Slavoj Zizek at Liberty Plaza

Extracts of Slavoj Zizek’s speech 9 October at Occupy Wall Street:

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 awakening from a dream which 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 scenes from cartoons. The cart reaches a precipice but it goes on walking, ignoring the fact that there is nothing beneath. Only when it looks down and notices it, it falls down. This is what we are doing here. We are telling the guys there on Wall Street, “Hey, look down!”

Here we don’t think of prohibition. Because the ruling system has even suppressed our capacity to dream. Look at the movies that we see all the time. It’s 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, “Let’s establish a code. If the letter you get from me is written in blue ink, it is true what I said. If it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get a first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter, “Everything is wonderful here. Stores are full of 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 and terrorism and so on falsifies freedom. And 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 life. Will there be any changes then? I don’t want you to remember these days, you know, like, “Oh, we were young, it was beautiful.” Remember that our basic message is: We are allowed to think about alternatives. The rule 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 pushes you to give up. Beware not only of the enemies, but also of false friends who are already working to dilute this process.

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 criticize 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. … We know that people often desire something but do not really want it. Don’t be afraid to really want what you desire.

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