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Resistance, Love and the importance of Failure. (Zizek, Han)

You’re not just controlled by the things you want that are attainable…and then the process of getting the things you want. structural processes dictate our fantasies as people as well…and whenever you have a fantasy about some ultimate thing you want…or some way you want the world to be in the future…if those fantasies…are things that are shaped by the dominant order of things to begin with…then the neurotic repetition you engage in while going for those fantasies…becomes something where effectively… you’re just showing up every day, carrying out somebody else’s dream.


Resistance, Love and the importance of Failure. (Zizek, Han)

So we’re gonna be connecting a lot of dots today… from the last five episodes of the show we’ve been talking about Slavoj Zizek. Highly recommend listening to those before this one…you obviously don’t HAVE to…but just know outside of a short recap about what’s been said I’m not going to be re-explaining lacanian desire, dialectics, absolute knowledge, postmodern subjectivity, but you’ll need to know what these are to get the most out of this episode, I’ve put them out there, they’re all there for you to enjoy, check them out if you want to. Now THAT SAID: Slavoj Zizek says that the postmodern subject that we talked about ALL last episode…when they fully take on this way of looking at the world supposedly WITHOUT grand narratives to make sense of things… That person USUALLY has about…hmm, three choices… at their disposal he says, for how they can live their life from here on out. And as he says they often OSCILLATE BETWEEN these three choices just depending on what position they’re in in life, how frustrated they are, etc. The first choice a postmodernist has is just to Burnout. We can all relate to this in some way. You know the idea is: with NO objective MEANING to anything… and where the only thing I can do is shoot for career achievements that are ultimately gonna be meaningless a few years after I’m dead…easy place to go in your head is…what’s the point of doing ANYTHING? I mean in THAT world, why NOT just give in to my worst impulses? When life is GIVING me these psychological symptoms of burnout…of anxiety, depression, adhd…why NOT just…medicate yourself with something? Anesthetize yourself? To Zizek things like: drugs, alcohol, sex, video games, TikTok. The FIRST OPTION…that ANY postmodernist HAS at their disposal…is to BURNOUT and PUT yourself to SLEEP everyday. The SECOND option…Zizek says…door number TWO that you have as a postmodernist…is to just IMMERSE yourself in your career! ACHIEVEMENTS. PROJECTS you want to accomplish. Trying ON different IDENTITIES…GOING on trips. BUYING new things. In other words: door number TWO is to become a WILLING PARTICIPANT, in the global capitalist religious system you were BORN into…again: INDULGING in that narcissistic project that IS your LIFE…progressively BUILDING UP this collection of SYMBOLS that FURTHER IDENTIFY you as who you are…and ultimately…in your WILLING PARTICIPATION… serving to KEEP the whole thing GOING, as you stay true to the incentive structures it GIVES you. Your life becomes going to work and participating in the economy, so that you can go home, and consume stuff…and further participate in the economy. That’s door number TWO. And then the THIRD option you have if you’re Zizek…if you want to ESCAPE this lack of meaning…is to find SOME way he says…to “artificially resuscitate a tradition from the past.” This is ANOTHER thing I’m sure a lot of people listening to this can relate to. Have you ever felt like MAN…it would be SO GREAT…if I REALLY COULD CONVINCE myself…that these traditions were real. LIke think of the SUPERPOWER I would HAVE…if I could do some kind of mental gymnastics that would allow me to THINK my way into a belief into something that gives you totalizing answers to all of life’s difficult questions. Again, to Zizek artificially RESUSCITATING a tradition…door number three. These are the three options that these days MOST people have to CHOOSE from…or to OSCILLATE between as they go throughout their life. But today I want to talk about what Zizek thinks may be a FOURTH option, and it’s one that dare I say seems MUCH BETTER than these other three options. And just for clarity: I’M saying…this is a fourth option. Zizek doesn’t have a book called Door Number four or something…in fact he actually talks about a LOT of different responses to the conditions of modernity…I’m calling this door number four because we’re talking about a LOT of different ideas from him today and I think it brings a cohesive narrative to help organize it. I LIKE door number four as a way of describing this. And you can HEAR that and be like Wow! Well what is it? And by the way if Zizek HAS a way OUT of these three options from before, why isn’t he SCREAMING this stuff from the ROOFTOPS any time anyone has a conversation with him? Well because this fourth option is a way of LOOKING at things that’s REALLY only available to people that have ENGAGED with the world at a deep enough level to be able to FIND it. It’ll make more sense by the END of this…but again like we talked about on episode ONE of this series…if you LOOK at the world through a DIFFERENT SET of ideological