齐泽克In the Wake of Paris Attacks the Left Must Embrace Its Radical tern Roots
作者: 转载 / 6695次阅读 时间: 2015年11月18日

Where does the threat come from? 威胁从何而来

Listening to ordinary people’s worries, of course, in no way implies that one should accept the basic premise of their stance—the idea that threats to their way of life comes from outside, from foreigners, from “the other.” The task is rather to teach them to recognize their own responsibility for their future. To explain this point, let’s take an example from another part of the world.

Udi Aloni’s new film Junction 48 (upcoming in 2016) deals with the difficult predicament of young “Israeli Palestinians” (Palestinians descended from the families that remained in Israel after 1949), whose everyday life involves a continuous struggle at two fronts—against Israeli state oppression as well as fundamentalist pressures from within their own community. The main role is played by Tamer Nafar, a well-known Israeli-Palestinian rapper, who, in his music, mocks the tradition of the “honor killing” of Palestinian girls by their Palestinian families. A strange thing happened to Nafar during a recent visit to the United States. At UCLA after Nafar performed his song protesting “honor killings,” some anti-Zionist students reproached him for promoting the Zionist view of Palestinians as barbaric primitives. They added that, if there are any honor killings, Israel is responsible for them since the Israeli occupation keeps Palestinians in primitive, debilitating conditions. Here is Nafar’s dignified reply: “When you criticize me you criticize my own community in English to impress your radical professors. I sing in Arabic to protect the women in my own hood.”

An important aspect of Nafar’s position is that he is not just protecting Palestinian girls from family terror he is allowing them to fight for themselves—to take the risk. At the end of Aloni’s film, after the girl decides to perform at a concert against her family’s wishes, and the film ends in a dark premonition of honor killing.

In Spike Lee’s film on Malcolm X there is a wonderful detail: After Malcolm X gives a talk at a college, a white student girl approaches him and asks him what she can do to help the black struggle. He answers: “Nothing.” The point of this answer is not that whites should just do nothing. Instead, they should first accept that black liberation should be the work of the blacks themselves, not something bestowed on them as a gift by the good white liberals. Only on the basis of this acceptance can they do something to help blacks. Therein resides Nafar’s point: Palestinians do not need the patronizing help of Western liberals, and they need even less the silence about “honor killing” as part of the Western Left’s “respect” for Palestinian way of life. The imposition of Western values as universal human rights and the respect for different cultures, independent of the horrors sometimes apart of these cultures, are two sides of the same ideological mystification.

In order to really undermine homeland xenophobia against foreign threats, one should reject its very presupposition, namely that every ethnic group has its own proper “Nativia.” On Sept. 7, 2015, Sarah Palin gave an interview to Fox News with Fox and Friends host Steve Doocey:

“I love immigrants. But like Donald Trump, I just think we have too darn many in this country. Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, Native-Americans—they’re changing up the cultural mix in the United States away from what it used to be in the days of our Founding Fathers. I think we should go to some of these groups and just ask politely: “Would you mind going home? Would you mind giving us our country back?”

“Sarah you know I love you,“ Doocey interjected, “And I think that’s a great idea with regards to Mexicans. But where are the Native Americans supposed to go? They don’t really have a place to go back to do they?”

Sarah replied: “Well I think they should go back to Nativia or wherever they came from. The liberal media treats Native Americans like they’re gods. As if they just have some sort of automatic right to be in this country. But I say if they can’t learn to get off those horses and start speaking American, then they should be sent home too.”

