The following is my own transcript of Zizek’s speech at Occupy Wall Street 9/10/11

I am reproducing it only because his points are very important but are difficult to hear on the video.

Transcript of Zizek at Occupy Wall Street 9.10.11

We are called losers but the true losers are down there on Wall Street: they were bailed out by billions of our money.
We are called Socialists; but here there is already Socialism for the rich.
They say we don’t respect private property; but in the 2008 financial crash-down more hard-earned private property was destroyed than if all us here were to be destroying it night and day for weeks.
They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers; we are the awakening from a dream that is turning into a nightmare. We are not destroying anything; we are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself.

We all know the classic scene from cartoons: the cat reaches a precipice but it goes no walking, ignoring the fact that there is nothing beneath its ground. Only when it looks down and notices it, it falls down.
This what we are doing here: we are telling the guys there on Wall Street: “Hey! Look down!”

In mid-April 2011, the Chinese government prohibited – on TV, in film and in novels – all stories that contain alternative reality or time-travel. This is a good sign for China. It means people still dream about alternatives so you have to prohibit this dreaming. Here we don’t need the prohibition because the ruling history has even oppressed our capacity to dream. Look at the movies that we see all the time: its easy to imagine the end of the world – an asteroid destroying all life and so on – but you cannot imagine the end of capitalism.

So what are we doing here? Let me tell you a wonderful old joke from communist times. A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia, he knew his mail would be read by censors, so he told his friends: “lets establish a code, if a letter you get from me is written in blue ink, it is true what I say. If it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month his friends get the first letter. Everything is in blue. It says: “Everything is wonderful here. Stores are full good food. Movie theatres show good films from the west. Apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink” This is how we live. We have all the freedoms we want. But what we are missing is red ink: the language to articulate our non-freedom.

The way we are taught to speak about freedom – ‘War On Terror’ and so on – falsifies freedom.
This is what you are doing here: you are giving all of us red ink.

There is a danger: don’t fall in love with yourselves. We have a nice time here, but remember carnivals come cheap – what matters is the day after when we will have to return to normal lives. Will there be any changes then? I don’t want you to remember these days – “oh we were young it was beautiful” – remember that our basic message is: we are allowed to think about to alternatives. The taboo is broken. We do not live in the best possible world.

But there is a long road ahead. There are truly difficult questions that confront us. We know what we do not want; but what do we want? What social organization can replace capitalism? What type of new leaders do we want? Remember the problem is not corruption or greed: the problem is the system that forces you to be corrupt. Beware not only of the enemies; but also of false friends who are already working to dilute this protest. In the same way you get coffee without caffeine; beer without alcohol; ice cream without fat – they will try to make this into a harmless moral protest. A decaffeinated protest. But the reason we are here is that we have had enough of a world where to recycle old cans; to give a couple of dollars to charity; or to buy Starbucks cappuccino where 1% goes to third world starving children is enough to make us feel good. After outsourcing work and torture, after marriage agencies are outsourcing even our love-life, we can see that for a long time we allowed our political engagement also to be outsourced. We want it back.

We are not communists if communism means the system which collapsed in 1990. Remember that today those communists are the most efficient ruthless capitalists. In China today we have capitalism which is even more dynamic than your American capitalism but doesn’t need democracy, which means when you criticise capitalism, don’t allow yourselves to be blackmailed that you are against democracy. The marriage between democracy and capitalism is over.

The change is possible. What do we consider today to be possible? Just follow the media. On the one hand, in technology and sexuality, everything seems to be possible: you can travel to the moon, you can become immortal by biogenetics, you can have sex with animals or whatever; but look at the field of society and economy: there almost anything is considered impossible. You want to raise taxes a little bit for the rich, they tell you: ” Its impossible! We lose competitivity!” You want more money for health care, they tell you: “Impossible! This means totalitarian state!” Isn’t something wrong in the world where you are promised to be immortal but cannot spend a little more for health care?

Maybe we’ve got to set our priorities straight here…
we don’t want a higher standard of living, we want a better standard of living.


One thought on “Transcript: Zizek at Occupy Wall Street

  1. Pingback: The Only Space: Zizek and the Sociological Imagination | EsJayBe

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