Hello. I remember, when I was three years old, back in my nursery class, we were singing this song, or at least, trying to sing a song. Some of you might have heard of it actually.

It’s about a wise man who builds his house upon the rock, and a foolish man who builds his house upon the sand. When the rains came down, and the floods came up, it was the house on the rock that stood firm. Looking back now,

I see there’s a clear message to this song. And that is that the best way to allow all of us to flourish as much as possible is to provide us with firm foundations from which to build our lives. In the song, these foundations were a physical rock from which the wise man built his house. Now I see these foundations as financial.

That is, enough money to cover our basic necessities; a roof over our head, food on our table, heat and light for our home, before we earn extra money through paid employment. That’s the idea I want to share with you today: that we shouldn’t have to work just to survive. I know what you’re thinking. It was emphatically articulated by a so-called “social media troll” last time we did this, back in November, and that is, “Why should I listen to some posh bloke, with a ridiculous double-barreled name, and a center parting in his hair, tell me about why we shouldn’t have to work to survive?” Well, they were right. That haircut? Absolutely terrible. (Laughter)

But for those of you who are skeptical about this idea, I invite you to consider this with me. Because if work is just about survival, just about putting food on our table, just about getting a roof over our head, or even just about struggling to make it to the end of the month, week, or even day then it’s very difficult for any of us to look beyond that. For it is only when we can look past the question of, “What do I need to do today to survive?” that we can ask ourselves, “What do I want to do to live?” This isn’t my idea. It’s not something I’ve read in a book, or a theory, or anything like that. The benefits of it can be seen all around us. Take this university, right here. Hundreds of thousands of students, many of you will be sitting in this room today, a part of a vibrant community of student-led organizations; societies, social enterprises, start-ups, voluntary organizations, all kinds of things. TEDx University of Edinburgh being one example.

Another example, as Alistair said earlier, is The Buchanan Institute, Edinburgh’s first student-led think-tank, which I, and a few others, helped to set up back in January. None of us do these things because we have to, but because we love doing them. And for many of us, they almost become like full-time jobs. People ask us, “Do you get paid to do it?”

We don’t, for the most part. And I speak for myself, but I also did it because I could. You see, I was lucky. I had enough money through a combination of student loans and allowances to cover my basic necessities so that I didn’t need to work. I stress this because in reality, if I was having to work 30 hours, 20 hours, even 15 hours a week, on top of my studies to cover my basic necessities of being here, then there’s no way I would have had the time and energy necessary to set up The Buchanan Institute.

Many people will say, “That’s all well and good these voluntary student organizations, they’re very nice, but where’s the money going to come from? Who’s going to make the money so that we can pay for this situation where nobody needs to work to survive?” Well, the most entrepreneurial and innovative people in our society also benefited from a situation where they didn’t need to work just to survive.

Take for example, Steve Jobs. Back in 1976, he co-founded Apple whilst working with his friend Steve Wozniak in his parents’ garage. Job’s wasn’t rich. But he had a roof over his head, he had food on his table, he had all the appliances and tools he needed so that he could focus his time and energy on creating the first Apple prototype in 1976. You see, if Steve Jobs had to work in a minimum wage job, 50 hours, 40 hours a week, just to pay for his basic necessities, then he wouldn’t have been the founder of Apple. We may never have heard of iPhones or iPods.

But let me take you to the Namibian village of Otjivero, Omitara. For it is here where an organization called, “The Basic Income Earth Network” conducted a simple yet groundbreaking experiment.

They provided every single Namibian villager in this village with a basic income, enough to cover their basic subsistence. The skeptical among us – and I was talking to a few today – would say, “These Namibians! if they’re given enough to survive on, then they’re going to be lazy. They’re not going to work. They’ll sit on their asses all day.”

Well actually, the opposite happened. The percentage of those involved in income generating activities rose in that year from 44% to 55%. This is what happened: freed from reliance on low-paid labor, just to cover their survival, the villagers could choose what they did with their lives and decide how they earned extra money for themselves and their families. For many, this was starting up their own small businesses.