filters…you can arrive at VERY DIFFERENT conclusions about what seems possible. So anyway: if you DON’T want to drug yourself to sleep everyday so that you can feel numb…and if you CAN’T do the BACKFLIPS required to get yourself to believe in a man in the sky with a plan for you, and if you DON’T want to just IMMERSE yourself in a narcissistic, ACHIEVEMENT religion with your career…which if you’re doing ANY of these things more power to you…but if you’re someone who CAN’T do any of that…what CAN you DO here? Where this story begins…is in a place that I’VE been familiar with in the last few weeks of my life…the story for Zizek begins with a baby…and a pacifier. It’s actually a concept from Freud. Why does a baby suck on a pacifier? I mean originally…a baby has to learn that SKILL of moving its mouth and applying suction…so that it can get MILK from its mom. In other words the sucking is instrumental. Kind of like when I first started this podcast. What I mean is for the BABY, when it LEARNS to suck…there’s a VERY CLEAR thing that the baby is DOING that activity FOR. But what EVENTUALLY happens Freud says and its already happening for my son just a few weeks in is that the baby learns to ENJOY the process of sucking on the pacifier or its hand, NOT because it wants MILK, but because there’s a certain kind of satisfaction, in the repetition of a particular task that will never be complete. There is what Freud calls an “oral drive”...where the original reflex of sucking, becomes something that’s a source of pleasure for the baby BEYOND any sort of immediate reward that was the original purpose of the reflex. Now Freud has his OWN ways… that he attaches this to his theories of how adults behave. And Jacques Lacan, who came after Freud, thinking that Freud’s work was maybe interpreted a bit too narrowly given the historical moment that it came out in, in many ways Lacan sees HIMSELF… as TAKING some of the insights of freud's work, EXPANDING them, and understanding psychoanalysis through more of a structuralist or linguistic lens…and this LEADS Lacan is to DIFFERENT explanations FOR this behavior in the baby, but ALSO something he sees in adults that he called surplus enjoyment. Gonna be an important term for us here today. And Zizek, building on both of these thinkers…applies the concept of surplus enjoyment… to the lives of people like US…living in global capitalist society. Now how does he do this? Well here’s how I’d explain it. It would CERTAINLY be nice…if we could explain people’s BEHAVIOR all the time…WHY they make decisions… in a way that was completely straightforward. It would be GREAT if we could say people are SIMPLE…first they want things…then they do the work to get the things they want and then they get a sense of ENJOYMENT out of GETTING the things they want! And then that process just repeats itself…it would be NICE if it were that EASY. But when you actually LOOK at people’s behavior…Zizek and Lacan think that what you notice is that people ALSO get a sense of enjoyment sometimes… out of the process of NOT getting what they want…more accurately: they get a type of SURPLUS enjoyment…out of something about the process of PURSUING the thing that they want…EVEN if they don’t end up GETTING it. For example just to help us VISUALIZE this, let’s say you wanted a special pair of shoes…for an upcoming EVENT where your FEET gotta look really classy or else people are gonna JUDGE you for it. So to GET these shoes…you start SEARCHING for shoes online, you look at what OTHER stylish people are wearing, you go to an online shoe marketplace, you browse for half an hour, put things in your cart, COMPARING the shoes one to another, IMAGINING walking IN to this event WEARING the shoes, you go down to the store, you TRY ON the shoes, you REALLY LIKE them…so you go back home, you pull up your cart on your computer you’re ABOUT to click BUY NOW and have the shoes SHIPPED to you…and then you decide not to buy them after all. Now here’s the question: whether you GOT the shoes or not…was there a certain amount of satisfaction or ENJOYMENT that you got…from just going through the process…of NOT getting the shoes? In other words JUST like with the baby and the pacifier…ALL of this behavior from the outside seems to ONLY makes sense if it was instrumental towards GETTING the shoes you wanted…and yet there’s an UNDENIABLE type of SURPLUS ENJOYMENT that you get out of what appears to be, from the OUTSIDE, a neurotic repetition towards GETTING something, but not ending up getting it. This TYPE of surplus enjoyment to Zizek…may SEEM like a fringe case because we’re talking about hypothetical shoes. But it’s actually FAR more common than you’d expect if you start LOOKING for it in the world around you. People will actually start CONSTRUCTING BIG ASPECTS of THEIR LIVES…AROUND this surplus enjoyment…SETTING THINGS UP in a way where it STARTS to seem… like they’re setting their LIFE up in a way where they ENSURE…that they NEVER actually get the thing that they want. So CONTRASTING this against the backdrop of Lacan’s concept of the objet petite a where you never ACTUALLY are GETTING what you truly desire, that what you TRULY desire is always something that lies BEYOND what we SEEM to want in the SHORT term. And KNOWING that these THINGS we want never actually SATISFY those