from slavo zizek

[i’m writing an article for Sunday’s paper on the case for God – The God Delusion documentary is being shown on tv here at the moment. They don’t want the article to be an argument against Dawkin’s book, but to be an argument for God. The former would be easier… feel free to remind me in the comments what the case for God is…]

I’m finally getting close to the end of Zizek’s ‘The Fragile Absolute’. He’s talking about the paradox of public power and its inherent transgression – we need to maintain some distance from that which would consume us, in order to not be consumed by it [if we live the law to the letter – with unreserved identification to it – we transgress it]. He uses prison as an example:

The cliche about prison life is that I am actually integrated into it, ruined by it, when my accommodation to it is so overwhelming that I can no longer stand or even imagine freedom, life outside prison, so that my release brings about a total psychic breakdown, or at least gives rise to a longing for the lost safety of prison life. The actual dialectic of prison life, however, is somewhat more refined. Prison in effect destroys me, attains a total hold over me, precisely when I do not fully consent to the fact that I am in prison but maintain a kind of inner distance towards it, stick to the illusion that ‘real life is elsewhere’ and indulge all the time in daydreaming about life outside, about nice things that are waiting for me after my release or escape. I thereby get caught in the vicious cycle of fantasy, so that when, eventually, I am released, the grotesque discord between fantasy and reality breaks me down. The only true solution is therefore fully to accept the rules of prison life and then, within the universe governed by these rules, to work out a way to beat them. In short, inner distance and daydreaming about Life Elsewhere in effect enchain me to prison, whereas full acceptance of the fact that I am really there, bound by prison rules, opens up a space for true hope.

We’re writing psalms of boredom this afternoon at the prison. I think this is the reason why.


  1. Lisa

    That’s incredibly profound – the idea that the fantasy of freedom in fact imprisons people more, and that only facing the reality of having your life takan away by that place, accepting that, somehow is the path to hope. Also I think that it is inevitable that people wrote boredom psalms but they probably ended up being discarded, judged to be ‘without poetry’. What a pity!

  2. Cheryl

    it is profound, isn’t it. turns everything on its head.

    is it not time you came back to australia?

  3. Antony

    Can’t believe that I am rereading parts of this book at the moment. Good – chaotic – interview too. Must walk a floor up. Have missed those articles too somehow. You should see Bob do a wedding…

  4. Cheryl

    come on up! the view’s great from my window [but not today because i’m taking a day off…]

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