Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Beret of Hope

Some particularly interesting text from Žižek's 「First as Tragedy, Then as Farce」:

(on fighting the Taliban)Although in the long term the success of the radical emancipatory struggle depends on mobilizing the lower classes who are today often in thrall to fundamentalist populism, one should have no qualms about concluding short-term alliances with egalitarian liberals as part of the anti-sexist and anti-racist struggle.

What phenomena such as the rise of the Taliban demonstraite is that Walter Benjamin's old thesis that "every rise of Fascism bears witness to a failed revolution" not only still holds true today, but is perhaps more pertinent than ever.


A true left takes a crisis seriously, without illusions, but as something inevitable, as a chance to be fully exploited. The basic insight of the radical Left is that although crises are painful and dangerous they are ineluctable, and that they are the terrain on which battles have to be waged and won. The difference between liberalism and the radical left is that, although they refer to the same three elements (liberal center, populist Right, radical Left), they locate them in a radically different topoligy: for the liberal center, the radical Left and the Right are two forms of the same "totalitarian" excess; while for the Left, the only true alternative is the one between itself and the liberal mainstream, the populist "radical" Right being nothing but the symptomn of liberalism's inability to deal with the Leftist threat.

...The paradox is that liberalism itself is not strong enough to save its own core values from the fundamentalist onslaught. Its problem is that it cannot stand on its own: there is something missing in the liberal edifice. Liberalism is, in its very notion, "parasitic", relying as it does on a presupposed network of communal values that it undermines in the course of its own development. Fundamentalism is a reaction - a false, mystificatory reaction of course - against a real flaw inherent within liberalism, and this is why fundamentalism is, over and again, generated by liberalism.

So, I'm not sure how well my use of terms (or underlying groupings of political thought/movements) line up with Z's (yes, I know I should maybe shorten to Ž, but that's a bit harder to type). My notion of liberalism is that of a cloud of values and conclusions that can be merged into a particular political identity, just like any other cloud of values and conclusions. I am familiar with how Z uses the terms though - while Z is definitely different from the generally thoughtless forms of communism that I've come across in the US, his notion of the liberals as a political and social identity, formed primarily of petit bourgeois and roughly identifying as a cloud starting in the centre of the US Democratic Party and moving left slightly beyond its edges, is fairly common among most other socialists I've known - I know what he's talking about. I'm not sure if that notion of a political space is really adequate (and the "freedom this and freedom that" political compass idea I played with when I was younger was at best training wheels for recognising subtle propoganda). Is Z's framework valid? ... I'm leaning towards a yes given his framework, although I'm not certain about it. If we characterise the multiculturalist flavour of liberalism (my framework) as being characteristic of what he means by liberal, then absolutely yes - multiculturalist/postmodern liberalism would need some serious replumbing and soul-searching to make something that would survive long-term because it fails to impose its values. I'm not convinced that the other flavours of liberalism have that fault though. Would Z consider them not to be liberal, would he say that they barely exist, or say that they're tainted by some of the faults that he mentions?

I'm not sure. I think Z's analysis makes sense and is worth reading, but I feel that it oversimplifies the actual variety in how people see the world in order to allow an analysis with greater claimed strength than is possible with its level of depth.

I strongly suspect though that any analysis that would meet my standards for being philosophically well-grounded and aware of nuances in the world would be so wordy and watered down that it'd be terribly unexciting by contrast to the kinds of arguments people actually make.

Just spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how, on one of our systems, to get a non-interactive bash to read our (involved) dotfiles to pick up the large set of environment variables so that people can run commands over ssh. Turns out that a very tiny shell script wrapper with "#!/bin/bash -login" as the hashbang and "$*" as the only other line is the easiest solution. This in theory should've been easy, but ssh handles quotes in a rather surprising way preventing the obvious "bash -c ..." solution from working. bash's dotfile parsing semantics also leave something to be desired. I am pleased that the grad student I'm working with is up this late too and we're going back and forth over email with fixes to components of the system.


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