Transcript: Terry Eagleton, University of Manchester on "Beyond Terror" | Mar 27, 2004

Terry Eagleton stands behind a wooden lectern in a room addressing the crowded audience.
He's in his fifties. He has short grey hair and a beard. He wears glasses, a brown suit and a matching dark shirt underneath it.

He says IN THESE
POST-MODERN TIMES, ZOMBIES,
MUMMIES, CYBORGS, VAMPIRES AND
OTHER VARIETIES OF THE UNDEAD
HAVE COME TO EXERT A STRANGE
FASCINATION, OF COURSE, ON WHAT
THE VICTORIANS WOULD NO DOUBT
HAVE CALLED YOUNG PERSONS OR A
WEIRD FASCINATION AS THE NEO-
GOTHIC JARGON CURRENTLY HAS IT.
UM, THERE ARE NO DOUBT ALL KINDS
OF REASONS WHY, I SUPPOSE, IN AN
INCREASINGLY VIRTUALIZED
SOCIETY, WE SHOULD BE INTERESTED
IN STATES OF INDETERMINACY
BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH, JUST AS
IT COMES AS NO SURPRISE, I
SUPPOSE, THAT A CIVILISATION
WHOSE SENSES ARE SO WRECKED AND
JADED BY THE ASSAULTS OF
EVERYDAY CAPITALIST LIFE SHOULD
NEED TO RESORT, FOR ITS LAST
AVAILABLE THRILLS, TO MORE AND
MORE GRUESOME MATERIALS AND
EXTREME STIMULATIONS.
PEOPLE UNDERSTANDABLY IMAGINE,
DON'T THEY, THAT EVIL IS MORE
SEXY THAN GOOD, WHEREAS THE
TRUTH, AS I'VE TRIED TO SUGGEST
ALREADY, IS IN FACT JUST THE
OPPOSITE, THAT IT'S VIRTUE WHICH
IS VITAL AND EXUBERANT AND EVIL
WHICH IS A KILLJOY.
BUT THE OPPOSITE CONVICTION DIES
VERY HARD, WHEN I TELL MY SEVEN-
YEAR-OLD SON THAT I'LL BE
SPEAKING HERE AMONG OTHER THINGS
ABOUT EVIL, HE REPLIED,
"WICKED!"

[Laughter]

Terry continues THERE WE ARE.
IT'S IMPLICIT IN WHAT I'VE BEEN
SAYING FOR THE PAST COUPLE OF
LECTURES, HOWEVER, I THINK, THAT
EVIL IS ALSO FORM OF ZOMBIEISM,
OR LIFE IN DEATH, A MONSTROUS
DRACULA-LIKE TRAVESTY OF THE
LIVING, SINCE THOSE WHO ARE, AS
I'VE BEEN SAYING, IN THE GRIP OF
NON-BEING, THOSE IN LOVE WITH
ANNIHILATION, THOSE WHO ARE IN
THRALL TO THE DEATH DRIVE ARE,
IN A WAY, DEAD AND CAN PERSUADE
THEMSELVES THAT THEY'RE ALIVE
ONLY BY THE OBSCENE
JOUISSANCE THEY WREAK
FROM ACTS OF DESTRUCTION OF ONE
KIND OR ANOTHER, THEY DESTROY TO
CONVINCE THEMSELVES THAT THEY'RE
STILL ALIVE AND THEY CAN SQUEEZE
A SORT OF SHAM OR INAUTHENTIC
LIFE OUT OF THEIR OWN TORMENT,
AND OUT OF THE SUFFERINGS THAT
THEY INFLICT ON OTHERS.
THIS, I THINK, IS WHY THE DAMNED
TRADITIONALLY CLING TO THEIR
DOOMED CONDITION AND REFUSED TO
BE SAVED, SINCE TO BE SAVED
WOULD BE TO BE DEPRIVED OF THE
ONLY THING, DESTRUCTION,
INCLUDING SELF-DESTRUCTION,
SELF-TORMENT, WHICH LENDS THEM A
SORT OF VIRTUAL REALITY, TURNS
THEM INTO POOR PARODIES OF THOSE
WHO TRULY ARE ALIVE.
EVIL, AS KIERKEGAARD RECOGNISED,
IS, IN THAT SENSE, A KIND OF
COSMIC SULKING.
THE DAMNED REFUSE COMFORT
BECAUSE COMFORT WOULD BE THEIR
UNDOING.
IT WOULD TAKE AWAY FROM THEM
THAT WHICH DEFINES HOW THEY
LIVE.
IN THIS SENSE, THERE'S SOMETHING
ADOLESCENT ABOUT EVIL, JUST AS
GOOD IS A KIND OF GROWING UP, OF
PUTTING AWAY OF CHILDISH THINGS,
AS ST. PAUL ARGUES, SO THAT THE
IMAGE OF GOOD AS THE CHILD, THE
VICTORIAN IMAGE, IS, IN FACT,
WOEFULLY MISLEADING.

A caption on screen reads "Terry Eagleton. University of Manchester. Beyond terror. University of Toronto. January 29, 2004."

Terry says GOODNESS IS
SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO LEARN
THROUGH CONSTANT PRACTICE,
SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO GET GOOD
AT, WHEREAS THE DAMNED WOULD
RATHER CLING TO THEIR OBSCENE
ENJOYMENT, WHICH IS A KIND OF
NOTHINGNESS, THAN RISK THE MUCH
MORE TERRIFYING NOTHINGNESS OF
SELF-ABANDONMENT, OF LETTING
THEIR SHAM EXISTENCE GO.
THIS IS WHY
THEY'RE BOTH MISERABLE AND
MOCKING, DESPAIRING AND
EXULTANT.
THEY RELISH THEIR AGONY BECAUSE
IT'S THEIR ONLY WAY OF EXISTING,
OR HALF EXISTING, AND THEY SPIT
IN THE EYE OF VIRTUE BECAUSE IT
THREATENS TO REMOVE THEIR
IDENTITY ALONG WITH THEIR
TORMENT.
