European Enlightenment Possibilities?

Today the FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) brings a conversation between Dietmar Dath, Slavoj Žižek and Daniel Cohn-Bendit. The conversation is entitled “We Europeans have the resource of Enlightenment. [Wir Europäer haben die Ressource der Aufklärung”.] I enjoy the possibility of three intellectuals from different fields (Dath is a novelist, essayist & art editor at the FAZ; Žižek the LLBean — i.e. the Leninist-Lacanian-Mr.Bean — of Europe & beyond; & Cohn-Bendit the iconic radical of 1968 Paris barricades now an elected ecological party representative at the European Parliament) having long conversations with access to the daily press. I.e this access is something I do miss in this country. Here a few excerpts in my instant translation:


Žižek: My dream would be to rewrite “Antigone” in a Brechtian manner as a triple didactical piece in three versions. As in  Kieslowski or in Tom Tykwer’s film “Run, Lola, run”. First version: The Story bleibt as we know it. Second version: Antigone convinces Kreon, and the brother is buried. Then happens what Kreon had feared: Rebellion, the city lies in ruins and ashes, and Antigone walks off saying something like, ” I was made for love, not for war.” Third version: the Stalinist one. The choir, usually stupid, steps up and constitutes itself as a Jacobean Public Welfare Committee, arrests Kreon and Antigone and installs the dictatorship.

* * *

Cohn-Bendit: …[h]ow does one evaluate historical developments, when it concerns a specific event? That’s also the question that is raised in the case of the occupy-movement. When one talks with their representatives, they’ll say: the banking system is completely wrong from the bottom up. But they don’t have an alternative to this situation at the ready. And they don’t look for one. The occupy-movement is fed up with the system, and that is what they want to get off their lungs. And I can understand that. We live in a situation where any programmatic attempt at a solution is confronted to a reality so immensely complex, that by necessity it will seem under-complex.

 * * *

Žižek: …I was never a critic given to oversimplification. One example: We may think about Obama what we want, but despite all of his now recognizable deficits I still have a weakness for him. Because the discussion he triggered concerning a general healthcare system for the Unites States was extremely important. I touche don the core of American ideology, on that whole inanity of individual free choice and so on.

Dath: That one is responsible only for oneself, that there is no responsibility of the State…

Žižek: When one speaks of a public health care system, nobody can really claim that that is a extreme Marxist silliness. And yet Obama touched a purely ideological nerve with that. We need such themes: on one hand totally pragmatic and on the other ideologically challenging.

Dath: And that is the difference between you and Debord.

Cohn-Bendit: There’s one thing I’d like to ask of you: use just  fewer philosophical terms than you did in your last book. I has to work so hard when reading you.

Žižek: It was always my conviction that the reader has to feel guilty!

* * *

Dath: … is it possible to get by without the pressure of the actual, when one wants to change something?  Is the pressure of civil society truly enough?

Cohn-Bendit: If you can answer that one, you’ll get the Nobel prize.

Dath: The question is, what motivates protest and dissidence. Before 1945 left mass movement articulated the hope for a Golden Age, by the eighties of the last century at the latest, questions from peace to ecology where rather framed as: we are as good as dead if we go on this way.  Today,  something like the occupy movement argues at one level apocalyptically, on the other hand however also utopically.

Cohn-Bendit: The situation on the financial markets is indeed truly apocalyptic.



You can read the whole conversation in German here.

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1 Response

  1. Poo says:

    One wishes you the best in 2012. This blog delivered in 2011 some of the most entertaining, educational and provocative articles I read anywhere. The “enlightenment” of the above 3 , however, demonstrates their misunderstanding of the U.S. while at the same time offering ample evidence of how Europe arrived in it’s current state. As I heard a man from Greece say on my wee tv just the other day, “We want everyone to know that it’s not us; it’s the government.” There you have it. Do you feel “emlightened” yet?

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