Zizek in Wall Street — Transcript

We are all losers, but the true losers are down there on Wall Street. They were bailed out by bil­lions of our money. We are called so­cial­ists, but here there is al­ways so­cialism for the rich. They say we don’t re­spect private prop­erty, but in the 2008 fin­an­cial crash-​down more hard-​earned private prop­erty was des­troyed than if all of us here were to be des­troying it night and day for weeks. They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on in­def­in­itely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are the awakening from a dream that is turning into a nightmare.

We are not des­troying any­thing. We are only wit­nessing how the system is des­troying it­self. We all know the classic scene from car­toons. The cat reaches a pre­cipice but it goes on walking, ig­noring the fact that there is nothing be­neath this ground. Only when it looks down and no­tices it, it falls down. This is what we are doing here. We are telling the guys there on Wall Street, “Hey, look down!”

In mid-​April 2011, the Chinese gov­ern­ment pro­hib­ited on TV, films, and novels all stories that con­tain al­ternate reality or time travel. This is a good sign for China. These people still dream about al­tern­at­ives, so you have to pro­hibit this dreaming. Here, we don’t need a pro­hib­i­tion be­cause the ruling system has even op­pressed our ca­pa­city to dream. Look at the movies that we see all the time. It’s easy to ima­gine the end of the world. An as­teroid des­troying all life and so on. But you cannot ima­gine the end of capitalism.

So what are we doing here? Let me tell you a won­derful, old joke from Communist times. A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia. He knew his mail would be read by cen­sors, so he told his friends: “Let’s es­tab­lish a code. If a letter you get from me is written in blue ink, it is true what I say. If it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get the first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter: “Everything is won­derful here. Stores are full of good food. Movie theatres show good films from the west. Apartments are large and lux­urious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink.” This is how we live. We have all the freedoms we want. But what we are missing is red ink: the lan­guage to ar­tic­u­late our non-​freedom. The way we are taught to speak about freedom— war on terror and so on — fals­i­fies freedom. And this is what you are doing here. You are giving all of us red ink.

There is a danger. Don’t fall in love with yourselves. We have a nice time here. But re­member, car­ni­vals come cheap. What mat­ters is the day after, when we will have to re­turn to normal lives. Will there be any changes then? I don’t want you to re­member these days, you know, like “Oh. we were young and it was beau­tiful.” Remember that our basic mes­sage is “We are al­lowed to think about al­tern­at­ives.” If the rule is broken, we do not live in the best pos­sible world. But there is a long road ahead. There are truly dif­fi­cult ques­tions that con­front us. We know what we do not want. But what do we want? What so­cial or­gan­iz­a­tion can re­place cap­it­alism? What type of new leaders do we want?

Remember. The problem is not cor­rup­tion or greed. The problem is the system. It forces you to be cor­rupt. Beware not only of the en­emies, but also of false friends who are already working to di­lute this pro­cess. In the same way you get coffee without caf­feine, beer without al­cohol, ice cream without fat, they will try to make this into a harm­less, moral protest. A de­caf­fi­en­ated pro­cess. But the reason we are here is that we have had enough of a world where, to re­cycle Coke cans, to give a couple of dol­lars for charity, or to buy a Starbucks cap­puccino where 1% goes to third world starving chil­dren is enough to make us feel good. After out­sourcing work and tor­ture, after mar­riage agen­cies are now out­sourcing our love life, we can see that for a long time, we allow our polit­ical en­gage­ment also to be out­sourced. We want it back.

We are not Communists if Communism means a system which col­lapsed in 1990. Remember that today those Communists are the most ef­fi­cient, ruth­less Capitalists. In China today, we have Capitalism which is even more dy­namic than your American Capitalism, but doesn’t need demo­cracy. Which means when you cri­ti­cize Capitalism, don’t allow your­self to be black­mailed that you are against demo­cracy. The mar­riage between demo­cracy and Capitalism is over. The change is possible.