ultimate desires…some people out there… who are paying close ATTENTION to their thinking… can start to REALIZE that to THEM…when it comes to how they actually EXPERIENCE the world…it’s usually not even in GETTING the thing that’s the most meaningful part of it to them…it’s in the struggle, its in the pursuit, its in the repetition, its in the EXCESS where most of the MEANING of things COMES from. In fact sometimes when you actually GET the thing you SUPPOSEDLY want…that’s when the thing is RUINED for you. You can see this when you’re looking forward to a delicious slice of chocolate cake at the end of the work day, and then regretting it. You can see it when your favorite MOVIE comes out you’ve been waiting for for months, and then you feel sad when its over. I mean why do you think I make you wait for a PODCAST episode so long…I’m doing YOU a favor! Just kidding. Anyway the POINT is: we can ACKNOWLEDGE this surplus enjoyment…as an ASPECT of what may SEEM to you…like just individual, human psychology, for sure. But then what we HAVE to RECOGNIZE for Zizek…is that this surplus enjoyment becomes PART of the way people reliably THINK and get MEANING out of the events of their lives. Which is then…something that becomes CAPTURED by larger social processes that then LEVERAGE this surplus enjoyment…to KEEP the dominant system going. In other words you’re not just controlled by the things you want that are attainable…and then the process of GETTING the things you want. Structural processes dictate our FANTASIES as people as well…and whenever you have a FANTASY about some ULTIMATE thing you want…or some WAY you want the world to be in the future…if those FANTASIES…are things that are SHAPED by the dominant order of things to BEGIN with…then the neurotic repetition you engage in while GOING for THOSE fantasies…becomes something where effectively… you’re JUST showing UP every day, carrying out somebody ELSE’S dream. So as a structural critique: surplus enjoyment for Zizek… becomes a way that we can remain TRAPPED IN that neurotic repetition, like the baby with the pacifier, that keeps things the way that they are. I think some examples could help illustrate this. We can see a lot of OBVIOUS ones like cake and shoes…but to get to the DEPTH of this and how FREQUENTLY this stuff is going on…Zizek is going to say there’s a lot of LESS obvious examples in the world around us if you peel back some of the layers. Prime example for HIM…again, targeting people on the left that are would be revolutionaries, trying to shake them out of their ideological chains and make them REAL revolutionaries…are going to be people that are PASSIVELY committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. He’s talking about SPECIFICALLY… within that group a type of thinking…where for the sake of his example usually a white, liberal minded person might fall into… where they project a very OUTWARD, APPEARANCE of somebody whose all about INCLUSION…APOLOGIZING for their white privilege, saying how they just can’t possibly SPEAK on this subject because of the color of my skin…and let me go FLOG myself in the corner to create a SAFE space for people more MARGINALIZED than me to speak…this EXTREME type of person, to Zizek…is engaging in a PARTICULAR kind of surplus enjoyment. They’re finding SURPLUS ENJOYMENT…in SHOWING UP to the CAUSE everyday in their pursuit for revolution without revolution–a process ACTIVELY CAPTURED by surface level, consumer society that we talked about last episode. Think about it: this is a person BORN into the world and they HAVE PRIVILEGE. SIGNIFICANT privilege. But they can’t ENJOY that privilege in a traditional sort of way because they would feel BAD about it. So whats the only morally redeemable place you can ENJOY a position of privilege and superiority? Well embedded into a PSEUDO revolutionary movement where you can APOLOGIZE for how PRIVILEGED you are and STILL be the morally superior ARBITER that ISN’T bothered by any of this inclusive stuff going on here. No, no I’m FINE with this, please take the microphone, speak your truth, it’s about time. I’m TOTALLY comfortable with you speaking. In fact I feel sick even being AROUND myself right now quite frankly. The important point to realize here is that from the perspective of surplus enjoyment…this person has SET UP their LIFE in a way…where these things they do OUTWARDLY appear like they want revolution…but conveniently…their behavior ensures that they will NEVER ACTUALLY GET what they supposedly want. They’re like the baby with a pacifier. They repetitively, neurotically, show up EVERY DAY to the SAME CAUSE, SQUEEZING as much enjoyment as they can OUT of this position of privilege. So the SURPLUS ENJOYMENT of it all becomes a big part of how their psychology is being captured…it LOCKS them into the repetitive drive towards this FANTASY… that ultimately will never be achieved given their current behavior, again effectively KEEPING the world exactly how it is. Now something that needs to be said here…is that to Zizek…obviously NONE of this being DONE by this person is out of MALICE, if this accurately DESCRIBES ANYONE out there… then this would BE someone whose LIKELY not even self aware enough to realize that they’re caught UP in all this. Which means fundamentally…this is not a BAD person. They’re certainly not