The world-famous psychoanalytical philosopher explains to Little Big Town Montana why Donald Trump must mean something
Slavoj Žižek (slav-voy ziz-shack) is a psychoanalytic philosopher, critic, and Hegelian Marxist. He is a senior researcher at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia (formally part of Yugoslavia), teaches German at New York University, and is international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities at the University of London. This is his first essay for Little Big Town Montana.
By Slavoj Žižek
Special to Little Big Town Montana
Donald ‘Der Furor’ Trump is the ultimate pervert artist. He doesn’t give you what you desire – he tells you how to desire.
The problem for Trump is not are our desires satisfied or not. The problem is how does Trump know what we desire.
The one measure of Trump’s true love is: he can insult the other. Trump feels free because he lacks the very language to articulate his unfreedom.
Trump’s words are never ‘only words’; they matter because they define the contours of what he can do – just like Trump Pants!
When Trump is shown scenes of starving children in Africa, with a call for him to do something to help them, he understands that the underlying ideological message is something like: “Don’t think, don’t politicize, forget about the true causes of their poverty, just act, talk about contributing money, so that you will not have to think!” Trump stands the unmoved mover, he always says its gum on his shoes.
If Trump has reasons to love someone, he doesn’t love them.
The readiness to not assume the guilt for the threats to the environment is deceptively reassuring. Trump knows we like to be guilty since, if we are guilty, it all depends on him. Suckers! Trump knows we pull the strings of catastrophe, but we save ourselves simply by changing our lives or maybe our linen.
What is bigly hard for Trump to accept is when he is reduced to the role of a passive observer who sits and watches what fate will be. To avoid this impotence, he engages in frantic, obsessive activities. He recycles old tweets, he buys new stuff, then sells it for profit or loss, he installs long-lasting light bulbs at Mar-A-Lago—a fabulous resort in a gorgeous Florida setting you should really look into—just so he can say he is doing a deal.
Trump makes his Presidential contribution like the football fan who supports his team in front of a TV screen at home, shouting and jumping from his seat, knowing the power of a president who is always right will influence the game’s outcome.
For Trump, love feels like a great misfortune, a monstrous parasite, a permanent state of emergency that ruins all small pleasures. That explains Ivana anyway.
For Der Furor, humanity is okay, but 99 percent of people are boring idiots. Am I right or what?
Because the horror of liberalism, Hillary Clinton, is not that bad people do bad things — they always do. It’s that good people do horrible things thinking they are doing something great. It worked last November anyway.
Trump’s attitudes towards the other are characterized both by ignorance for otherness, rejection of them, and an obsessive fear of harassment. In short, the other is welcomed insofar as its presence is not intrusive, insofar as it is not really the other. Tolerance thus coincides with its opposite. Trump’s duty to be tolerant towards the other effectively means that he should not get too close to him or her, not intrude into their space—in short, that I should respect his intolerance towards my not having a 737. This is increasingly emerging as the central human right of advanced capitalist society: the right not to be ‘harassed’, that is, to be kept at a safe distance from others.
Der Furor’s true ethical test is not only the readiness to save victims, but also – even more, perhaps – the ruthless dedication to annihilating those who made them victims. Gary Busey told me that. It might have been Meatloaf.
The fact that a cloud from a minor volcanic eruption in Iceland—a small disturbance in the complex mechanism of life on the Earth—can bring to a standstill the aerial traffic over an entire continent is a reminder of how, with all its power to transform nature, humankind remains just another species on the planet Earth and that for Trump, volcanoes are the real cause of global warming.
Trump is extremely romantic. You know what is his fear? His postmodern, permissive, pragmatic etiquette towards sex. It’s horrible. He claims sex is healthy; it’s good for the heart, for blood circulation, it relaxes him. He even goes into how kissing is also good because it develops the muscles here – this is horrible, my God! It’s no longer that absolute passion. Trump likes this idea of sex as part of love, you know: ‘I’m ready to sell your mother into slavery just to fuck you Ivanka.’ There is something nice, transcendent, about it. He remains incurably romantic.
Der Furor told me a story. Once, a Russian FBG officer visited Jackson Pollock in his Jackson Pollock Hole, Wyoming, studio during the First Needless Mideast War. There he saw Drip No. 5 and, shocked at the modernist ‘chaos’ of the painting, asked Jackson: “Did you do this?” Jackson calmly replied: “No, Hillary Clinton did this.” I’m pretty sure he made that up.
