Trip Like I Do

Trip Like I Do

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Trip Like I Do

Force and counterforce, resistance and power. What is the space and relation of one to the other? Are they to be understood as in parasitic or symbiotic relation? Does the yes need a no for its function, and in what ways? Could there be a “war” on Iraq without protests of such brutal possibilities? Slavoj Žižek’s “The Seven Veils of Fantasy” provides a relation of sincere hypocrisy within but ostensibly against ideology. Fantasy squirms throughout the piece as concealment of horror, creation of horror to be concealed, and vital sustaining support of an ideological edifice. Effectively, not taking ideology seriously and consistently is crucial to its survival; this sort of resistance is already internal to power in this analysis. Žižek’s painting of the space between ideology and resistance - the counterpower Foucault seems to have missed that is lodged already within power itself - fails to take its own acrylic depth seriously. And like a depth charge too, this catabolizes what remains of ideology itself in a bubbling broth wrenched from the ingredients that might fill it.

To begin with, his conception of fantasy takes some descriptive moves to defend its apparently ridiculous presumptions. Upon reading it, the article’s quick acceptance of fantasy as distinct from a reality and external to it seems unimaginative and inexcusable. Yet, fantasy is not unreal for any reason but the old one: the terms are counterdefined and a matched pair of a dichotomy - people think so. “The aim of psychoanalytic treatment is thus to (re)focus attention from factual accuracy to hysterical lies, which unknowingly articulate the truth” (37). Your truth in terms of, uh, ours. Whereas fantasy can be experienced as completely compelling reality, Žižek nearly denudes it of alternative associations and frameworks. For him, fantasy cannot take a hold any more important than one inhering to desire, the real, and all the rest. His work ensconces it within the terms of a language/system - which itself is treated as something previous and joined, such that its conclusions can be presumed as already present. Not that his argument is circular, but the language that Žižek joins in order to strike such gymnastic maneuvers need not be taken as already ensuring the division of fantasy as an extricable parasite within a real.

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Another integral language with spectacular vernacular appeals encrusts fantasy with a shell as deep as the primordial fungi (fruits of the rhizomatic expanses) left as a protective psychokinetic glitch from the sandman of waking. What’s your glitch, computer? In this mixture, the dynamic which names the dream and describes it has the inbred and built in glitch, but not a mistake or error in the sense of wandering or surprising accident, of leaving the ancient and vestigial fruits of its networks of possibility and sense. However, the very leaving of such force fields and mind powered physical energies ensure the prolonged possibility of confirmation of fantasy as something present as or maybe beneath the textured surface offered here as fantasy itself. The dream is only a dream as it is awoken from - as deep as its recollection. It is only in or around one dreaming that it exceeds and deflects that of the other. Not quite a relation of parallel contestables, for these are combustible and switching fantasticals, like the spinning black and white than turn every color to the clean, well-lit eye.

The veils of fantasy are, in a face, the map truer than the territory, the mask no one cares to remove, the veils that are the fantasy, also fantastic. Yet, Žižek insists, “one should specify the notion of fantasy with a whole series of features” (7). The specification of features of fantasy does the work of the waking sandman, leaving a layer of dust to tell you it was all a dream, you’ve been sleeping. Like the cinematic ending of a moment’s pause to contemplate if anything really happened at all, followed by finding a confirming piece of evidence lying in the room beside the arisen character - only Žižek moves the last twist to the beginning. First you wake up with evidence, then you recollect the fantasy - and fantasy is never more: “symptoms are to be interpreted, fundamental fantasy is to be (re)constructed” (36). Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland offers an opposite possibility in its closing chapter,

`Who cares for you?' said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) `You're nothing but a pack of cards!' At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her: she gave a little scream, half of fright and half of anger, and tried to beat them off, and found herself lying on the bank, with her head in the lap of her sister, who was gently brushing away some dead leaves that had fluttered down from the trees upon her face.

Rather than confirm the tepid reality of the other fantasy as a part of this one, as many movies do, Alice confirms the utter unreality, from the point of view of waking, of her adventures in Wonderland. Žižek’s theorization of fantasy footnotes worlds of possibility as imagination without their own reality, based on subjects in a language, but Alice’s Adventures irrelevantly cuts off the pack of cards in the dream by reference to waking life, and finds nothing to her theorization of fantasy but the realities of her new dream, leaves upon her face. Žižek writes in footnote that, “even when the subject himself appears within his narrative, this is not automatically his point of identification - that is, he by no means necessarily ‘identifies with himself’” (40). Yet Alice’s Adventures offers a subject defined primarily through a ‘herself’ within the fantasy that she rarely escapes - there is no one to identify with and no identification, just textual readings of bodies in motion. Fantasy is an event at the border looking at both adjacent lands at once, but then this too could be considered within its own borderland - what is the view from here?