Becoming dressmakers, brick makers, or bread bakers. People have said, “That’s all well and good, but that’s Namibia. That’s a developing country. The west is different; it won’t work.” Well for them we can say, “Canada”. In 1976, the Canadian government conducted a similar experiment in the town of Dauphin, Manitoba.

Every single person who lived in that town no longer had to work just to survive. It was called, “The town without poverty”. Once again, people didn’t stop working. The only groups of people who worked slightly less in that year were mothers, and some fathers, with newborn babies. And some teenagers who relieved from the pressures of earning money for their families, could now go back to school. But something else happened. Relieved from the daily mental and physical stresses of having to work to survive, the ‘town without poverty’ became a healthier one. They actually, in that year, saved 13% on their overall healthcare costs. Something in the UK, with strains on NHS budgets, we could perhaps think about. So what about the UK? Could we try something similar here?

Well actually, yes! An organization called “The Citizen’s Income Trust” have shown that by simply reorganizing our existing tax and benefits system, we could provide every single UK adult with nearly 3,700 pounds a year. This is without hardly spending an extra penny. How? Well first of all, this basic income would replace means-tested benefits that we would no longer need, whilst ensuring that no-one was worse off. But also it would replace the personal tax allowance that we get to a certain level of our income.

So rather than paying tax and then getting money back in a personal tax allowance from the government, you would have this tax-free cash lump sum called, “a basic income” in it’s place. Then what if people say, “Well what if the rich get it? The rich don’t need it. It wouldn’t work.” Then we can say, “In this country we have something called ‘the basic state pension’ for all pensioners. “The basic state income” is the same thing, but for all adults. And the Swiss? Well, they could go further. Much further. In 2016, they will hold a popular referendum to decide whether to introduce a basic annual income to every Swiss citizen of nearly 21,000 pounds a year. Fully-funded, fully-costed.

Sounds good. So, I want to ask you. Let’s imagine that you woke up in Switzerland the morning after that referendum passed and you found yourself with a guarantee of 21,000 pounds a year. Put your hands up, how many of you, would stop working completely? There’s actually nobody. Not one person. It’s not actually surprising. Some of you might work a bit less. Spend more time with the family, spend more time doing leisure. Some of you might realise that you hate your job, and you’re going to use that basic income as a platform to go and do something that you really want to do. It isn’t surprising because as many of us know, work doesn’t have to be just about surviving. It can be about following our passions, fulfilling out dreams, or, as I have been so lucky to do during this whole TEDx process, meet, and work with, and build lifelong friendships.

About six months ago, I was at the hospital, just after my sister had given birth to her son and my nephew called Raffi. I remember, standing there, holding this little thing in my arms and thinking, “Don’t drop him.”

(Laughter) Then I thought, these questions about the future, and how to be OK in the future, and what kind of society we can live in in the future, aren’t just for our generation sitting here. They’re for the ones behind us. The ones being born or yet to be born. And when he grows up and if he ever gets around to and wants to ask his uncle for advice about work and life, – which is wishful thinking- I’d like to tell him, and be that uncle that tells him something similar to what you might tell your kids and probably do. “Raffi, don’t just work because you need to.

Do it so that every day, you wake up doing something you are really passionate about, with the people that you love.” My nephew will probably have the opportunity to do this. He may never have to work just to survive. And people have said to me, “So Johnny, in that case, why do you care? Why do you care whether or not people should have to work to survive? Because it’s not enough. It’s not enough that my nephew has this opportunity. It’s not enough that I had this opportunity. It’s not enough that many people I know, and many of us in this room, probably had this opportunity. In fact, it’s not enough until every single person, every single one of us in this room, in this country, or even in this world, can at least wake up every single morning and genuinely ask themselves, not “What do I need to do today just to survive?”, but “What do I want to do to live?” Thank you very much. Have a great day and enjoy the rest of the talks. (Applause)

You are simply wrong. How can you say he wants handouts when he is arguing for giving out handouts?

