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Zizek on divine violence

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  • Jim
    Wil, Mary, et al, I have finally completed Zizek s In Defense of Lost Causes , and I feel the book ended on a high with the last chapter Ubehagen in der
    Message 1 of 11 , Sep 25 12:28 PM
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      Wil, Mary, et al,

      I have finally completed Zizek's "In Defense of Lost Causes", and I feel the book ended on a high with the last chapter "Ubehagen in der Natur" being the best. Also the epilogue "Afterword to the Second Edition: What Is Divine About Divine Violence" was extremely good.

      In the Afterword Zizek makes clear to me for the first time really his position towards violence, and what he wants to include under that heading. I now admit that some of my earlier contributions on this forum were a little naive and misguided, given I did not fully understand Zizek's position.

      His distinct between "divine violence" and "mythic violence" is crucial as is his distinction between "objective violence" (or "systemic violence") and "subjective violence".

      Divine violence is a good, whereas mythic violence is bad. He mentions Lenin and Guevara as activists who used divine violence. Stalin used mythic violence. He defines divine violence as follows:

      "The minimal definition of divine violence is ... : it is the counter-violence to the excess of violence that pertains to state power. But what is and what is not divine violence? When Benjamin writes that divine violence "may manifest itself in a true war," he thereby indicates that it may appear in many forms: from "non-violent" protests (strikes, civic disobedience) through individual killings to organized or spontaneous violent rebellions and war proper." (p. 483)

      A third example of divine violence relates to Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti. Here is what Zizek writes:

      "The single most controversial thing about Jean-Bertrant Aristide, which earned him comparisons with Sendero Luminoso or Pol Pot, was his occasional condoning of "Pere Lebrun" ("necklacing": killing a police assassin or an informer with a burning tire; ...). In a speech on August 4, 1991, Aristide advised an enthusiastic crowd to remember "when to use it, and where to use it." Liberals immediately drew a parallel between chimeres, the Lavalas popular self-defence units, and Tonton Macoutes, the notorious murderous gangs of the Duvalier dictatorship. Such is the preferred liberal strategy of always equating Leftist and Rightist "fundamentalists," so that, as with Simon Critchley for example, al-Qaeda becomes a new reincarnation of the Leninist party, etc. Asked about chimeres, Aristide said:

      "the very word says it all. Chimeres are people who are impoverished, who live in a state of profound insecurity and chronic unemployment. They are the victims of structural violence, of systematic social violence ... It's not surprising that they should confront those who have always benefited from this same violence."

      These desperate acts of violent popular self-defense are again examples of divine violence: they are to be located "beyond good and evil," in a kind of politico-religious suspension of the ethical. Although we are dealing with what, to an ordinary moral consciousness, cannot but appear "immoral" acts of killing, one has no right to condemn them, since they are the reply to years, centuries even, of systematic state violence and economic exploitation. One should recall here Adorno's apercu apropos how to punish concentration camp guards: the only appropriate thing would have been for the liberated prisoners simply to lynch them immediately, bypassing all legal niceties!" (pp. 478-9)

      I think I (and indeed Simon Critchley) may agree with Zizek that the examples he gives of divine violence are examples of "justified" violence, or, certainly acts of violence which are understandable, given the circumstances, and not to be condemned from the comfort of peacetime prosperity.

      Where I part with Zizek, and agree with Critchley, is over the best way to evaluate these cases of divine violence. I agree with Critchley that such violent acts may be justified as a means to a good end. So, in themselves, the violent acts may well be the best thing to do at the time, but only because they contribute to the better future where justice and peace can be restored.

      Zizek opposes this description of divine violence. For him, the acts of divine violence are good in themselves, good ends in themselves, and are not to be viewed as merely instrumental means to a good end. They are acts of retributive justice which should be celebrated as good-in-themselves.

      For me – and, I believe, Critchley - they may well be acts of restorative justice, but they should be viewed as "necessary evils", necessary, as the only available way to bring about the better society, and the good times of peace, freedom and justice.

