May 26, 2011

Ending with a quote by Freud, Zizek (2002) states, “if you cannot change the explicit set of ideological rules, you can try to change the underlying set of obscene unwritten rules” This very essay starts to question the very nature of the “real” that we are presented with in our everyday society of today. He first builds a premise as to how we today regard and interact with the Real. Zizek describes the Real as something we, in the twentieth century are experiencing – it in itself a form of extreme violence as the price to be paid for peeling off the deceptive layers of reality. Throughout this reading, we are confronted with the realities that have come to know in contrast to the Real, removed from the facades that society, governments and the media has erected, shielding us from the truth.

In the midst of this large charade of hyper realities, we are placed by Zizek as beings who seek the Real. The Real is that which he describes as that which captivates, fascinates and in many ways sustains our normality. Zizek compares this with the likes of cutters and their impulse to inflict harm onto themselves. Far from being suicidal, far from indicating a desire for self-annihilation, cutting is a radical attempt to (re)gain a hold on reality, or to ground the ego firmly in bodily reality against the unbearable anxiety of perceiving oneself as nonexistent (Zizek 2002). This assertion of reality itself is defiance against the violence of the reality that we are confronted with everyday and from everywhere.

Virtual reality is one of the notions put forward by Zizek (2002) which best describes the world that surrounds us today – one that is deprived of their malignant properties: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol…the doctrine of warfare with no casualties. This very blanket is that which has been thrown over our eyes time after time. With the World Trade Centre and the ruins that settled at Ground Zero, it was verbally conveyed and reinforced of the enormity of this disaster as that which had robbed 3000 people of their lives. However, there was a sense of the fragility of the public that seemed to be perceived by the media, a public unable to be confronted by the visual reality of the carnage and destruction mentioned. Aside from the images of the planes and the collapses and the explosions that (like in every other action movie) the world was being showed, there was a void in the grasp that it gave us on the severity of death that loomed over the city of New York, perhaps in comparison to the bodies shown in the tsunami disaster. In retrospect, reports on disasters such as the poverty and suffering in Africa as well as the genocide that had taken place in major times of war find their ways onto the televisions of families all around the world.

Would one then benefit from adjusting one’s lenses in terms of how one would see the world? There always lies in front of us the tantalising “Hollywood directed”, special effects added realities that are readily and abundantly available, wrapped up in “special” packaging that appeals to the general masses. Or, occasionally, if one chooses and tries hard enough, signs of (what Zizek derives as) the Real emerges from the clutter around us.

It wouldn’t hurt one to question though, would we (as the society of the 20th century) be able to confront the Real face on today?

Joel Lee

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