The headline jumped out at me: ‘Most Dangerous Philosopher in the West’ to Give “Buddhism Naturalized” Talk. Wow. Most dangerous? Really? I had to learn more.
The man’s name is Slavoj Zizek, and he’s a Slovenian philosopher who will be speaking at the University of Vermont this Oct. 16. Now, what I wanted to know was why is he the ‘Most Dangerous Philosopher in the West’. Unfortunately the article, actually a press release posted on the UVM website, didn’t tell me. But it did say that Slavoj Zizek has also been called the “Elvis of cultural theory.” Whoa, that’s a big claim.
Naturally, I dug deeper. According to a post I found on bigthink.com what makes Zizek so dangerous is “his analysis of the worldwide ecological crisis, the biogenetic revolution, and apocalyptic economic imbalances.” Hmm, does that make him more dangerous than say, Al Gore? Maybe, but I’m not sure about it. Nor am I sure about why he’s the “Elvis of cultural theory” either. Maybe he swivels his hips when he gives talks.
Not yet satisfied, I went to Zizek’s Wikipedia page and found out that he was born in 1949, and that his first book in English, The Sublime Object of Ideology (which makes me think of the 1977 Bunuel film, That Obscure Object of Desire for some reason) was published in 1989. He has a lot more accolades than just the two I noted above; he’s also “one of the world’s best known public intellectuals”, “the thinker of choice for Europe’s young intellectual vanguard”, and according to the Telegraph in the UK, “the hippest philosopher in the world.” Damn, he must be a force to be reckoned with then.
I also learned that he’s a dogmatic Marxist. Cool! Me too! Who other than Groucho had more insight into society, economics and politics?
The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.
While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.”
Yep, for my money, Groucho’s dogma can’t be beat.
If you go to Zizek’s Wikipedia page, you’ll see about half-way down a notice that reads: This article may be too technical for most readers to understand. Well, that stopped me right there. I don’t want to read something I can’t understand. What’s the point?
I did learn one final fact, and that’s that Mr. Zizek is an atheist. Which begs the question, why is an atheist giving a talk on Buddhism? I wish people would stick to their own area of expertise. I’m a Buddhist so I don’t go around giving lectures on Zurvanism. Of course, one reason for that is because I’m not sure what it is. I have a sneaky suspicion that Zizek doesn’t know much about Buddhism either.
So, what does Slavoj Zizek have to say about Buddha-dharma? Here’s one example, from an essay titled From Western Marxism to Western Buddhism:
“Western Buddhism” is such a fetish. It enables you to fully participate in the frantic pace of the capitalist game while sustaining the perception that you are not really in it; that you are well aware of how worthless this spectacle is; and that what really matters to you is the peace of the inner Self to which you know you can always with-draw.
I never thought of it that way before. I think when I was in college I thought a lot about the frantic pace of the capitalist game, but it was too frantic. I couldn’t keep up. I was 32 when I officially became a Buddhist (my kind of Marxism and Buddhist don’t conflict). Since then, I’ve just been trying to overcome some suffering, find some enlightenment, and maybe help a few people along the way. But now, I may have to rethink things, because I certainly don’t want to have a fetish.
And while I’m thinking about it, I would like to know where you can withdraw your inner Self. Perhaps at a spiritual ATM? My ego tells me I’ve given too much of my self away. I think I want some of it back.
Zizek also says that “Nowhere is this fetishist logic more evident than apropos of Tibet, one of the central references of the post-Christian “spiritual” imaginary.” I think that means he’s not too hip on Tibet, but I can’t really tell because that sentence makes no sense to me. It must be too technical to understand.
I should be ashamed of myself for making fun of this guy. Obviously, I don’t know anything about him. I’m sure he’s a fine fellow, a great thinker, and probably a blast at parties. But then, in my book anyone who allows themselves to be billed as the most dangerous philosopher in the
world West is sort of asking for it.
Besides, I feel there are too many philosophers around these days anyway. I’m all in favor of a moratorium on new philosophies. Do we really need any more? I can’t handle what we got now. I say just say no to any new “isms.”
Or, as Groucho put it, “Whatever it is, I’m against it.”
The one and only Groucho in Horse Feathers.