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Big Think, Slavoj Žižek: Political Correctness. Part 2

 

But the solution I think is to create an atmosphere or to practice these jokes in such a way that they really function as that little bit of obscene contact which establishes true proximity between us.

And I’m talking from my own past political experience. Ex-Yugoslavia. I remember when I was young when I met from other — when I met with other people from ex-Yugoslavia republics — Serbs, Croat, Bosnians and so on. We were all the time telling dirty jokes about each other. But not so much against the other. We were in a wonderful way competing who will be able to tell a nastier joke about ourselves. These were obscene racist jokes, but their effect was a wonderful sense of shared, obscene solidarity.

And I have another proof here.

Do you know that when civil war exploded in Yugoslavia, early '90s and already before in the '80s, ethnic tensions. The first victims were these jokes; they immediately disappeared. Because people felt well that, for example, let’s say I visit another country. I hate this politically correct respect, oh, what is your food, what are your cultural forms. No, I tell them tell me a dirty joke about yourself and we will be friends and so on. It works. So you see this ambiguity — that’s my problem with political correctness. No it’s just a form of self-discipline, which doesn’t really allow you to overcome racism. It’s just oppressed controlled racism. And the same goes here. I will tell you a wonderful story, a simple one. It happened to me a year ago around the corner here in the bookstore. I was signing a book of mine. Two black guys came, African-Americans, I don’t like the term. My black friends also not, because for obvious reasons it can be even more racist.

But the point is and they asked me to sign a book and seeing them there I couldn’t resist the worst racist remark.

When I was returning the books to them I told them you know, I don’t know which one is for whom, you know, you blacks like yellow guys, you look all the same. They embraced me and they told me you can call me nigga. You know when they tell you this it means we are really close. They instantly got this. Another stupid problem I had. At some talk there was a mute and deaf guy and he asked if a translator can be there. And I couldn’t resist it. In the middle of the talk in front of 200-300 people, I said what are you doing there guys. My idea was that if you watch the gestures of the translator it looked to me as if some obscene messages or what. The guy laughed so much we became friends. And some old stupid lady reported me for making fun of crippled people. It was so didn’t she see that’s how I became friends with the guy. But I’m — wait a minute. Now I’m not an idiot. I’m well aware this doesn’t mean we should just walk around and humiliate each other. It’s a great art how to do it. I’m just saying that’s my hypothesis. Without such a tiny exchange of friendly obscenities you don’t have a real contact with another.

It remains this cold respect and so on, you know.

We need this. We need this to establish a real contact. This is what is lacking for me in political correctness. And then you end up in madness like it’s not a joke. I checked with my Australian friend. You know what happened in Perth, the west coast Australian city. It’s not a joke I repeated. The opera house there prohibited staging of Carmen. Opera Carmen, you know why? Because the first act takes place in front of a tobacco factory. I’m not kidding. I’m not kidding. I’m just saying that there is something so fake about political correctness. It’s — I know it’s better than open racism, of course. But I wonder if it works because, you know, I never, for example, bought all these permanent replacement, you know. Niggers are Negros. Negros are black. Okay, black are African-Americans. Maybe — it’s up to them to decide. The only thing I know is that when I was in Missoula, Montana, I got engaged in a very friendly conversation with some Native Americans. They hate the term and they gave me a wonderful reason. They told me Native American and you are a cultural American so what, we are part of nature. They told me we much preferred to be called Indians.

At least our name is a monument to white men’s stupidity who thought they are in India when they come here.

And they had such a wonderful insight into how all this New Age bullshit, you know, we white people technologically exploit nature while natives relate to nature in a dialogic way like before they dig into earth, they ask the mountain for permission if they are mining blah, blah. They don’t mean that — research shows that Native Americans, Indians, killed much more buffalos and burned much more forests than white people. You know why this was the correct point. Like the message was the most racist thing is to patronizingly elevate us in that, you know, primitive, organic, living together with Mother Nature. No, their fundamental right is to be evil also. If we can be evil, why shouldn’t they be evil and so on. So again even with racism, one has to be very precise not to fight racism in a way which ultimately reproduces, if not directly racism itself, at least the conditions for racism.


