I dislike commenting on Žižek as a rule because I feel that, no matter what I say, I’m bound to get in trouble with someone that I respect. When I praise him, some comrades think I’m nuts for liking this Lacano-Maoist whack-a-doo. When I trash him, it proves to different comrades that I’m just another dreadfully boring Trotskyite stick-in-the-mud. I suppose if I were a liberal, I would, like Obama, take the fact that I’m pissing everyone off as evidence that I’m doing the right thing. I can certainly see the comfort in that. But as Luther would have said, had he lived in the 21st century: “Here I blog; I can do no other.”
Žižek’s essay on the London riots has made a bit of a splash on the left, and it drew an unusually cranky reply from Marxmail’s Louis Proyect. Now those who are familiar with Proyect’s writings–which I like and recommend–will realize that an unusually cranky reply from Proyect is, like, preternaturally cranky. As in, like, declaring the latter half of the article sufficiently “flatulent” not to merit a reply. Hmm. It probably would have helped if Proyect realized that Žižek’s title was a joking reference to a Smiths song, not a programmatic statement. Or very possibly that would have made things worse. In any event, I actually thought the part Proyect passed over was the really interesting point.
David Cameron sez:
For me the root cause of this mindless selfishness is the same thing I have spoken about for years: it is a complete lack of responsibility in parts of our society.
People allowed to feel that the world owes them something, that their rights outweigh their responsibilities and that their actions do not have consequences. Well they do have consequences.
We need to have a clearer code of values and standards that we expect people to live by and stronger penalties if they cross the line.
Of course he’s talking about young people of color. Who but?
The London (and beyond) riots seem to me completely comprehensible. Not in the sense that every or any particular act is comprehensible, but as a social phenomenon they are completely easy to understand–even overdetermined by youth unemployment, budget austerity, racism, police brutality (highlighted by a police murder), official corruption on open display, etc. Not two months ago, the Daily Mail (UK) ran a nifty piece on how the rich were loading up on private security; and if even rich people have noticed something, it’s scarcely clear how one could make it more obvious.
So I was not at all impressed with Jonathan Freedland’s argument that “[i]t’s striking that the targets have not been town halls or, say, Tory HQ – stormed by students last November – but branches of Dixons, Boots and Carphone Warehouse.” Well, a riot is a riot, not an insurrection or an organized mass action. In retrospect we’ll probably discover hidden patterns and subconscious “politics” in the gestalt of destruction; but in any event, is it awfully hard to dig why poor (or even not-so-poor) youngsters might want to abscond with pleasurable things that are ordinarily denied them? Is it really so difficult to think these things through?