I want to point out one passage in particular, which deals with the second point listed above. In this column, Zizek brilliantly attacks capitalism, as he often does in his writings. He does so here by looking at the way China attempts to control Tibet:
In recent years, the Chinese have changed their strategy in Tibet: in addition to military coercion, they increasingly rely on ethnic and economic colonization. Lhasa is transforming into a Chinese version of the capitalist Wild West, with karaoke bars and Disney-like Buddhist theme parks.This is the real evil of capitalism: its subversion of all traditional social relations. I am always surprised by the way traditionalist Christians so eagerly defend capitalism. I receive a continuous stream of pro-capitalistic propaganda from family members who are blind to the way capitalism destroys the very social relations they claim to uphold. Capitalism is certainly not an unqualified evil; but its benefits by no means outweigh its destructive global influence. One last section from this column deserves mention. Zizek closes with a stinging criticism of Western “tolerance” and cultural appreciation, in which he points out that our sophistication is built on a “proper distance” from one’s cultural that allows us to treat culture like an object. Zizek writes:
In short, the media image of brutal Chinese soldiers terrorizing Buddhist monks conceals a much more effective American-style socioeconomic transformation: in a decade or two, Tibetans will be reduced to the status of the Native Americans in the United States. Beijing finally learned the lesson: what is the oppressive power of secret police forces, camps and Red Guards destroying ancient monuments compared to the power of unbridled capitalism to undermine all traditional social relations?
The significant issue for the West here is not Buddhas and lamas, but what we mean when we refer to “culture.” All human sciences are turning into a branch of cultural studies. While there are of course many religious believers in the West, especially in the United States, vast numbers of our societal elite follow (some of the) religious rituals and mores of our tradition only out of respect for the “lifestyle” of the community to which we belong: Christmas trees in shopping centers every December; neighborhood Easter egg hunts; Passover dinners celebrated by nonbelieving Jews.Because we think ourselves capable of surveying the world from an Olympian height, we can treat culture like an object for us to appreciate, but not as an identity that really shapes who we are. Culture is a set of practices that we voluntarily enjoy, but which demand nothing from us. We are lords of our own cultural-religious identity. Is it any wonder, then, that Christianity in modern sophisticated America has become just another cultural object from which we are trained to maintain the “proper distance”?
“Culture” has commonly become the name for all those things we practice without really taking seriously. And this is why we dismiss fundamentalist believers as “barbarians” with a “medieval mindset”: they dare to take their beliefs seriously. Today, we seem to see the ultimate threat to culture as coming from those who live immediately in their culture, who lack the proper distance.