He is doing this because he is the one with the opportunity to do so. And he is doing so to help those without the opportunities he has and has had. You did not invent the computer or internet, you are using someone else’s hard work, every technology you use is likely not anything you had any hand in creating. You are arguing that no one should share their hard work so the person who invented the computer should have simply kept it to himself correct?

We should all just be left to fend for ourselves is what you are arguing for but by that logic you would not have a computer unless you could build one yourself and without any starting materials as no one is going to share a single thing with you, material or knowledge, by your logic no one should give up anything they worked to create. Oh but you say it is different because you paid for your computer right? Paid for how? With money you earned working a job? In other words money you earned via the mere fact you had the opportunity to be born in a place with access to a paying job and without any disabilities to performing that job.

Lucky you. Not everyone has those opportunities thus not everyone can afford not just a computer but even the basic things necessary for survival like food and shelter. He is arguing that everyone should have the opportunity to do what they want not just what they need to do to survive.

Example, if you are living on the street it is very hard to take the time to find a job when all your time is spent finding food for the day or a place to sleep for the night and how do you even get to a job interview with no transportation? Again you can’t just hop on the bus because you need to find something to eat first you haven’t eaten in 24 hours and the last thing you ate was scraps from the garbage, you need to find more not sit around on a bus and in a job interview and besides you were digging in the trash who is going to hire you when you smell and look like garbage? You would need to clean up first but then you don’t have any time for that cause oh you found some food but you still need to find a place to sleep for the night.

Maybe you’ll sit on the corner and ask for handouts so you can afford something other than garbage to eat, cause you know there is some food in that trashcan nearby if you don’t get enough money for some food, but you cant hop on the bus to your job interview and come back to find the trash empty or eaten by some other homeless person and not have gotten the job and now its too late to sit out asking for hand outs its cold outside and you don’t have much to keep warm so you need to go inside with no food for the day and you didn’t get the job cause your clothes are dirty and you smell like garbage and why would you even bother attempting to get a job in that situation?

They just don’t have the opportunities as someone in a stable household. It has nothing to do with laziness or even drugs or alcohol because addiction is the same problem, an addicts life revolves around their addiction the same way a homeless persons life revolves around daily survival, there is just no time for any improvements to be made on themselves.



“Dont like it find a new job or leave” – ancaps

Do you mean, “find a new slavemaster that will be exploiting you less”?


Typically, people are rich because of hard work. I don’t know any rich people who were born rich. They all went to school and started a business that is vital to the community, or they work for people who have vital businesses.

Typically, people are rich because of hard work. I don’t know any rich people who were born rich. They all went to school and started a business that is vital to the community, or they work for people who have vital businesses.

No, in AnCap you do what is profitable, which means serving the interests of people who have money. We don’t do anything for profit. We do things that are helpful to the largest number of people in the group.

If you weren’t a beta piece of shit you would love your job, contributing to society, being productive and providing.

So many communists are so entitled to laziness, and you somehow think that you’re laziness will subside when all personal incentive is removed from labor? The irony is palpable.

In the late 1970s and ‘80s, the sociologist H. Roy Kaplan performed now-classic research on what became of lottery winners. His most famous study asked lottery winners how happy they had been before and after their big checks arrived. That 1978 study, which had a very small sample size, famously found that lottery winners were not that much happier than the control group—a bunch of people who didn’t win the lottery—after their win.

There are a lot of other aspects at work that play a big role besides the extrinsic reward of money: relationships, achievement needs that people have, status needs outside of money,” says Scott Highhouse, psychology professor at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, and lead author of a 2010 study on workers and the lottery. When Americans are asked if they’d keep working after winning the lottery, two-thirds consistently say they would, his study shows. Of course, that’s a pretty theoretical response. Studies of actual lottery winners tend to suggest that most winners do keep working.

“It is clear that winning the lottery does not automatically result in individuals’ stopping work,” concluded a 2004 study of Iowa and Ohio lottery winners. Of the 185 winners’ surveys examined in the study, 85 percent continued working in some capacity.

