Slavoj Zizek and Nature: a Swedish view

Via Slavoj Zizek and Nature « enleuk

[A personal favourite bit: 38:30 to ~40 mins]

…and, now, Enleuk’s paraphrasing:

“Psycho-analysis shows only a temporary truth, like there is no big Other [I’m not fluent in Lacanian, but I believe this means God as a deistic or panentheistic force of will and not a pantheistic or transcendent(?) God], but then you have to return to the illusion. The idea is that our social lives are necessarily illusory. All you can do is get these momentary insights. If this is the case, then life is boring. Instead I want to know if we can make truth operative in politics and social life. My whole point would be, yes, we can. The whole development pushes in this direction. One example is ecology.

Ecology is on the one hand an absolutely real problem and one of the biggest fields of ideological investment. There’s a book called Ecology without nature, that should be our solution. It’s not some kind of subjectivism, what he means is that what we mean by nature, in the ecological paradigm, is automatically connected to some kind of homeostatis, some harmonious organic reproduction balance that is disturbed by human hybris and we should reestablish the balance.
I think we should drop this paradigm. If there is a lesson from radical darwinians it is that there is no nature, if by nature we understand this kind of balance which was disturbed, nature is crazy in itself.

The ecological crisis is more serious than we think, there is nowhere to withdraw, there is no balance to return to, the situation is totally open. Some German said the goal of humanity should not be to reestablished to some natural balance but to violate nature even more. Nature left to itself would explode and render human life impossible, since humans can only survive in certain weather or climate conditions. We should try to fix and freeze the earth, be even more violent.
Also we should totally drop all references to antiscientific jargon. Often people say ‘the source of ecological troubles is our overexploitation, objectivisation of nature, we act as if nature is out there, the object, as if we are not embedded in nature, breathing with it, we should step out of technological attitude and live with nature.’

This is a problem, not a solution. the problem for me is the following: We’re in deep shit, like global warming, so why dont we act? It’s an example of the fetischist disavowal: ‘I know very well but’ like when you hear a speech on ecology, then you step out, see the sun, the birds, the rain. Because we are embedded in it we cant really accept that this can change.

So paradoxically we need more alienation from nature in the sense we have to accept nature in its total contigency, madness. Nature is not balanced paradise, it’s madness. Every natural balance is temporary and fragile, the smallest imbalance and everything goes crazy. This brings it to the end: that the big Other doesn’t exist. Usually people say either you are a subjectivist and self-responsible, this means you are an arrogant absolute subject, or you defer to the higher authority and it’s a difficult thing to separate between these two but we must accept that we are totally responsible but nonetheless not absolute subjects. It’s a very difficult position to sustain but we will be forced into it.”

“We should try to fix and freeze the earth, be even more violent.”

I agree that we should manipulate the Earth, that’s what we have hands for, but freezing it will not be possible because that means canceling evolution, a chemical process operating at a molecular level since 3 billion years. Freezing for me equals a delusion of balance. The viruses will find a way. We have to accept that life is a constant fight, there is no pause button. However, we can fight it with nukes and science and metal and stone and nanotechnology. We can build airtight glass boxes filled with water and grow food in them. We don’t have to care about what people think food is, we can use any type of body and any type of energy.

“Often people say ‘the source of ecological troubles is our overexploitation, objectivisation of nature, we act as if nature is out there, the object, as if we are not embedded in nature, breathing with it, we should step out of technological attitude and live with nature.’”

I think I’ve said this myself, except I think technology is equally a creative and destructive tool and that it too is part of nature. I think the problem when people say this is that they limit nature to the greenery outdoors and fail to see that everything in the universe is nature, including forks and computers and humans. For me, the solution is not ideological, but moral and practical. My morals are that all sentient beings should be allowed their illusion of free will and when two wills clash a compromise should be attempted. That’s it, however naive it may seem. And practically, it means that we can’t build billions of cars and industries run by energy that is consumed at a rate of a million times faster than it replenishes (oil and natural gases). That’s just common sense. Also, the earth is mainly silicon and the biggest energy source around is the sun. It’s pretty easy to see what we should focus on. Plurality is not a goal in itself, only a tool for achieving the moral. If we kill all species we might suffer ourselves. We should consequently also only exterminate species with old and dying individuals. Don’t take that too literally though, it’s just an example.

“we are totally responsible but nonetheless not absolute subjects. It’s a very difficult position to sustain but we will be forced into it”. For me, simplifying this ontological (apparent) paradox, I accept that this body I call mine is a part of a contingent reality, yet its described unique history of action has ramifications for itself within the system.

3 Comments

Filed under global issues, philosophy and metaphysics, politics

3 responses to “Slavoj Zizek and Nature: a Swedish view

  1. enleuk

    Nice to meet you, I’ll check out your blog. Are you Canadian and what is/who are transliminal.org?

  2. enleuk

    Btw, I’m not sure what I can offer concerning the BBC interview. I think 300 can be interpreted in many ways and that there are at least 3 pills of capitalism. If you ask a specific question I would give you an answer though. I wrote a post recently about “the South” as different from west, east and middle-east. If you look at Sudan today where south Sudan are gonna vote for independence you can see a clear dividing line between the Muslims and the Africans. “Clear”, of course, as clear as a geo-cultural line can ever be. But the most interesting part is that China gets a lot of oil from south Sudan, so you have Muslim, African, old oil capitalism, new China et cetera all at once. Now, with the old oil-based economy going out of fashion and China goes “we used to be poor and Sino-African relations go back millenia so Africa is our friend” and Africa goes “who are you?” I’m an optimist, so I would hope the Chinese invested in universities and factories so the Sudanese become the leading experts on solar power and hydroponics, but more realistically there’s gonna be more war and exploitation.

    Dunno why I wrote all that, it just popped into my head.

  3. enleuk

    Did you not like my comment and decided not to reply or are you just not monitoring comments that often?

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