What Is Not Shown – Part 2

If you haven’t read part 1 of this post, it might be helpful to do that before continuing to this one, since I set up arguments in the first that I extrapolate on here.

What Zizek implies in Interrogating the Real is that we, as subjects acting within our cultural paradigms, have a very strong need to obey, to be acknowledged, to be validated. Consumer culture puts this mechanism to good use; life-style identification type marketing ‘shows’ us what we should aspire to.

But more interestingly, it also teaches us just how far we are from being acceptable – in gender, in sexuality, in body-type, in race, in religion – not by making resistant behaviour illegal, but by encouraging us to demand acknowledgement and inclusion. Lee Edelman’s No Future offers a counter-argument to that yearning for inclusion by pointing out how ironically self-hating it is. For Edelman, equality in marriage laws for gays and lesbians doesn’t promise equality, but is simply caving in to the pressure of a hegemony that refuses to recognize that love without legal status is as precious and valid.

I find this is also the case for many non-normative individuals: transgendered people, practitioners of BDSM, polyamory, etc. This demand to be recognized, respected, validated does not grant them equality or fair-treatment as much as confers and underscores the power of that system to grant them legitimacy. Where once we entered a confessional and begged god, via the priest, for absolution, we are now begging the same off power structures with fairly questionable power-practices. In essence, we want our Daddy to love us as the perverts we are and tell us that what we want is okay. But in that very act of petitioning, we are saying that this system has the legitimate power to do that.

I don’t think it does. I think, for the most part, Western neo-liberal capitalism is a very poor parent. It pays lip-service to equality while jailing and killing a disproportionate number of people of Colour. It persuades us that we must consume things that offer us no real benefits. It stages elections but allows votes and influence to be bought by rich and powerful interest groups. It uses us to work and to consume, and enriches and empowers itself at our expense.

As parents go, it’s a userous, manipulative and selfish parent.


3 Thoughts on “What Is Not Shown – Part 2

  1. James Gordon on August 12, 2015 at 6:25 pm said:

    Enormously well said, and defining of a major ideological conflict of our time. Perhaps the conflict, and one I feel daily. I don’t want to acknowledge the power of the system to define. I can celebrate gay marriage, while feeling the only real and lasting victory would to be to get the state out of the business of making laws pertaining to individual relationships.

    I will say, especially in the United States, that the hegemony has sharp teeth. The power to marry, for example, is the power to bestow health care, and I have seen so many relationships shattered because one partner could not get physical or mental health care. To live blatantly outside the system without the privilege of wealth is to risk a police state taking one’s children.

    There is more than ideological incentive to swallow the poison pill and not choose to live, as did the idealists of the 1960s, outside the system. The system is designed to punish, harm, or cut off from benefits that should be shared equally among all its members, those who do not follow its paradigms.

    That forces a difficult trade-off. Those who can afford to thwart the system are those of us who were born with privilege, and to give such advice to others is often to advise them to put themselves in harm’s way. This excellent piece of writing underscores the need for reform of the underlying principles. Ideas alone can’t make that happen but they contribute to the ferment that can spur action, especially when made available to the individual in an emotionally accessible way through art.

    • “the only real and lasting victory would to be to get the state out of the business of making laws pertaining to individual relationships.”

      I think you’ve said a mouthful there. Regardless of sexual orientation, individual relationships are not the business of the state, and the privilege afforded to those who do marry is an instrument of that ridiculous overreach.

  2. I suspect partly that when people seek validation for a course of action taken. They are conducting themselves in a way that they themselves feel is inappropriate to their conscious, the struggle within. The desire is that they want to be told that the course is okay, freeing them of the burden of self imposed guilt. Human insecurities play a large roll.

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