I SHIT ON YOUR LOVE, WILLIAM
GOLDING'S DOOMED PINCHER MARTIN,
WHO IS DEAD BUT WON'T LIE DOWN,
SCREAMS AT HIS MERCILESSLY
FORGIVING CREATOR.
HITLER, I IMAGINE, PERHAPS LED
THIS KIND OF BOGUS EXISTENCE.
THE SATANIC, DECLARES
DOSTOEVSKY'S FATHER ZOSSIMA, I
QUOTE, DEMANDS THAT THERE BE NO
GOD OF LIFE, THAT GOD DESTROY
HIMSELF AND ALL OF HIS CREATION
AND THEY SHALL BURN
EVERLASTINGLY IN THE FLAMES OF
THEIR OWN HATRED AND LONG FOR
DEATH AND NON-BEING, BUT DEATH
SHALL NOT BE GRANTED THEM.
THE DAMNED, LIKE PINCHER MARTIN,
ARE UNABLE TO DIE, PARTLY
BECAUSE THEY REGARD THEMSELVES
AS TOO PRECIOUS TO DO SO, PARTLY
BECAUSE DEATH WOULD BE THE END
OF THEIR SUFFERING AND THEREFORE
THE END OF THE ONLY THING THAT
FINDS THEM AS PEOPLE, THE
SUFFERING THEY INFLICT BOTH ON
THEMSELVES AND ON OTHERS.
EVIL IS THUS, IN THE DEEP SENSE
OF THE WORD, I THINK, A KIND OF
PERVERSITY, BUT IT'S ALSO VERY
CLOSE TO GOODNESS, AS I KEEP
SAYING, IT'S IMPORTANT THE DEVIL
WAS ONCE AN ANGEL, BECAUSE
GOODNESS DISCOVERS A DIFFERENT
KIND OF LIFE IN DEATH, AS WE'LL
BE SEEING IN A MOMENT.
AM I CLAIMING, THEN, THAT ALL
TERRORISTS WHO BLOW UP INNOCENT
CIVILIANS ARE EVIL IN THIS
SENSE?
NOT AT ALL.
I'M ARGUING, I SUPPOSE, THAT ONE
THING THAT SAVES THEM FROM EVIL
IS THE FACT THEY BLOW UP PEOPLE
WITH A PURPOSE, HOWEVER WICKED
THAT PURPOSE MAY BE.
NOT TO SPEAK OF THE FACT THAT AS
INDIVIDUALS, THEY MAY BE DRIVEN
TO DO THIS BY SHEER DESPERATION
AND MAY GENUINELY CONSIDER WHAT
THEY'RE DOING IS EMANCIPATORY.
TERRORISM IS POLITICAL IN THE
SENSE THAT IT ADOPTS CERTAIN
MEANS TO CERTAIN ENDS, WHAT I'VE
BEEN ARGUING, HOWEVER, IS THAT
WITHIN THAT EMINENTLY RATIONAL
PROJECT, IN A RATHER ANAEMIC
SENSE OF THE WORD "RATIONAL,"
LURKS A CERTAIN FURIOUS EXCESS,
WHICH BETRAYS THE SHADOWY
PRESENCE OF THE DEATH DRIVE.
BUT EXACTLY THE SAME I'VE ALSO
BEEN ARGUING, IF YOU REMEMBER,
IS TRUE OF THE TERRORISM, THE
STATE, TERRORISM, THE SHOCK AND
AWE OF THE WEST.
THE WESTERN WILL IS ABOVE ALL
THINGS RIGOROUSLY INSTRUMENTAL,
FUNCTIONAL, INVENTING MEDICINES
TO GET PEOPLE ON THEIR FEET AND
WEAPONS TO LAY THEM FLAT AGAIN,
DOING THINGS FOR A PURPOSE, BUT
IN ITS EXCESS AND SELF-LOVE AND
MONOMANIA, IT BETRAYS THE
IMPRINT OF DEATH AND DESIRE.
OUR OLD FRIEND THANATOS.
WHAT SEEMS THEN MOST BUOYANTLY,
AFFIRMATIVELY ALIVE, HAS THE
HECTIC FLUSH OF DEATH.
THE WILL DOESN'T SIMPLY EXERCISE
POWER TO ACHIEVE ITS POLITICAL
ENDS, THOUGH IT CERTAINLY DOES
THAT, IT ALSO DOES SO BECAUSE
IT'S IN LOVE WITH POWER ITSELF
AND THUS PRACTISES POWER AS AN
END IN ITSELF.
THE TERROR THEN OF BOTH WEST AND
EAST IS AT ONCE AESTHETICIST AND
INSTRUMENTAL, EXPRESSIVE AND
FUNCTIONAL, SYMBOLIC, UM, AND
I'VE WRITTEN "INSTRUMENTAL."
AGAIN, SORRY, AT THE SAME TIME.

[Laughter]

Terry continues IN OTHER
WORDS, THERE'S NO SIMPLEMINDED
DISTINCTION HERE BETWEEN SELF-
PLEASURE AND STRICT UTILITY.
NOR, INDEED, IS THERE,
INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH, IN ART IN
GENERAL, THINKING OF TERROR, A
CERTAIN KIND OF TERROR, AS AN
ART, AS I'VE BEEN SPEAKING
ABOUT, THAT PURPOSIVENESS
WITHOUT PURPOSE, AS KANT
FAMOUSLY CALLS IT, WHICH INDEED,
SERVES SPECIFIC ENDS, BUT WHICH
IS BY NO MEANS SIMPLY
UTILITARIAN.
PURPOSIVENESS WITHOUT PURPOSE,
KANT'S CHARACTERISATION OF ART
IN THE THIRD CRITIQUE COULD WELL
BE A LITTLE SLOGAN OR MOTTO FOR
SOME OF WHAT I'VE BEEN SAYING
ABOUT THE NATURE OF TERROR,
WHETHER STATE OR OTHERWISE.