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But the solution I think is to create an atmosphere or to practice these jokes in such a way that they really function as that little bit of obscene contact which establishes true proximity between us.

And I’m talking from my own past political experience. Ex-Yugoslavia. I remember when I was young when I met from other — when I met with other people from ex-Yugoslavia republics — Serbs, Croat, Bosnians and so on. We were all the time telling dirty jokes about each other. But not so much against the other. We were in a wonderful way competing who will be able to tell a nastier joke about ourselves. These were obscene racist jokes, but their effect was a wonderful sense of shared, obscene solidarity.

And I have another proof here.

Do you know that when civil war exploded in Yugoslavia, early '90s and already before in the '80s, ethnic tensions. The first victims were these jokes; they immediately disappeared. Because people felt well that, for example, let’s say I visit another country. I hate this politically correct respect, oh, what is your food, what are your cultural forms. No, I tell them tell me a dirty joke about yourself and we will be friends and so on. It works. So you see this ambiguity — that’s my problem with political correctness. No it’s just a form of self-discipline, which doesn’t really allow you to overcome racism. It’s just oppressed controlled racism. And the same goes here. I will tell you a wonderful story, a simple one. It happened to me a year ago around the corner here in the bookstore. I was signing a book of mine. Two black guys came, African-Americans, I don’t like the term. My black friends also not, because for obvious reasons it can be even more racist.

But the point is and they asked me to sign a book and seeing them there I couldn’t resist the worst racist remark.

When I was returning the books to them I told them you know, I don’t know which one is for whom, you know, you blacks like yellow guys, you look all the same. They embraced me and they told me you can call me nigga. You know when they tell you this it means we are really close. They instantly got this. Another stupid problem I had. At some talk there was a mute and deaf guy and he asked if a translator can be there. And I couldn’t resist it. In the middle of the talk in front of 200-300 people, I said what are you doing there guys. My idea was that if you watch the gestures of the translator it looked to me as if some obscene messages or what. The guy laughed so much we became friends. And some old stupid lady reported me for making fun of crippled people. It was so didn’t she see that’s how I became friends with the guy. But I’m — wait a minute. Now I’m not an idiot. I’m well aware this doesn’t mean we should just walk around and humiliate each other. It’s a great art how to do it. I’m just saying that’s my hypothesis. Without such a tiny exchange of friendly obscenities you don’t have a real contact with another.

It remains this cold respect and so on, you know.

We need this. We need this to establish a real contact. This is what is lacking for me in political correctness. And then you end up in madness like it’s not a joke. I checked with my Australian friend. You know what happened in Perth, the west coast Australian city. It’s not a joke I repeated. The opera house there prohibited staging of Carmen. Opera Carmen, you know why? Because the first act takes place in front of a tobacco factory. I’m not kidding. I’m not kidding. I’m just saying that there is something so fake about political correctness. It’s — I know it’s better than open racism, of course. But I wonder if it works because, you know, I never, for example, bought all these permanent replacement, you know. Niggers are Negros. Negros are black. Okay, black are African-Americans. Maybe — it’s up to them to decide. The only thing I know is that when I was in Missoula, Montana, I got engaged in a very friendly conversation with some Native Americans. They hate the term and they gave me a wonderful reason. They told me Native American and you are a cultural American so what, we are part of nature. They told me we much preferred to be called Indians.

At least our name is a monument to white men’s stupidity who thought they are in India when they come here.

And they had such a wonderful insight into how all this New Age bullshit, you know, we white people technologically exploit nature while natives relate to nature in a dialogic way like before they dig into earth, they ask the mountain for permission if they are mining blah, blah. They don’t mean that — research shows that Native Americans, Indians, killed much more buffalos and burned much more forests than white people. You know why this was the correct point. Like the message was the most racist thing is to patronizingly elevate us in that, you know, primitive, organic, living together with Mother Nature. No, their fundamental right is to be evil also. If we can be evil, why shouldn’t they be evil and so on. So again even with racism, one has to be very precise not to fight racism in a way which ultimately reproduces, if not directly racism itself, at least the conditions for racism.

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