Economist Olivier Schneller states that, “Over the last 30 years there has been no improvement in job satisfaction. On the contrary, a steady decrease in job satisfaction has occurred at a time where economic capacities have doubled. So, in summary, through hard work we’ve achieved a state in which as a society we have freed ourselves from [almost all] material needs. The problem now is we are so used to hard work being responsible in the past for improving our well-being, that we don’t question today how changing work itself could be beneficial to us. The developed economy of today doesn’t have to rely on the assumption anymore that we have to be forced to work, because we WANT to work.”

“The most common objection I hear is, ‘But then no one would work anymore!’ Honestly, I’m shocked at how our system manages to maintain such a negative view of us humans. The way I see it, money is by far not the only reliable motivator to work. We are motivated by our interests, by social recognition, social integration, finding self-fulfillment, or just simply by having fun at what we do.

Let us assume that you believe me: that most of us would work even if they didn’t have to; but there are a few lazy ones who wouldn’t work anymore. In such a case, does it make sense to hold on to a system that focuses on the few lazy ones by trying to make them work, instead of moving to another system that focuses on the majority that want to work by giving them the freedom to be productive?”

Schneller goes on to say that, “A lot has been discussed on how to improve the working environment by removing extrinsic motivators. This ongoing discussion is very important, but what bothers me is so far it has only focused on the organizational level; it has only focused on what managers can do to remove extrinsic motivators within the organizations. It has completely ignored the system that surrounds these organizations. It has ignored the fact that our concept of work established throughout our economic system relies on one big, fat, extrinsic motivator. We are forced to work because we have to earn money to secure a living. In other words, the current concept of work is currently set up to kill the intrinsic motivation of the workforce. By being forced to work we are led to believe that work is a burden, we forget that we actually want to work, and as a result, our engagement level is limited. So how imortant is this negative effect on worker motivation?”

Most taxation doesn’t go to people who wont work, you get that right? It’s actually mostly corporate benefits and war.. This is what gets me about anCaps.. You call everything Government does “communism” even if it’s really about the profit of the elite. Venezuela is to Communism what the US is to Capitalism.. You can’t have your cake and eat it too

That’s real solid grounds for a debate.. Anyway, within capitalism the bottom line is profit… Companies will do whatever to get profit whether those actions are moral, amoral, or, immoral. They already do today, and nothing will stop them. anCaps are still unable to prove “conscious consumerism” has the capability to take down Mega Corporations, so it’s all conjecture.

No one’s “running away” my time is limited. I have to work most of my life away to survive, I’m not going to waste my precious time playing a board game with a child who will ultimately throw the board and stomp around as if he won..

This man is genius. Being forced to work is the cause of drug addiction, domestic violence, unhappiness, unnecessary stress= health issues, and many other negative things. We need a universal basic income now.


Hi, everyone. This is a picture of me with my little daughter. Cute, right? Becoming a father is not only a very heartwarming experience; becoming a father, in Germany, also offers the great fringe benefit of taking a paid sabbatical leave, thanks to the concept called ‘parents time’.

And that’s exactly what I’m currently doing, enjoying a one-year parental leave from work. A few weeks ago, my wife came to me and said to me, “Olivier, it’s strange. You’re on a sabbatical. You don’t have to work, but in the last six months, you have worked more than before.”

And she’s probably right. I have worked more than before. This, in my opinion, raises a very interesting question. What if, instead of having to work, we were free to work? What if work was not our only income channel, so that it was a free choice to work? I believe that the obligation to work because we have to earn money to secure a living, is one of the biggest misconceptions of our time.

I’m convinced that if we were free to work, this would unlock a huge, hidden potential in our society.

To explain to you why I have this strong belief, I want to present three arguments.

First, as a society we have achieved an economic state that allows us to rethink work. This shows the development of real GDP per capita over the last decades in Germany. Over the last 40 years, we have doubled GDP per capita when adjusted for inflation.

We have doubled the economic output per person. That’s a huge achievement. But how were we able to transfer this huge achievement into a better well-being of our society? Has our well-being also doubled in the same time period?

