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Friday, September 19, 2008

Slavoj Žižek, Obama supporter.

Words are never “only words.” They matter because they define the outlines of what we can do.

In this regard, Obama has already demonstrated an extraordinary ability to change the limits of what one can publicly say. His greatest achievement to date is that he has, in his refined and non-provocative way, introduced into the public speech topics that were once unsayable: the continuing importance of race in politics, the positive role of atheists in public life, the necessity to talk with “enemies” like Iran.

And that is a great achievement, which changes the coordinates of the entire field. Even the Bush administration, having first criticized Obama for this proposal, is now itself talking directly with Iran.

If U.S. politics is to break its current gridlock, it needs new words that will change the way we think and act.

Even measured by the low standards of conventional wisdom, the old saying, “Don’t just talk, do something!” is one of the most stupid things one can say.

Lately we have been doing quite a bit — intervening in foreign countries and destroying the environment.

Perhaps, it’s time to step back, think and say the right thing.
The Pinocchio Theory's take on this is illustrative insofar as it completely cedes any possibility of ever both saying and doing the right thing. We vote for Obama, we are told, not because it will accomplish anything—of course not—but as an empty act of identity construction that, in its self-conscious futility, affirms our own sense of self-satisfied moral worth.

World-weary and more-cynical-than-thou, the Pinocchio Theory get it wrong in exactly the way academics so often do, with the assumption that the future is irredeemably and knowably hopeless, its terms irrevocably and trivially bleak.

Have a little faith, there's magic in the night.

Obama won't turn back the rising seas or heal the sick or raise the dead—who could?—but this endless fixation upon and re-enunciation of the gap between Actual Concrete Improvements in the Livability of the World and Superhappy Instant Utopia is just so much empty posturing. Sure, he'll disappoint us. Sure, he's not Left "enough" by the standards of Literature graduate students. Sure, after eight years of an Obama presidency global capitalism will still poison the environment, pillage the developing world, destroy collectivities, and erode basic human relations—if, we may allow ourselves to hope, at least in some ways less and less.

But regardless of what happens and in what particulars Obama turns out to fail us, you don't get any points for sitting back and calling bullshit from the bleaches. It isn't good for your soul, and it doesn't even feel good.