FREUD, AS I'VE MENTIONED,
THOUGHT THAT THE WILL WHICH
BUILDS CIVILISATION, EROS,
DESIRE, IS, IN PART, THE DEATH
DRIVE TURNED OUTWARDS, A CHOICE
IRONY, TO BE SURE, SINCE THIS
MEANS THAT THE VERY POWER WHICH
REDUCES AND REGULATES CHAOS TO
SOME KIND OF ORDER, WHICH BUILDS
CITIES, IS ITSELF AN EXPRESSION
OF CHAOS, A CERTAIN NEGATIVITY
AND CONTINUALLY, THEREFORE,
THREATENS TO REDUCE ORDER BACK
TO THAT AGAIN.
WE'RE SEEING A FINE EXAMPLE OF
THAT AT THE MOMENT, AREN'T WE,
IN IRAQ.
YOU CAN PRESS THIS DEATHLY FORCE
INTO THE SERVICE OF LAW AND
ORDER, OF CULTURE, BUT IT WILL
ALWAYS PROVE A FICKLE AND
DUPLICITOUS SERVANT, UNDERMINING
YOUR HOUSEHOLD FROM WITHIN AND
FOREVER SCAMPERING OFF TO DO ITS
OWN THING, JUST WHEN YOU NEED
IT, TO BOW IT TO YOUR PURPOSES.
SO THE TERRORISM WHICH HELPS TO
BRING CIVILISATION LOW IS,
UNKNOWN TO ITSELF, CONSPIRING
WITH A KIND OF SELF-UNDOING OR
SELF-DESTRUCTION AT THE VERY
HEART OF THAT CIVILISATION PART
OF WHAT MAKES IT WHAT IT IS.
IT CAN RELY, AS IT WERE, ON THE
AID OF A FIFTH COLUMNIST, THE
HUBRISTIC, OVERREACHING,
ANNIHILATING WILL OF THE WEST
ITSELF, WHICH KNOWS NO LIMIT, AS
I'VE BEEN ARGUING, BROOKS NO
RESTRAINT AND CONTINUALLY
THREATENS TO BRING ITSELF TO
NOTHING, IN A MACBETH SORT OF
OVERLAPPING WAY.
IN THIS SENSE, BUSH AND HIS
REPELLENT CRONIES ARE NOT JUST
AN UNFORTUNATE ABERRATION, YOU
KNOW, A GANG OF THUGS, COWBOYS
OR FANATICS WHO HAVE HIJACKED
THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT,
THOUGH THEY ARE... THAT, TOO, IN
A WAY TO SAY ONLY THAT SURELY IS
FAR TOO CONSOLING A THOUGHT,
LIKE MOST ABERRATIONS, THEY
ILLUMINATE SOMETHING
EXTRAORDINARILY IMPORTANT ABOUT
THE NORM FROM WHICH THEY
DEVIATE. THEY UNMASK
WHAT I'VE BEEN ARGUING ALL
ALONG, FROM THE VERY BEGINNING,
ABOUT HEGEL'S NOTION OF ABSOLUTE
FREEDOM, THEY UNMASK AN
EXTREMISM WHICH IS LATENT IN THE
CAPITALIST SYSTEM ITSELF, AT
EVERY POINT, BUT WHICH, AS WE'VE
SEEN IN THE CASE OF EDMUND BURKE
AND SO ON, DRAPES ITSELF
NORMALLY IN THE DECOROUS
GARMENTS OF TEMPERANCE,
CONSENSUS, IN A WORD, HEGEMONY.
ONE OF THE
DARKER IRONIES, I SUPPOSE, OF
THE 20th CENTURY WAS THAT
SOCIALISM PROVED LEAST POSSIBLE
WHERE IT WAS MUCH URGENTLY
NECESSARY.
BITTER IRONY THAT RIDDLED THE
CENTURY FROM END TO END.
TO GO SOCIALIST WITH ANY HOPE OF
SUCCESS, YOU NEED MATERIAL
RESOURCES, THRIVING DEMOCRATIC
INSTITUTIONS, AN EDUCATED
POPULACE, LIBERAL TRADITIONS,
CO-OPERATIVE NEIGHBOURS, A
FLOURISHING CIVIL SOCIETY AND
THE LIKE OR IF YOU DON'T HAVE
THOSE THINGS, THEN YOU NEED HELP
FROM THOSE WHO DO.
IT'S JUST THOSE VITAL
PRECONDITIONS, HOWEVER, WHICH
COLONIALISM DENIED TO MANY OF
THE PEOPLES WHO TRIED TO GO
SOCIALIST AND COULD WELL HAVE
BENEFITED FROM THAT PROJECT, AS
A RESULT, ONE BITTER HISTORICAL
IRONY BRED ANOTHER, IN THESE
DISMAL CONDITIONS, THE EFFORT TO
BUILD SOCIALISM LED STRAIGHT TO
STALINISM AND A BID FOR FREEDOM
TWISTED INEXORABLY INTO ITS OWN
MONSTROUS OPPOSITE.
THE PRESENT CENTURY, HOWEVER,
LOOKS SET TO BE DOMINATED BY A
RATHER DIFFERENT KIND OF IRONY,
CAPITALISM GREETED THE
MILLENNIUM WITH ONE ARM
BRANDISHING THE WEALTH OF
NATIONS AND ONE FOOT PLANTED
TRIUMPHANTLY ON THE CORPSE OF
ITS SOCIALIST OPPONENT.
YET SCARCELY HAD THE CENTURY
TURNED BEFORE THIS VICTORY BEGAN
TO LOOK SUSPICIOUSLY PYRRHIC.
INDEED, IT'S NOT ENTIRELY OUT OF
THE QUESTION, ALTHOUGH I MAY BE
A LITTLE SANGUINE IN THIS, THAT
WE MAY YET SEE THE CAPITALIST
WORLD GLANCING NOSTALGICALLY
BACK AT THE SOCIALIST PROJECT IT
HAS FOR THE MOMENT SUBORNED SO
EFFECTIVELY.
SOCIALISM, AFTER ALL, IS OUT TO
EXPROPRIATE THE PROPERTIED
CLASSES, NOT EXTERMINATE THEM.