Obviously, a better economic situation has allowed us more financial freedom, and more consumption over time. This means that we work more and more to satisfy our luxury needs. The paradox, however, is that we are completely ignoring our luxury needs in the one area of life we spend the most time at, and that’s work itself. It seems as if our well-being at work was not as important, even though we spend most of our lifetime working. Let me illustrate this with a few examples. We work nearly as much today as we did 40 years ago. The number of burnouts caused by high levels of stress at work has risen dramatically. Or let’s have a look at some data on job satisfaction in Germany. It suggests that over the last 30 years, there has been no improvement. You could even talk about a slight decrease in job satisfaction, in a time when our economic capacities have doubled. So, in summary: through our hard work, we have achieved a state in which as a society we have freed ourselves from material needs. And the problem now is that we are so used that hard work was responsible, in the past to improve our well-being, that we don’t question today how changing work itself could be beneficial to us.

My second argument. The developed economy of today doesn’t have to rely on the assumption anymore that we have to be forced to work, because we want to work. When I tell people about my idea of being free to work, the most common objection I hear is, “But then no one would work anymore.”

Honestly, I’m shocked at how our system manages to maintain such a negative view of us humans. The way I see it, money is by far not the only reliable motivator to work. We are driven by our interests, by social recognition, social integration, finding self-fulfillment, or just simply by having fun at what we do. Take me as an example. There is no need for me to do any work this year, but still I feel the urge to enjoy my freedom by being active, participating in interesting projects, and realizing all my ideas for which I never had time. You might think that I’m rather the exception [to] the rule, and that I’m an idealist to believe that these soft factors are strong enough to motivate us to work.

I surely am an idealist, but the nice thing is, many observations in real life support my idealistic view. Take, for instance, all the unpaid work we can observe in our society.

As an example, 30% of the workers in Germany are doing voluntary work next to their work. Thirty percent of the people that work most of their lifetime decide to do unpaid work in their free time.

They must be crazy. But believe me, it’s getting crazier than this. ‘Descape’ is a startup based here in Berlin that offers time outs from your day job with short trips in other work areas. The crazy part? These people pay for these trips.

They pay to do another person’s job! And we shouldn’t forget the craziest ones, and at the same time, the luckiest ones: the lottery winners. A study conducted in the USA surveyed 117 lottery winners, with an average winning of 3.6 million dollars. The study found that 85% of these lottery winners continued to work after winning the lottery. Let me conclude these observations with an open question.

Let us assume that you believe me, that most of us would work, even if they didn’t have to, but there are other few lazy ones who wouldn’t work anymore. In such a case, does it make sense to hold on to a system that focuses on the few lazy ones by trying to make them work, instead of moving to another system that focuses on the majority that wants to work by giving them the freedom to be productive?

My third and final argument, for why I am convinced about the idea of being free to work, is the most important one. Forcing us to work kills our motivation. It kills our motivation to excel at work.

In 1971, Edward Deci conducted an experiment to understand how human motivation works. The participants were divided in two groups, and asked to solve puzzles. One group was paid money if they solved the puzzles, the other group was not.

The experiment included a break between the puzzle-solving sessions.

Guess what happened during those break times? The group that didn’t receive any money spent significantly more time playing with the puzzles during break time than the group that received money.

The experiment showed that extrinsic motivators like monetary reward, the fear of punishment, or the obligation to do something reduced intrinsic motivation, a person’s internal drive to do something because of the interest, and the enjoyment of the activity itself. I think all of us can relate to this result. When my wife tells me to take care of my little daughter, it feels like an annoying duty, even though I love spending time with her.

The groundbreaking experiment of Deci has been followed by plenty of research on human motivation. A very important result this research has shown is that intrinsically motivated people – people who feel related to what they do – are more creative, more innovative, and better at problem solving.

And as these are exactly the skills needed to be productive in our knowledge economy of today, a lot has been discussed on how to improve the working environment by removing extrinsic motivators.