Unfortunately, we immediately learned that this story—too good to be true—was a hoax brilliantly performed by Daily Currant. However, as they say, “Even if it’s not true, it is well conceived.” In its ridiculous nature, it brought out the hidden fantasy that sustains the anti-immigrant vision: In today’s chaotic global world there is a “Nativia“ to which people who bother us properly belong. This vision was realized in apartheid South Africa in the form of Bantustans—territories set aside for black inhabitants. South African whites created the Bantustans with the idea of making them independent, thereby ensuring that black South Africans would loose their citizenship rights in the remaining white-controlled areas of South Africa. Although Bantustans were defined as the “original homes“ of the black peoples of South Africa, different black groups were allocated to their homelands in a brutally arbitrary way. Bantustans amounted to 13 percent of the country’s land carefully selected not to contain any important mineral reserves—the resource-rich remainder of the country would then be in the hands of the white population. The Black Homelands Citizenship Act of 1970 formally designated all black South Africans as citizens of the homelands, even if they lived in “white South Africa,” and cancelled their South African citizenship. From the standpoint of apartheid, this solution was ideal: Whites possessed most of the land while blacks were proclaimed foreigners in their own country and treated as guest workers who could, at any point, be deported back to their “homeland.” What cannot but strike the eye is the artificial nature of this entire process. Black groups were suddenly told that an unattractive and infertile piece of land was their “true home.” And today, even if a Palestinian state were to emerge on the West Bank, would it not be precisely such a Bantustan, whose formal ”independence” would serve the purpose of liberating the Israeli government from any responsibility for the welfare of the people living there.

But we should also add to this insight that the multiculturalist or anti-colonialist’s defense of different “ways of life” is also false. Such defenses cover up the antagonisms within each of these particular ways of life by justifying acts of brutality, sexism and racism as expressions of a particular way of life that we have no right to measure with foreign, i.e. Western values. Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s talk at the UN general assembly is a typical anti-colonialist defense used as a justification for brutal homophobia:

Respecting and upholding human rights is the obligation of all states, and is enshrined in the United Nations charter. Nowhere does the charter arrogate the right to some to sit in judgment over others, in carrying out this universal obligation. In that regard, we reject the politicization of this important issue and the application of double standards to victimize those who dare think and act independently of the self-anointed prefects of our time. We equally reject attempts to prescribe “new rights” that are contrary to our values, norms, traditions, and beliefs. We are not gays! Cooperation and respect for each other will advance the cause of human rights worldwide. Confrontation, vilification, and double-standards will not.

What can Mugabe’s emphatic claim “We are not gays!” mean with regard to the fact that, for certain, there are many gays also in Zimbabwe? It means, of course, that gays are reduced to an oppressed minority whose acts are often directly criminalized. But one can understand the underlying logic: The gay movement is perceived as the cultural impact of globalization and yet another way globalization undermines traditional social and cultural forms such that the struggle against gays appears as an aspect of the anti-colonial struggle.

Does the same not hold for, say, Boko Haram? For certain Muslims the liberation of women appears as the most visible feature of the destructive cultural impact of capitalist modernization. Therefore, Boko Haram, which can be roughly and descriptively translated as “Western education [of women specifically] is forbidden,” can perceive itself as a way of fighting the destructive impact of modernization when it imposes hierarchic regulation between the two sexes.

The enigma is thus: Why do Muslim extremists, who were undoubtedly exposed to exploitation, domination, and other destructive and humiliating aspects of colonialism, target what is (for us, at least) the best part of the Western legacy—our egalitarianism and personal freedoms? The obvious answer could be that their target is well-chosen: What makes the liberal West so unbearable is that they not only practice exploitation and violent domination, but that, to add insult to injury, they present this brutal reality in the guise of its opposite—of freedom, equality and democracy.

Mugabe’s regressive defense of particular ways of life finds its mirror-image in what Viktor Orban, the rightwing Prime Minister of Hungary, is doing. On Sept. 3, 2015, he justified closing off the border with Serbia as an act of defending Christian Europe against invading Muslims. This was the same Orban who, back in July 2012, said that in Central Europe a new economic system must be built: “And let us hope that God will help us and we will not have to invent a new type of political system instead of democracy that would need to be introduced for the sake of economic survival. … Cooperation is a question of force, not of intention. Perhaps there are countries where things don’t work that way, for example in the Scandinavian countries, but such a half-Asiatic rag-tag people as we are can unite only if there is force.”

The irony of these lines was not lost on some old Hungarian dissidents: When the Soviet army moved into Budapest to crush the 1956 anti-Communist uprising the message repeatedly sent by the beleaguered Hungarian leaders to the West was: “We are defending Europe here.” (Against the Asiatic Communists, of course.) Now, after Communism collapsed, the Christian-conservative government paints as its main enemy Western multi-cultural consumerist liberal democracy for which today’s Western Europe stands, and calls for a new more organic communitarian order to replace the “turbulent” liberal democracy of the last two decades. Orban already expressed his sympathies towards cases of “capitalism with Asian values” like Putin’s Russia, so if the European pressure on Orban continues we can easily imagine him sending the message to the East: “We are defending Asia here!“ (And, to add an ironic twist, are, from the West European racist perspective, today’s Hungarians not descendants of the early medieval Huns—Attila is even today a popular Hungarian name.)

