Well, here we have another Zizek book that has so much packed into the 135 pages that it is almost impossible to be able to talk about everything that he says. He seems to have this ability to use English so well that he is able to touch on a huge number of subjects in a really short space – he certainly doesn't waffle, and he uses words really sparingly. The other thing that I love about his books is how he pulls philosophical meaning out of pop-culture, his take of Kung Fu Panda (which I gather is one of his favourite movies – I can just picture him rolling around in laughter while watching the film – I've only seen it once) being his most well known. In this book he spends a lot of time looking at the television series The Wired (which I haven't heard of) and he also talks about 300 and Ralph Finnies Coriolanus.
Anyway, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously can be boiled down to an exposition of the protests in Tahir Square in Egypt, which is more commonly known as <i>The Arab Spring</i> and the Occupy Wall Street movement, both of which appears to have fizzled – with the Arab Spring turning into what appears to be a never-ending civil war in Syria, an Islamist government in Egypt (which has since been overthrown to be replaced with a military dictatorship), and the Occupy Wall Street movement simply morphing into 'business as usual' in the advanced democracies (with the exception of a few Facebook pages and websites).
Mind you, he does point out a few interesting things, particularly the nature of modern democracy. In reality democracy is simply us going to the polling station every few years to vote for either the centre-left party or the centre-right party. Actually, that isn't even the case anymore because it seems to be the centre-right party and the extreme fundamentalist Christian and economic party. Somebody even suggested on my Facebook feed today that the Democrats are now the GOP while the Republicans are basically little more than WTF (though since he is a Christian minister he didn't phrase it in the way that I have).
But it is interesting watching how democracy works, especially these days. For instance Bernie Saunders went from nothing to a nationwide sensation before he lost to Hillary Clinton. However, before he conceded to Hillary he told his supporters that the fight wasn't over and that it was time for them to take action by not only joining the Democrats, but also running for seats in the local, state, and federal congresses, as well as for other electable positions. In fact the left-wing media has indicated that this is what needs to be done – if Saunders had won the nomination, and then the election, then he would have basically come out as, well, Obama. However, I then noticed that now that Saunders is out of the race the support has suddenly flooded over the Jill Stein of the Greens.
That actually tells me a lot about many of his supporters – they don't want change, they want a saviour, however Saunders isn't that saviour. The truth is that change won't come about from the top – it never does – Obama demonstrated that. Not only does he have to deal with Congress, as soon as one steps into the Oval Office there are a lot of pressures coming from a lot of quarters. Don't get me wrong, I think Obama has done a lot, and has made calls, such as normalising relationships with Cuba and Iran, that needed to be done. Sure, many people claim that he is as much of a warmonger as Bush was, and point to his drone campaign as an example (and the fact that he didn't close Guantamo down, as he had promised), however the fact that he made moves to normalise relations with Iran goes to show that he is actually more than just another president, but one who is actively seeking to extend the olive branch where it is possible to do so.
But Saunders is right – real change doesn't come after somebody becomes president, it comes when the president has support in Congress. Notice how the Democrats didn't come out to vote in the mid-terms, which resulted in the Republicans gaining control of both houses of congress. Real change doesn't come about by standing in a park in Wall Street chanting slogans – Egypt proved that: as soon as Mubarak was removed from power the Muslim Brotherhood was elected, and the president started running around claiming that he was Pharaoh. Change doesn't come from the top, but comes from those who are willing to put in the hard work to make that change a reality.
However there is another interesting thing about democracy – it only works when the right result comes from an election. When the European Constitution was voted down, they just went to another vote – okay, they don't like it, so let's do it again. We are seeing the same with Brexit – they weren't supposed to leave, but when they voted to do just that, all of the sudden the referendum was flawed, and they had to go and do it again (though a second Brexit vote is looking incredibly unlikely – and for those who are interested I have written a blog post on it). I remember a similar thing happening in Palestine. After Arafat's death the Palestinians went to an election and voted for Hamas – democracy had failed, the media screamed, because Hamas wasn't supposed to have been elected. But isn't that what democracy is actually all about, or does it only work when the powers that be get the results that they want (we are seeing the same coming from Labor supporters in Australia simply because Labor didn't win the election).
Sure, an extremist group is unlikely to elected, at least at this stage, in our advanced democracies, but that is because things are really not all that bad. Okay, the recent Australian election brought about a bunch of minor parties, but with the exception of Pauline Hanson (which is actually an Australian celebrity because of her extreme anti-immigrant views), all of the minor parties that were elected were basically moderates. However, when things get bad then the extremists suddenly start to gain in popularity. We saw that in Greece when the left wing Syriza party was elected in a landslide - notice how quickly they moved to the centre when they rejected the EU bailout and the country was on the verge of economic collapse – they pretty quickly learned how to play ball, and the people of Greece agreed to follow along behind them.
So, the question boils down to the idea of money – which is what I titled this post as. Sure, you might have issues of culture drifting around the fringes, such as gay marriage, however politics all comes down to one thing – how do we spend the money. A government isn't actually about governing the country – a liberal democracy is, in theory, a country where people are free to do and believe what they like, within reason of course. In the end it comes down to how money is spent, and how it is collected, and the sad thing is that this is all it is, whether you are communist or capitalist. The problem I see is that you need money to have access to the basic essentials of life (and that doesn't mean a two-story house, caviar every night, and three BMWs in the driveway), and if something doesn't generate money then it isn't seen as having any value. In fact everything that we do and produce needs to have some value, either in the short term, or the long term. In fact, the way we are living now the long term is just too far away, and we want everything yesterday. It doesn't matter whether we part with 10 cents, or ten thousand dollars, we all want to be treated the same – we paid you money therefore treat us with respect. For me, I wish we could do away with money and just focus on the arts and culture – our society is becoming ever more empty and meaningless as time moves on that I think it is time that brighten things up without having to resort to watching Kim Kardashian's life.