Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Badiou at the Gates of Dawn

Standard Turkish response to Chico Marx’s famous line “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?” goes like this: “I neither believe you, nor my eyes, I believe in commonplaces and stereotypes.” It does not denote a normal functioning big Other which guarantees the stability of belief underlying the effectiveness of symbolic exchange. At the same time, it defies Zizek’s well known diagnosis of “the demise of symbolic efficiency” in the late capitalist society which, paraphrasing Lacan, enables everyone to acknowledge that the emperor is naked whereas he really is naked but the reality of his nudity resides in the fictional cloths pertain to his symbolic identity: In these times, it does not matter whether the emperor is naked or not, since we have lost the obligatory belief in symbolic mandate that assigns certain cloths to different identities and thereby provides the fundamental ground for communication. However, modern Turkish version of Sufi mysticism, to be precise, Sufi mysticism with bourgeois twist sublated in the prevailing ideological conviction what Badiou calls as “democratic materialism” mobilizes a perverse conception of world through a double disavowal. It does not only struggle to negate the determinative authority of social register with regard to mutual recognition among subjects, but also disavows the distance between imaginary and symbolic identities, confers the authority upon the former and thus, submerges the social reality into stream of fantasy. Let me give you a couple of examples to clarify this completely perplexing procedure. In the regular mechanism of democracy, if not a rule, it is without doubt being a typical politician entails maintaining a double life between a corrupt and cruel businessmen or a mediator on the private level and being a reliable moralist in front of public. But, in the inverted world of democratic materialist mysticism peculiar to Turks, it is completely acceptable to be affected by all the conceivable temptations of market as long as one manages to enjoy the possession of certain imaginary identities (Muslim, Kemalist, Nationalist, etc) promising that its holder walks on the pathway to unification with a certain ideal (god, republic, national identity, etc). Therefore, it does not matter what you say or what they see, what only counts is your imaginary insignia in the social fantasy. But one thing we have to notice is, far from being a sign of dominance of spiritual idealism counter to the heartless reality of commodity exchange, mystical element serves as the ideological pillar that supports the very brutality of social relations. It may surprise you how racism is prevalent in both official state discourse and practice, in political and everyday language, but yet it is impossible to find a single racist since in the spiritual level the word “racism” does not signify any form of discrimination. Thus, its practice in reality is unfettered from unpleasant criticisms.

Alain Badiou quotes Mao’s objection concerning one of the elementary Stalinist distortions of communism, namely depoliticization of the will aspiring after equality:

“All of this relates to the superstructure, that is, to ideology. Stalin speaks only of the economy; he does not deal with politics.”

So far, Turkish politicians, our leaders and their spokesmen have neither dealt with economy, nor politics. Or more precisely, they deal both with economy and politics as if they are insignificant topics in great spiritual debate, as inevitable conspiracy against people in the long path to ideals. Their axiom is:

“There are only bodies and languages, except that there are spiritual truths”

We screw the former with the latter. This is our version of “democratic materialism”

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