      Jim
    • William
      ... Jim, that is the sort of moralising, left wing rationalization I would expect from you. With you it is a moot point as you would never do violence even
      Message 2 of 11 , Sep 25 1:43 PM
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        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
        >
        > Wil, Mary, et al,
        >
        > I have finally completed Zizek's "In Defense of Lost Causes", and I feel the book ended on a high with the last chapter "Ubehagen in der Natur" being the best. Also the epilogue "Afterword to the Second Edition: What Is Divine About Divine Violence" was extremely good.
        >
        > In the Afterword Zizek makes clear to me for the first time really his position towards violence, and what he wants to include under that heading. I now admit that some of my earlier contributions on this forum were a little naive and misguided, given I did not fully understand Zizek's position.
        >
        > His distinct between "divine violence" and "mythic violence" is crucial as is his distinction between "objective violence" (or "systemic violence") and "subjective violence".
        >
        > Divine violence is a good, whereas mythic violence is bad. He mentions Lenin and Guevara as activists who used divine violence. Stalin used mythic violence. He defines divine violence as follows:
        >
        > "The minimal definition of divine violence is ... : it is the counter-violence to the excess of violence that pertains to state power. But what is and what is not divine violence? When Benjamin writes that divine violence "may manifest itself in a true war," he thereby indicates that it may appear in many forms: from "non-violent" protests (strikes, civic disobedience) through individual killings to organized or spontaneous violent rebellions and war proper." (p. 483)
        >
        > A third example of divine violence relates to Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti. Here is what Zizek writes:
        >
        > "The single most controversial thing about Jean-Bertrant Aristide, which earned him comparisons with Sendero Luminoso or Pol Pot, was his occasional condoning of "Pere Lebrun" ("necklacing": killing a police assassin or an informer with a burning tire; ...). In a speech on August 4, 1991, Aristide advised an enthusiastic crowd to remember "when to use it, and where to use it." Liberals immediately drew a parallel between chimeres, the Lavalas popular self-defence units, and Tonton Macoutes, the notorious murderous gangs of the Duvalier dictatorship. Such is the preferred liberal strategy of always equating Leftist and Rightist "fundamentalists," so that, as with Simon Critchley for example, al-Qaeda becomes a new reincarnation of the Leninist party, etc. Asked about chimeres, Aristide said:
        >
        > "the very word says it all. Chimeres are people who are impoverished, who live in a state of profound insecurity and chronic unemployment. They are the victims of structural violence, of systematic social violence ... It's not surprising that they should confront those who have always benefited from this same violence."
        >
        > These desperate acts of violent popular self-defense are again examples of divine violence: they are to be located "beyond good and evil," in a kind of politico-religious suspension of the ethical. Although we are dealing with what, to an ordinary moral consciousness, cannot but appear "immoral" acts of killing, one has no right to condemn them, since they are the reply to years, centuries even, of systematic state violence and economic exploitation. One should recall here Adorno's apercu apropos how to punish concentration camp guards: the only appropriate thing would have been for the liberated prisoners simply to lynch them immediately, bypassing all legal niceties!" (pp. 478-9)
        >
        > I think I (and indeed Simon Critchley) may agree with Zizek that the examples he gives of divine violence are examples of "justified" violence, or, certainly acts of violence which are understandable, given the circumstances, and not to be condemned from the comfort of peacetime prosperity.
        >
        > Where I part with Zizek, and agree with Critchley, is over the best way to evaluate these cases of divine violence. I agree with Critchley that such violent acts may be justified as a means to a good end. So, in themselves, the violent acts may well be the best thing to do at the time, but only because they contribute to the better future where justice and peace can be restored.
        >
        > Zizek opposes this description of divine violence. For him, the acts of divine violence are good in themselves, good ends in themselves, and are not to be viewed as merely instrumental means to a good end. They are acts of retributive justice which should be celebrated as good-in-themselves.
        >
        > For me – and, I believe, Critchley - they may well be acts of restorative justice, but they should be viewed as "necessary evils", necessary, as the only available way to bring about the better society, and the good times of peace, freedom and justice.
        >
        > Jim
        >
        Jim, that is the sort of moralising, left wing rationalization I would expect from you. With you it is a moot point as you would never do violence even after you had rationalized something which is just not in you. Go see Hatians, then you might understand why they are always on the brink of violence. Starve yourself for a few days and then try to watch others eat and you will understand the true roots of violence. Pick up a rifle with intent to hunt and kill other men and you will understand the level of commitment necessary to sustain viiolent acts. Get gassed in a riot and feel the hate and fear you generate for oppression and oppressors. Sitting quietly and reading a leftist book of justification is escapist dreaming.
        In a few weeks I will be deep in the Carribean Islands, places I have not been before. I expect to meet revolutionaries and soldiers of fortune with hard eyes and resolve. I may remember to post you from some especially raunchy hell hole if it has an internet access. Unforunately you will not be able to smell it,taste it and hear the strange music. This time we are going to the edge of the wild carrabean on a foreign island with a foreign government. I would take them a copy of the books you study but most of the real revolutionaries do not read. Bill
      • Jim
        Bill, Zizek says the new proletariat are the slum-dwellers of the big cites of the world. When this class rises up and starts the new revolution, whose side
        Message 3 of 11 , Sep 25 10:59 PM
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          Bill,

          Zizek says the new proletariat are the slum-dwellers of the big cites of the world.

