Saturday, November 18, 2017

Trouble In Paradise by Slavoj Zizek


Trouble In Paradise:
From The End of History To The End of Capitalism
by Slavoj Zizek
Melville House 2017
ISBN: 978-1-61219-619-0

Friday night in Portland, Oregon, you wouldn't think many people would opt for attending a talk with Slavoj Zizek when they could be drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon beer in some hipster bar, but no: the hall on the PSU campus is packed, huge line out the door. These people, many of them in their 20s by the looks of it, are here to listen to a....philosopher? Why? What makes Zizek the most popular philosopher since Jean-Paul Sartre?

The answer is in his latest book, Trouble In Paradise: From The End of History To The End Of Capitalism. Although ostensibly a philosopher who can write whole books on Hegel, he's more known for his political criticism, in which he incorporates Literary Criticism (of the Marxist and Freudian kind mainly) along with Hegel (and Nietzsche, and others), in a style that is accessible, or mostly so: he doesn't write for academic journals. But mainly, it's his use of examples from pop culture (books, music, but a lot of film) to strengthen his arguments, for example critiquing the Christopher Nolen-directed Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, showing its ambiguity in how on the one hand it defends conservative values, and/or at least the status quo of our society (Bruce Wayne is one of the 1%, the mega-rich, his fortune coming from "arms manufacturing plus stock-market speculations.") On the other hand, the main villain, Bane, is an Occupation-type hero to the poor and dispossessed, which could also be taken as a conservative reaction to that protest movement but nevertheless the fact that that movement made it into a major film shows that there is some kind of appeal to it.

Although this paperback version of Trouble in Paradise has come out in 2017, it was actually first published in England back in 2014, before the American elections of 2016 (I can't wait to read what he has to say about that) though it's all still very relevant: what he and others call 'late-capitalism' (not without some wistful hope that what's going on globally in politics and economics is about to grind to a halt)—that is, the constant demand-that-becomes-a-need for economic growth—forces the world limited amount of resources (water, oil, etc) to become more rare, and therefore valuable, and therefore more important than lesser ideas like human rights.

Also, interestingly, he starts Trouble in Paradise off with an analysis of North Korea, this just when Kim Jong-un had come to power, but which is just as interesting now, more so even, with North Korea launching a missile over Japan. There's a reason North Korea's Great Leader looks a little on the ambiguously sexual side.

But speaking of the 2016 elections: here's Zizek discussing the protests, and protestors, in Spain of around 2012:

....one of the common threads in the ongoing popular revolts in Europe, especially in Spain, is the rejection of the entire 'political elite', Left or Right. They are all dismissed as corrupt, out of touch with the actual needs of ordinary people and so forth. However, such sentiment can cover two radically opposed positions: on the one hand, the populist-moralist rejection of the entire political class ('they are all the same, politics is a whore'), which as a rule, conceals the call for a new Master who will clear this nest of corruption and introduce honesty.

Who can not see this first group as the people who voted for Trump, a supposedly strong outsider that vowed to, instead of 'clear the nest of corruption' to 'drain the swamp.' But Zizek continues (this is a long quote, but worth it, and indicative of how he thinks and writes):

....on the other hand, something entirely different, truly stepping out of the binary opposition which defines the contours of the hegemonic political space (Republicans versus Democrats....) In this second case, the underlying logic is not 'they are all the same'  but, 'Of course our principal enemy is the capitalist Right, but we also reject the blackmail of the established Left which enjoins us to support them as the only way to stop the Right.' This second position is the position of 'neither nor': we don't want X, but we also don't want its inherent negation, the opposition to it that remains within the same field. This doesn't mean 'they're all the same', but, precisely, that they are not 'all'....'They are all the same ' means that we want the exception, a direct/honest politics exempted from the corrupted politics as usual, neither Right nor Left. However, in the case of 'neither nor', the negation of the Right gives us the (established) Left, but the negation of the Left does not give us the Right again, but rather a non-Left which is of the Left more than the (established) Left itself.

