hell hath no fury…

29Apr10

Most of the threats we face today are not external (or “natural”), but generated by human activity shaped by science (the ecological consequences of our industry, say, or the psychic consequences of uncontrolled genetic engineering), so that the sciences are simultaneously the source of such threats, our best hope of understanding those threats, and the means through which we may find a way of coping with them.

http://www.newstatesman.com/environment/2010/05/essay-nature-catastrophe

Zizek repeats himself some more, with lashings of anthropic catastrophe and the, now staid and obvious, rhetoric of terror. The segment I’ve quoted, and the part on the mention of egalitarian justice and communism, are the only bits worth while. Although, while Zizek gives a more nuanced (or, dialectical) position on science  than many commentators he also leaves us with this turn:

That line from Wagner’s Parsifal – “Die Wunde schliest der Speer nur, der Sie schlug” (“The wound can only be healed by the spear that made it”) – acquires a new relevance here.

The only way in which we could say that nature requires humanity to act as its saviour is if we limit nature to nature as human habitat, and in that case what we’re really talking about is saving ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with that but it is disingenuous and philosophically illegitimate to present the claim in any other way than openly. Nature operates as an Other in Zizek’s discourse, an other that faces humanity as both victim and potential murderer,  an Other that requires the saving and imprisoning action of a Subject equipped with scientific knowledge, which is itself a weapon of poisoning and healing.

The realtionship Zizek paints is one in which nature is lies like a rape victim who has to be saved by a big strong man, the very man who carried out the rape in the first place…and she must be saved primarily from her own destructive reaction to the violent injustice done to her that might result in the man’s life being taken from him. I’m not saying this is a perfect fit of the picture Zizek is giving but it is a metaphor that seems largely in line with the tone of the piece. For me at any rate.

None of this is to say that global warming isn’t real and that we oughtn’t to do something about it. Its much more simple than that…I just don’t see how we can combat the threat when we treat nature as this enraged victim Other.

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