Monday, January 2, 2012

We live in an interesting time

I just finished watching an interview with Slavoj Zizek... such a fascinating talk. I haven't read any of his books yet, but I know I must add him to my gigantic list of authors I need to read. There's a lot to digest from this interview. If you're not used to thinking all over the place, he might just sound like a crazy man to you. However my brain operates the same way (though I know next to nothing about the world compared to him) so this one interview answered so many questions I've been pondering for a long time now.

Zizek pointed out current weirdness of societal values everywhere in the world. In the West (I'm guessing that includes US/Canada and Western Europe), the society currently implicitly encourages a kind of "spiritual hedonism" - "be true to your self,  have a full life, realize your potentials". In other times the public had been told to live a life to sacrifice oneself for the greater good (for the family, the community, the religious group, the corporation, the country, etc). It's great for the individual, but not so great for production/manufacturing (where's the fulfillment working in a factory?). In this way, totalitarian style of ruling (eg. China, Singapore), where citizens are taught to place country and work before the self,  running capitalism can achieve much better efficiency + productivity than the western way of ruling countries - good for building a strong, rich country, not so good for the individuals, especially the blue collar working class. Nevertheless, it means China will eventually dominant over the West, and the West is scared.

It's really interesting how the human mind is so malleable. If you were recently born into North Korea, your society will tell you that your country is more important than you, and without access to international media, you would probably believe it and that's how you would live your life. If you were recently born into the West, society shows you this "spiritual hedonism" and you would take many things for granted: benefits, libraries, maternal leave, nice roads, etc. depending on where you live. If you were born in the Middle East, depending on which religious group you were born into, your family would teach you about the disputes and injustice that some other religious groups have done to your group for thousands of years, and you might spend the rest of your life obsessing about getting back at them.

I feel I'm anxious because I am deeply conflicted by the fact that I am educated by the West ("be the best that you can be"), but my parents try to instill traditional Chinese values in me (study hard, gain critical thinking skills, and then forget about the educational enlightenment part and focus on conforming to family values and to society - I think they do not fully realize that western company cultures are not quite the same as Asian companies/bosses). So I turn to yoga + meditation for some peace and equanimity, but my ligaments feel a bit overstretched and my SI joints hurt (from hamstrings being over stretched)? Meditation also does not provide me with job hunting skills, or skills that would help me dealing with family whose fundamental values are almost polar opposites of my values.

Either things will resolve on their own, and the world will self-reorganize into a better place, or the world will end soon and I don't need to worry about my future right now, I guess. I don't really like to be in denial, but I don't have too many alternative options here. 2012 should be an interesting year for me (and for the rest of the world).

p.s. I had a not so great yoga practice today. Learned a thing or two about my body nevertheless.


  1. Such a super blog, added to my 2012 reading list. Happy new year

  2. Thank you Robbieb. Happy New Year to you too! It's amazing there are people out there who like my non-sense blogging :D

  3. I just want to say that I just watched the Slavoj Zizek interview, and it's absolutely riveting. Much material for thought (and possibly a future blog post :-)). Thanks for posting it.

  4. Hi Nobel, Zizek is kind of amazing, isn't he? That's how genius talks I guess.

  5. Slavoj Zizek is fine if you are fine with the gross simplification of subjects you know little about, and because confident that your reader won't question your authority. From this pedestal, it's easy to look at something and analyse, when you are willing to ignore the fact you have a very shallow understanding. Genius? Hmmm.

    For example:

  6. Hi Eunice, of course Zizek's interview is a gross simplification of very complex issues. I call him a genius because I don't know that many people who can simultaneously consider so many issues at once and put an interesting spin to the conventional way we think about every one of these issues. His main theme is that we live in interesting times, where some of our habitual way of thinking/living the daily life haven't caught up with the latest developments in the world. Zizek is not out to provide the latest ideology that will solve all problems in the world. He aims to provoke people, to make one question every thing anyone firmly believes to be right, no matter what position one holds. Some of the questions he asks may make us fall off our high horses, critically re-examine our beliefs, and it's possible we may still come to the same conclusions as we did before, maybe with a better understanding of our positions, maybe with slight change of stance for certain aspects of our positions.

    I read though the Huffington post article. Zizek is not in complete disagreement with all Buddhist spiritual teachers. Perhaps you would prefer Richard Freeman's version of critically examining complacence within yoga/buddhism? Freeman speaks with more charm, humor, and his criticisms are not nearly as harsh, but both him and Zizek talk about the trap of falling into this "I do yoga, I meditate and study buddhism, and therefore I'm fine/I will be fine" groove. It's the human tendency to do so and good spiritual teachers/intellectuals will keep provoking us to keep us awake/on our toes.

    The path to hell is paved with good intentions: