March 27, 2006

Profanity and political correctness Of late there have been conversations in these parts involving political correctness and profanity. The conversations have channeled old debates from the culture wars, reenacting on the current stage of the culture of cruelty. So, some think using racial or sexist slurs to be the ultimate in autonomy. Others find them retrograde, dismissive, and inadmissable among those who interact through discussion. Still others find rejections of profanity to be themselves out-moded or childish, premised on crimes or slights that no longer exist and that thus in fact attest to the rejectors' own attachments to racist or sexist mindsets. Is the freedom to insult the ultimate in equality? And, what about when an insult is warranted? If someone behaves in a hostile or offensive way, does that not elicit a response that might justifiably be profane? Is an insult at this point necessarily off base? Might the insult be appropriate? What about when the insults rely on referring to the other person in terms of a sexualized body part? Is that necessarily sexist? And, what if someone comes from a background where this way of speaking is normalized, everyday? Forever marked by a residual Habermasianism, I think that a discursive approach is likely the best way to deal with this. The exchange on Hysterical Blackness is nuanced and appropriate. Now, admittedly, this may well be because all involved recognize from the outset that the initial speech was wrong and that there was an apology. These acknowledgements (which preceded the two posts...
V with and against Z In The Parallax View, Zizek writes: If The Matrix Revolutions were to succeed, it would have to produce nothing less than the appropriate answer to the dilemmas of revolutionary politics today, a blueprint for the political act the Left is desperately looking for. No wonder, then, that it failed miserably--and this failure provides a nice case for a Marxist analysis: the narrative failure, the impossibility of constructing a 'good story,' which indicates a more fundamental social failure. What, then, about V for Vendetta? Fully admitting to being an ideological dupe, a sucker at the great media teat, I fell completely for the movie and think that here the Wachowski brothers actually do provide such a blueprint. Warning: spoilers. And, actually, the blueprint relies on key elements of Zizek's political theory: subjective destitution, the act, and, rather less fortunately, a messianic element. Subjective destitution: those who do anything in this movie have to give it all up, to become themselves excremental remainders. What is clear is that this isn't voluntarily undertaken--it is violently inflicted. So, V is the subject of experimentation. Evie is tortured. Stephen Fry, the lesbian, and the little girl are all brave and all die. After the masks are distributed, violence breaks out and innocent people suffer. No one said it would be easy. Only after going through the limit, becoming objects, jettisoning the biopolitics in which they are entrapped, do the people as a whole acquire a capacity to act. The distribution of the masks and capes...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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