In the symbolic order, the mind twists. Objects stand naked. They convince you that they are clothed. They are clothed. There they stand, protected by the material properties of the fabric of your ideology. By the fate of paradox they at last stand draped. They were never naked. I am lost in the cloth of this object which has forever been stripped of its sublime status.
The sublime object, according to Kant, is essentially formless. It becomes an object of utility, a foreign object of exchange, only upon the ground of excess and waste which erupts ceaselessly from within the net of the ontological machines. There are times when the only psychological defence against this eruption is to reveal the eruption itself as if by revealing it its truth has been robbed. Eminem did this during his rap battle, stripping his enemy of his weapon but nonetheless inscribing the truth upon his body – he really is white trash. I did this when I was younger: I have a lisp, I said, my father cleans toilets and my mother takes care of the mad. In the end, my comedy only revealed the truth: I am a lowlife and will always be a lowlife. This is the psychological structure of jokes, as Freud was well aware: “Two Jews meet in a railway carriage at a station in Galicia. ‘Where are you travelling?’ asks the one. ‘To Cracow,’ comes the answer. ‘Look what a liar you are!’ the other protests. ‘When you say you’re going to Cracow, you want me to believe that you’re going to Lemberg, But I know that you’re really going to Cracow. So why are you lying?”
Imagine that. Jude Law, Forest Whitaker and Alive Braga, servants of ideology, revealing themselves for the cameras in Repo Men (2010). Remy, employed as a Repo Man for a high-tech organ producer, eventually succumbs to sickness and and by the fate of irony becomes can not pay the bill for his own heart. Activists, Reactionaries, Politicians and Scholars—servants of the symbolic order, of knowledge—spend a great deal of time writing about the metaphor of health care, nicknamed ObamaCare. But this misses the truth which is right in front of their eyes. Remy, disillusioned by his employer, tries to take down the system. He believes that his unique insider status provides him the unique standpoint upon which to mount his attack, and indeed it does. In the end he wins.
The power of the symbolic order is its ability to retroactively inscribe meaning where before there was resistance and victory. Viewers are eventually brought back to an early moment in the movie when Remy was knocked unconscious (what was it, for the fourth or fifth time?): like a cruel joke, viewers witness the magic trick: the majority of the movie was a figment of Remy’s and our imagination, a post-ideological ideology – Remy’s brain was replaced with a neural net device invented by his employer. His resistance was a manifestation of the system he meant to defeat. The symbolic order possesses us and then repossesses us.
Althussar once said that “those who are in ideology believe themselves by definition outside ideology: one of the effects of ideology is the practical denial of the ideological character of ideology by ideology,” he continued, “It is necessary to be outside ideology […] to be able to say: I am in ideology or: I was in ideology […] ideology has no outside, but at the same time that it is nothing but outside.” Radicals eventually reach a point of saturation at the hands of ideology. Despair sets in. Let us look to the fantasies of cinema to see how they manage their affairs! They put all of their cards on the table and so should we. They play magic tricks with our minds, renewing their tricks in still purer forms. Perhaps its time we play a few tricks of our own.