He is best when he stands alone, unrestrained, professing, ninety minutes at a time or more. Question periods are inconveniences forced on him by banal university functionaries - some of whom have been posted at the table next to him in the hopes that somehow they will be able to restrain him. Of course they cannot. Žižek has been threatened in the officers of commissars; a scholastic lackey is no peril.
He's wonderful - and yet, I think, unendurable to many programmed to expect their intellectualism dispensed in the sweet, dulcet tones of an ivy school cerebral.
In this lecture, Žižek struggles to make a point about facts as we understand them, specifically in terms of what we accept as facts and how we inherently ignore these in spite of knowing them. I would offer a quote, except - well, I'll give it a try. Word for word, from 13:19 to 13:58:
"We can also call this the mechanism of what Freud sometimes refers to as, er, izolacija [slov.], isolation, where you accept a fact, but don't take it, don't - you do not - what you abstractly know . . . you do not really - how shall I put it - on a symbolic or effective level, you do not really integrate it. You just rationally deal with it as if this is the case, but again, you somehow suspend its, let's call it symbolic efficiency."
I can't blame him for the difficulty in getting this message across. To express it myself, I'll choose an actual fact. You know that cats exist. Yet, knowing this, you live your entire existence as though cats do not exist. Even when you see a cat, even when you acknowledge that the cat is there, you do not resolve the cat's existence beyond this acknowledgement. To yourself first, then to others as the matter arises, you express your total disbelief in cats - even as you yourself recognize the stupidity of this assertion.
This sounds crazy, but it's not something I haven't noticed; clearly Žižek has noticed it also, Freud must have (whatever you think of Freud, he was at least observant) - and if you think about it, you will be able not only to recognize the characteristic in others, but also in yourself.
However, perhaps you would not be able to after all. Were I to confess something presently that is in my own mind of this nature, then in admitting it I would also be on some greater conscious level integrating it into my condition, no?
Nevertheless, this wouldn't be much of a post if I did not make the attempt. Here goes:
I have trouble reconciling my drive to role-play or work on my world with the reality of what I might have been able to do if I had chosen to apply my capacity to other pursuits. It is easier, for example, to simply argue that of all the people born in the world, one or two of them will possess a natural inclination towards spending most of their life portraying a fantasy landscape - even if, in terms of the 'real world,' this is of very little practical value. It is not defending the poor, it is not healing the sick, it is not defending the country or even helping build the country.
Granted, yes, I can point to the few people who express gratitude, but I realize that the gratitude I could have received as a lawyer or an educator - either profession I could have applied myself towards - would have been more intrinsically useful to society. I can pretend to the contrary all I wish; I can pretend the same to myself. I can equally pretend that I never chose to be a role-player, that I was only 15 when I was introduced and that I was somehow duped, that I never had a choice because I was too young to make a choice - and that by the time I was wise enough to know I was spending too much time on D&D, it was too late to spend time on anything else.
Truth is, I knew it as I was spending too much time on it. And I didn't care. I did not care that other opportunities were available. I did not spend a moment applying myself to anything except my love of writing or gaming. Where an income was necessary, I performed at the level of least effort whenever possible, knowing I was doing it at the time and paying no attention whatsoever to the fallout from that. I sleep-walked through cooking, even though I worked as a chef in a five-star restaurant. I quit jobs when sleep-walking wasn't sufficient, finding another job whenever I wished for one. I cut classes, skipped, produced course-work material the night before and still managed between a 3.3 and 3.5 grade point average (peak is 4.0 in Canada). That was sufficient to call myself an 'honor' student, which was as much of a joke as its possible to express. I did not 'honor' anything about university except that it gave me reading to do, a library to do it in and the possibility of discourse with others who were also reading.
In writing about the hair shirt I know I've got to put on, I'd be remiss if I did not say clearly that I could have put the hair shirt on a month ago. I could have been applying myself harder to the task. I could be out right now raising money from patrons to pay for further printings of the book to press them onto the shelves of more bookstores. Instead I blithely go on designing my D&D world while pretending to feel satisfied that I've gotten ten books on one store's shelf.
But then, cats don't exist. Isn't that the point? Cats do not exist. And working on my world is a fine way to spend the evening. Because there's nothing else I should be doing right now.