Got my first Å½iÅ¾ek experience yesterday. I was simultaneously impressed and underwhelmed. My only exposure to his work until today had been through the plethora of other authors citing him these days, and through a friend who enthusiastically appreciates his iconoclasm and originality, and also does a killer impression of the man. I have been meaning to read something by him for a while, and will probably get around to it sooner rather than later now.
Anyway, Slavoj Å½iÅ¾ek was lecturing at Birkbeck College in London, as is his wont. The theme was “The Uses and Misuses of Violence”. Basically he was tackling the question of why normal people inflict atrocious violence on others when they, by all accounts, are caring and considerate of their comrades and family. He started with former Maoists turned Zionists and ended with Stalin (one of his favourite subjects), and made many entertaining and often enlightening digressions along the way. The basic idea was that idealists are invariably aware of the imperfection or even downright infamy of the people they idealize, in this case Mao, but revere them even more because of that fact, because it lends their aspirations a kind of empyrean air. Had Mao been a benign ruler, he would not have inspired such zealous idolization, but languished in history book obscurity instead, he argued.