Žižek and social change in Malaysia – Part 2


In the techno-apocalyptic hit movie, The Matrix, the hero John Anderson (eventually renamed Neo) was given the choice of two pills by his mentor, Morpheus. There was the blue pill, which would keep Neo within the illusory realm of the computer-generated world of The Matrix.

Or, he could take the red pill and plunge down the rabbit’s hole of the truth (that the world as he knows it is nothing more than a software being run and he’s really stuck in a gel-based bath-tub with two dozens wires plugged into him).

Blue – to stay inside illusion. Red – to have one’s eyes opened to truth.

Žižek has, however, proposed a third pill: One which lets us see the truth within illusion (let’s call this the purple pill).

In one of his master-classes on Lacan, Žižek discusses a comic strip in which three men are asked what they enjoy doing in their free time. The comic strip shows each person answering with a particular hobby (e.g. playing an instrument, mountain-hiking, painting the house, etc.) but thinking the same thing: sex.

Žižek then suggests that reality is more complex because given the nature of sexual fantasies, who ever dreams of doing the act immediately and ‘animalistically’ as if the only thing going on inside even the most horny minds is the ‘act’ of coupling itself .

Don’t we all weave a narrative of fiction (be it about seduction at the office, at a friend’s house, whilst cooking, or whatever)?

The point is, according to Žižek, the comic strip had it backwards: It should’ve shown the men saying ”I want to have sex” whilst imagining different scenarios (e.g. in the park, at the symphony, at the backyard, etc.).

Which brings us to the second Žižek /Lacanian principle in this series (go HERE for the first one):

Truth takes the form of fiction.

Our social world cannot survive without fictions. Truths require fictions.

Take our social and business conversations. Don’t businessmen often ‘dance around’ at the start of negotiations and make all kinds of pointless trivia before casually easing up to the matters at hand?

Then again, is it really possible to have business discussions sans the small-talk?

Don’t we, whenever we have to point out some embarrassing mistake (either by ourselves or others), often cloak the communiqué in ‘polite laughter’?

Then again, especially with people of equal status, how often do we simply call up a person and immediately point out an error?

And when has any political party ever admitted any of their actions or policies to be politically motivated in the least?

Is this because they really think people don’t know?

Or could it be precisely because they know that any intelligent voter will be concerned should their favourite party admit to having political motifs at all?

What would every BERSIH supporter think if all of a sudden Anwar declared out loud that part of BERSIH’s objectives was to put Pakatan Rakyat in power?

Then again, is the proposition that a major public rally against the incumbent government has something to do with raising the popularity of the Opposition, in the least surprising?

And if not, would it not then be the public nature of such a declaration from which the shock-value is derived i.e. that suddenly the truth (which everybody knows) is no longer ‘in the form of fiction’?

Likewise, would the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) ever explicitly state that 1Malaysia seeks to exclude certain parties from being in office, that it’s about keeping UMNO in power?

The truth of political hegemony relies on the fiction of universal popularity.

In this sense, perhaps it’s less helpful to keep repeating how UMNO is full of cronies, scandals and so on.

Perhaps Lim Guan Eng and Karpal Singh of the Democratic Action Party should go live on TV (local and international) commending Barisan Nasional (BN) for being absolutely and 100% corruption-free.