ITS WEAPONS ARE GENERAL STRIKES
AND MASS STRUGGLES, NOT ANTHRAX
AND DIRTY NUCLEAR BOMBS.
ITS AIM IS FOR PEOPLE TO LIVE IN
PLENTY, NOT FOR THEM TO SCAVENGE
THEIR SCANTY GRUB FROM SOME WAR-
SCARRED SUBURBAN DESERT.
SOCIALISM WAS THE LAST CHANCE WE
HAD OF DEFEATING TERRORISM BY
CHANGING THE CONDITIONS WHICH
GIVE IT BIRTH AND IT'S STILL THE
LAST CHANCE WE HAVE.
IN THIS SENSE, OUR RULERS, WHO
REJOICED IN THE DEFEAT OF
SOCIALISM, AT LEAST FOR MOMENT,
SHOULD BE LICKING THEIR LIPS FOR
THE TASTE OF ASHES, NOT LEAST
THOSE OF THEM WHOSE OFFICES ARE
RATHER HIGH OFF THE GROUND.
COULD IT BE THEN, COULD ONE DARE
TO IMAGINE, THAT IN DEFEATING
SOCIALISM, AT LEAST FOR THE
MINUTE, CAPITALISM WILL TURN OUT
TO HAVE UNDONE ITSELF INTO THE
BARGAIN, IN A CERTAIN WAY?
WHAT IF THOSE WHO RUN THE SHOW
HAVE TURNED THEIR NOSES UP AT
THE ONE THING THAT MIGHT HAVE
GUARANTEED THEIR SURVIVAL,
BIOLOGICALLY, IF NOT
POLITICALLY?
MARX FAMOUSLY DESCRIBED THE
WORKING CLASS AS THE
GRAVEDIGGERS OF CAPITALISM,
CAPITALISM'S FOR HIM A DARKLY
IRONIC SYSTEM, BECAUSE IT
CREATES ITS OWN DESTROYER, BUT
TO SEE THOSE USEFUL
FUNCTIONARIES OFF THE PREMISES
MAY SIMPLY BE TO END UP DIGGING
YOUR OWN GRAVE.
FOR THE WRETCHED OF THE EARTH
HAVE NOT, OF COURSE, RESIGNED,
THEY'VE MERELY CHANGED ADDRESS.
WHEREAS MARX LOOKED FOR THEM IN
THE SLUMS OF BRADFORD AND THE
BRONX, THEY'RE NOW TO BE FOUND
IN THE SOUKS OF TRIPOLI AND DAMASCUS.
AND IT IS SMALLPOX, NOT STORMING
THE WINTER PALACE, THAT SOME OF
THEM HAVE IN MIND.
TO THIS EXTENT, YOU MIGHT SAY
THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO HAS BEEN
BOTH CHALLENGED AND VINDICATED,
IT WAS RIGHT TO PREDICT THAT
WEALTH AND POVERTY WOULD
POLARISE SHARPLY ON A GLOBAL
SCALE AND IT WAS RIGHT, TOO,
THAT THE DISPOSSESSED WOULD RISE
UP AGAINST THEIR RULERS AS A
RESULT.
IT'S JUST THAT IT WAS THINKING
MORE OF COTTON MILLS THEN THE
WORLD TRADE CENTER, TRADE UNIONS
RATHER THAN TEST TUBES OF
TYPHOID.
BUT IF MARX REALLY WAS WRONG
ABOUT THE WORKING CLASS, THEN
THIS, I'M ARGUING, IS IN RATHER
A BLEAK SENSE BAD NEWS FOR THE
SYSTEM ITSELF, SINCE WHAT MIGHT
ONE MIGHT CURRENTLY SEE AS
STEPPING INTO ITS SHOES HAS THE
SAVAGERY OF DESPAIR, NOT THE
CONFIDENCE OF WISDOM OF A
TRADITIONAL SOLIDARITY.
THOSE WHO ANNOUNCE THAT MARXIST
PROLETARIAT HAVE SUNK WITHOUT
TRACE, RATHER SMUGLY, SHOULD
PERHAPS, IN A CERTAIN SENSE, BE
REACHING FOR THE ANTI-RADIATION
TABLETS AND NOT FOR THE
CHAMPAGNE.
A FEW YEARS AGO, THERE WAS MUCH
DUST AND HEAT, AS YOU MIGHT HAVE
NOTICED, ABOUT THE SO-CALLED END
OF HISTORY, ANOTHER OBITUARY
NOTICE THAT HAS BEEN MANY TIMES
PREMATURELY ISSUED, NOT LEAST
THAT OF HEGEL, HEGEL BELIEVING,
OF COURSE, IN HIS USUAL MODEST
AND SELF-EFFACING WAY THAT
HISTORY HAD CULMINATED INSIDE
HIS OWN HEAD AND THAT WAS THE
END OF THAT.

[Laughter]

Terry continues WHAT THIS
PORTENTOUS PHRASE MEANT, OF
COURSE, WAS THAT NOW CAPITALISM
WAS THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN, MORE
OR LESS, AND THEREFORE
SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL CONFLICTS
WERE AS PASSE AS 1970s
SIDEBURNS.
THIS IS BOTH UNTRUE AND OBTUSE,
I THINK, BUT THAT'S NOT THE POINT.
THE POINT IS THAT WE NOW HAVE
DRAMATIC EVIDENCE THAT THE SO-
CALLED END OF HISTORY MIGHT
SPELL THE END OF HISTORY IN A
RATHER LESS BENIGNLY
PHILOSOPHICAL SENSE OF THE
PHRASE.
FOR THE FACT THAT CAPITALISM NOW
HAS NO REAL RIVALS, IN THE
OFFICIAL POLITICAL SPHERE, IF
THAT'S PART OF WHAT THE END OF
HISTORY ENDS, IS PART OF WHAT
CAUSES THE RANCOUR AND
RESENTMENT WHICH CAN BLOW
ENORMOUS HOLES IN IT, INCLUDING
NUCLEAR ONES. IT'S A
PARADOX WORTH PONDERING SURELY
THAT HISTORY HAS NEVER BEEN SO
PERILOUS THAN WHEN THE UNITED
STATES SAW OFF ITS LAST OFFICIAL
ENEMY, THE SOVIET UNION.