TRYING to do bad…you can say something about the banality of EVIL here…but again if we can pause on the moral judgements for a sec and look at this more analytically as a TYPE of subjectivity that is being PRODUCED based on how the WORLD is set up…then at WORST…this is a person that’s found a place for their psychology, where they get surplus enjoyment and meaning to their life…WITHIN a social process…that they REALLY have no control over. And this is gonna be an important insight to HAVE about this ideological process that we’re ALL embedded in at different levels of awareness: this person’s CRIME if ANYTHING…is that they’re really just carrying out and LIVING…somebody else’s dream. They haven’t undergone that ULTIMATE act of SELF liberation Zizek talked about…they haven’t yet taken CONTROL…of their own desires. Let’s think about some less politically charged examples of this…something more every day…how bout the person, I know SEVERAL people like this myself…who work 10 hours a day to provide for their family…and they DO that…for 50 YEARS STRAIGHT… and if you TALK to them in the middle of it at year 20…they’ll be weathered…and tired but they’ll say hey…im gonna have to work a few more years…its gonna be hard…but one day…once i retire…I’ve always DREAMED of GOING on a vacation to Bora Bora, by GAWD that’d be nice. And this DESIRE SUSTAINS them as they go to WORK everyday. WHATEVER it is they dream about in retirement. And you can HEAR this and think man…that’s cool and all but this DOESN’T seem to really BE about Bora Bora…at SOME level. Because what if this person’s wife or husband comes along and says GEORGE…I have a surprise for ya. I saved 75 cents every week since 1932…and we’re finally GOING on your trip to Bora Bora. There’s a sense in which that guy could feel like actually GOING to Bora Bora…would sort of RUIN the whole SETUP he has in his life that lets him get out of BED everyday in a way that’s filled with MEANING. And Zizek would no doubt say this is yet another mark in the WIN column for the absolute GENIUS of global capitalism as a religious economic system that takes advantage of people’s desires and psychology…this surplus enjoyment… becomes part of the way this person LIVES their LIFE out…as a willing participant in it all. Now, we’re getting really close to door number FOUR here…the LAST piece of the puzzle that needs to be put in place…is an explanation for how much ALCOHOL Zizek likes to drink. Which is… NONE. In fact…he RECENTLY said that he’s never actually been drunk…in his entire life. He’s never done DRUGS in his entire life. And the first question back to him when he said this was WHY…and the REASON he gave is because the WORLD is a dangerous place. And if you’re DRINKING or doing DRUGS…you CAN’T be fully AWARE of where all the ATTACKS are going to be coming from. Now…on the SURFACE this may just seem like old man Zizek getting PARANOID, the whole WORLD is out to get me. But I think I know where he’s actually coming from and it’s NOT that the van parked down the street is an FBI surveillance van, or that crow looking at me in the bush over there is a government drone! No I think part of what he’s getting at in everyday life terms: is that the world we live in…in liberal, democratic, capitalist society…is an extremely competitive world. I mean that’s one of the main reasons people will give for why the system is so WONDERFUL. It DOESN’T allow people to sit around and do nothing…we PRODUCE in this society…we got INNOVATIVE, NEW technology and ideas, FASTER than some LESS competitive society might… because people are COMPETING for MONEY and for POWER. We ALWAYS have a new iphone to buy…because we MOTIVATE smart people to go out there and DO it. But the FLIP side of that… is that you HAVE to realize…YOU are always LIVING…in that competitive environment with ALL the people around you. And there are people out there…that are REALLY, really smart. Statistically…probably way smarter than you, DEFINITELY way smarter than me. In fact if you don’t REALIZE these people exist then that’s probably a bad sign…they’re probably so smart you don’t even REALIZE they exist. And to be fair, NEEDS to be said not that it CHANGES anything about the point here: but on TOP of people just being smart…there are people born into the world, with INCREDIBLE advantages over you and me in terms of connections, in terms of resources, in terms of education…ALL this is to say… that we LIVE in this COMPETITIVE environment that on ONE hand we say is AMAZING because it allows for smart, well connected people to take advantage of opportunities…and I think to Zizek on the other hand: there’s a sense in which if you’re coming home after work, downing a couple tallboys, talking about how the Ravens might win the superbowl in four years if they can avoid injuries, looking around you wondering how ANYONE could EVER think that this COMPETITIVE environment could EVER be taking advantage of ANYONE. You’re PROBABLY the one that’s being taken advantage of. That’s not a good sign. It’s like that saying: if you have to wonder who the dumbest one in the room is…it’s probably you. EVERY SECOND you spend numbing and distracting yourself, living a CONSUMER existence of surface level experiences of EVERYTHING…you aren’t living the dream…you are likely living somebody else’s dream. And