Slavoj Žižek, Yanis Varoufakis & Julian Assange @ The 'Europe Is Kaput!' Event In London -- What Was Said
On Monday 16th November 2015, Yanis Varoufakis, Slavoj Žižek and Srećko Horvat (mediator) walked onto the stage at The Southbank Centre in London for a discussion entitled: 'Europe is Kaput!'. Thirty minutes in and they announced a surprise guest speaker whom would be streamed in through live video feed for the rest of the debate - Julian Assange. What is detailed below is the topics which were discussed and individual comments in response. Largely there was consensus between the speakers, with Slavoj acting as devils advocate. As the discussion lasted three hours this is a summary of those points which were most clear, concise and of interest, for those who may wish to read them.
It should be noted that given the nature of such discussions, and the speakers (i.e. Žižek), there was some discontinuity in topic discussion throughout the evening. Therefore, comments are not listed chronologically but thematically for ease of reading.
The closing remark of the evening came from Slavoj and seemed fitting to separate, here:
"You end capitalism, you end ISIS"
(emphasising their interconnectedness as opposed to a method)
Paris, ISIS, Europe and the refugee crisis
Žižek: What is clear is that those who will be the biggest victims of the Paris attacks are those already involved in the humanitarian crisis - refugees.
Varoufakis: We should respond in such a way as to take a minutes silence, and light up our buildings, but it should include responses and respect for the violence in other parts of the world so we cannot ignore it, so we must internalise it, and it is in our consciousness.
Žižek: We must realize, and stop speaking as though, there is a cultural divide, but recognize that Paris, ISIS, the Holocaust, Palestine, etc. is all part of the same struggle. We must also recognize that exposure to suffering does not make you more sensitive to it (spoke of Holocaust victims taking part in Palestine) and therefore needs reactions from us all and not just those involved.
Varoufakis: Borders are always justified and legitimised for the same reason: in the interest of security, yet they breed the exact opposite. Borders only increase tension, the profits to be made from smuggling, and cast a constant denial onto those who are divided from each other.
Žižek: Of course we should intervene, we created the situation. But there is a dark side to this 'economic neocolonialism' rhetoric. Not only are ISIS tied into profits from oil, which has global economic interests (China, USA etc.) but aspects of our culture such as 'feminism', completely exclude e.g. Muslim feminists, and other cultures' inputs.
Žižek, cont.: We must also remember that Saudi Arabia is one of the most corrupt countries, involved directly, intrinsically and fundamentally immersed in global financial markets as one of the richest states - with around a 10% ownership of US bonds, etc. - and whilst Conservatives touch on this issue it is not dealt with: that Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar, are doing nothing.
The European Union
Varoufakis: Issues surrounding the European Union include:
1) A lack of transparency - having sat in on meetings he is positive their behaviour would alter if such meetings were televised. Citizens have a right to understand what decisions are being made on their part, and leaders know this. This would not require law or policy changes, simply the opening of doors. Let them tell us why this is not possible. There is no easier way to democratise.
2) It is part of the design of Europe to be dysfunctional, an intrinsic quality. This must be addressed. For example: The European Central Bank's policies lead to, for him, an inevitable crisis.
3) Nation states are brought into being through the need for conflict resolution e.g. Magna Carta - conflict between merchants and the King, Capitalism - vested interests of companies and the labour force. The role of the nation state is to be a steward, to regulate. It became more important to societies because of this evolutionary, developed, capability and its efficiency at performing such a role. The EU is different to this, as a cartel for industry and trade. The head of the cartel is in Brussels but it is not a government and therefore does fulfil such a purpose. It is administrative. Therefore tension between what we wish it to be, it professes to be, and it can function to be, exists. This also needs to be addressed if it is to function, and not completely destabilise and collapse leading to a 1930s style of living.
4) You cannot 'exit' Europe, and discussions need to recognize this. It is like the lyrics from The Eagle's 'Hotel California': You can check out, but you can never leave. Ultimately, as a farmer in France you will be governed by their price stability mechanisms, their agricultural reforms and standards enforcement.
