In the news…

May 28, 2008

Excremetal excess

For some reason In Parallax… Zizek feels the need to excuse what he calls David Lynch’s “reactionary political statements” because of his “extraordinary sensitivity”. The sensitivity in question is to the Polish city of Łódź, which is apparently in a state of post-industrial decay, to which Zizek attributes the status of an Badiou-ian ‘evental site’: “The postindustrial wasteland of the Second World is in effect the privileged ‘evental site,’ the symtptomal point out of which one can undermine the totality of today’s global capitalism” (page 159) . This is in part because “the permanent production of piles of waste” is “one of the key features of capitalism.” Further,

The obverse to the incessant capitalist drive to produce new and newer objects is thus the growing piles of useless waste […] – in these ever-growing piles of inert, disfunctional ‘stuff’, whose useless, inert presence cannot fail to strike us, we can, as it were, perceive the capitalist drive at rest (page 158).

Zizek is obviously here talking about ‘identifying with one’s symptom’, which here means taking into account history (rather, ‘historicism’). But he writes that Lynch wants to gentrify the ‘post-industrial wasteland’ in Łódź, transforming it into a movie studio and “thriving centre of cultural creativity”. One wonders if this is part of his “reactionary” tendency, of it this is something Z endorses. This gentrification could be seen as a defence against “the thing”, or contrariwise, could be seen as a midwife for an ‘event’, born of the ‘evental site’.

It seems to me that the answer is the former. Transforming a decaying industrial area is exactly what happened to the distillery district in the east end of Toronto, as well as other industrial warehouses and factories across the city (401 Richmond, now home to many artists and businesses, used to be a tin-can factory; The ‘candy lofts’ (Condos) on Queen West used to be a candy factory; etc, etc). It seems to me that transforming a wasteland into an artists studio is hardly the advent of an event/act. But I suppose he’s saying the potential is there.

The problem, it seems to me, is that the other ‘piles of waste’ he lumps in with rotting factories are junked cars, piles of computer parts in China, and other useless crap. I find it hard to lump real-estate in with that list. Real estate can be reclaimed, but alot of garbage just can’t be recycled or removed.

Take, for example this article in the May 19th edition of the Globe and Mail: “A sea of synthetic trash.” Apparently there are two gigantic areas of plastic trash just sitting 10 meters under the ocean… areas that amount to 1 and a half times the surface of the United States! This sounds a lot more like “The evil Thing” than does a rotting factory: not only is it monstrously large and inert body, it actually KILLS alot of birds and fish.

The way it’s described in the article also makes it a testament to the inter-connectedness of the planet as well as of capitalism: not only are there tonnes of Nike shoes in there that fell from a transport, they describe how a plastic bottle from any city street has the potential to end up in these two garbage sinks in the Atlantic. The question is how could this mess possibly be taken for an ‘evental site’? I guess perhaps the answer is that if people ‘identified’ with it, if everyone rallied around it (politically and not necessarily physically) then perhaps something significant would be done.

This makes me think that we can here see the difference between Laclau and Zizek: You don’t need an external enemy to start a political action, just something (anything) that stands as a symptom…

What I also find interesting here is that this monstrous, killer, floating Thing is made mostly of plastic: That is, it doesn’t biodegrade, but break into smaller and smaller bits. This is to say that our imprint on nature is indellible – it can’t be erased. Like someone interviewed for the article says: there’s just too much of it to get it all, and a lot of it’s too small to even gather up. As a consequence, we can only ever read “the natural” back through the mark we’ve made on it, lest we fall into the fantasy of some perfect homeostatic balance to which we want to return.

Superego supplement…on the job

In the same edition of the Globe there is an article titled “beating up the boss” and is about how the newest fad in corporate “team building exercises” is to take the ‘team’ out for some ultimate fighting…and waterboarding! Apparently some dude in Utah got waterboarded to help him and his ‘team’ better integrate socially. Afterwards the Globe and Mail quotes his boss as saying “You saw how hard Chad fought for air right there. I want you to go back inside and fight that hard to makes sales.” Buddy is now suing his former employer.

In “Lenin’s Choice” Z takes on Fight Club for a while. In particular, he talks about the scene where Edward Norton stands in front of his boss and beats the crap out of himself. From this Z takes the idea that we need to “beat the master out of ourselves”, that it’s not the master that beats us, but us letting the master do so. In this gesture he sees the realization that we don’t need the master to beat us, that we can do it ourselves. Whereas Z sees this self-beating as liberating, taking your employees out to be you up seems to be the opposite: taking it out on your boss because you see them as the problem, when the real problem is in your complying with the world world you’ve (we’ve) made. It, to me, looks like a super-ego supplement, if we frame it in terms of the boss’s comments after the waterboarding: “You see how hard you beat me? Now go out there and beat yourself into working hard as hell for my benefit!”.

Then again, the article ends denying the efficacy of team building at all…

University of comb-over capitalism

This is perhaps not an accurate example of (poorly translated and hence ‘so called’) ‘primitive accumulation’, but with the sub-prime crises in the US, people like Donald Trump are buying up cheap real estate in an attempt to turn huge profits. Not only that, he’s astarted a ‘university’ to teach other people how to do it! Of course, all that the university really does is take people for their ‘tuition’. This, in a superficial way, looks like Lacan’s “university discourse”…



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