Thou shalt love thy waste as thyself.
In the film Examined Life (among other written works and lectures), Zizek argues that a true ecologist would love garbage. In the film he makes these claims in a garbage dump, which certainly adds to the argument. As many of you (probably) already know, Zizek is against the ideology of contemporary ecology, which is based on the idea that Nature exists naturally in some idyllic balance that we humans play with for our own gain or ego, throwing this natural balance out of whack and causing catastrophes.
When we are faced with these events, like the Exxon Valdez, it seems like we can’t help but side with the ecological ideologues. But are the options as black and white as contemporary ecology would have us believe? The options seem to be laid out that either
1. Humanity is destroying the natural balance of the planet through greed, ignorance, and ego, or…
2. The idea of balance is itself a remnant of much older ideologies, as Zizek says, a retelling of the Fall (see above video). Nature in balance then is a construct of the Imaginary to cover up the trauma of the Real, the inherent disorder of Nature.
Is it really that simple? Either there is order, or we simply wish there was? Or, as Zizek says in the video clip, must we decide between a world with meaning (but filled with punishment) or a chaotic world with no meaning? While the bit at the end is certainly poetic, “Of course we should love garbage if we want to love the world!”, I don’t feel like I can support his claims here.
I see this essentially as the question of order versus disorder, harmony versus chaos. Is Nature naturally ordered or not? Again, must we answer either “yes” or “no” here? Could we not propose a third option, that of the “not yet”? Could it not be the case that while the forces of Nature (and I include humanity in here in all if its “artificiality”) appear chaotic, seem meaningless, that this is simply another attempt at creating order?
Ecosystems are struggles for a new order from chaos. When an extinction occurs, life fills the gaps, forcing itself into new situations and adapting accordingly. There is an interplay between environment and organisms, a struggle of forces. The outcome however is largely an ordered one, ecological homeostasis.
This does not mean however that I am siding with the ecologists, I don’t think there is anything necessary about order in Nature. Instead, we should perhaps think of Nature as a “Will to Order,” an unending drive for balance with fits and stops.