This ongoing discussion is very important. But what bothers me is that so far, it has only focused on the organizational level. It’s only focused on what managers can do to remove extrinsic motivators within the organizations. It has completely ignored the system that surrounds these organizations. It has ignored the fact that our concept of work, established in our economic system, relies on one big, fat, extrinsic motivator.

We are forced to work, because we have to earn money to secure our living. In other words, the current concept of work is perfectly set up to kill the intrinsic motivation of the workforce.

By being forced to work, we are led to believe that work is a burden.

We forget that we actually want to work, and as a result, our engagement level is limited. How important is this negative effect on work and motivation? According to the Gallup Engagement Index – that’s a large, worldwide survey on work engagement – only 15% of the workers in Germany are engaged. Only 15% are passionate, and committed to their work. The other 85% are either not engaged, meaning that they only put as much effort in to work as necessary, or that they’re actively disengaged, meaning that in their minds they’ve already quit their job.

These numbers are alarming from an economic viewpoint, as 85% of the workers are not as productive, and not as committed to drive things forward as they could be. That’s a huge, hidden potential for innovation, for entrepreneurship, and for productivity in our economy.

But these numbers are also heartbreaking from a social perspective, as 85% of the workers spend most of their lifetime with something they don’t really enjoy. Let me summarize.

First, through our hard work in the past, our economy has grown to a level that allows us to rethink work.

Second, forcing us to work is not necessary, as we want to work. And third, forcing us to work kills our intrinsic motivation to excel at work. These three arguments led me to believe that being free to work would have a fundamental, positive impact on our society by allowing us to live richer lives. But now, where does that leave us here, living in this reality, where we are forced to work? In particular, where does that leave you, all the students here in this room, soon entering the job market?

Well, there is this growing movement, calling for the introduction of an unconditional basic income. That’s a sum of money that everyone receives to cover her or his basic needs. This is probably the perfect economic instrument to realize my idea. We could just wait until this movement is large enough to succeed. But the good news is, you don’t necessarily have to wait.

All it requires is that you rethink your own, personal reality of work. Free yourself from the common conception that the main purpose of work is to finance your living, that work is a burden, and that you have to be forced to work, because you want to work. Think of it as something that you choose to do, and this every day. And with this new reality in mind, don’t ask yourself the old questions. Don’t ask yourself what you want to do to earn money in life.

Ask yourself the questions that aim at your intrinsic motivation. What would you do if you didn’t have to earn any money, and you were free to follow your passion? Thank you. (Applause)



We live in a society in which violent behavior is acceptable, and sex or nudity is not.

Anybody see a problem here? Or is it just me?

Ancaps: Omg kids are walking by seeing two ppl having sex. Degeneracy!

Also ancaps: child prostitution is a-ok with me

Just let them fuck? They aren’t hurting anyone.

Blankets are so difficult to obtain these days

Libertarians don’t care where you fuck as long as it’s not on their property.



Physically I’m me,
Mentally I’m you.

I’m not concerned about other people’s inability to relationship. They’ll either learn and adapt or die bitter.

So I just equate these tangents, from, “feminists did this to us”, to, “woman aren’t even woman anymore” as just temper tantrums. Like a child stamping their feet because Ma’ said they can’t have a cookie.

People all over the world by the hundreds of millions hook up, stay dating or get married, have families and live their lives. Some divorce and start over, some end up widowed, others stay married. Nobody else has a problem with this.

If somebody doesn’t want to get married, cool. That’s their problem.

If somebody doesn’t want to get married but has to tell the entire world why (I.E. blame someone or something for their inability to hook up with someone), they’re just obnoxious.

Nobody gives a damn. Mind your own genitals. Don’t make your problems our business.

Addendum to all of this, marriage is an outdated, archaic tradition that binds couples together through legal contracts, and despite the fact that it does make some documentation easier as a result, it largely has no purpose.

But that still doesn’t change the fact that marriage can hold a personal meaning between the couple involved and can be absolutely worth the ceremony and vows simply because of what the gesture means to them.