5) The dissatisfaction with the Union due to its destabilising effects could be countered with such measured as: cheques for food given out to citizens by the EU, which are not real money but exchange for food so that families do not go hungry. This is akin to the US's 'food stamps' situation whereby the level of those who live below the poverty line would increase to 26% of its citizens from 14-15% without them. It would encourage unity and satisfaction amongst those who live within it.
6) Brussels is not a government and should behave as a constitutional assembly. There should also be a body of elected citizens whom oversee and shadow activities who take the interests of the public to Brussels in how they wish it to operate and behave.e
7) The UK should be a part of these reforms as opposed to retreating into the figment of their imaginary global economy which exists without the EU - it doesn't, it won't and David Cameron must be a part of discussions.
8) The problem of the EU's fragmentation if the choice is to either retreat back to the level of the nation state or democratise and continue in this direction, this is fundamentally inconsistent with the technological advances that have been made over the last twenty years e.g. the Internet and social media. There is greater connectivity between people across borders.
Žižek: Even if you held televised meetings they would have secret meetings the next day
Varoufakis: Yes, but you will always struggle to control the powers that be, but you must still take steps
Wikileaks, Syria, ISIS, the US, capitalism, global geo-politics,
technology and Silicon Valley's unchallenged ideological assault
Assange: Wikileaks has discovered documents going as far back as 2006 which detail the US's plans to overthrow the Syrian government, to increase 'paranoia' and 'frighten' (words used in documents), cause the Assad regime to overreact, and to prevent foreign investment and cooperation.
Assange, cont: There is a spiritual dimension to this issue that we have to consider - there is something in Hilary, and in her reaction, that personality, that has an 85% chance of entering, and embedding itself in, the White House after the election. That is something to think about: how a Western head of state reacts to another head of state being other thrown and killed in such a manner, and that person becoming the most powerful individual on earth.
- Rather than look for stability, France has also roused community fear by requesting everyone run to their local hospital to donate blood; there is talk of 'borders', 'crackdowns' and the British have already highlighted surveillance. This plays directly into ISIS's crackdown of the 'grey zone' between devout muslims and those Muslims embedded in Western ways, with increased Islamophobia and disunification in multicultural states.
- There is no ideological alternative being proposed: Isis vs. the West. What can occupy the middle ground? There needs to be a new European left movement. A type of 'Christianity', a preaching of love and unification.
Varoufakis: The paradox of the last 20 years has been that we have increased our communication, its frequency, participants and methods to do so. And there was the opportunity to produce a clear picture of the world. But instead, the content of that information, and what we actually know, is decreasing. It is dynamite to the foundation of the EU and adds to its 'democratic deficit'. Wikileaks is a bridge. It is, what Julian called, 'Scientific Journalism'. It provides information that does not rely on secondary and tertiary information, or is sources from those with vested, corporate, interests. It is the antithesis of the growing 4th hand knowledge in which people return to the source of those who misinformed them in the first place. Its triumph is that it is using that very same technology (e-mail, etc.) which allows for covert communication to disrupt this process.
Varoufakis: It is not that capitalism is flawed because it breeds inequality, it is flawed because it is extremely wasteful between human and material resources and their capacities. Issues such as rising inequality are by-products to this wastefulness that underpins it. It will also other throw itself through the technologies it creates. Apple, for instance, are bringing back their first stores to the US from China, not because they will fill them with American employees but because they will be the first to be robotised.
Assange: When you speak to senior figures in Silicon Valley such as Google's Chairman they have frightening worldviews. There is a real 'poverty' there, in that respect. There is a 'High-tech liberalism' ideology, which you can see references to in Google's book mentioning a 'new digital age', with Washington already going to Silicon Valley for information and solutions. They, as corporations have great experience in managing sheer scale, and with competency. They even have influence in some local governments. When you go to India and China and ask young people about their futures they say they want to work for Facebook, or if they're radical, start their own Facebook. Beyond this, Silicon Valley also 'rebrands' when it's abroad. For instance, to be "Doing it the Chinese/Indian way", but there's no choice, there's no 'China/India' involved - it's just a rebranding of Silicon Valley's ideology. And there's no growing competition.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement:
Q: To Assange following revelation of Wikileaks documents concerning TTIP: How dangerous is it?
Politics, knowledge, nation state borders,
the Internet/social media and 'left' and 'right' wing