[lbo-talk] discipline

Yoshie Furuhashi critical.montages at gmail.com
Wed May 2 07:28:56 PDT 2007

On 5/2/07, Eric <rayrena at realtime.net> wrote:
> Ever-contrarian Zizek on 300. Couldn't you just change a couple of
> words and imagine Pat Buchanan saying this? A more thorough
> take(down) here: <http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=574>
> The Greeks main arm against this overwhelming military supremacy is
> discipline and the spirit of sacrifice - and, to quote Alain Badiou:
> "We need a popular discipline. I would even say /.../ that 'those who
> have nothing have only their discipline.' The poor, those with no
> financial or military means, those with no power - all they have is
> their discipline, their capacity to act together. This discipline is
> already a form of organization." In today's era of hedonist
> permissivity as the ruling ideology, the time is coming for the Left
> to (re)appropriate discipline and the spirit of sacrifice: there is
> nothing inherently "Fascist" about these values.
> <http://www.lacan.com/zizhollywood.htm>

It is true, as Alain Badiou says, that the only means of defense that the poor have is "their capacity to act together," and one may call that "a popular discipline," but Slavoj Zizek is wrong to see any popular discipline at work in 300. In fact, the film's elitist ideology is that the populace do not have discipline necessary to defend freedom: only the oligarchic Spartans, who are trained in martial arts from young age and destined to make warfare their calling by virtue of their class, have what it takes, whereas common volunteers from other Greek states do not know how to fight and are therefore inferior. That is against the spirit of the Jacobins,* with which Zizek seeks to associate that of 300. The Committee of Public Safety's chief innovation was the "levée en masse," mass conscription, a turning point in the history of warfare (cf. <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1793levee.html>).

What the film shows is contrary to history, too. Herodutus says, "The Thespians very gladly remained, saying they would not abandon Leonidas and those with him by leaving; instead they would stay and die with them. Their general was Demophilus son of Diadromes" (The Histories, <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Hdt.+7.222.1>). The Thespians, let it be noted, did not worship manly virtues above all. According to Pausanias, "Of the gods the Thespians have from the beginning honored Love most, and they have a very ancient image of him, an unwrought stone. Who established among the Thespians the custom of worshipping Love more than any other god I do not know" (Description of Greece, <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Paus.+9.27.1>).

* The Iranians are the Jacobins of the Middle East. Tremblez, tyrans et vous perfides! Aux armes, citoyens! Their spirit of independence, and bitter memories of Russian designs as well as American domination, made them say, "Neither Moscow nor Washington -- International Islam!"

For their love of republican democracy, I salute them, no matter how anti-communist they once were. -- Yoshie

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