For example, the dissatisfaction around the American elections, the EU democracy deficit, and protests following the 2008 crash bailouts are but a few of the many signs of the Western nation-state leaking legitimacy. The sea of faith in the state is receding.
Alfred Hitchcock [a Roman Catholic, by the way] once said that a film is as good as its villain—does this mean that the forthcoming U.S. elections will be good since the “bad guy” (Donald Trump) is an almost ideal villain? Yes, but in a very problematic sense. For the liberal majority, the 2016 elections represent a clear-cut choice: the figure of Trump is a ridiculous excess, vulgar and exploiting our worst racist and sexist prejudices, a male chauvinist so lacking in decency so that even Republican big names are abandoning him in droves. If Trump remains the Republican candidate, we will get a true “feelgood election”—in spite of all our problems and petty squabbles, when there is a real threat we can all come together in defence of our basic democratic values, like France did after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015.
This same stance was brought to the extreme with the U.S.’s first female secretary of state Madeleine Albright, a big Clinton supporter who served in her husband’s administration from 1997 to 2001. On CBS’s 60 Minutes (May 12, 1996), Albright was asked about that year’s cruise missile strikes on Iraq known as Operation Desert Strike: “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright calmly replied: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price—we think the price is worth it.” Let’s ignore all the questions that this reply raises and focus on one aspect: can we imagine all the hell that would break out if the same answer would be given by somebody like Putin or the Chinese President Xi? Would they not be immediately denounced in western newspapers as cold and ruthless barbarians? Campaigning for Hillary, Albright said: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” (Meaning: who will vote for Sanders instead of Clinton.) Maybe we should amend this statement: there is a special place in hell for women (and men) who think half a million dead children is an affordable price for a military intervention that ruins a country, while wholeheartedly supporting women’s and gay rights at home.
Trump is not the dirty water that should be thrown out to keep safe the healthy baby of U.S. democracy, he is himself the dirty baby who should be thrown out in order to shine a light on the uneasy nature of the Hillary consensus. The message of this consensus to the Leftists is: you can get everything, we just want to keep the essentials, the unencumbered functioning of the global capital. President Obama’s “Yes, we can!” acquires now a new meaning: yes, we can concede to all your cultural demands without endangering the global market economy—so there is no need for radical economic measures. Or, as Todd McGowan, professor of film theory and history at the University of Vermont, put it (in a private communication): “The consensus of ‘right-thinking people’ opposed to Trump is frightening. It is as if his excess licenses the real global capitalist consensus to emerge and to congratulate themselves on their openness.”
This is the real hell hiding behind it all. It is a hell produced by those who take huge solace in thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders we are not going to be judged.
Unwittingly, their actions give the Church back a field for employing hell-language legitimately in a late modern context.
If you can’t get enough of Žižek see: Straight Marriage is Daring When Ordained Transgression is the Norm!
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