Saturday, October 22, 2005

Zizek on Fantasy and Reality in New Orleans

Great article from Slavoj Zizek (appearing, amazingly, in In These Times): "The Subject Supposed to Loot and Rape."

Here are a few samples:

The reality of poor blacks, abandoned and left without means to survive, was thus transformed into the specter of blacks exploding violently, of tourists robbed and killed on streets that had slid into anarchy, of the Superdome ruled by gangs that were raping women and children. These reports were not merely words, they were words that had precise material effects: They generated fears that caused some police officers to quit and led the authorities to change troop deployments, delay medical evacuations and ground helicopters. Acadian Ambulance Company, for example, locked down its cars after word came that armed robbers had looted all of the water from a firehouse in Covington—a report that proved totally untrue.

9/11 is the main symbol of the end of the Clintonite happy ’90s, of the forthcoming era in which new walls are emerging everywhere, between Israel and the West Bank, around the European Union, on the U.S.-Mexico border. The rise of the populist New Right is just the most prominent example of the urge to raise new walls.

This is the truth of globalization: the construction of new walls safeguarding the prosperous Europe from a flood of immigrants. One is tempted to resuscitate here the old Marxist “humanist” opposition of “relations between things” and “relations between persons”: In the much celebrated free circulation opened up by the global capitalism, it is “things” (commodities) which freely circulate, while the circulation of “persons” is more and more controlled. We are thus not dealing with “globalization as an unfinished project,” but with a true “dialectics of globalization.” The segregation of the people is the reality of economic globalization. This new racism of the developed world is in a way much more brutal than the previous one: Its implicit legitimization is neither naturalist (the “natural” superiority of the developed West) nor culturalist (we in the West also want to preserve our cultural identity). Rather, it ‘s an unabashed economic egotism—the fundamental divide is the one between those included into the sphere of (relative) economic prosperity and those excluded from it.

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