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20 Years of Collapse

November 9, 2009

by Slavoj Žižek
from The New York Times

partyhatToday is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. During this time of reflection, it is common to emphasize the miraculous nature of the events that began that day: a dream seemed to come true, the Communist regimes collapsed like a house of cards, and the world suddenly changed in ways that had been inconceivable only a few months earlier. Who in Poland could ever have imagined free elections with Lech Walesa as president?

However, when the sublime mist of the velvet revolutions was dispelled by the new democratic-capitalist reality, people reacted with an unavoidable disappointment that manifested itself, in turn, as nostalgia for the “good old” Communist times; as rightist, nationalist populism; and as renewed, belated anti-Communist paranoia.

The first two reactions are easy to comprehend. The same rightists who decades ago were shouting, “Better dead than red!” are now often heard mumbling, “Better red than eating hamburgers.” But the Communist nostalgia should not be taken too seriously: far from expressing an actual wish to return to the gray Socialist reality, it is more a form of mourning, of gently getting rid of the past. As for the rise of the rightist populism, it is not an Eastern European specialty, but a common feature of all countries caught in the vortex of globalization. more

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