cannot buy red ink
October 20, 2012, 2:55 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , ,

A good illustration of how there is the perception of freedom – a constitution, abundance of goods and services, a shot at life, etc – but not the whole story of our relative freedom.  Not only is the whole story not a part of our daily existence but, more critically, we lack the language to begin to tell it:

Let me tell you a wonderful, old joke from Communist times. A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia. He knew his mail would be read by censors, so he told his friends: “Let’s establish a code. If a letter you get from me is written in blue ink, it is true what I say. If it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get the first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter: “Everything is wonderful here. Stores are full of good food. Movie theatres show good films from the west. Apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink.” This is how we live. We have all the freedoms we want. But what we are missing is red ink: the language to articulate our non-freedom. The way we are taught to speak about freedom— war on terror and so on—falsifies freedom. And this is what you are doing here. You are giving all of us red ink.

Slavoj Zizek, The Spirit of Rebellion


4 Comments so far
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Comment by speccy

[…] Peter’s powerful comment on language […]

Pingback by worth reading | me, mine and other bits

I love this story. It should be told across a cheap bar over shots of vodka 🙂

Comment by kateshrewsday

Yup, a drink with Zizek would be a rush. I saw him speak last week at a University – he’s crazy and entertaining even without shots at a bar.

Comment by Peter Rudd

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