written/non-written things by me (from 2005-2008)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Choco-laxative and enjoying products removed of their Malignant Properties

We were talking about college towns and collegespeak; a house party phenomena of enlightened judgments, deconstructed situations, self-aware assessments, whereby one employs their education in the absence of real work. Collegespeak is the hypercritical chattering into thin air that has given High Schools rebellious ego a superficial make-over, but it’s the same self-conscious face underneath. There is particular strain of “Diversity” that can actually be undiverse. A perceived “tolerance” in a neutered environment; where such challenges to perspective are easily won because there simply are less; where tolerance is fashionable and easiest, arguably, than any where else in the world. And I think of the paradox there…and I think, actually, about how it vaguely relates to a messy idea I came across last week, from Slavoj Zizek, incidentally, a theorist whom I became interested in, in college. The notion of products deprived of their malignant properties and the paradox of chocolate laxative. Here is a passage that I won’t qualify.

"On today's market, we find a whole series of products deprived of their malignant property: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol... And the list goes on: what about virtual sex as sex without sex, the Colin Powell doctrine of warfare with no casualties (on our side, of course) as warfare without warfare, the contemporary redefinition of politics as the art of expert administration as politics without politics, up to today's tolerant liberal multiculturalism as an experience of Other deprived of its Otherness (the idealized Other who dances fascinating dances and has an ecologically sound holistic approach to reality, while features like wife beating remain out of sight…)? …

Today's hedonism combines pleasure with constraint — it is no longer the old notion of the "right measure" between pleasure and constraint, but a kind of pseudo-Hegelian immediate coincidence of the opposites: action and reaction should coincide, the very thing which causes damage should already be the medicine…

The ultimate example of it is arguably a chocolate laxative, available in the US, with the paradoxical injunction "Do you have constipation? Eat more of this chocolate!", i.e., of the very thing which causes constipation.

The structure of the "chocolate laxative," of a product containing the agent of its own containment, can be discerned throughout today's ideological landscape. There are two topics which determine today's liberal tolerant attitude towards Others: the respect of Otherness, openness towards it, AND the obsessive fear of harassment — in short, the Other is OK insofar as its presence is not intrusive, insofar as the Other is not really Other… A similar structure is clearly present in how we relate to capitalist profiteering: it is OK IF it is counteracted with charitable activities — first you amass billions, then you return (part of) them to the needy… And the same goes for war, for the emergent logic of humanitarian or pacifist militarism: war is OK insofar as it really serves to bring about peace, democracy, or to create conditions for distributing humanitarian help. And does the same not hold more and more even for democracy: it is OK if it is "rethought" to include torture and a permanent emergency state, if it is cleansed of its populist "excesses," and if the people are "mature" enough to live by it…


My name is Hannah Pierce-Carlson