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Slavoj Zizek’s Covid-19 lockdown survival guide: Guilty pleasures, Valhalla Murders & pretending it's just a game

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29.03.2020

Let me begin by a personal confession: I like the idea of being confined to one’s apartment, with all the time to read and work.

Even when I travel, I prefer to stay in a nice hotel room and ignore all famous attractions. A good essay on a famous painting means much more to me than seeing this painting in a crowded museum. But I noticed this makes it worse, not easier, for being now obliged to confinement. Why?

Let me repeat the famous joke from Ernst Lubitsch’s Ninotchka: “‘Waiter! A cup of coffee without cream, please!’ ‘I’m sorry, sir, we have no cream, only milk, so can it be a coffee without milk?’”

At the factual level, coffee remains the same coffee, but what we can change is to make the coffee without cream into a coffee without milk – or, even simpler – to add the implied negation and to make the plain coffee into a coffee without milk.

Is this not what happened with my isolation? Prior to the crisis, it was an isolation “without milk” – I could have gone out, I just chose not to. Now it’s just the plain coffee of isolation with no possible negation implied.

My friend Gabriel Tupinamba, a Lacanian psychoanalyst who works in Rio de Janeiro, explained this paradox to me in an email message: “People who already worked from home are the ones who are the most anxious, and exposed to the worst fantasies of impotence, since not even a change in their habits is delimiting the singularity of this situation in their daily lives.”

His point is complex but clear: if there is no great change in our daily reality, then the........

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