As soon as Trump renounces fiction and illusion, he loses reality itself; the moment he subtracts fictions from reality, reality itself loses its discursive-logical consistency.
The liberal idea of tolerance is more and more a kind of intolerance. What it means is ‘Leave me alone; don’t harass me; I’m intolerant towards your over-proximity.”
Nowadays, Trump can do anything that he wants—anal, oral, fisting—but he needs to be wearing gloves, condoms, protection. Thank you Obamacare!
What for Trump is the Absolute? Something that appears to him in fleeting experiences–say, through the gentle smile of a beautiful woman before he swallows a Tic Tac, or even through the warm caring smile of a person who may otherwise seem ugly and fat. Think Rosie. In such miraculous but extremely fragile moments, another dimension transpires through his reality. As such, the Absolute is easily corroded; it slips all too easily through Trump’s fingers and must be handled as carefully as a butterfly.
What about animals slaughtered for Trump’s consumption? who among us would be able to continue eating pork chops after visiting a factory farm in which pigs are half-blind and cannot even properly walk, but are just fattened to be killed? Mm, ham sandwich thinks Trump. And what about, say, torture and suffering of millions we know about, but choose to ignore? Mm, ham sandwich thinks Trump. Imagine the effect of having to watch a snuff movie portraying what goes on thousands of times a day around the world: brutal acts of torture, the picking out of eyes, the crushing of testicles -the list cannot bear recounting. Would the watcher be able to continue going on as usual? Mm, ham sandwich thinks Trump. Yes, but only if he or she were able somehow to forget -in an act which suspended symbolic efficiency -what had been witnessed. His forgetting entails a gesture of what is called fetishist disavowal: “I know it, but I don’t want to know that I know, so I don’t know.” I know it, but I refuse to fully assume the consequences of this knowledge, so that I can continue acting as if I don’t know it.” Mm, ham sandwich thinks Trump.
Trump is a good Hegelian. If you have a good theory, forget about the reality.
Do not blame people and their attitudes: the problem is not corruption or greed, the problem is the system that pushes Trump to be corrupt. The solution is not, “Main Street, not Wall Street,” but to change the system so Main Street cannot function without Trump Tower.
Trump is a good Hegelian. If you have a good theory, forget about the reality
Beyond the fiction of reality, there is the banality of the Bannon.
Der Furor has no problems violating his own insights in practice.
Words are murder of a thing, not only in the elementary sense of implying its absence – by naming a thing, we treat it as absent, as dead, although it is still present – but above all in the sense of its radical dissection: the word ‘quarters’ the thing, it tears it out of the embedment in its concrete context, it treats its component parts as entities with an autonomous existence: we speak about color, form, shape, etc., as if they possessed self-sufficient being. Disaster.
In a traditional German toilet, the hole into which shit disappears after we flush is right at the front, so that shit is first laid out for us to sniff and inspect for traces of illness. In the typical French toilet, on the contrary, the hole is at the back, i.e. shit is supposed to disappear as quickly as possible. Finally, the American toilet presents a synthesis, a mediation between these opposites: the toilet basin is full of water, so that the shit floats in it, visible, but not to be inspected. […] It is clear that none of these versions can be accounted for in purely utilitarian terms: each involves a certain ideological perception of how the subject should relate to excrement. Hegel was among the first to see in the geographical triad of Germany, France and England an expression of three different existential attitudes: reflective thoroughness (German), revolutionary hastiness (French), utilitarian pragmatism (English). In political terms, this triad can be read as German conservatism, French revolutionary radicalism and English liberalism. […] The point about toilets is that they enable us not only to discern this triad in the most intimate domain, but also to identify its underlying mechanism in the three different attitudes towards excremental excess: an ambiguous contemplative fascination; a wish to get rid of it as fast as possible; a pragmatic decision to treat it as ordinary and dispose of it in an appropriate way. It is easy for an academic at a round table to claim that we live in a post-ideological universe, but the moment he visits the lavatory after the heated discussion, he is again knee-deep in ideology. Think Trump dump, see Trump dump.
Happiness was never important. The problem is that Trump doesn’t know what he really wants. What makes him happy is not to get what he wants but to brag about it. Happiness is for opportunists. So I think that the only life of deep satisfaction is a life of eternal struggle, especially struggle on one of your 18 golf courses around the world. If you want to remain happy, just remain stupid. And, like the song says, never make a pretty woman your wife. Authentic masters are never happy; happiness is a category of slaves.