Friday, March 18, 2011

Egypt, against universalism

I want to revisit this Riz Khan segment from Al Jazeera English, with Tariq Ramadan and Slavoj Žižek

I think it's ineptly, chauvinistically, and coercively titled "Egypt's Revolution: Can the Popular Uprising Lead to Real Political Change?"  From the get-go, it dooms other possibilities, political or otherwise.  This is reinforced by Ramadan and Žižek despite their words of good conscience that attempt to critique the West's prejudices and hypocrisy toward the Muslim world. 

What's most insulting is Žižek's shoddy shibboleth: "we are all universalists" (4:06).  By being proud for the Egyptians because "they understand democracy by doing what they are doing better than we do in the West" (5:16), he might as well as say that they're more West than the who cares about their specific culture(s)?, this hindrance to solidarity's universal that is general exchange.  Žižek's thinking itself is an ideological symptom.  It's a somewhat valid observation that Islamic fundamentalism filled the void of the Left (14:33), but there was also a void in the Left itself, which could be bad but could be good, a cipher.  Žižek's is a nostalgia for a failed utopia, and the chore of dusting off the memorabilia on the shelves.  Even in the multilinear theory of history, why doom an insurrection to the politico-philosophic circuit of a ravenous incorporating Geist?  We can't even "let the dead bury their dead" (Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte) because Žižek proposes to let the dead resurrect their dead.  And we know from movies, when zombies can't cannibalize the living, they cannibalize themselves. 

Elucidating for me anyways, some passages in Baudrillard's texts collected in The Agony of Power:

"The high point of the struggle against domination was the historic movement of liberation, be it political, sexual, or otherwise - a continuous movement, with guiding ideas and visible actors.

But liberation also occurred with exchanges and markets, which brings us to this terrifying paradox: all of the liberation fights against domination only paved the way for hegemony, the reign of general exchange - against which there is no possible revolution, since everything is already liberated.

Total revolt responds to total order, not just dialectical conflict.  At this point, it is double or nothing: the system shatters and drags the universal away in its disintegration.  It is vain to want to restore universal values from the debris of globalization.  The dream of rediscovered universality (but did it ever exist?) that could put a stop to global hegemony, the dream of a reinvention of politics and democracy and, as for us, the dream of a Europe bearing an alternative model of civilization opposed to neoliberal hegemony - this dream is without hope.  Once the mirror of universality is broken (which is like the mirror stage of our modernity), only fragments remain, scattered fragments.  Globalization automatically entails, in the same movement, fragmentation and deepening discrimination - and our fate is for a universe that no longer has anything universal about it - fragmentary and fractal - but that no doubt leaves the field free for all singularities: the worst and the best, the most violent and the most poetic."