Stepping out of work into the streets is always a depressing chore for me. The sight of long queues of cars, sad, frowning faces behind the wheels reminds me death-row victims lining up for a bullet-in-the-back-of-the-head kind of execution. It’s a similar situation when I get on the train, with grimy-looking bodies clinging onto grey poles, earphones plugged firmly into their heads with no words exchanged with no one, no smiles but a dead far-away look in most eyes. Mornings aren’t better either, to be honest. The speed and pace on foot and road is as if the whole world is racing for a singular treasure located at the far end of the world. There are times I feel like the human race took a step back to some alternative, apocalyptic industrial age.
And if, after a full day’s work, you manage to put on the TV, please don’t check the news. I am particularly selective about what kind of news I read on my digital device as well, for life is too short to carry the burden of the world on your little shoulders. Man-made economic woes, racism, the growing gap between the rich and poor, terrorism, job insecurity, health sector concerns… take your pick. For me, it is obvious something is not working. From job dissatisfactions, to high rates of depression and lower wages for the masses, it does not take a genius to see that this state of being is unsustainable and sooner or later, something has to give. This is one of the reasons I picked up Slavoj Žižek’s Trouble in Paradise for book review. I was keen to see if he sees the same problems I see and perhaps, he has some theories towards their solutions.
Slavoj Žižek’s Trouble in Paradise: From The End Of History To The End Of Capitalism touches on many issues about the problems of capitalism as an economic system and way of life. He points out the unsustainability of this point of view and hypocritical nature of it. One of capitalism’s dark spots is the nation’s debt management and the way it holds developing or under-developed countries subservient to developed ones. He gives an example, saying,
“A decade or so ago, Argentina decided to repay its debts to the IMF ahead of time (with financial help from Venezuela). The IMF’s reaction was on the face of it surprising: instead of being glad that it was getting its money back, the IMF (or rather, its top representatives) expressed their concern that Argentina would use this new freedom and financial independence from international institutions to abandon tight financial politics and engage in careless spending. This uneasiness made palpable the true stakes of the debtor/creditor relationship: debt is an instrument with which to control and regulate the debtor, and, as such, it strives for its own expanded reproduction."
“The most uncanny and ominous thing about the protests is that they are not exploding only, or even primarily, at the week points of the system, but in places which were until recently perceived as success stories. Trouble in hell seems understandable – we know when people are protesting in Greece or Spain; but why is there trouble in Paradise, in prosperous countries at least fast-developing countries like Turkey, Brazil or even Sweden (where we’ve recently seen violent protests by immigrants who live in the suburbs).”The author believes that protests (e.g. Occupy Wall Street) that have gone on in recent years have been useful in educating the public and raising awareness. However, he perceives that, the passion roused by protests is always likely to fizzle out except the nature of the protests itself changed. He says that the protests that are likely to work are the ones that brings together “groups that seems incompatible (Muslims, Serbs and Croats in Bosnia; Turkish secularists and anti-capitalist Muslims in Turkey, and so on)…” He believes that unless we ditch our differences and work together, regardless of our ideologies, “protest movements will always be manipulated by one superpower in its struggle against the other.” He highlights the example of the riots in Bosnian cities around 2014. He points out that what truly brought peace and change was the realisations was the Bosnians, Serbians and Croats’ willingness to “ignore ethnic differences” and rebelled against the national elites. He says:
“…the people of Bosnia finally (understood) who their true enemy is: not the other ethnic groups, but their own nationalist elites pretending to protect them from the other.”Slavoj Žižek’s Trouble in Paradise contains multitudes of observations about the failings of the present political-economic structures and the ways common folks can start effecting change. The author touches on issues like the control of cyberspace, the Arab-spring riots, religion, and the new wave of anti-Eurocentrism.
Because of the density of assertions, ideas and theories, this isn’t a book for light reading by any means. It would suit group reading better since there are lots of controversial views to ponder and the relevance of some of these issues in our daily lives cannot be overstated.
Brilliant, funny, irreverent, and thoughtful, Trouble in Paradiseis a critical look at the present systems in today’s world and is worth every minute you spend reading it.
Trouble in Paradise: From The End Of History To The End Of Capitalism is written by Slavoj Žižek and published by Melville House (August 18, 2015).
Many thanks to Melville House for review copy. All images are © to their respective owners.
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Trouble in Paradise: From the End of History to the End of Capitalism: Slavoj Zizek: 9781612194448: Books