At the foot of fantasy rises the relation to ideology of the crucial critical self-disidentificatory gap (that is so far of fantasy). As Žižek puts it, an ideological identification exerts a true hold on us precisely when we maintain an awareness that we are not fully identical to it, that there is a rich human person beneath it: ‘not all is ideology, beneath the ideological mask, I am also a human person’ is the very form of ideology, of its ‘practical efficiency’. (21)

The denial of a perfect ideological thoroughness, the gap of fantasy and obstacle of counterpower, are all crucial to ideology’s effectiveness and survival, in this consideration. “[F]or all their mockery of authority, practical jokes and sexual escapades, the members of the MASH crew perform their job exemplarily, and thus present absolutely no threat to the smooth running of the military machine” (20). The crew’s disconnect, failure to ‘think’ perfectly as told, is crucial to the survival of the very force they supposedly oppose. Žižek interprets MASH (Altman, Robert 1970) this way, but by many responses/readings, MASH does not serve ideology or join it, coopted. For instance, to play Žižek’s own game of unmasking and searching for the truth - “The truth is out there” (3), no soldier was ever healed by MASH, even if such was done daily in the movie. In the instance of the opposite extreme, MASH’s allowance for service to continue to the army (what Žižek takes as the forgotten political remainder) functions in just the same roundabout way to serve the ideology of antiwar cultures. Thus, for all their exemplary job performance, the MASH crew dominates the film with practical jokes and mockery of authority. For MASH not to bemoan the army but still to serve it would wash away just as much the oil on ideology’s skin as MASH disbanding in the jungle to join local villages and practice nonviolent veganism against war. This reversal does not in itself demonstrate against Žižek at all, but its effect is to tear open the bag of infinite addition. Why not always consider a new subversive or servile element to subsist as the gap between ideology and a slick veneer, say of cynicism, against whatever power?

It is irrefutable that the world was all created and set in motion 3 seconds ago, but then is this different from the sense that a dream has come before? Žižek’s presumption that the fantasy functions externally to itself presumes its detachment from another fantasy. This work can be an under painting for another, but is an opaque and textured painting itself. Which ideology is as unsettled as which fantasy? A heterogenous pair that can be linked in an unending chain of fantasy supporting ideology, yes, but don’t think about it that way Fantasy, like this, does not present opportunities for significant material changes to social relations, it presumes the possibilities to be glazing ideology and by psychokinesthetics works to ensure this. The paint merely buries its own artistry in its thickness, where watercolor’s insistent inability to take itself anyway but lightly might offer the kind of wondrous burning multiplicity of confusions that possibility breathes.

Concrete Political Effect. The degree to which the cool temperament of Žižek’s “Seven Veils” argument avoids its own cataclysmically depressing severity is also the distance under water where the political impact of such analysis triggers. Because the political disidentification, counterpower, or whatever remainder might be produced in identification must be the outside to a centered inside of ideology, its contents must be cannibalized into new formations of emptiness and space. If Alice’s exceedingly rare detachment from Wonderland[1] has to be subsumed to a question of ideology and obedience, then her detachment is hardly to happen at all. Having established, or mentioned how such might be established, the non-mirrored, thus unreflected, alternative fantastic space of delusional or paranoiac politicizings et al., their consumption by the ideology-gap machine seems most blandly rehabilitative to the detachments and breakings Žižek grants presumptive acceptability. His argument makes sense. A sense of its own insomniac state that lacks indulgence of fantasy, that leaves the ‘fantasy’ a bit hurt Žižek won’t trip like I do. Alice’s resistance to Wonderland might not seem “effective” or otherwise politically exceptional through the open networks and skipping spirals of a particular Žižek article’s agenda, but the theoretical apparatus his article brings to science fair enacts the ziplocking off of hopeful alternativeness that the argument about ideology and fantasy begins from. By stirring in the digested remains of the contents of an other workability, Žižek’s “Veils” manages to catch up brides-to-be and prepare an empty house of resounding hollowness, filled with ether and bounded by outhouse walls. Political alterity has gone up in smoke.

Quickly, then, Žižek’s conception of fantasy digs out a canal connection to ideology that, through complex displacements of water, limits the fantastic possibilities of straight tripping by relations that keep up a tepid home for ideology by writing it as the thesis of becomings in terms of which the function of fantasy as over the border is to be understood. Working with the motto ”The truth is out there”, Žižek’s alchemy transmutes worlds and changes into truths and falsities, a wasted lump of lead even if that’s all it ever was.


[1] For instance, to begin chapter 2 of Alice’s Adventures, “`Curiouser and curiouser!'
cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to
speak good English)”
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