          When this class rises up and starts the new revolution, whose side will you be on?

          Jim
        • William
          ... Jim,my own.Sides are for sissies. Real men are decapitated,standing. I see it as a matter of avoiding those places that explode in class warfare. I see it
          Message 4 of 11 , Sep 26 11:27 AM
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            --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
            >
            > Bill,
            >
            > Zizek says the new proletariat are the slum-dwellers of the big cites of the world.
            >
            > When this class rises up and starts the new revolution, whose side will you be on?
            >
            > Jim
            >
            Jim,my own.Sides are for sissies. Real men are decapitated,standing. I see it as a matter of avoiding those places that explode in class warfare. I see it akin to a shiit/ sunny sort of religous war. We have been conditioned to hate each other for trigger reasons ,pull the trigger and take your chances. I think relative solitude is the best retort to antiprivacy attacks. I certainly would not welcome that sort of event, if you have any illusions of how you will be hailed as a hero but it is as Achilles in Troy.All this talk of rising up is most romantic and we all are granted some of our wishes.
            I do not approve of Zizek says. Why not Jim says or would that be too exposive?
            I am an early boomer , I know the Korean War guys. The WW2 survivors are few so we old boomers are at a memory pinnacle. Soon the mind eaters,dementias show up and it all becomes theory again. I can still know concrete realities and the number grows. When that stops you won
          • Josie
            Jim, Thank you for your perserverance with Zizek. I don t always agree with him, but he provides a philosophical base for discussion. I contend it s critical
            Message 5 of 11 , Sep 27 5:13 AM
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              Jim,

              Thank you for your perserverance with Zizek. I don't always agree with him, but he provides a philosophical base for discussion. I contend it's critical the Left begins to strongly challenge the Right's notion of divine violence. Philosophical thought, rather than common thinking, isn't as easily manipulated by the powerful. Simply utilizing common rationales for violence keeps us locked in cycles of retribution; employing reason at least promises a way forward. If there is solid ground for violence in a given situation, it should be to protect community and promote justice. But what community; whose justice? Have we evolved enough to figure this out? A more participatory democracy can lead the way forward, but this requires the will of more people to get involved in their communities and local governments. Until citizens apprehend the complexities and challenges in preventing opportunitistic politicians from seizing power, they'll remain uninformed, cynical, and powerless. Divine right resides in the people. We have to work this out together or further descend into the night of might makes right.

