On Zizek

Lord help me, I am reading Zizek again. This time it’s Violence.

The guy is extreme but he knows how to hit an idea home.

One of the ideas he discusses in Violence is that there are many times in the media when violence is presented in a news story and our reaction tends to be quick and decisive. The media makes an incident a sudden occurrence even though the violence may have built up over a long period of time, such as a massacre in Africa, a heinous shooting, a trial of a pedophile or a suicide bombing in Israel.

But like a conman, the media almost begs the question of “this just happened, something should be done now,” whether it’s giving the victim foreign aid, or sending in Marines to quell the assailants. You always have to be wary of someone who’s pushing you to act right away.

This is all part of Zizek’s point early in Violence and Welcome to the Desert of the Real. When we are witness to violence through media, the impact is immediate and we’re expected to have an immediate reaction, emotional or otherwise. This robs us of what we should be doing, which is making a rational, thought out response to the emotions invoked by the event.

We could have done this in the months after September 11, 2001. We should have spent more time analyzing not what happened or who did it, but what is it about our country that made ourselves a target? Innocents died and psychopaths killed on that day no doubt. But obviously the incident was something built up over time. Instead of looking for a revenge victim after the terrorist attacks, we should have focused on all of those crowds who cheered the 9/11 destruction and spent time understanding their point of view.

A little analysis of perspective, both ours and theirs, would have helped us. It could still help us.

But, as always, when there’s a violent tragedy, we never take the time to consider what happened. We only want to focus on how to respond vigorously.

That usually leads to more violence.

1 Comment

  1. The last time I heard the name was in a philosophy and religions class in college. And I think you’ve hit on something very interesting. When faced with violence, we rarely consider the ‘why’, but give precedence to ‘what’ we must do. And if we ever do consider the reasons, we tend to settle on the ones that most conform with what we already believe to be true (such as, they hate our way of life).

    I wrote a little something on violence myself a little while back. I’d love for you to give it a read: http://drivelanddialectic.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/projecting-our-demons/

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