Saturday, May 26, 2007


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 the censors, he tells his friends: 'Let's establish a code: if a letter you get from me is written in ordinary blue ink, it's true; if it's written in red ink, it's false.' After a month, his friends get the first letter, written in blue ink: 'Everything is wonderful here: the shops are full, food is abundant, apartments are large and properly heated, cinemas show films from the West, there are many beautiful girls ready for an affair -- the only thing you can't get is red ink.'
Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, above, in bed, in the movie Zizek! The movie includes the joke above, which Zizek explains in detail in his book about 9/11, Welcome to the Desert of the Real!

Of the joke, Zizek writes:
One starts by agreeing that one has all the freedoms one wants -- then one merely adds that 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', and so on -- are false terms, mystifying our perception of the situation instead of allowing us to think it. In this precise sense, our 'freedoms' themselves serve to mask and sustain our deeper unfreedom.

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