MARCH 20 — There is an obscene joke about a Mongolian peasant and his wife who encounter an emperor along the road. The emperor proceeds to rape the wife but tells the husband to hold on to his (the Emperor’s) testicles while he does so.
Afterwards, the peasant jumps up and down in delight and when asked by the traumatised wife what the mini-celebration was all about, especially as she’d just been raped, the peasant replies that he let the Emperor’s testicles touch the sand.
The foolish peasant was celebrating the fact that he let a powerful person’s private parts touch the sand and got away with it. That helps him look past the fact that his wife was just violated, that the emperor will continue raping people. That, in fact, nothing has really changed.
This is the position of the “fool”: (see Note 1).
We mimic this position every time we make a big hooha about something that’s not only inconsequential but which will also promote the status quo. Example, Malaysians are inundated by a tsunami of issues and headlines (from coconut-wielding bomohs to North Korean assassinations to the falling ringgit to the banning of the “pro-gay” Beauty and the Beast).
This is the power of media-infused ideology: It keeps us addicted to headlines, engaging in a flurry of talk and “activity” about political change which ensures, in effect, that nothing ever really changes.
Excursus on Beauty and the Beast and Frozen
Everyone knows that in Malaysia the general election is on the horizon. The awkward thing is that if the powers-that-be — simply because s/he likes Disney movies — decide to dismiss the “gay moment” censorship and get Beauty and the Beast screened in KL, why, the ruling regime may even gain more votes in the next election.
Over a fantasy movie which reverses a cruel fact of life i.e. that most romantic partners today are nothing but greedy and vain monsters with a s***-load of make-up.
And speaking of this “tale as old as time”, are we even sure we want our kids to watch this? There’s a powerful character who punishes a father by forcing his daughter to be his prisoner for life.
But, lo and behold, the girl and the monster become “more than friends.” I’m like, since when do captives fall in love with their captors? Only in the captors’ most perverted fantasies.
Would they show this in Abu Ghraib? Or to a parent who’s lost a child to kidnapping?
(As for Watson, her recent quasi-nude photoshoot in Vanity Fair — supposedly a “milestone” for modern feminism because it represents Woman’s self-determination, etc. ─ may have done simply the opposite. Ogling and objectifying women is precisely what the male chauvinist gaze is about. To cater to that gaze in the name of feminist choice is almost exactly like allowing one’s personhood to be raped whilst claiming that one has really dealt a blow to the enemy. Don’t be a fool, Emma.)
Basically, Beauty and the Beast is really a pervert’s fantasy and its actress’s “bold” photoshoot caters to such perverts. And Malaysia is all up in arms over one of its characters’ gay behaviour? Like the “fool” above, aren’t we getting over-excited over the wrong things?
Still, nothing beats Frozen.
There’s bad parenting — your daughter is a human snow machine with emo problems so you lock her up long-term? There’s the waste society — all that castle space for one family, and eight thousand salad plates used only once?
There’s the immature celebration of liberty (“Let it go”? All of it? So if I’ve got problems with people the solution is to run away and threaten them if they come looking for me? Granted the movie doesn’t directly SAY this is what we should do, but if not then why compose an award-winning song to this effect?)
And, seriously, how many working-class people (e.g. Kristoff) would feel so deeply for spoilt rich people (e.g. Princess Anna)? How many soya-bean sellers would, in a time when soya bean prices are falling, risk everything they have for a Datuk’s daughter who’s never stepped out of her mansion for decades?
Are these questions trivial? It’s just a story, so we shouldn’t ask — but isn’t this exactly how ideology works? “Let’s not ask! Let’s accept! And do so with pleasure!”
‘Changing the world’ one TED Talk at a time?
Finally, consider the typical liberal subject.
This person is generally decent, cares for the environment, uses the latest apps, takes wonderful selfies, shares loads of TED talks, talks about “changing the world”, promotes equality and “fair trade”, is multi-culturalist, hates authoritarianism — but is secretly infatuated with capitalism.
This person would actually believe that “education and dialogue” is the solution to terrorism and violence, whilst rejecting as draconian any talk of building walls (having been indoctrinated with “breaking down barriers” all his college life).
Such folks would see no inconsistency between protesting against the banning of refugees whilst at the same time buying and recommending iPhones made by child slave-labour.
Thus you have people condemning Donald Trump for his xenophobia, his fascism, his dearth of values, his incompetence (but he’s also “Hitler” — so is he really a low IQ dictator?), his lies and his messed-up skin colour whilst simultaneously backing a system — capitalism — responsible for the systematic oppression of everybody.
In other words, leaders like Hilary Clinton are pro-status quo personalities who embrace the form of “resistance” (e.g. let’s fight for minority rights, women, etc.) whilst ultimately ensuring that nothing changes.
I suspect Zizek may say the same of today’s political discourse in Malaysia. We think we’re taking a good swipe at the emperor. But, alas, we’re just dirtying his balls.
Note 1: Usually juxtaposed with that of the “knave” who represents the right-winger preaching acceptance of the system.
Note 2: When asked why he supported Trump over Clinton, Slavoj Žižek — whose politics are hardly “right-wing” — quoted TS Eliot about how sometimes the only solution to preserve orthodoxy is a radical heresy. Modern-day left liberals have largely failed to question capitalism’ axioms and (let alone) stem its onslaught.
Isn’t it ironic, in fact, that a property tycoon (almost the embodiment of capitalism) should be the presidential candidate pushing for more American jobs The Zizekian wager is that, through the debacle/fiasco/tragedy that is Trump, the left will confront its own complicity with the system and rethink its failures. And, hopefully, work to “cut the balls of capitalism.”
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.