I saw the Frontline program “On Our Watch” last night, detailing the history of genocide in Darfur, the UN’s inaction, and Mia Farrow’s “Genocide Olympics” campaign. The show left me with the impression that the only way to get States to move anymore is to shame them into action. I wonder whether this shaming technique would have worked on the United States though. I think late capitalism creates the effect of absorbing shame and reshaping it for its own purposes. Slavoj Zizek’s recent essay “Resistance is Surrender” applies here:
The lesson here is that the truly subversive thing is not to insist on ‘infinite’ demands we know those in power cannot fulfil. Since they know that we know it, such an ‘infinitely demanding’ attitude presents no problem for those in power: ‘So wonderful that, with your critical demands, you remind us what kind of world we would all like to live in. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where we have to make do with what is possible.’ The thing to do is, on the contrary, to bombard those in power with strategically well-selected, precise, finite demands, which can’t be met with the same excuse.
Is this happening among activists in the Darfur cause? It looks like yes, in new ways. I wish I could say I had the right attitude while watching the program. I must admit I lapsed back into my angry, bitter, irresponsible, nothing we can do, cynicism. Right now I just want to encourage you to watch the program on the website. When the International community fails it doesn’t mean we are consigned to failure. It means we learn and take action.