“Fear is a mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past me I will turn to see fear’s path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” – Dune, Frank Herbert
In light of the tragedy that happened in France one comes face to face with the unbearable Real. I write not in condolence, there is no meaning in tragedy, but it is precisely this void of meaning that confronts us is why I write now.
The term ideology has been used so many times in order to explain the radicalization of fundamental religious movements throughout present current events has been misused. It is at this misconception that I want to address, especially with what happened in France and what is happening now in general, why this point is important to clarify. To reiterate Zizek, we had and are and will always be, living in ideological times. These radical groups are not, as the media has portrayed, being driven by dangerous ideology, or what I am getting at is, it is not quite as simple as what is stated. One can even say, these radical groups only became radicalized simply because they do not have enough dangerous ideological ideas to sustain them from the unbearable Real of their daily lives. In fact, I would even expand this concept to the western concept of a stable life relies on this very same principle: society can only function only within the fiction of ideology.
This is my amateurish definition of ideology:
Ideology is the lubricant for reality. The space needed between society and the Real in order for it to continue functioning. The brutal meaningless Real which is behind reality is too raw of a truth to accept without completely debilitating society’s ability to function, without a fictional narrative gap (ideology) to provide a safe space and distance, society regardless of its seemly sound progress will collapse.
What I mean with this definition is reflective. When the media claims that these people only do the things they do because they are driven by dangerous radicalized Islamic ideology, they are completely missing the fact that they themselves (the general western secularized culture) do the things they do because they too are driven by dangerous ideological ideas. Let me explain:
We wake up, go to work, go home and repeat. The stable, safe, normal functioning of our lives completely depend on an ideological narrative that protects us from the unbearable undefinable Real. On a Friday night, general society can enjoy a beer at bar with friends, hang out with a girl/boy friend, catch a movie, etc, etc without a single thought of the terrible Real that is at the very background of that reality. The Real in this explanation, is the background to our normal daily lives, is this: the planet is on the verge of ecological collapse that can result in the extinction of the human race which is currently proven as scientific fact; society is always on the brink of complete and utter atomic nuclear annihilation given the amount of atomic weapons that are in existence and the lack of attention to their very storage; the next world war can break out at any minute considering the tension of rising Russian, Chinese, Indian powers which disrupt the American century; the paradoxes in the capital system which causes the suffering of billions which enslaves our lives and produces monsters like Monsanto and the pharmaceutical industry will doom all our future generations to come; etc, etc, etc. The thing is this list of such concepts is endless and this is the very backdrop to our constant stable reality. This undefinable unbearable essence (reality, this background, in its complete enormity) is what I mean as the Real in this example (real with the capital R). A series of fictional or undefinable truths or narratives (ideology) is required to counteract that very background. To provide a space between us and that endless uncertainty of the Real in order for us to enjoy our daily lives and function amid all that is wrong with the world. Powerful ideological ideas like western pop culture, western ideas of progress, etc, etc, provide for our daily lives the structure needed to support our very existence within the seemingly meaninglessness of our lives. Ideas like: our lives matter, our words have weight within society, we can change the world, we can make a difference, etc, etc, comes from similarly dangerous ideology. What is happening here is this violent removal of this fantasy. In popping the ideological bubble one does not find transcendental meaning and truth, what they find is nothing, only the unbearable meaninglessness of the Real. The goal here is not to remove the ideological façade of which this popular misconception of how ideology functions in society is seemingly promoting.
What drives one to radicalization and fundamentalism is the removal of this ideological space leading one to react violently out of the reaction in coming in contact with the Real. These people that carry out such unimaginable acts of terror are those that have gone too far and seen too much. Using Zizek’s example, normal functioning reality can be seen as a veil. Normally we stare at this veil and dream of what is behind it, it keeps us continually dreaming, wondering, hoping, hence a functioning fiction, an acceptable truth without the need for substance. Those that radicalize are those that went up to that veil, lifted it, only to find that there is nothing behind it and can no longer dream. What they found was not transcendental truth, but just nothing at all, complete and utter hopelessness. With the lack of ideology all that is left to these people are the unbearable Real: the systemic hegemony that is maintained by the western powers to keep those that are oppressed perpetually oppressed in order to stay in power; the endless and eventual racial cleansing against the Other committed by Israel supported by Western powers is only inevitable; capital pressures driven by western progress has rendered the Arab world into a powerless corrupt entity where change is no longer possible, etc, etc, etc, are no longer the background to their reality, these very ideas become their reality; a situation where the endless enormity of the Real leads one to believe only violence in its most primitive sense can make a difference. The revelation of the lack of a transcendental truth, the lack of substance behind the veil of reality, leads one to complete and utter hopelessness. The very structure that the various ideological facades have provided once removed, leaves one without the means to support one’s existence. Is it then such a surprise that one then can strap a bomb on their body without a second thought? It is not out of bravely nor the idea of reward (Islamic afterlife) which drives one to suicide. This violent realization there is no longer any meaning, the very absence of other ideological support other than radical fundamental Islam, to their very existence is what allows them to take life, both others and their own, with such indifference. Ideology is critical to maintaining the minimal societal life. The removal of such, even seemingly unimportant ones like western pop culture, disrupts the very structure that holds up one’s existence. Ideology (this fictional narrative, the “lie” of society) can be compared to gravity. Gravity and all its debilitating effect on our bodies is precisely the same substance which keeps us grounded and together. Like an astronaut’s body, once gravity is removed, it begins to disintegrate under its own weightlessness (without ideology, we float off into the endless Real). What causes us to crumble and fall is also which allows us to stand and to be.
What is needed is more ideology. One can compare this with the British introduction of opium to the Chinese in order to wage a silent war. The reaction of the Chinese was to introduce tea into British culture. The Chinese have long stopped smoking that shit, but the British still drink the tea. In this instance the very cause of the problem maybe its very solution. If Western progressive ideology such as pop culture and so forth brought forth the problem, one can correct it by reinstating it. Bombarding those regions with Coca cola, Gung Nam style, weed seems like a far less/more costly/effective means then dropping bombs and sending boots. It’s always far easier to wage love and not war much like how Bonobo monkeys can fuck their way out of conflict. If Western culture is as progress as it claims to be, it must realize the current society has long progressed with it. The old world means of war, the reliance on patterns of primitive accumulation, no longer has its same efficacy as it once had. These new groups of radical movements have adopted, adapted and evolved and it shows. One cannot shoot or bomb something that has no body, how does one kill an idea? There are new ways to fight. To begin one must realize that this is not a war, for wars end. This terror is internal to society itself, the enemy is within not without.
Polla ta deina kouden anthorpou dinoteron pelei
Numberless wonders (deina), terrible wonders walk the world but none more wonderful and terrible (deinoteron) than man.