The reprehensible murder of 50 people and the wounding of 53 at Orlando’s LGBT nightclub The Pulse affects us immediately in a way that is becoming all too familiar from other similar kinds of events. In each case there is shock, the assessment of facts, the grieving of the loss of loved ones, vigils and calls for unity. These are accompanied by statements by political leaders as to the significance of these events. Because they happen too often we are also now often told to restrain ourselves from making such political statements – to not overly rapidly politicize while we are mourning. The day of 9/11 I told friends that my worry would be that the right wing in the U.S. would seek to capitalize on the event to further its imperialist aims and somehow yesterday’s mass shooting in Orlando is a continuation of that very spiral of reaction, the war against Iraq, the now almost permanent occupation of Afghanistan, drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan, and the U.S. government’s collusion with al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Syria, Lybia and elsewhere. There are aspects of the massacre that are incidental: the type of rifle that was used and its easy accessibility, the fact that this is the 175th mass shooting in the U.S. in 2016, the hate-based discriminatory aspect of the crime, the shooter’s stated allegiance to ISIS and his possible ties to a man who moved from Florida to fight for an Islamist militia in the U.S.-backed war for regime change in Syria. All of these circumstantial aspects of the massacre, however, immediately overlap with core social values and because of this we should not hesitate work through on our political response. The rhetoric of politicians like Obama, Clinton and Trump that America needs to defend itself is a correct one but it is not ISIS that the American establishment fears. What they genuinely fear is democratic and radical politicization in response their military and plutocratic agenda at home and abroad. The social policies that are being put forward by the Bernie Sanders campaign will soon be sidelined by reactionary appeals that are designed to disorient and frighten the American people. It is in the spirit of struggle and anger that we mourn our brothers and sisters who died yesterday and not in acquiescence to the imperialist neoliberal order.
A few passages from Slavoj Žižek’s recent book are worth quoting here.
THE DEFENCE OF ONE'S WAY OF LIFE DOES NOT EXCLUDE ETHICAL UNIVERSALISM
“[T]he obviously tolerant solution (mutual respect of each other’s sensitivities) … obviously doesn’t work. If Muslims find it impossible to bear our blasphemous images and reckless humour (which we consider a part of our freedom), Western liberals also find it impossible to bear many practices (such as the subordination of women) that are part of the Muslim life-world. In short, situations explode when members of a religious community experience as blasphemous injury and a danger to their way of life not a direct attack on their religion, but the very way of life of another community: this was the case with attacks on gays and lesbians by Muslim fundamentalists in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, and with those Frenchmen and women who see a woman covered by a burka as an attack on their French identity, which is why they also find it ‘impossible to remain silent’ when they encounter such a woman in their midst. One has therefore to do two things: first, formulate a minimum set of norms that are obligatory for everyone, without fear that they will appear ‘Eurocentric’: religious freedoms, the protection of individual freedom against group pressure, rights of women, and so on; and second, within these limits, unconditionally insist on the toleration of different ways of life. And what if norms and communication don’t work? Then the force of law should be applied in all its forms.”
UNIVERSALITY OF STRUGGLES
“If all sides do not share or respect the same civility, then multiculturalism turns into a form of legally regulated mutual ignorance or hatred. The conflict about multiculturalism is already a conflict about universal common culture: it is not a conflict between [two or more different] cultures, but a conflict between different versions of how different cultures can and should co-exist; about the rules and practices these cultures have to share if they are to co-exist. Since our problems today are common, propose and fight for a positive universal project shared by all. Our axiom should be that the struggle against Western neocolonialism as well as the struggle against fundamentalism, the struggle of Wikileaks and Snowden as well as the struggle of Pussy Riot, the struggle against anti-Semitism as well as the struggle against Zionism, are parts of one and the same universal struggle.”
BRING BACK THE CLASS STRUGGLE AND INSIST ON GLOBAL SOLIDARITY
“During the first half of 2015, Europe was preoccupied by radical emancipatory movements (Syriza, Podemos), while in the second half the attention had shifted to the ‘humanitarian’ topic of the refugees: a shift in which class struggle was literally repressed and replaced by liberal-cultural notions of tolerance and solidarity. With the Paris terror killings in November, however, even these ideas are now eclipsed by the simple opposition of all democratic forces caught in a merciless war with forces of terror – and it is easy to imagine what will follow: the paranoiac search for ISIS agents among the refugees, and so on. The greatest victims of the Paris terror attacks will be refugees themselves, and the true winners, concealed behind the platitudes in the style of je suis Paris, will be simply the partisans of total war on both sides. This is how we should really condemn the Paris killings: not by engaging in pathetic shows of anti-terrorist solidarity but by insisting on asking one simple question: cui bono? And there should be no ‘deeper understanding’ of the ISIS terrorists (in the sense of ‘their deplorable acts are nonetheless reactions to brutal European interventions’): they should be characterized as what they are, as the Islamo-Fascist obverse of the anti-immigrant racists – the two are two sides of the same coin. So let’s bring back the class struggle – and the only way to do it is to insist on the global solidarity of the exploited and oppressed. Without this global view, the pathetic solidarity with Paris victims is a pseudo-ethical obscenity. Maybe such global solidarity is a utopia. But if we don’t engage in it, then we are really lost.”