SOCIALISM MAY SEEM A DARK THREAT
TO THOSE WHO HAVE THE MOST TO
LOSE FROM IT, BUT AT LEAST IT'S
A SECULAR, HISTORICALLY-MINDED,
THOROUGHLY MODERN CREED, A
BASTARD OFFSPRING OF
ENLIGHTENMENT, IT ALSO HAS A
DEEP-SEATED AVERSION TO
POLITICAL TERROR, WHETHER IT
DENOUNCES IT AS IMMORAL OR JUST
AS PETTY BOURGEOIS. UNLIKE
FUNDAMENTALISM, WHETHER OF THE
TEXAN OR TALIBAN VARIETY, IT
DOESN'T DISMISS OUT OF HAND
SYMBOLIST POETRY OR ALTERNATIVE
LIFESTYLES OR A CELLAR FULL OF
CHIANTI, IT JUST WANTS TO KNOW
WHY THESE EXCELLENT THINGS
SOMEHOW ALWAYS END UP IN THE
HANDS OF THE FEW.
UNLIKE FUNDAMENTALISM, TOO, IT'S
EARTHBOUND AND SCEPTICAL AND
ICONOCLASTIC, SUSPICIOUS OF
HIGH-MINDED ABSOLUTES AND
IDEALS.
BUT SURELY SOCIALISM, YOU MIGHT
SAY, LIKE ANOTHER OTHER FORM OF
POLITICAL RADICALISM, HAS ITS
IDEALS.
WELL, TO BE SURE, BUT I THINK
ONE CAN PUT THE POINT BEST BY
SAYING THAT IN A CERTAIN SENSE,
ITS IDEAL IS TO DO AWAY WITH
IDEALS, AT LEAST OF THE
TERRORISTIC KIND WE'VE BEEN
INVESTIGATING, THE FEROCIOUS
ABSTRACTIONS THAT WE'VE BEEN
LOOKING AT IN THESE LECTURES
AND, I SUPPOSE, ALL IDEAS ARE,
TO SOME EXTENT, NECESSARILY
TERRORISTIC, RUBBING ON THOSE
SADISTICALLY IN OUR FAILURE IN
THE VERY ACT OF CHEERING US ON
TO MEASURE UP TO THEM.
WE WOULD GET NOWHERE WITHOUT THE
SUPEREGO, BUT THE SUPEREGO
CONTINUALLY INSISTS, IN THE MOST
HUMILIATING AND INSULTING WAY,
THAT WE'RE NOTHING AT ALL AND
THIS IS NOT THE BEST WAY TO GET
US ANYWHERE.
THE SUPEREGO IS CRAZED AND
EXCESSIVE IN THE DEMANDS THAT IT
MAKES UPON US, DEMANDS THAT IT
MUST KNOW WE SIMPLY CAN'T FULFIL
AND WON'T SIMPLY REDUCE US TO A
GUILT WHICH, PUSHED TO A CERTAIN
EXTREME, CAN TAKE THE FORM OF
SELF-DESTRUCTION.
THE LAW OR SUPEREGO THINKS THAT
WE CAN GET SOMEWHERE ONLY BY
LEAVING OUR UNFINISHED AND
IMPERFECTION BEHIND, WHEREAS
LOVE IS WHAT ACCEPTS US IN OUR
IMPERFECTION, NOT ON THE PURE
ICE, AS IT WERE, OF THE
SUPEREGO, BUT ON THE ROUGH
GROUND OF OUR ACTUAL EXISTENCE.
THIS IS JUST AS WELL, BECAUSE WE
SHALL NEVER MEASURE UP TO THE
LAW.
THAT'S PARTLY WHY THE LAW IS IN
BUSINESS, TO SHOW US JUST HOW
FAR SHORT OF IT WE FALL.
SO WE MIGHT AS WELL RETURN TO
THE ROUGH GROUND AND START NOT
FROM THE IDEAL, FOR THEN WE
SHALL SIMPLY HAVE THE ENORMOUS
PROBLEM OF BRIDGING THE GAP
BETWEEN IT AND THE ACTUAL, BUT
START FROM FAILURE AND FINITUDE
AND THE UNFINISHED AND THE
IMPERFECT, FROM THE ACCEPTANCE
OF FAILURE IN A CERTAIN PERVERSE
SENSE AS AN IDEAL, OR AT LEAST
AS THE FOUNDING GESTURE ON WHICH
ANY DURABLE, AUTHENTIC IDEAL
MUST BE BASED.
WHAT IF THE BEST SITUATION WE
COULD IMAGINE WOULD FLOURISH NOT
BY FOLLOWING THE DREAM, BUT BY
ACCEPTING OUR UNREDEEMED
CONDITION?
WHAT IF TO ACCEPT OURSELVES AS
WE WERE, IN ALL OF OUR FEAR AND
FRAILTY, WAS IN THAT VERY ACT TO
BECOME NOBLE, TO BECOME, SO TO
SPEAK, PERFECTED EXACTLY IN THAT
ACT AND NOT SIMPLY AS A RESULT
OF IT?
ONLY THAT VALUE WHICH PRESERVES
A SECRET COMPACT WITH FAILURE
WILL FLOURISH, WHICH BRINGS US,
SURPRISINGLY ENOUGH, TO OEDIPUS
BROKEN AND BLIND, STANDING
BEFORE COLONUS.
AS HE ONCE RETURNED AN ANSWER TO
THE RIDDLE OF THE SPHINX, SO
OEDIPUS' PRESENCE NOW POSES AN
UNSETTLING QUESTION TO THE
NEARBY CITY OF ATHENS.
IS IT TO GATHER THIS UNCLEAN
THING TO ITS HEART OR CAST IT
OUT AS SO MUCH GARBAGE?
