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

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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.

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YOUR FUTURE

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Your future is not defined by those who left, you shouldn’t have to wait for anyone or plan your future around someone who left in hopes they could come back.

Your future is not tied to the ones who don’t care about having you in their future, it’s not tied to anyone who leaves and expects to come back and find you.

Your future is not tied to the ones who couldn’t love you or the ones who didn’t believe in you, it’s not tied to the ones who told you that you can’t do certain things or follow your dreams, it’s not tied to the people who wanted you to settle for a life you didn’t enjoy.


Your future is not tied to the ones who fooled you, the ones who made promises they couldn’t keep, the ones who kicked you when you were down, the ones who pretended to be your friends because they needed something from you. Your future is not tied to anyone who betrayed you or anyone who took your love and kindness for granted.

You don’t have anything to prove to these people, you don’t have to work so hard to prove them wrong and you don’t have to consider them anymore when making a decision. Their opinions don’t matter, their criticism will no longer be heard and what they think of you shouldn’t bother you because they’ll never see you for who you are and they’ll never see you as someone capable of doing great things because they’re only interested in seeing themselves, they’re too busy focusing on their own greatness to realize yours.
Your future is not tied to anyone who doesn’t think you’re great or someone who is not afraid of losing you. Your future is not tied to people who belittle you or make you feel small, it’s not tied to people who forget you. Your future is not tied to people who make you feel like you’re not good enough.


Because the people in your life make all the difference; in your confidence, in your energy, in your determination, in your willpower, in your self-love and in how you see the world and the future. So don’t pick people who make you fear the future or attract the same toxic patterns of the past, don’t pick people who are waiting for the first sign of trouble to leave, don’t pick people who find excuses to leave instead of reasons to stay.


Don’t pick people who won’t make your future brighter, only pick those who are not afraid of the dark and know how to find the light. Pick the ones you can count on because you will need the right kind of people around you when you’re down. Pick the ones who love you enough to stay no matter how difficult you are and how diffcult your journey will be. Pick the brave ones, the ones who are only scared of losing you.

Quote Gabriel Marcel And Martin Heidegger

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and i sit here, wondering, to this day…if there wae a single thing i could have done to make you want differently. to make you want me to stay. to make you decide not to leave me. but i come to the conclusion….there was nothing i could have done. i couldnt change the way you thought of me. and what saddens me is, i never will. ever again. because who would want a girl like me?


The atheist relies not on an experience but on an idea, or pseudo idea, of God: if God existed, He would have such and such characteristics; but if he had such characteristics, He could not allow etc…His judgment of incompability, in fact, is based on a judgment of implications.

– Gabriel Marcel


For him, the key experiences and challenges of existence are individual: Alone we suffer, alone we die, and alone we must make meaning out of our fate. The highest value, then, is not goodness but authenticity; above all, authenticity in the face of death. To accept one’s actual condition of mortality and thrownness, not to flee from these difficult facts into consoling illusions and abstractions


By coining new, technical terms like “thrownness” (Geworfenheit), and by referring to the human being not as a person or even a “subject” but as Dasein—literally, in German, “being-there”


Humans alone among the animals are aware of death, since we alone are “temporal”, reaching back into the past and anticipating the future. Our temporality helps to explain how we alone have a certain distance or “elbow room” with respect to other beings, how we have freedom from our immediate surroundings, and how we alone become aware of our position as a being among the whole of beings, and can therefore engage in philosophy.


We are generally “inauthentic”, doing and believing what one does and believes. But sometimes we ascend to “authenticity”, choosing to do our own thing, a feat that is especially encouraged by an awareness of the inevitability of one’s own death.


18th of August, 1941

Dear Fritz, dear Liesel, dear Boys! […] It is not Russianism that will bring about the destruction of the earth but Americanism, not just the English but all of Europe has fallen prey to it as it represents modernity in its monstrosity.


know by my own experience how, from a stranger met by chance, there may come an irresistible appeal which overturns the habitual perspectives just as a gust of wind might tumble down the panels of a stage set – what had seemed near becomes infinitely remote and what had seemed distant seems to be close.


almost think that hope is for the soul what breathing is for the living organism. Where hope is lacking the soul dries up and withers…

SORRY

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Sorry i didt mean to throw that line, about those line which hurt ur feelings, i didt mean to mock/offense u with my words. At that time i was temporary mad, or my anger at its peak.

Cause i cant graps the reality, i cant understand what the problem is.

You hurt me, i cant understand.. So i hurt you back. I dont even tryn to understand bout what u felt and contemplate bout it instead.

As i lay here in my bed, recallin all tht ive learned. Im thinkin all bout u and i have experienced that we have been through together (good and bad).

Once again. I’m incredibly embarrassed and ashamed for all the bad that I said and done to you. About you mother too. Im sorry. That was thoughtless line ever. Now it became my one of my fault/guilt/regret/embarrassing moment which make me think I wish that I could push a rewind button of my life

I couldn’t think clearly that time, cause i was feeling hurt and lost in the dark that i didt see. I take full responsibility for what i have done.

You are right, im slutty, bad person, im far worst than cj.. But there’s nothing to do with dan, she is the nice one.

Now i understand, that’s ur right to choose a path makes you to be happy with, and who am i, who tryn to keep u, tie you up and told you to stay with me while you r not happy at all. Even you r not my property rights.

And i also want to add, that guy would be so lucky to have you.. I was so luck to have you.

And i will continue my efforts in bettering myself as im becoming a much better person.

I want to say. That im sorry. I imagine this is mean nothing to u and no longer holds any weigh, but i feel universe remorses for all that i said to you.

Im prepared and willing to accept that you won’t forgive me. I just wanted you to know the truth about how i feel and to attempt to make peace with people in our past, whom we ve hurt or hurt us, whether you accept or reject my apology is up to you, and at least i tried.

I have learned to effectively use the experience of the past to help with my efforts in making myself and my life better. And now i want to make peace with you, once more i want, with my every beat of my heart. Im sorry.

APA YANG MEMBUAT KITA MANUSIA

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Does “Animal have the humanity more than human these days” … sometimes it does, and doest, sometimes I lost faith in humanity, sometimes I don’t, we were living in cruel world, kalau kata nietz kita terlalu naïve apabila hanya menginginkan ‘positive side’ dari realita, dan mengabaikan ‘evil’ itu sendiri. Hanya orang sakit yang bertarung dengan musuh-musuh yang lemah..

Kalau kita perhatikan sekitar kita, akan menyiratkan terkadang kemanusiaan manusia semakin hilang. Dan itu benar juga. Orang yang punya gelar, tidak semua lebih pintar dari pada orang yang tidak bergelar.

Kita tak akan bisa mengerti orang lain kalau kita tidak mengenal diri kita sendiri. “Understanding is deeper than knowledge. Because there are so many people who know you, but there are only few who understand you”. Sama juga dengan membaca buku. Berapa banyakpun buku yang kita baca, kalau kita tidak mengerti, tidak berguna… Mengenali diri sendiri itu sangat-sangat penting karena, everything is comes from within…