I had written “must read” for a couple of reasons. One was that, although Žižek theorizes various kinds of disruptive activisms with which Canadians are familiar in the current Idle-No-More, anti-whaling, anti-arctic oil drilling, anti-fracking and anti-wind turbine protests, we have never, as far as I know, observed him in dialogue with an imprisoned activist. Neither does he try to board arctic oil rigs from an inflatable boat, nor, like Pussy Riot and Femin, introduce performance art into politically sacred spaces – unless one considers Hegel scholarship such a space. (I note – re the recent visits of Russian search engines here – that some of the Femin webpages tonight seem to have been hacked and replaced with pages of official-looking Cyrillic text.)
But Žižek’s writings are undoubtedly important to some current activists – though probably unknown to Esther Wightman of the London-Ontario-area anti-wind-turbine movement. In these letters Žižek himself gradually becomes uncomfortable with the contrast between his scholarly activism (which in his initial letters often seems condescending) and the consequences of acting on intellectual belief that Tolokonnikova is enduring. “ But I feel guilty writing this: who am I to explode in such narcissistic theoretical outbursts when you are exposed to very real deprivations?” he writes toward the end of his second letter.
Her polite response to both the condescension and his dubious apology (“You should not worry about the fact that you are exposing theoretical fabrications while I am supposed to suffer the ‘real hardship’.”) , elicits this interesting passage from him: