RF: In your final chapter you cite a Mahmoud Darwish poem that says “a possible life is one that wills the impossible.” You describe this as a paradox – could you explain it?
JB: Well, there are people who believe in realpolitik and who say: “There’s never going to be one state, there’s never going to be equality, there’s never going to be peace…don’t fool yourself. If you want to be political, get concrete and see what adjustments you can make in the current regime”.
Then I just think, ok, what would it mean if we lived in a world in which no one held out for the possibility of substantial political equality, or for a full cessation of colonial practices - if no one held out for those things because they were impossible? People do scoff when you say right of return. I was at a meeting with Palestinians and Israelis where people said: “That will never happen.” So I said, “well it will not be taken off the table.”
In fact in politics, sometimes the thing that will never happen actually starts to happen. And there have to be people who hold out for that, and who accept that they are idealists and that they are operating on principle as opposed to realpolitik. If there were no such ideals then our entire political sensibility would be corrupted by this process.
And maybe one of the jobs of theory or philosophy is to elevate principles that seem impossible, or that have the status of the impossible, to stand by them and will them, even when it looks highly unlikely that they’ll ever be realised. But that’s ok, it’s a service. What would happen if we lived in a world where there were no people who did that? It would be an impoverished world.
Zizek on the perverse core of Christianity:
The big Other no longer exists. Perversion is a double strategy to counteract this nonexistence: an (ultimately deeply conservative, nostalgic)attempt to install the law artiﬁcially, in the desperate hope that we will then take this self-posited limitation “seriously, ”and, in a complementary way, a no less desperate attempt to codify the very transgression of the Law. In the perverse reading of Christianity, God ﬁrst threw humanity into Sin in order to create the opportunity for saving it through Christ’s sacriﬁce; the Absolute plays a game with itself - it ﬁrst separates itself from itself, introduces a gap of self-misrecognition, in order to reconcile itself with itself again. This is why today’s desperate neoconservative attempts to reassert “old values”are also ultimately a failed perverse strategy of imposing prohibitions that can no longer be taken seriously.
"The scientist is in the position of a Greek slave in Imperial Rome. He knows that he understands a host of important things which are completely unknown to his masters. This gives him a very painful feeling of isolation in the community. Perhaps in time it will become possible to make some of the fundamental ideas of science intelligible in the course of a cultural education and, conversely, to give more cultural background to the thoughts of scientists. The present system under which some men have the power and others have the knowledge is very dangerous."