just to be entirely clear here…this is NOT me saying that Zizek would say you should stop enjoying yourself at all and go out compete all these people in the MARKETPLACE. He would no doubt RESENT the fact that our society is BASED on this fundamental antagonism. But being BORN into capitalist society it’s easy to just ACCEPT the fact that you’re ALWAYS in a competitive environment…LIVING with your guard down all the time, not even THINKING about the ways you’re being taken advantage of all the time. And again: this would JUST be a call to TAKE responsibility…and TRULY ENGAGE…with the things around you that MATTER to you…which FURTHER means to Zizek to live in a way that RESISTS the symbolic order, the surface level, static, fixed, common sense way that you’re INCENTIVIZED in capitalist society to see yourself…and your place in the world. This… is going to be door number four eventually. And to take this point a few levels deeper: think of what Zizek’s been saying so far on this series: what are we as people? We’re these subjects BORN into ideological constructs that GIVE us our sense of who we are and how the world works…and while we ALWAYS think in terms of ideological structures…there are varying levels of self AWARENESS people have about the ideological structures they have to use…and if you don’t live in a constant state of examination of them…then you run the risk of being CAPTURED by these ideological structures in a way where you don’t realize ALL that they are EXCLUDING that allow YOUR way of seeing it to seem so clear and obvious to you. So in the sense that we’re not TEACHING ideological awareness or media literacy in public schools as far as I know…what this MEANS is that the DEFAULT type of PERSON that the structural arrangement of our society produces…is someone who has a very STATIC, massively oversimplified perspective of who they are and how the world works. You gotta wonder if there’s a way to reorganize society that might FIX that. But CONSIDERING all this… at the VERY least: you can understand why the kind of stuff Zizek is going to recommend people be DOING, if they wanted to get OUT of these ideological chains and actually understand their psychology and identity on a deeper level…is to do things that RESIST…that static, symbolic ORDERING of things. And this is where LOVE…starts to enter into the picture of what Zizek thinks is an important part of that process. Because falling in LOVE to Zizek…IS one of the most PURE EXAMPLES of these EXPERIENCES in life that RESISTS… the static, symbolic ordering of things. When you fall in love with someone…it doesn’t really matter WHAT your life was like before you met this person. It doesn’t matter HOW much of a groove you were in…how habituated things had become in your life, your routines…when you meet someone who makes you want to ENTANGLE the two of your lives TOGETHER…it fundamentally SHAKES your ENTIRE life up…and forces you to reconstruct it symbolically, in consideration to this other person. Again in a world that OTHERWISE INCENTIVIZES, surface level consumption and static identity…LOVE FORCES YOU…to REDISCOVER your SELF in a new light. And IN this way love becomes a TYPE of activity…that MIRRORS the role he thinks PHILOSOPHY plays in shaking up people’s common sense understanding of the world. This other person…takes on the ROLE of what is essentially a dialectical opposition. You can find this SAME DESTABILIZING quality that love has…in something like going SKYDIVING. Or moving somewhere completely new, or having a BABY. TRUE subjectivity to Zizek…BEGINS when we do things that call into QUESTION or UNDERMINE…the rigid ways that we see ourselves or the world. There’s a sense in which when you fall in love or go skydiving or move to a new place…you find a new version of yourself and the world… on the other side of those things. This becomes SIMILAR to his process…of I would prefer NOT to. These are the sorts of activities we should be gravitating towards. Now someone can say BACK to this okay Zizek…but look I’m somebody that’s a FAN of surface level, consumer life, it’s kind of my THING…and I feel like what you’re DESCRIBING…is something I’m already DOING. In fact capitalism ALLOWS me to find a CONSTANT INFLUX of new things to BUY that shake things UP for me and allow me to try on different looks. When I CHANGED my SHOES from Adidas to Nike last year…THAT was me becoming a Nike guy now! When I stopped drinking DRIP coffee and started drinking a cortado with a sprinkle of cinnamon…that’s when my COFFEE drinking started to REALLY be an expression of my REFINED sense of identity. But Zizek might say back to that…look, WHEN you switch from Adidas to Nike for example…fact is: you’re not really CHANGING yourself…in any significant way. I mean this is FAR FROM the sort of symbolic DEATH that may come when you LOSE yourself in another person when you fall in love…this is far from a total restructuring of the symbolic way you make SENSE of reality. Because when you just buy something different…when THAT’S the biggest CHANGE that’s going on in your life…you’re still operating in the same incentive structures, you’re still commodifying every aspect of your identity, you’re still essentially rearranging the decorations on your facade of capitalist freedom…and not really questioning the underlying framework that keeps you UNFREE. This is the SAME kind of point he makes where he says that the postmodern subject… SEES themselves as more FREE than basically ANY human being who has ever lived…and how that shows up in global capitalism TODAY is that we REALIZE our FREEDOM, is that there’s no GOVERNMENT providing you with housing. There’s no dictator handing food out to you or taking care of you in retirement, more and more around the world there’s no government providing you with all of your HEALTHCARE needs…and this is SEEN by people generally as a GOOD thing Zizek says. This person will say look…this is what FREEDOM is LIKE! I’m not a slave to some dictator. I’m basically a little capitalist, Zizek says, that’s how we see ourselves. I CHOOSE…where my money goes. I CHOOSE to buy medical care, or to save for retirement, or to go on vacation, or to pay for mental health treatment…I INVEST…in MYSELF in the areas I WANT to invest in myself…and thinking of myself as a BUSINESS like this is a GREATER level of FREEDOM. And in ONE sense it IS more freedom Zizek says… but if you STOPPED there you’d be IGNORING the OTHER reality of this for people. Which is that WITH this FREEDOM…like with ALL freedom…there comes MUCH MORE responsibility. Which opens up the reality of increased anxiety, for example: there ISN’T…some government appointed job that you’re always going to have…for sure. But WITH that comes the additional STRESS in the modern world of CONSTANTLY not knowing whether they’re going to renew your contract next quarter. ALWAYS needing to worry about being laid off. Am I gonna even HAVE money when I retire? Also yes…there isn’t a GOVERNMENT that if some emergency situation happens to you…they’re ALWAYS going to make sure you’re taken care of…for sure there ISN’T that. But then that comes with the added joy of having to have insurance and constantly wonder if ANYTHING you end up needing is going to be covered by insurance or if you’re gonna be financially CRIPPLED for the rest of your life because little Timmy fell out of the apple tree in the back yard, again it’s more freedom…but much more for you to worry about. So IS it more freedom? Now I’m SO glad I have THIS podcast audience as a group of people to talk to this about because you’ll all know this isn’t an ARGUMENT he’s making for bringing about a dictatorship…he’s really just trying to emphasize how things that SEEM like more freedom, like being able to choose between Nike and Adidas…are not examples of the most substantial forms of freedom that people can experience. It’s worth asking he would say: what is the FRAMEWORK that people are operating within…where they’re GIVEN these forms of choice? Is there a level of freedom that matters MORE than just being able to make superficial choices? Is the framework you LIVE under…something you EVEN have a HOPE of changing when you go to vote every couple years? Do people even THINK about the framework they’re in, or do they spend their time thinking about all the shoes they can wear? He says you know historically…when you lived hundreds of years ago: you weren’t free. And it was OBVIOUS to you that you weren’t free. You speak out against the king or the supreme leader…and you either get beheaded in the public square or you disappear and are never heard from again. THAT was your level of choice. People KNEW exactly WHERE they weren’t free in the past. And that’s the way life was. But the diabolical way that THIS is set up though to Zizek: is that people THINK they are free…simply because they can change the color of their shoes. Or to Zizek he says, “we feel free because we lack the very language to articulate our unfreedom.” Now ALL of this said: if CHOOSING between Nikes and Adidas doesn’t count as a real restructuring of things when it comes to your identity…if that’s again too surface level…then what WOULD it TAKE… for Zizek to live DEEPER and then to be living in a way that RESISTS that symbolic order? Well to put it simply: to Zizek…what you HAVE to do is find something, that you DEEPLY value that you can POINT yourself towards…and then find a way to FAIL at it…continuously. Let me explain. Remember in our episodes on Cioran when he was talking about how important failure is. And he was saying that failing at something…is actually a really good sign for anybody that wants to understand who they are…because the second you GO for something that’s beyond your abilities to the point that you fail in trying to achieve it…well it may FEEL not great to fail, but if you think about it it’s actually a good thing…because it gives you an insight into exactly the limitations of who you are in that moment of failure. So in ONE sense FAILING at things… becomes this thing like LOVE…that RESISTS that static, rigid understanding of who we are, you REDISCOVER yourself after every failure…and then THINK of how THAT… connects to our understanding of surplus enjoyment…where there is a very real MEANING and SATISFACTION that can come from STRIVING for some goal, that you’re NEVER going to actually achieve. Hopefully what he’s saying is starting to become more clear. Door number four…is gonna be finding something that you TRULY care about, something with an INFINITE ceiling, that you will NEVER actually reach the FINISH line on…but it’s nonetheless something you can dedicate ALL of