JUST AS OEDIPUS HIMSELF, SOLVER
OF CONUNDRUMS, DETECTED THE
IMAGE OF HUMANITY, THE ULTIMATE
CONUNDRUM, IN THE SPHINX'S
PORTRAIT OF A MONSTER WITH FOUR
LEGS, TWO AND THEN THREE, SO
ATHENS IS NOW BEING ASKED TO
RECOGNISE THE IMAGE OF THE HUMAN
IN THIS MONSTROSITY AT ITS
GATES.
OEDIPUS IS THE SCAPEGOAT OR
PHARMACOS AT THE
THRESHOLD, THE LIMINAL BEING WHO
IS BOTH GUILT AND INNOCENCE,
FATHER AND HUSBAND, KING AND
BEGGAR MAN, STRANGER AND
BROTHER.
JUST AS INCEST GARBLED ROLES IN
THE SYMBOLIC ORDER WHICH SHOULD
REMAIN DISTINCT, REVEALING THE
SCANDAL THEREFORE, REVEALING IN
A SENSE THE TRUTH OF THAT ORDER,
WHICH IS THAT ANY OF THESE ROLES
CAN BE PERMUTATED WITH ANY
OTHER, IN A CERTAIN SENSE,
INCEST IS THE TRUTH OF THAT
ORDER, SO OEDIPUS SCRAMBLES
OPPOSITIONS OF VARIOUS KINDS,
BEING HOMOEOPATHICALLY BOTH
POISON AND CURE, RIDDLE AND
RESPONSE, SACRED AND CURSED,
HOLY AND DEFILED.
IN THIS, OEDIPUS HAS THE
DOUBLENESS OF ALL SCAPEGOATS,
WHO ARE CURSED BECAUSE THEY ARE
LADEN SYMBOLICALLY WITH THE
CRIMES OF THEIR COMMUNITIES,
THEY ARE GUILTY INNOCENTS, THEY
ARE OBJECTIVELY GUILTY, BUT
SUBJECTIVELY INNOCENT, BUT WHO
ARE SACRED, ON THE OTHER HAND,
BECAUSE THEY TAKE THAT GUILT
WILLINGLY UPON THEMSELVES AND
THEREBY REDEEM IT.
THE SCAPEGOAT, TO PUT IT IN
LINGUISTIC TERMS, IS, IN ONE
SENSE, METONYMIC, PART OF THE
COMMUNITY ON WHICH IT DISAVOWS
AND PROJECTS ITS OWN CRIMES,
WHIPS IT AND SCOURGES IT OUT
BEYOND THE CITY WALLS, BUT IT'S
ALSO, POTENTIALLY AT LEAST,
METAPHORICAL, SO THAT IN THIS
MONSTROSITY, THE COMMUNITY, THE
POLIS, MIGHT BE ABLE TO
RECOGNISE AN IMAGE OF ITSELF.
THE WAY THAT SCAPEGOATS REDEEM
THE POLIS IS, OF COURSE,
BY SACRIFICE, NOT A WORD WHICH
HAS MUCH POSITIVE RESONANCE IN
OUR OWN TIME.
BUT I DON'T MEAN BY SACRIFICE
WHAT WE NORMALLY MEAN BY IT, YOU
KNOW, SLAVING THANKLESSLY AWAY
FOR SOMEBODY ELSE, WHICH IS A
RELATIVELY MODERN NOTION OF THE
TERM, I MEAN, IN THE ANCIENT,
ANCIENT SENSE, SACRIFICE AS THAT
ACT BY WHICH THE REVILED THING
PASSES FROM HUMILIATION TO
POWER, THE PASSAGE FROM
HUMILIATION TO POWER AND THAT
PASSAGE, FOR TRADITIONAL
SACRIFICE, ALWAYS INVOLVES
DEATH.
INDEED, INVOLVES THE DEATH OF
THE SACRIFICIAL OBJECT ITSELF
AND A CERTAIN IMAGINATIVE
IDENTIFICATION WITH THAT OBJECT,
EVEN THE EATING OF IT, THE
ULTIMATE IDENTIFICATION, ON THE
PART OF THE POLIS ITSELF.
THAT THAT IS
SO IS, I THINK, ITSELF A TRAGIC
FACT, IT WOULD BE PREFERABLE IF
WE DIDN'T NEED THAT DEATH, JUST
AS IT'S A FACT ABOUT SO MUCH
TRAGEDY AS THAT IS A CLASSICAL
RHYTHM OF SO MUCH TRAGEDY, THAT
WHICH IS REJECTED BECOMES THE
CORNERSTONE, THAT WHICH WAS
VILIFIED IS MADE WHOLE AND
RAISED UP, BUT NOT, AS IT WERE,
BY PIECEMEAL, GRADUALIST,
REFORMIST, INCREMENTAL MEANS,
ONLY BY A DISRUPTIVE UPHEAVAL
WHICH INVOLVES DEATH AND THE
GATHERING TO THE VERY HEART OF
THE POLIS OF THAT WHICH
IS, IN A SENSE, ITS IMPLACABLE
OTHER, DEATH, IN THE SENSE OF
RADICAL SELF-DISPOSSESSION,
WHICH IS WHAT OEDIPUS, LIKE SO
MANY TRAGIC PROTAGONISTS, IS
HAULED THROUGH AND THE TENTATIVE
EMERGENCE THEN OF NEW LIFE ONLY
OUT OF THIS VOID IN BEING, WHICH
THE SCAPEGOAT SIGNIFIES.
THE VIOLENCE INVOLVED IN THIS
ACTION WILL ALWAYS BE, FOR THE
MOST PART, THE VIOLENCE DONE TO,
NOT BY, THOSE WHO SPEAK UP OR
WHO TRY TO SPEAK UP FOR JUSTICE.
IN MY OWN CASE, IF I MAY ADD A
PERSONAL NOTE, IT USED TO BE
POLICEMEN'S TRUDGEONS AND NOW
IT'S VITRIOLIC REVIEWS, WHICH
I'M HAPPY TO SAY HURT A GREAT
DEAL LESS.