So if people want to marry, that’s cool too. If you don’t understand it, nobody cares.

I don’t understand why people eat seafood, I think that shit is disgusting, but a lot of people do, and they couldn’t care less what I think.

I won’t get any sleep tonight but she won’t care.
I’m covered in new scars but she won’t care.
When she’s the only one that could make things okay, she won’t care.
I’m just a wreck.
Just another mess.
I can’t crawl out.
But who the fuck will care.
Who will show me things are okay.
Who will show me I can be loved with every ounce of crazy.
Who will take the time to understand why I am this way.

And who could even love me enough to stay.

I stop talking and contain myself,as i hurt inside. If there is no eyes watching me cry. There ears that can hear me cry. When all I want is to be alone.

What you look for in others
I hope you find in yourself

The excess value you produce gets reinvested and increases the over all system efficiency, which in turn leads to the whole circle growing over time, as opposed to shrinking the circle which would happen if the excess value produced was siphoned off to support the unproductive parts of the economy via taxes.


The Best Time I Pretended I Hadn’t Heard of Slavoj Žižek


One weird trick to frustrate the hell out of a Marxist bro


The other night, I pretended I didn’t know who Slavoj Žižek, the Slovenian Hegelian Marxist and cultural critic, was. I’ve done this before, but never to such triumphant effect. This Marxist bro I was talking to made a reference to Žižek that he obviously assumed I would get, and my heart sank. He was a nice guy, actually, but I saw the conversation stretching out in front of us, and I saw myself having to say things about Žižek and listen to him say things about Žižek, and I saw that I really did not want this to happen. “This is a bar,” I wanted to say, the same way that my grandmother might have said “This is a church.” A bar is not the appropriate venue for a loud, show-offy conversation about The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology.

At first, I thought I might be able to get away with ignoring the reference. Not so. He made another one, and then another one, and then said, sort of desperately, “Žižek argues that…” I saw the gap, and I took it. I asked him who that was, and he assumed I hadn’t heard him over the music. “ŽIŽEK” he shouted. “SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK.” I told him I’d never heard of such a person, and his eyes widened. His attempts to explain were met with the same denials. Celebrity philosopher? Nope. Lacan? Nope. Hegel? Nope. I stopped short of saying I had never heard of Karl Marx, but only just. This guy couldn’t believe it. How could I have never heard of Žižek?

He moved through the stages that everyone moves through when they have fallen prey to the Žižek Maneuver: disbelief, defiance, and finally, dizzy irritation. Maybe even a bit of actual anger. I could see that he thought I might be messing with him, but he could not prove it. He gave up on me shortly afterwards, and ignored me for the rest of the night. Later I saw him talking to his friends and pointing at me. I imagined what he was saying: “That girl over there, she doesn’t even know who Žižek is. ŽIŽEK.” I smiled at him and waved.


This is the Žižek game, and I am going to teach you how to play it. Think of these instructions as the opposite of the ones offered in “How to Be Polite,” Paul Ford’s beautiful essay about graciousness and its effects on other people. Ford’s advice is meant to be lived by. My advice is intended only for special occasions. It is for when you have an itch to scratch, and that itch is called, “a puerile desire to get on other people’s nerves.” All you do is stonily deny any knowledge of a person or cultural touchstone that you should, by virtue of your other cultural reference points, be aware of. These will of course be different for everyone, but my favorites include:

Žižek, John Updike, MORRISSEY (only for experts), Radiohead, Twin Peaks, David Lynch in general, Banksy (only for streetfighters), Withnail and I, Bauhaus (movement), Bauhaus (band), Afrika Burn, the expression “garbage person,” A Clockwork Orange, Steampunk (this one is really good), Jack Kerouac, “Gilmore Girls,” Woody Allen, the expression “grammar nerd,” the expression “grammar Nazi,” cocktails, bongs, magical realism, millennials, Cards Against Humanity, trance parties, bunting, many comedians, William Gibson, burlesque, the Beats, The God Delusion, sloths, anarchism, Joy Division, CrossFit, “The Mighty Boosh,” and Fight Club.