yourself to…while FAILING to ACHIEVE it every single day. TONS of examples of this. MAYBE you already HAVE something like this in your life right now, and that’s HOW you’ve learned to find MEANING with a postmodernist type of subjectivity. I mean it’s CERTAINLY a postmodern ethos: this ISN’T someone telling you to join their church…this ISN’T someone saying VALUE what I VALUE. This is saying don’t make ANYTHING UP about what you actually value…just take what you are ALREADY INTO as a person…and the SWITCH IS: do it the absolute BEST… you possibly can. If it’s comic books…put in EFFORT into comic books. BECOME a DEEP EXPERT of ALL THINGS COMIC books…get to the point where you’re THE PERSON everybody around you THINKS about when they think…comic books. FIND a way to DEEPLY ENGAGE with it…to the point that YOU become an actual participant IN that thing that you value. You study the progression in the narrative PROSE of comic books over the years. You study about how the printers PRINT the ink on the PAGE of the comic books. I dont know if you can tell that I don’t read comic books, but that’s not the point here. It’s an example. The POINT is: this could be ANYTHING. For me it’s writing. EVERY TIME I put out one of these episodes…I hate it the SECOND I put it out. I think they’re horrible, like I’ve made SO many mistakes, what have I done? I start applying to different fast food jobs around my city cause there’s no WAY I’m gonna be doing this as a JOB anymore. And genuinely it’s not until the day after sometimes a few days after that I’ll check YouTube and see what people are saying, and then I can be like okay, I guess it was fine. But MAN do I gotta get back to work and REDEEM myself with this NEXT one. But this could be ANYTHING for you: This could be you striving to be the best MOM you could possibly be. This could be learning about philosophy. This could be your FITNESS goals. The MOST important thing is though that this is something that you really CARE about…that again you can APPLY yourself to and FAIL at repeatedly. Now the SUBTEXT of all of this: is that look… obviously Zizek isn’t dominating the motivational section of Barnes and Noble. Although he’d no doubt think its COOL if people found personal motivation from this idea…it’s IMPORTANT to bring this BACK to our original point that the REAL BENEFIT of people LIVING in this way…is that by DEEPLY engaging with and PARTICIPATING in the world around you at this level…you are ACTIVELY, RESISTING, surface level, commodifiable, easy to digest, EXISTENCE. Which is what consumer culture THRIVES on getting people to STAY in. Now why is that the case? Well as an example: think of what the typical experience is…of someone starting a new HOBBY… in global capitalist society. Let's say somebody decides they want to start PAINTING. In consumer society…that person’s got ALL the PRODUCTS in the world that they can BUY that’ll make them FEEL like PAINTING is gonna be their new passion. They can spend HUNDREDS of dollars on a bunch of brushes, paints, an easel, a little painters hat, special SOAP to wash the paint off of their hands when they’re done…they can have ALL the TOOLS of a master of painting…but never actually ENGAGE with painting DEEP enough to BECOME a master. In other words what’s so COMMON for someone to do is to engage with something like painting on a surface level. Do it a few times. Run into a couple barriers. Take a day off, which then turns into a few YEARS off as all the painting supplies sits around collecting dust in the garage. And this shouldn’t be SURPRISING to us… in postmodern consumer society in particular: this is the same thing…as wisdom without WISDOM. This is travel without TRAVELING. Well now painting without painting. CONSUMER society… is ALL ABOUT MAKING your life into an ENDLESS STREAM of these surface level interactions with the world, that are EASY to consume. And this is why Tiktok is such a sensation. As Byung Chul Han might describe it is the VIDEO FORM…of what happens when you have ZERO constructive negativity. Zero patience required, zero discomfort, zero EFFORT, ZERO boredom. The SECOND you’re painting…and start to get BORED or have to do something that requires effort that would take you to a deeper level of engagement with the thing…well your PHONE’S right there just waiting for you! Or the video games. Or some OTHER hobby to get into at a surface level. Consumer society wants to KEEP people at this SURFACE LEVEL…cause there’s ALWAYS something to SELL someone…when they’re there. Think about it…when you’re 1000 hours into being deeply engaged with writing, for example…when you’re actively reading with a purpose, when you’re brainstorming and making connections, when you’re participating in a community of writers, and living as an ambassador for something you are deeply passionate about…what is there to sell you, when you’re at that point? A merit badge? A trophy? Engaging with what you love at this DEEPER LEVEL…IS a form of RESISTANCE against the static, symbolic ordering of things. And when you DO this correctly…you set yourself UP for Zizek to become an inspiration for OTHERS to engage with the world at a deeper level, becoming what he calls an authentic master. But that’s a whole other episode for another day…the THING that needs to be RESTATED here though…is that if you