MARX AND THIS IS POSITIVELY MY
LAST REFERENCE TO HIM, EVEN
THOUGH I PROMISED I NEVER WOULD
REFER TO HIM AT THE VERY
BEGINNING, IF YOU REMEMBER, HAS
AN ESPECIALLY MEMORABLE
DESCRIPTION, I'M SURE THAT YOU
KNOW OF, OF THIS SACRIFICIAL
PROCESS OF DISSOLUTION, DEATH,
REGENERATION AND IRONIC REVERSAL
BY WHICH THE SHIFT OF THE EARTH
ENTER THROUGH DEATH AND
DISPOSITION INTO THEIR SOVEREIGN
HERITAGE.
SACRIFICE, AS IT WERE, FOR
MODERN TIMES, YOU MIGHT SAY, A
CLASS MUST BE FORMED IN CIVIL
SOCIETY, HE WRITES, IN THE
CRITIQUE OF HEGEL'S
PHILOSOPHY OF RIGHT,
WHICH IS NOT A CLASS, A CLASS
WHICH IS THE DISSOLUTION OF ALL
CLASSES, A SPHERE OF SOCIETY
WHICH HAS A UNIVERSAL CHARACTER,
BECAUSE ITS SUFFERINGS ARE
UNIVERSAL AND WHICH DOES NOT
CLAIM A PARTICULAR ADDRESS,
BECAUSE THE WRONG WHICH IS DONE
TO IT IS NOT A PARTICULAR WRONG,
BUT WRONG IN GENERAL, WHICH IS,
IN A WORD, THE COMPLETE LOSS OF
MAN AND HENCE CAN WIN ITSELF
ONLY THROUGH THE COMPLETE RE-
WINNING OF MAN.
MARX GOES ON TO ADD PREGNANTLY
THAT THE NAME OF THIS SPHERE IS
THE PROLETARIAT, BUT IT'S MORE
TRADITIONAL NAME, I'M
SUGGESTING, IS THE
PHARMACOS, WHICH IS ALSO
TO SAY THAT MODERNITY'S NAME FOR
RITUAL SACRIFICE IS,
SURPRISINGLY ENOUGH, POLITICAL
REVOLUTION.
THE QUESTION THEN IN, AS IT
WERE, TERMS OF ARISTOTLE'S IDEAS
OF TRAGEDY, THE QUESTION THEN,
AS FAR AS OEDIPUS GOES, IS
WHETHER ATHENS WILL COME TO PITY
THIS THING AT ITS GATE WHICH IT FEARS.
CAN YOU COME TO PITY WHAT YOU
FEAR OR ARE THOSE TRAGIC
RESPONSES RIGOROUSLY SEPARATE?
CAN IT RECOGNISE THIS THING OF
DARKNESS AS ITS OWN, DISCERN ITS
OWN MONSTROSITY IN THE
DISFIGURED VISAGE OF OEDIPUS,
WHICH MEANS SEEING HIM NOT JUST
AS A VIOLENTLY DISFIGURED
VERSION OF HUMANITY, BUT AS THE
VIOLENT DISFIGURATION WHICH, IN
A CERTAIN SENSE, IS HUMANITY.
SEEING HIM IN THE REAL.
IT'S SURELY CLEAR THAT ANY
SYMBOLIC ORDER WHICH IS FOUNDED
PURELY ON IMAGINARY RELATIONS,
ON THE EXCHANGE OF ALTER EGOS,
AS IT WERE, WILL BE HARD PUT TO
SURVIVE.
TO SURVIVE, A COMMUNITY MUST BE
FOUNDED, IN SOME SENSE, ON THE
REAL, ITS RELATIONS MUST PASS
THROUGH THAT TERRIBLE SUBLIMITY
AND IMPERSONALITY AND INHUMANITY
OF THE REAL, WHICH IS TO SAY,
AMONG OTHER THINGS, AS I'VE
ARGUED BEFORE, ON A RECOGNITION
OF SOME MONSTROUS OTHERNESS AT
ITS OWN HEART, AS CLOSE AS
INTIMATE TO IT AS BREATHING.
ONLY... IN TERMS OF NOW
AESCHYLUS, RATHER THAN
SOPHOCLES, ONLY IF THE TERRORISM
OF THE FURIES IS ACKNOWLEDGED
AND PLACATED, IF THEY'RE TAKEN
INTO THE CITY TO BECOME ITS
TUTELARY DEITIES, PROTECTING IT
FROM OUTSIDE ATTACK, CAN THE
STATE TRULY FLOURISH AND
SOMETHING SIMILAR WILL HAPPEN
WHEN THE SPIRIT OF OEDIPUS IS
INSTALLED IN THE CITY-STATE OF
ATHENS.
ONLY IF ATHENS SEES ITSELF
SOMEHOW IN THIS POLLUTED PIECE
OF FLESH, THE HORRIFIC REALM OF
ITS OWN EXISTENCE, WILL ITS
FOUNDATIONS BE DURABLE.
BECAUSE OEDIPUS HAS SHOWN, IN
HIS INCEST, THAT JUST AS ALL
SISTERS AND BROTHERS SHOULD BE
SEXUAL STRANGERS, SO ALL
STRANGERS, IN THE ENIGMATIC,
UNDECIPHERABLE TANGLE OF SOCIAL
LIFE, ARE ALSO BROTHERS AND
SISTERS.
I COME TO OFFER YOU A GIFT, MY
TORTURED BODY, A SORRY SIGHT,
OEDIPUS COMMENT, BUT THERE IS
MORE VALUE IN IT THAN BEAUTY.
HE KNOWS THAT UNSPEAKABLE POWER
FOR GOOD WILL FLOW FROM
WELCOMING THE STRANGER,
EMBRACING THE EXCREMENTAL
REMAINDER, TO PUT IT IN
LACONESE, RECOGNISING THE
SUBLIMELY TERRIBLE AS PART OF
THE FLESH OF THE CITY ITSELF.
TO DO THIS IS NOT SIMPLY TO BE,
IN THE POSTMODERN MANTRA,
INCLUSIVE, YOU KNOW, AS IN THE
CAPITALIST IDEOLOGY OF
MULTICULTURALISM, SO-CALLED, BUT
TO INCLUDE THAT WHICH MUST AT
ALL COSTS BE EXCLUDED FROM THE
SYSTEM IN ORDER FOR IT TO
SURVIVE AS IT IS.