              Mary

              --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
              >
              > Wil, Mary, et al,
              >
              > I have finally completed Zizek's "In Defense of Lost Causes", and I feel the book ended on a high with the last chapter "Ubehagen in der Natur" being the best. Also the epilogue "Afterword to the Second Edition: What Is Divine About Divine Violence" was extremely good.
              >
              > In the Afterword Zizek makes clear to me for the first time really his position towards violence, and what he wants to include under that heading. I now admit that some of my earlier contributions on this forum were a little naive and misguided, given I did not fully understand Zizek's position.
              >
              > His distinct between "divine violence" and "mythic violence" is crucial as is his distinction between "objective violence" (or "systemic violence") and "subjective violence".
              >
              > Divine violence is a good, whereas mythic violence is bad. He mentions Lenin and Guevara as activists who used divine violence. Stalin used mythic violence. He defines divine violence as follows:
              >
              > "The minimal definition of divine violence is ... : it is the counter-violence to the excess of violence that pertains to state power. But what is and what is not divine violence? When Benjamin writes that divine violence "may manifest itself in a true war," he thereby indicates that it may appear in many forms: from "non-violent" protests (strikes, civic disobedience) through individual killings to organized or spontaneous violent rebellions and war proper." (p. 483)
              >
              > A third example of divine violence relates to Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti. Here is what Zizek writes:
              >
              > "The single most controversial thing about Jean-Bertrant Aristide, which earned him comparisons with Sendero Luminoso or Pol Pot, was his occasional condoning of "Pere Lebrun" ("necklacing": killing a police assassin or an informer with a burning tire; ...). In a speech on August 4, 1991, Aristide advised an enthusiastic crowd to remember "when to use it, and where to use it." Liberals immediately drew a parallel between chimeres, the Lavalas popular self-defence units, and Tonton Macoutes, the notorious murderous gangs of the Duvalier dictatorship. Such is the preferred liberal strategy of always equating Leftist and Rightist "fundamentalists," so that, as with Simon Critchley for example, al-Qaeda becomes a new reincarnation of the Leninist party, etc. Asked about chimeres, Aristide said:
              >
              > "the very word says it all. Chimeres are people who are impoverished, who live in a state of profound insecurity and chronic unemployment. They are the victims of structural violence, of systematic social violence ... It's not surprising that they should confront those who have always benefited from this same violence."
              >
              > These desperate acts of violent popular self-defense are again examples of divine violence: they are to be located "beyond good and evil," in a kind of politico-religious suspension of the ethical. Although we are dealing with what, to an ordinary moral consciousness, cannot but appear "immoral" acts of killing, one has no right to condemn them, since they are the reply to years, centuries even, of systematic state violence and economic exploitation. One should recall here Adorno's apercu apropos how to punish concentration camp guards: the only appropriate thing would have been for the liberated prisoners simply to lynch them immediately, bypassing all legal niceties!" (pp. 478-9)
              >
              > I think I (and indeed Simon Critchley) may agree with Zizek that the examples he gives of divine violence are examples of "justified" violence, or, certainly acts of violence which are understandable, given the circumstances, and not to be condemned from the comfort of peacetime prosperity.
              >
              > Where I part with Zizek, and agree with Critchley, is over the best way to evaluate these cases of divine violence. I agree with Critchley that such violent acts may be justified as a means to a good end. So, in themselves, the violent acts may well be the best thing to do at the time, but only because they contribute to the better future where justice and peace can be restored.
              >
              > Zizek opposes this description of divine violence. For him, the acts of divine violence are good in themselves, good ends in themselves, and are not to be viewed as merely instrumental means to a good end. They are acts of retributive justice which should be celebrated as good-in-themselves.
              >
              > For me – and, I believe, Critchley - they may well be acts of restorative justice, but they should be viewed as "necessary evils", necessary, as the only available way to bring about the better society, and the good times of peace, freedom and justice.
              >
              > Jim
              >
            • Jim
              Mary, Thanks for your comments. I very much agree with what you say. It is up to us and our fellow citizens at the grass-roots level to get more involved in
              Message 6 of 11 , Sep 27 12:40 PM
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                Mary,

                Thanks for your comments. I very much agree with what you say.

                It is up to us and our fellow citizens at the grass-roots level to get more involved in local decision-making and for us to put pressure on those at the top to respond to the demands of justice and progressive thinking.

                Jim
              • William
                ... Jim, grassroots movements are often unstable and can run out of control. Look at the tea party, now it has morphed into a get Obama movement but on the
                Message 7 of 11 , Sep 28 10:39 AM
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                  --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Mary,
                  >
                  > Thanks for your comments. I very much agree with what you say.
                  >
                  > It is up to us and our fellow citizens at the grass-roots level to get more involved in local decision-making and for us to put pressure on those at the top to respond to the demands of justice and progressive thinking.
                  >
                  > Jim
                  >
                  Jim, grassroots movements are often unstable and can run out of control. Look at the tea party, now it has morphed into a get Obama movement but on the way to this temporary meaning we have suffered a great deal of political damage. Those who seek local office can begin by wishing to be of service but underlying political motives often come to the surface. I strongly agree that if you want to get into politics you should run for office. Many people cannot run and working from the sidelines is most difficult. Dilitantte ad hoc movements grow in such vacuumes and morph wildly as membership developes. Look at the history of the Order of hibernians or the friendly sons of St. Patrick. Some stupid drinking club ends up the Nazi party but for what reason? Research Hell`s Angels and think of the crimes done in the name of a former fighter pilots group. SDS went terrorist and some of the catholic conservative groups have not even been infiltrated. If you want to meet new friends I would recommend Kiwanis,not radical political activists. Bill
                • Jim
                  Bill, Rather than leaving the grass-roots political agitation to right-wing zealots or other nut-cases, I think progressive thinkers should try to organise and
                  Message 8 of 11 , Sep 29 5:00 AM
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                    Bill,

                    Rather than leaving the grass-roots political agitation to right-wing zealots or other nut-cases, I think progressive thinkers should try to organise and campaign.