Find someone who is crazy about Morrissey, and pretend you have no idea who that is. It drives people nuts. I don’t know why, but it does. Just kidding, I know exactly why, because I myself have been on the receiving end of the Žižek Maneuver. This girl I had a bit of a crush on told me she had never watched “Twin Peaks,” and it damn near killed me. The reason I had a crush on her in the first place is because we liked so many of the same books, and movies, and music. How could she have never watched “Twin Peaks?” Was she messing with me? How? It did not for a second occur to me that she just hadn’t got round to it. My immediate response was to believe that she had deliberately not watched it in order to get on my nerves. When she told me later that of course she had watched “Twin Peaks,” my eye started twitching.

This is the beating heart of the Žižek Game: the disbelief that something you care about has failed to register on the consciousness of another. The agony of suspecting that someone has looked at Slavoj Žižek’s Wikipedia page and thought “I do not need to know about this man.”

The game has a few rules. They are there for your safety, as well as that of your opponent.

1. This game can only be played with people who don’t know you very well. Otherwise you will be out there lying to some bros about how you don’t know what Fight Club is, and your brother will just lean over and say “Bullshit. I’ve watched it with you twice.” Game over.

2. Choose your opponent carefully. It has to be someone who is cut from the same cloth, because they need to be stunned by your apparent ignorance. I live in Cape Town, which feels like one of the most cliquey cities in the world, so it’s easy for me to find people to play with. It might be harder where you are.

3. Choose your subject carefully, too. The game works best when you choose something that is normally the prompt for a great deal of intellectual posturing, of talking in a loud, bored voice.

4. Your success in this game depends on your ability to cope with people thinking you are dumb. This is so important. Adolescent conditioning—I grew up in a city with a strong surf/skate subculture of people who like to get extremely high—means that I am not only comfortable with people thinking I am dumb, I actually lean into it. I pretend I’ve never heard of Roman Polanski all the time. I do not falter, and neither must you. Your opponent must never have the satisfaction of looking down on you. When they begin to scoff and roll their eyes, because how could you have never heard of the Weimar Republic, you must simply smile and shrug your shoulders. If you look abashed, your opponent has won.

5. Please note: do not confuse this game with the phenomenon known as “performative dislike of something that other people love.” Saying that you hate the Beatles is not at all the same thing as saying that you have never heard of the Beatles.

6. Most importantly: Don’t do this to anyone who will be hurt by it, as opposed to merely irritated. If a nerd is holding forth enthusiastically on his chosen topic, it’s unkind to say that you don’t know what he’s talking about. He will be crushed. Similarly, if someone is very excited about something, it’s best just to go along with it. When I was about eleven, my dad got a new job and, with it, a company car. This was a big deal. My family had a long history of owning extremely shitty and/or impractical cars, so any departure from this tradition was cause for celebration. (That my dad’s new car was a Volvo station wagon should give some idea of how low the bar was.) I told this girl at my school about it, the day after the car arrived at our house. She was the first person I saw, and I just burst out with it: “My dad got a Volvo.” Don’t laugh — I was only eleven, and his previous car had been 1983 Renault sedan whose front doors didn’t close properly, so it let in a lot of rain. The interior was often damp and muggy as a result, like a greenhouse, and sometimes there were little mushrooms growing on the floor of the passenger side. The Volvo, with its Swedish engineering, and its doors that closed every time, was thrilling to me. The girl (she was very popular) looked at me with narrowed eyes and said “I don’t know what a Volvo even is.” Whether or not she was telling the truth is irrelevant. Maybe she really didn’t know what a Volvo is, or maybe she just wanted me to be quiet, but I remember a feeling of deflation far beyond what was reasonable. What was I supposed to say? “A Volvo is a kind of car?”


As I said, this really is only for special occasions, but up there are the rules for when you need them. And you will, one day, need them. You’ll be out, and someone will start to talk about Žižek. This is a bar, you will think, as you begin to panic about what the future holds. Now you know what to do. Go forth and conquer.