Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Red Ink

On several occasions this week I have felt overcome with excitement at the occupation of Wall Street. It feels like for too long Americans, and Australians, have been happy to sit back and accept the status quo dished out by big business. Finally, finally, people are standing up and saying No More.

A couple of days ago, the philosopher Slavoj Zizek spoke to Occupy Wall Street protesters at Liberty Plaza. Here's something he said that has stuck with me:

In an old joke from the defunct German Democratic Republic, a German worker gets a job in Siberia; aware of how all mail will be read by censors, he tells his friends: "Let's establish a code: if a letter you will get from me is written in ordinary blue ink, it is true; if it is written in red ink, it is false." After a month, his friends get the first letter written in blue ink: "Everything is wonderful here: stores are full, food is abundant, apartments are large and properly heated, movie theatres show films from the West, there are many beautiful girls ready for an affair - the only thing unavailable is red ink."
And is this not our situation till now? We have all the freedoms one wants - the only thing missing is the red ink: we feel free because we lack the very language to articulate our unfreedom. What this lack of red ink means is that, today, all the main terms we use to designate the present conflict - 'war on terror', 'democracy and freedom', 'human rights', etc - are FALSE terms, mystifying our perception of the situation instead of allowing us to think it. You, here, you are giving to all of us red ink.

There are videos of his speech here. Even if you only have a minute, it's worth watching just for that. As the protesters aren't allowed megaphones or any form of amplification, the crowd close to Zizek repeats each sentence after him for their fellow protesters further away.

Thank you. We hear you loud and clear.