CONSIDER the examples we gave of people earlier ON in the episode… where people were captured by social processes that they really had no control over…a VERY IMPORTANT DETAIL here is that you NEED to make sure that this THING you’re being serious about…is NOT just you becoming CAPTURED…by living out somebody else’s dream. You HAVE to be self aware enough to know: Is this TRULY…YOUR DREAM…that you’re working on? Or is this ultimately something you’re doing that makes you a PAWN in some larger process? There’s a book Zizek wrote called Enjoy your symptom. And to put it briefly what he GETS at in the book is that we ALL have these SYMPTOMS that we act out in our lives…that are manifestations of some deeper conflict that may be going on inside of us…think of the germophobe that washes their hands 20 times a day or wipes down the counters all the time…or think of the mom or dad that’s always trying to be PERFECT for the people around them that they love…there are SYMPTOMS of this that SHOW UP to the people around us in certain moments. Symptoms that SOMETIMES are COMPLETELY mysterious to us as to why we keep DOING them. And the REFLEX in modern society Zizek says…is to TREAT these symptoms…to MEDICATE them away, to think about them a bunch and do affirmations in the mirror until you don’t HAVE them anymore. And you certainly MAY be somebody that BENEFITS from all that. But there’s something ELSE to be said he thinks: for embracing your symptom. For not living in denial of it…for not constantly renouncing it as a piece of you. There’s something to be said…in a world that, again, incentivizes staying the same person, SURFACE LEVEL engagement, finding the middle ground, moderation of EVERYTHING including the very symptoms that are an outward manifestation of what makes YOU the person you are…maybe there’s something to be said for EMBRACING this piece of who you are in a way that you don’t apologize for anymore. Maybe there’s a way to enjoy your symptom. And maybe there’s a way to ALIGN that…with this activity we set up in our lives, WHATEVER it is…that we deeply engage with and get satisfaction from failing at every day. Anyway, Zizek doesn’t think that anarchism would work. How’s that for a segue. You know he thinks it SOUNDS good in small numbers…its good as far as it goes, as he says…no DOUBT good at organizing people in small groups. But he says quite frankly when I go home from work everyday I don’t want to be going down to the town hall gathering square and talking with people about how to distribute WATER…or how to deal with the pigeon problem at the park…he says no I want a REASONABLE amount of alienation…from the process of government. He says I want people to DO these things FOR me…so that I can sit around watching cinema, reading books, writing my philosophy. Just saying: this certainly doesn’t SOLVE the problem of forced hierarchical authority just to make it more localized…and honestly he says: the problems that are FACING us as a species right now…are not LOCALIZED problems anyway…they’re problems of the commons. They’re the kind of problems you face… when you try to privatize the EARTH he says, which should NEVER be done. I mean think of the PROBLEMS that emerge when people try to stake a claim to a piece of the EARTH itself! These’re the problems that you face… when technology gets to a point where the IMPACT of it going wrong… can have GLOBAL consequences. You know he says if Fukushima, the nuclear disaster in Japan a few years ago, if that had went…even just SLIGHTLY more messed up than it did…which it VERY easily COULD have…the plan among people on the ground at the time was that they would’ve had to evacuate the entire greater Tokyo area. 14 MILLION people would’ve been displaced instantly… needing food, water, shelter, security. How do you DEAL with a problem of that scale? Well as he says: it’s certainly not something that global CAPITALISM can solve as our primary method of social organization…you would need LEADERSHIP and PLANNING…on a GLOBAL SCALE or at the VERY least on a regional scale…and you would NEED it in a way that DOESN’T involve there being a PROFIT motive to get it done. To put it briefly for right now and we’ll expand much more on this next episode when we start talking about Mark Fischer…to Slavoj Zizek: the current WAY the western world is set up…is coming to an end. Because it just CAN’T SOLVE the problems we’re going to be FACING in the near future. It’s ALREADY proven to be incapable of solving many of our problems NOW. To Zizek, something SIGNIFICANT…is going to have to change. Exactly WHEN it happens, it’s impossible to give a date for. And Zizek would ALWAYS be humble about making PREDICTIONS about the future of the world just because of his respect to Hegel. But as a philosopher…you really do specialize sometimes in not mistaking the forest for the trees. And to him what it LOOKS like…as a student of the HISTORY of ideas…is that BIG CHANGES are incoming, and soon. How ready we are for it when it happens will determine how the world ends up on the other side of it. Excited to talk about more educated theories on what that might be. As always hope you enjoy this podcast in your life. I certainly enjoy doing it for you. Thank you for listening. Talk to you next time.

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