Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbors: Against the Double Blackmail by Slavoj Žižek

Zizek

In this acerbic, polemical work, the controversial philosopher Slavoj Zizek attempts to tackle the problems posed by a growing influx of refugees from the Middle East into Europe. Combining a complicated narrative style with complex metaphysical analogies, Zizek compares the reaction of both authorities and the public in Western Europe to the flow of refugees from both Africa and the Middle East, to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s description of how an individual reacts when diagnosed with a terminal illness. In her famous book “On Death and Dying”, Kubler-Ross postulates that the response of the aforementioned individual evolves over five stages:

Denial;
Anger;
Bargaining;
Depression; and
Acceptance

However Zizek argues that there is a very elementary distinction between how we respond to a fatal medical diagnosis and how we perceive the flow of refugees, if we are Europeans. We pass through all the familiar stages as identified by Ross-Kubler, with the exception of the final state of acceptance. Beginning with this postulate, Zizek elucidates at length about this phenomenon splattering his narration with a few significant examples, most notable of them being the 2015 Paris attacks; the infamous Rotherheim disasters and even the gruesome murdering of cats by disgruntled printing press employees in France in the 1700s. Although Zizek manages to strike a chord of persuasion, the language employed by him in certain vital passages is convoluted and almost beyond the grasp of a reader who does not have a material knowledge of either logic or philosophy. But then again, Zizek’s style has never been either simple or fundamental.

Painting the exodus of fleeing people with a novel brush of global capitalism, Zizek argues that the process of migration of a helpless horde of population is also a income generating business for a few opportunists; a business similar to that of dealing with say oil or other precious resource. The author concludes by emphasising that there should be a shift in mindset amongst the anti-migration advocates; the pro-refugee acceptance camps and also the refugees themselves. The ideal balance would be a reference limit of tolerance that accepts different cultural and religious practices and an overarching law that reigns in dangerous and unacceptable anomalies. Only such a balance would lead to an amicable and desirable resolution of the refugee crisis that is currently staring Western Europe in its pale and confused face.

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