I don't have to wait to see what Zizek writes about the 2016 elections, he already wrote about them two years ahead of time. This is exactly what happened. The non-Left-ers were the ones who supported Bernie Sanders, someone they (who am I kidding: we) felt was 'direct/honest' and when the '(established) Left' bumped him out (not least with the threat of 'Super Delegates' that would and did nullify any sense of real democracy in the Primaries) they were the people that either voted 3rd party, or, like in my home state of Michigan, who just didn't vote for president period, even though they did vote the rest of the ballot. I mean, how bad are the Democrats to people that they will go to the effort of voting for everything else on the ballot, but won't make one little mark against Trump?

If there is a weakness to Trouble In Paradise, it's that Zizek can't provide a solution to the capitalist problem, though who can? He does dissect some other intellectuals' 'solutions', though finds them unrealistic. Nor, even though he is a Marxist critic of capitalism does think Communism is an easy answer, though in the end he does, lamely, come back to that.

He would probably disagree, but I think Zizek really comes closest in his thinking to democratic socialism (thus all the Bernie supporters that night) in that its the government's role, or should be, to protect people from, and regulate, business and the markets. Also not easy. But, he urges people to keep trying for something better, and in this his style is effective: despite the depressing critique of what's going on around the world, one comes away from reading Zizek a bit more hopeful, perhaps only because we know more: he, like Noam Chomsky, takes us behind the curtain of what governments and corporations are doing.

This is why all those people were there on a Friday night so hear Zizek speak: He's speaking truth to power, the whole establishment, including, and maybe especially, the '(established) Left' when almost no intellectuals (especially no one in academia) nor journalists will.



Sunday, November 12, 2017

Moon girl

This appeared a year ago in PHANTOM DRIFT, a print journal, which you can order here.


Moon girl

Her body in the open sky
the moon in water

the moon does not always appear at night
night is not always dark

the moon is not one moon, not two moons
not a thousand moons

mind moon is alone
its light swallows moonlight

why is this?

she has moon mind
because she makes moon her mind

no mind not moon
no moon not mine

even if there was a moon last night
the moon you see tonight is not the same

study the moon in tonight's moon
because a moon succeeds a moon

moonlight swallowing moonlight
moon swallows moon

waking with her body
the turning moon

the mind is a moon
the moon a mind

a single mind
a single moon

moon-faced girl
your body and mind
in the moon

a field of grass glowing in the moonlight
her mind glowing in the moonlight

moon swallowing moon
as earth and sky are swallowed
and moon is born

she swallows me
swallows herself
travels when clouds move
because moons are as they are
explore and penetrate
the motion of the moon
essence of wind and rivers

http://www.phantomdrift.org/pd6


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Interview with me at Midwest Gothic

Another interview with me at the MIDWEST GOTHIC website for the inclusion of my poem "The hunter down the road" in their new print issue:

http://midwestgothic.com/2017/11/contributor-spotlight-john-yohe/





Order the issue here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Last Day At The Tower

Appeared in the zine DIRT (print only) back in April 2016:


last day at Aztec Tower

still time in the morning
to brew one last gunpowder tea
and sit out on the catwalk
looking out
fifty to hundred miles
desert forest and rock
Salt River and Mazatzals
Superstitions and Mogollon Rim
the Rez
Glob and Phoenix

still time to watch hawks hover in the wind
still time to listen to morning crickets

one last clear warm day
and southwest wind
one last look through the binoculars
as if there could be any fire
after two months of rain
everything septemberlush green

soon but not immediately
I will carry my guitar down
and clean the counters
sweep and mop the floor
turn off fridge and gas
sign out with Dispatch
(even they sound sad)
walk down the stairs
bowing to the ghost of Ed Abbey
whose tower this was
and is

bowing to the tower itself
which kept me protected
from wind
and cold
and clouds
and lightning
and rain
and aliens

bowing too
to myself
for finally doing it—
fire lookout
after I thought I might be done
with real adventures
when they end only if I want them to

as for what I've learned—
nothing
but at least I know

time to get in the truck and
come down
the mountain
like a fool