外判了’as he is basically criticizing the mental (or political, in his own word) life of the people.

This reflects the classic Marxist concept of « alienation » and Max Weber’s « technocracy » (including technological bureaucracy,  politics of paternalism and expertism.The interesting thing is Karl Marx directs his critique against capitalism when he uses alienation, whereas technocracy/paternalism is certainly a problem exacerbated in communist regimes according to Weber.They both displayed desire to control over nature and over human autonomy, twisting human nature in an inevitably unnatural way.

Most post-marxists and new leftists just realized this- that no single and simple alternative could stand out as a solution.

2) Several years ago in Taiwan there were political demonstrations such as ‘Wild Strawberry’ student demonstration (野草莓學運)and Red-Shirt Army Anti-President Campaign (紅衫軍倒扁) that are basically of the same nature as this one: middle class young people gathered for justice, freedom, unity, political rights, and anti-corruption. The issue is, why cannot these kinds of movements appeal to lower class people, the marginalized, and minority groups? Clearly since middle class are the main constituents of taxpayers,  they are most prone to be ignited by the misuse of government tax income that benefits people richer than they are (in the case of #OWS, the wall-street millionaires, and in the case of  Red-Shirt Army, the former president Chen Sui-Bien and his family), which is called ‘corruption.

3) However, a viable alternative is yet to be devised. Žižek is facing this issue that he recognizes well too when he said:

But look at the field of society and economy — there, almost everything is considered impossible. You want to raise taxes a little bit for the rich, they tell you it’s impossible. We lose competitivity. You want more money for healthcare, they tell you, ‘Impossible! This means a totalitarian state.’ Is there something wrong with the world where you are promised to be immortal but they cannot spend a little more for healthcare? Maybe we have to set our priorities straight. We don’t want higher standards of living; we want better standards of living!

I have long pointed out in here, here, and here that neo-liberal and right-wing pro-market economists have raised real objections to defend what they think to be  impossible changes. They have told you that if they earn less or are allowed to possess only limited and less power, their whole countrymen will suffer more- from losing national competitively to more jobless people to more social turmoil.

Louis Althusser’s insight on « the ideological apparatus » has revealed for us that the totalitarian society is characterized by the use of a functionalist institution  dedicated to propagate a mode of thinking to ethically justify and effectually strengthen its totalitarian control and serve the interests of the dominant group[s].

In a recent [Chinese] article (http://t.co/JXR0jhlE), we are asked to call into question if the apparent Sino-American enmity is a staged diplomatic scheme, for nothing else but the exchange of interests for the leaders of  both sides. Namely, the communists need USA as the apparent foe in order to unite the Chinese, and USA vice versa.

The author’s speculation is reminiscent of Althusser’s « ideological apparatus. »To prove their theses false is not easy. The Chinese Communist government would willingly acknowledge that a « small » amount of people will have to be sacrificed in order to achieve greater unity and prosperity for the West does not want China to prosper and want to divide China (which is certainly or somewhat true). The Right-Wing American politicians and its constituents would also say that a degree of social injustice is necessary to provide impetus for social upward mobility, for human beings are lazy but greedy by nature (which is certainly or somewhat true).

Along this line of pragmatic reasoning, totalitarian control has justifications; consumerism has justifications; neo-liberalism has justifications. Emotional and passion-driven leftism has no use unless we can provide a different kind of politics that is based on MORAL REALISM rather than PRAGMATISM, unless we become an ad hoc community that lives our lives and goals for something else than our own goods, and for someone else rather than ourselves.

4) In this blog and my conversation I have argued relentlessly  that moral realism cannot be fully functional unless it is theological and post-liberal (cultural-linguistic). Therefore, I am really amazed and impressed to hear the atheist philosopher saying:

Communism failed absolutely, but the problems of the commons are here. They are telling you we are not American here, but the conservative fundamentalists who claim they are ‘really’ Americans have to be reminded of something: What is Christianity? It’s the Holy Spirit. What is the Holy Spirit? It’s an egalitarian community of believers who are linked by love for each other and who only have their own freedom and responsibility to do it. In this sense the Holy Spirit is here now, and down there on Wall Street there are bankers who are worshiping blasphemous idols.

A similar point is made by Ming-Hui Peng, a prematurely retired Taiwanese professor and public intellectual that much young Taiwanese people of my generation admire. As an unbeliever, he nonetheless says he holds the Bible with a high esteem and sincerely admires Christians like Albert Schweitzer, Mother Teresa, and Leo Tolstoy (all of them are Christians to my mind- I don’t argue that- though one is liberal, one is Catholic, and one is sectarian and quasi-postliberal):

…我講課和演講時常常要提醒聽眾:「我不是基督徒。」因為我常引用聖經,很多聽過的基督徒都很感動,說我比基督徒更像基督徒,比牧師更像牧師。…

但 是,除了想要活得有意義之外,我不信奇蹟,不追求永生,不追求極樂。在我眼中,我是一個最純粹的教徒:無所求地奉守戒律、追求智慧和屬靈的生活,除此一無 所求。相較之下,我覺得很多教徒的信仰都是「買賣式的信仰」:遵守教規像買賣,希望藉此在天堂或極樂世界有一座房地產。

在我心裡,我跟這些教徒都跟真正的宗教無關,只屬於俗世。真正的宗教徒,是像史懷哲、德瑞莎修女和托爾斯泰這樣的人。…

在我心目中,為富不仁或不仁而富的人,跟黑猩猩沒兩樣;華爾街裡追逐名利、慾望的基督徒跟黑猩猩沒兩樣,白宮和國會山莊裡的人也大多跟黑猩猩沒兩樣―― 黑猩猩有階級、會搞政治、哀悼同伴、用性器官緩和雄性間的緊張關係、壟斷資源、霸佔性伴侶、為了疆域或娛樂(而非免除飢餓)而殺戮,etc(你可以再寫下 去),幾乎白宮、國會和華爾街裡有的黑猩猩的社群裡都有)。唯一的差別是:還沒有人發現黑猩猩說謊――好像還沒有人發現政治人物或大財主不說謊?…

我不是教徒,但是我寫部落格、寫書的最終目的,就是想傳播這樣的一種信仰:活著,值得;人,是一種有尊嚴、有價值、有某種「神聖性」的存在――但是他必須先克服自己的自私、貪婪和獸性。…(full article)

As for Žižek, I started to wonder whether years of debate and exchange with the Anglican theologian John Milbank has helped him to go deeper to see something transcendent that gives our ephemeral movements and decisions meanings, in the realist and eschatological sense, in order that he would say that we need the Holy Spirit (instead of a new ideology or public religion) to combat the Wall Street Gold Calf and all its associated blasphemous idols.

The world is polarizing itself, and we need more than ever to seek the presence of the One true God to win this battle against greed, against injustice, against false idols, and against ourselves.

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