Zizek and a German Joke

Oh, Žižek:

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.

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3 thoughts on “Zizek and a German Joke

  1. It’s true that we lack the language to express the really important things. I don’t know if there is a language for that. All of life’s greatest mysteries, the ones that change you soul deep, are without words.

    • Very profound insight, Jude.

      Zizek has commented before that whilst capitalism is the financial economic structure of the day, and socialism might not be the best ‘next thing’, it ought not stop us from critisising it. There will be something new, someday, out of necessity. In the meantime, let’s work towards it – let’s open our minds.

      • I agree, my mind is sometimes so open that ideas and thoughts pass right through without leaving a mark. That is the Zen ideal; to have no line between us and them but simply to be. We do need to continue to criticize the status quo and proposing a better alternative, that is how change occurs and without change there is nothing.

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