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Living with meaning in a Zizek world

In my last two posts, I encouraged you to read Zizek in the original and gave you my take on the curious impotent rage that we are seeing all over Europe.

I am arguing that we are all up-to-our-eyeballs in the mess we rail about and that we got into the mess because we abdicated responsibility for our lives and our tantrums are signs of more abdication.

Simply, to adapt Zizek words, we will start to feel good about things when we are able to put on a list what “no one else will do it for [us], that [I] have to be the change [I] want to see.”

The tricks of a psychologist

As a psychologist, I always listen for the ”I” and the “we”.

  • What is the person in front of me actually going to do?
  • Who are they doing it with or for?
  • Of all the things they talked about, which brought a light to their eyes?

Zizek moments and psychology

We are in a Zizek moment when we retort that we are unable to do anything because the system makes us impotent.

We are focused, in short, on the ‘not living’ rather than the ‘living’.

These moments aren’t fun and this is the psychology of getting our attention back on the ‘living’.

 A small example of giving to Caesar. . .

To take a simple example, I lock my car when I leave it at Milton Keynes Railway Station.   Don’t you?

I accept that there is plenty of nonsense in the world but I act sensibly.

I don’t devote a lot of time to thinking about security at Milton Keynes Railway Station but I don’t take it for granted either.  Most of all I vote for people who treat the security people around the station fairly and I pay my rates so they can.  Don’t you?

Do you abdicate the responsibility for the conditions under which we live?

Read what Zizek says about Greece:

“When the protesters started to debate what to do next, how to move beyond mere protest, the majority consensus was that what was needed was not a new party or a direct attempt to take state power, but a movement whose aim is to exert pressure on political parties.”

Why do we abdicate to others?

Of course, we delegate to others, yes.  If there is a security person at Milton Keynes Station, I don’t interfere while they are doing their job.

But abdicate, no.  I can’t say “There is no security at the station.  You must fix it.”  I can’t bluster and stamp my feet and say “There is no security.  I am your employer as a taxpayer. You must fix it.”

I must act definitively.  “We have seen this pattern of events.  Please tell us what action you will take to change the pattern and suggest a date that we can meet to review whether the actions have been effective.”

And I must be clear what I am going to do if I am still not satisfied.  What is the point of stamping my foot?

“To riot [even if it is a middle-class tantrum] is to make a subjective statement, implicitly to declare how one relates to one’s objective conditions.”

Tantrums not only accept our position of powerlessness.  Tantrums say we are OK with our position of powerlessness.  Don’t come to me later complaining.  I will only ask you: Well what do you want to do about it?”

I can never be too enthusiastic about

“impotent rage and despair masked as a display of force; it is envy masked as triumphant carnival.”

It’s like over imbibing.  You will regret it in the morning.

So what do psychologists suggest when you are feeling impotent?  Indeed when you are overwhelmed with indignation at your impotence?

#1  Let’s stop thinking that this is a first in history.  We are not alone in this. Read the old works and read the new like Zizek .

#2 Think back to Jesus Christ saying to his followers:  Give unto Ceasar . . .   Get involved in as much nonsense as you have to . . . but keep it on the periphery of your existence in the way you lock your car at the station. . . it is not your life.

#3 Learn from feminist Germaine Greer who wrote short chapters that women could read on the loo – the only place where they have peace and quiet.  Find five minutes every day to be quiet.  A park is nice.  But be effective on this at least.  If it the loo is the only place possible, then the loo, it is.

#4 Think back over the last 24 hours about what is ‘good, true, better and possible’, and do more of it. Sounds naff?  Try it.  When you are more purposive about what you want and take active steps toward it, it tends to move toward you.  When it happens, your main reaction is going to be, “Eh? This easy?”  Yes, it is normal to be suspicious but when you move toward something, it comes to you. On the other hand, if you are faking it, it will blow you a raspberry.  I repeat, what you move towards will move towards you.

#5 Where you have a choice between two good things, do the one that’s better for other people too.

That’s it.  Shit will continue to happen but you won’t be so directly implicated and you won’t be sitting around thinking that some vague person in some vague office should be sorting it out.  That is no way to live.  Your life is going to amount to what you are willing to be responsible for.

To find out what you are willing to do, because it is your choice, not mine – find five minutes to review each 24 hours.  Celebrate the good, the true, the better and the possible, however small, particularly the small . . . and do more of it.

And then you will be like Zizek – watching the Zizek moments with Zen-like calm, waiting for more people to catch on. Then sociological conditions will change and we will have a new sociologist to read. Enjoy.

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