What do we per­ceive today as pos­sible? Just follow the media. On the one hand, in tech­no­logy and sexu­ality, everything seems to be pos­sible. You can travel to the moon, you can be­come im­mortal by bio­gen­etics, you can have sex with an­imals or whatever, but look at the field of so­ciety and eco­nomy. There, al­most everything is con­sidered im­possible. You want to raise taxes by little bit for the rich. They tell you it’s im­possible. We lose com­pet­it­ivity. You want more money for health care, they tell you, “Impossible, this means to­tal­it­arian state.” There’s some­thing wrong in the world, where you are prom­ised to be im­mortal but cannot spend a little bit more for health­care. Maybe we need to set our pri­or­ities straight here. We don’t want higher standard of living. We want a better standard of living. The only sense in which we are Communists is that we care for the com­mons. The com­mons of nature. The com­mons of privat­ized by in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty. The com­mons of bio­gen­etics. For this, and only for this, we should fight.

Communism failed ab­so­lutely, but the prob­lems of the com­mons are here. They are telling you we are not American here. But the con­ser­vat­ives fun­da­ment­al­ists who claim they really are American have to be re­minded of some­thing: What is Christianity? It’s the holy spirit. What is the holy spirit? It’s an egal­it­arian com­munity of be­lievers who are linked by love for each other, and who only have their own freedom and re­spons­ib­ility to do it. In this sense, the holy spirit is here now. And down there on Wall Street, there are pa­gans who are wor­ship­ping blas­phemous idols. So all we need is pa­tience. The only thing I’m afraid of is that we will someday just go home and then we will meet once a year, drinking beer, and nos­t­a­li­gic­ally re­mem­bering “What a nice time we had here.” Promise yourselves that this will not be the case. We know that people often de­sire some­thing but do not really want it. Don’t be afraid to really want what you de­sire. Thank you very much.

Thanks to Impose for this tran­scrip­tion, video avail­able here and here.

  5 comments for “Zizek in Wall Street — Transcript

  1. Lui
    12 October 2011 at 8:41 am

    Simply PERFECT!

  2. Ernesto
    12 October 2011 at 7:05 pm

    America needs Peronism

  3. JoseManuelBarreto
    12 October 2011 at 11:16 pm

    Lui: What does it mean in this con­text ‘per­fect’? What ‘simply’?

  4. Eduardo
    25 October 2011 at 1:54 am

    While I do agree that the Russian/​Chinese model of Marxist Economics failed, lots of people’s lives in places like Chiapas, Yugoslavia, etc. were im­proved dra­mat­ic­ally be­cause of au­then­tic­ally anti-​capitalist move­ments. An al­tern­ative that in­cludes eco­nomic demo­cracy is still pos­sible. Other than that, great piece.

  5. Raymond Lotta
    21 January 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Events of the past year, from Egypt to the Occupy move­ments, are opening new vistas and throwing up big is­sues for de­bate. Can you break out of the frame­work of cap­it­alism? Is there a rel­evant Marxist vision and strategy that speaks to the enormity of the prob­lems hu­manity con­fronts and that yields lib­er­atory solu­tions? In short, is a rad­ic­ally dif­ferent, and better, world possible?

    This is the back­drop for my po­lemic against the polit­ical philo­sophy of Slavoj Zizek. This is a de­bate that takes in the les­sons of the re­volu­tions of the 20th cen­tury, the sig­ni­fic­ance of Bob Avakian’s new syn­thesis of com­munism, and the nature of the world cap­it­alist system. I am ar­guing that Zizek’s stance, des­pite his rad­ical repu­ta­tion, is ac­tu­ally harmful to the cause of re­volu­tion.
    I think this po­lemic would be of con­sid­er­able in­terest to readers of this blog – go to http://​re​vcom​.us/​a​/​2​5​6​/​v​i​l​i​f​y​i​n​g​_​c​o​m​m​u​n​i​s​m​_​a​n​d​_​a​c​c​o​m​m​o​d​a​t​i​n​g​_​i​m​p​e​r​i​a​l​i​s​m​-​e​n​.​h​tml

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