Is there a contradiction between these two Orbans: Orban the friend of Putin who resents the liberal-democratic West and Orban the defender of Christian Europe? There is not. The two faces of Orban provide the proof (if needed) that the principal threat to Europe is not Muslim immigration but its anti-immigrant, populist defenders.

So what if Europe should accept the paradox that its democratic openness is based on exclusion. In other words, there is “no freedom for the enemies of freedom,” as Robespierre put it long ago? In principle, this is, of course, true, but it is here that one has to be very specific. In a way, Norway’s mass murderer Andres Breivik was right in his choice of target: He didn’t attack the foreigners but those within his own community who were too tolerant towards intruding foreigners. The problem is not foreigners—it is our own (European) identity.

Although the ongoing crisis of the European Union appears as a crisis of economy and finances, it is in its fundamental dimension an ideological-political crisis. The failure of referendums concerning the EU constitution a couple of years ago gave a clear signal that voters perceived the European Union as a “technocratic” economic union, lacking any vision which could mobilize people. Till the recent wave of protests from Greece to Spain, the only ideology able to mobilize people has been the anti-immigrant defense of Europe.

There is an idea circulating in the underground of the disappointed radical Left that is a softer reiteration of the predilection for terrorism in the aftermath of the 1968 movement: the crazy idea that only a radical catastrophe (preferably an ecological one) can awaken masses and thus give a new impetus to radical emancipation. The latest version of this idea relates to the refugees: only an influx of a really large number of refugees (and their disappointment since, obviously, Europe will not be able to satisfy their expectations) can revitalize the European radical Left.

I find this line of thought obscene: notwithstanding the fact that such a development would for sure give an immense boost to anti-immigrant brutality, the truly crazy aspect of this idea is the project to fill in the gap of the missing radical proletarians by importing them from abroad, so that we will get the revolution by means of an imported revolutionary agent.

This, of course, in no way entails that we should content ourselves with liberal reformism. Many leftist liberals (like Habermas) who bemoan the ongoing decline of the EU seem to idealize its past: The “democratic” EU the loss of which they bemoan never existed. Recent EU policies, such as those imposing austerity on Greece, are just a desperate attempt to make Europe fit for new global capitalism. The usual Left-liberal critique of the EU—it’s basically OK, except for a “democratic deficit”— betrays the same naivety as the critics of ex-Communist countries who basically supported them, except for the complaint about the lack of democracy: In both cases, the “democratic deficit” is and was a necessary part of the global structure.

But here, I am even more of a skeptical pessimist. When I was recently answering questions from the readers of Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s largest daily, about the refugee crisis, the question that attracted by far the most attention concerned precisely democracy, but with a rightist-populist twist: When Angela Merkel made her famous public appeal inviting hundreds of thousands into Germany, which was her democratic legitimization? What gave her the right to bring such a radical change to German life without democratic consultation? My point here, of course, is not to support anti-immigrant populists, but to clearly point out the limits of democratic legitimization. The same goes for those who advocate radical opening of the borders: Are they aware that, since our democracies are nation-state democracies, their demand equals suspension of—in effect imposing a gigantic change in a country’s status quo without democratic consultation of its population? (Their answer would have been, of course, that refugees should also be given the right to vote—but this is clearly not enough, since this is a measure that can only happen after refugees are already integrated into the political system of a country.) A similar problem arises with the calls for transparency of the EU decisions: what I fear is that, since in many countries the majority of the public was against the Greek debt reduction, rendering EU negotiations public would make representatives of these countries advocate even tougher measures against Greece.

We encounter here the old problem: What happens to democracy when the majority is inclined to vote for racist and sexist laws? I am not afraid to conclude: Emancipatory politics should not be bound a priori by formal-democratic procedures of legitimization. No, people quite often do NOT know what they want, or do not want what they know, or they simply want the wrong thing. There is no simple shortcut here.

We definitely live in interesting times.

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