                    There is no substitute for face-to-face discussion and local meetings. Such community interaction takes place without the media distorting the issues.

                    Jim
                  • Josie
                    Jim, It s amazing how many think democracy is strictly defined as voting but equally stupefying how this important right is being infringed. In several states
                    Message 9 of 11 , Sep 29 7:23 AM
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                      Jim,

                      It's amazing how many think democracy is strictly defined as voting but equally stupefying how this important right is being infringed. In several states new voter ID laws strongly discourage the already marginalized and disadvantaged, those very citizens whose representation is needed to balance power. In our state, voter IDs are mandatory and free, but the agency which issues them instructed employees not to tell applicants voter IDs are free and instead let them purchase the official state ID card. Documents required to obtain IDs strictly target economic status. And if a birth certificate and/or social security card is destroyed, lost, or stolen, you need money and/or ID in order to obtain copies! Also, many student IDs are no longer valid as voter identification.

                      But grassroots organizing concerns more than voter registration drives, political rallies, attendance at hearings, demonstrations, etc. It involves community building such as health centers for the under/uninsured, literacy programs, job training, maintaining transportation infrastructure, adequate childcare, and so on. When needs are identified, programs require staffing and volunteers, as well as writing grants and soliciting funds. People need to be in the business of advocating and integrating their own concerns with those of their community. Existentialism is inter-subjective, not isolationist; being responsible for ourselves alone is insufficient for sustaining a community. And a community which disintegrates affects everyone.

                      Mary

                      --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > Bill,
                      >
                      > Rather than leaving the grass-roots political agitation to right-wing zealots or other nut-cases, I think progressive thinkers should try to organise and campaign.
                      >
                      > There is no substitute for face-to-face discussion and local meetings. Such community interaction takes place without the media distorting the issues.
                      >
                      > Jim
                      >
                    • William
                      ... Jim ,If you have found a way to attract smart people you could make big bucks as a head hunter. Of course that would make you no better than the media
                      Message 10 of 11 , Sep 29 11:58 AM
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                        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > Bill,
                        >
                        > Rather than leaving the grass-roots political agitation to right-wing zealots or other nut-cases, I think progressive thinkers should try to organise and campaign.
                        >
                        > There is no substitute for face-to-face discussion and local meetings. Such community interaction takes place without the media distorting the issues.
                        >
                        > Jim
                        >
                        Jim ,If you have found a way to attract smart people you could make big bucks as a head hunter. Of course that would make you no better than the media whores and other godless capitalists like myself. I think you will grow out of your do gooder phase but you might be too old to have any fun. Bill
                      • William
                        Message 11 of 11 , Sep 29 12:05 PM
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                          --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Josie" <josephson45r@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > Jim,
                          >
                          > It's amazing how many think democracy is strictly defined as voting but equally stupefying how this important right is being infringed. In several states new voter ID laws strongly discourage the already marginalized and disadvantaged, those very citizens whose representation is needed to balance power. In our state, voter IDs are mandatory and free, but the agency which issues them instructed employees not to tell applicants voter IDs are free and instead let them purchase the official state ID card. Documents required to obtain IDs strictly target economic status. And if a birth certificate and/or social security card is destroyed, lost, or stolen, you need money and/or ID in order to obtain copies! Also, many student IDs are no longer valid as voter identification.
                          >
                          > But grassroots organizing concerns more than voter registration drives, political rallies, attendance at hearings, demonstrations, etc. It involves community building such as health centers for the under/uninsured, literacy programs, job training, maintaining transportation infrastructure, adequate childcare, and so on. When needs are identified, programs require staffing and volunteers, as well as writing grants and soliciting funds. People need to be in the business of advocating and integrating their own concerns with those of their community. Existentialism is inter-subjective, not isolationist; being responsible for ourselves alone is insufficient for sustaining a community. And a community which disintegrates affects everyone.
                          >
                          > Mary
                          > Mary, I do not think existentialism taxes me with duties and if it did I would reject it and the duties. Sorry, I don`t think it works that way. Bill
                          > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@> wrote:
                          > >
                          > > Bill,
                          > >
                          > > Rather than leaving the grass-roots political agitation to right-wing zealots or other nut-cases, I think progressive thinkers should try to organise and campaign.
                          > >
                          > > There is no substitute for face-to-face discussion and local meetings. Such community interaction takes place without the media distorting the issues.
                          > >
                          > > Jim
                          > >
                          >
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