Slavoj Žižek: ‘We are all basically evil, egotistical, disgusting’

The controversial philosopher, 67, on struggling with being a bad father, becoming more aggressive and how writing saved his life

‘My friends call me Fidel’: Slavoj Žižek. Photograph: Antonio Olmos for the Observer

We are all basically evil, egotistical, disgusting. Take torture, for instance. I am a realist. If I had a daughter and someone kidnapped her, and I found a friend of the kidnapper, I cannot say I wouldn’t torture that guy.

I have become more aggressive over time. Some say I am more right wing, which I am absolutely not. On the refugee crisis, we should drop the patronising “They are warm people.” No, there are murderers among them in the same way there are among us. The liberal left prohibit writing anything bad about refugees, which results in the anti-immigrant right monopolising.

I’m not a good father. There is something ridiculous in asserting my dignity which I resist automatically. My teenage son identifies with this undermining of my own authority. When he was 14, I was mad at him and used a vulgar expression in Slovenian: “Let the dog fuck your mother.” He replied: “That already happened 15 years ago. That’s how I was born.”

My friends call me Fidel. Not because of politics, but because I talk too much. I visited Cuba once and on TV, Fidel Castro was shown entering a meeting saying: “Comrades, five minutes to make some remarks.” I went to sleep, woke up five hours later, and he was still talking.

I hate politically correct arrogance. With black friends, in contrast to politically correct white guys, I establish real contact. How? Through dirty stories, dirty jokes. When you visit a foreign country, you play PC games about your interesting food or music, but how do you become really friendly? You exchange a small obscenity.

I’m unable to have one-night stands. In my city, Ljubljana, you can tell exactly which women I’ve slept with, because I married them.

It would be horror to say I love Isis. But look at its organisation with its postmodern fluid identity. There is an emancipatory underground tendency in Islam; a wonderful Muslim historian of philosophy developed a claim that Aquinas misread Aristotle under the influence of Islamic poets like Avicenna, which opened up the way for modernity, gay rights and so on.

My parents weren’t strict, but they were patronising. I didn’t like them. They both died in hospital during the night, and when I found out over the phone the next morning I was already behind my computer working. I said: “Is everything taken care of? OK, thanks,” and carried on. I felt totally cold – something didn’t work there. I am not celebrating myself for that.

Hollywood knows everything. It’s obsessed with dystopias, like in Elysium or The Hunger Games. I really think this is one of our quite possible futures. Young people today should prepare for a big catastrophe, but engage in well thought out, local everyday struggles, and not escape into moralism.

Writing saved my life. Years ago, because of some private love troubles, I was in a suicidal mood for a couple of weeks. I told myself: “I could kill myself, but I have a text to finish. First I will finish it, then I will kill myself.” Then there was another text, and so on and so on, and here I still am.


Reading Žižek – Where to Start?



Disparities by Slavoj Žižek is published by Bloomsbury

The concept of disparity has long been a topic of obsession and argument for philosophers but Slavoj Zizek would argue that what disparity and negativity could mean, might mean and should mean for us and our lives has never been more hotly debated. Disparities explores contemporary 'negative' philosophies from Catherine Malabou's plasticity, Julia Kristeva's abjection and Robert Pippin's self-consciousness to the God of negative theology, new realisms and post-humanism and draws a radical line under them. Instead of establishing a dialogue with these other ideas of disparity, Slavoj Zizek wants to establish a definite departure, a totally different idea of disparity based on an imaginative dialectical materialism. This notion of rupturing what has gone before is based on a provocative reading of how philosophers can, if they're honest, engage with each other. Slavoj Zizek borrows Alain Badiou's notion that a true idea is the one that divides. Radically departing from previous formulations of negativity and disparity, Zizek employs a new kind of negativity: namely positing that when a philosopher deals with another philosopher, his or her stance is never one of dialogue, but one of division, of drawing a line that separates truth from falsity.


Source: Slavoj Žižek: ‘We are all basically evil, egotistical, disgusting’



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