AND THUS BY THE ACT OF
INCLUSION, WHICH IS FAIRLY
PAINLESS, IN A CERTAIN SENSE,
FROM THE IDEOLOGY OF
MULTICULTURALISM, TO TRANSFORM
THE POLIS ITSELF BEYOND
RECOGNITION, AS OEDIPUS HIMSELF
IS FINALLY TRANSFORMED.
AM I MADE A MAN IN THE HOUR IN
WHICH I CEASE TO BE, OEDIPUS
CRIES, PONDERING THE TRAGIC OR
REVOLUTIONARY REVERSAL BY WHICH
GENUINE POWER CAN SPRING ONLY
FROM HUMANITY'S EMBRACE OF ITS
OWN SHIT-LIKE NEGATIVITY.
WHICH MEANS NEITHER SETTLING FOR
NOTHINGNESS, AS I'VE DESCRIBED
PREVIOUSLY THE CYNIC DOING, NOR
REPRESSING IT LIKE THE ANGELIC
OR IDEALIST CHARACTER,
OVERSTUFFED WITH LIFE, WHO PLUGS
THAT NOTHINGNESS WITH A CERTAIN
KIND OF RHETORIC.
NOTHING WILL COME OF NOTHING,
LEAR FAMOUSLY WARNS CORDELIA,
BUT AS USUAL, HE'S WRONG.
SOMETHING IN THIS PLAY ONLY WILL
COME OF NOTHING, IN THE SENSE,
AT LEAST, OF RECOGNISING, AS
LEAR WILL FINALLY COME TO DO,
THAT HIS PREVIOUS OMNIPOTENCE,
THE OMNIPOTENT WILL, WAS A
DELUSION AND HE HAS A BODY TO BE
BUFFETED BY STORMS AND
SUFFERING.
ONLY BE TRACING THE LIMITS OF
HIS DEPENDENCY AND NEEDINESS
FROM THE INSIDE CAN HE HAVE A
HOPE OF TRANSCENDING THEM.
ONLY THAT IDENTITY WHICH SPRINGS
FROM AN OPENNESS TO DESPAIR AND
DESTITUTION WILL BE SUFFICIENTLY
RESILIENT.
THE MOVEMENT, IF YOU LIKE, IS
ONE FROM DEATH IN LIFE TO LIFE
IN DEATH, THAT IS TO SAY, FROM
THE LIVING DEATH OF DESTITUTION,
OF AN OEDIPUS OR A LEAR, TO A
LIFE WHICH REMAKES ITSELF BY
EMBRACING THE MEANING OF THIS
DEATHLY CONDITION, MAKING
SOMETHING OUT OF IT, PASSING
THROUGH IT AND ON THE OTHER
SIDE, BY DESCENDING SYMBOLICALLY
INTO HEALTH.
THE ACTION, I SUPPOSE, OF
TRAGEDY ITSELF.
THERE IS THEN A GOOD KIND OF
NOTHING, AS IT WERE, JUST AS
THERE'S A BAD KIND.
IT'S NOT A MATTER OF SOMETHING
AGAINST NOTHING AND IT'S
CERTAINLY NOT A MATTER OF ALL
AGAINST NOTHING, BUT THE FERTILE
NOTHINGNESS OF THE SCAPEGOAT
VERSUS THE VIRILE NOTHINGNESS OF
DESIRE OR THE DOMINATIVE WILL OR
THE CYNICAL NEGATIVITY OF THE,
THE NIHILIST, THE MAD PROFESSOR
OF CONRAD.
THESEUS THEN, KING OF ATHENS,
MAKES HIS DECISION AND
RECOGNISES THE BEGGAR MAN AS THE
INVERTED IMAGE OF SOVEREIGNTY,
OF KINGSHIP, ONE WHO IS, AS IT
WERE, ABOVE THE LAW AND THE
OTHER WHO FALLS BELOW IT AND WHO
HAVE A CERTAIN PARTNERSHIP IN
CRIME THERE, AND INVITES THE
POLLUTED OEDIPUS INTO THE CITY,
WHERE IN DEATH HE WILL PROVE
FERTILE FOR ITS FLOURISHING.
IN THE WEST
TODAY HOWEVER, IT'S A DIFFERENT
MATTER.
THE WEST CAN'T RECOGNISE AT THE
MOMENT ITS OWN MONSTROSITY IN
THE FURY AT ITS GATE.
IT CAN'T DISCERN IN THIS FURY
ITS OWN INTIMATE LIFE, ITS OWN
ACTIONS AND POLICIES RETURNED
UPON ITS HEAD TO PLAGUE IT IN
MONSTROUS AND ALIEN FORM.
IT'S PLUNGED
INTO TRAGIC CATASTROPHE, AT
LEAST POTENTIALLY, AND YET IT'S
PROVING INCAPABLE OF THAT
SOPHOCLEAN TRAGIC WISDOM.
IT'S UNABLE TO DECIPHER THE
SYMPTOMS OF WEAKNESS AND
HUMANITY IN THAT RAGE AT ITS
GATES, AND THEREFORE IS CAPABLE
ONLY OF TERROR, RATHER THAN OF
PITY.
THAT'S THE END OF THESE
LECTURES, LET ME JUST SAY THAT
YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED THAT IN A
DESPERATE AND PATHETIC ATTEMPT
TO PREVENT THESE LECTURES FROM
HAPPENING, THE C.I.A. HAS EVEN
TAKEN TO TRYING TO MANIPULATE
THE WEATHER...

[Laughter]

Terry continues I'M DELIGHTED
TO SEE THAT, YOU KNOW, KNOWN OF
YOU HAVE FALLEN FOR THIS SHABBY
STRATAGEM AND YOU'VE ACTUALLY
KEPT TURNING UP IN THE MOST
ATROCIOUS CONDITIONS, FOR WHICH
I AM PROFOUNDLY GRATEFUL.

[Applause]

Watch: Terry Eagleton, University of Manchester on "Beyond Terror"