Psybertron always leads me down untrodden paths. Today he introduced me, unbeknownst to him, to a heavyweight intellectual I had never heard of, Slavoj Zizek. The reason Zizek is interesting is that he is the very model of a modern secular humanist, i.e. the very model of what a secular humanist should be, one not just tolerant of both sides of fundamental issues, but radically tolerant of both sides. Now what this really means is still not entirely clear to me. Perhaps this final paragraph of Zizek’s The Empty Wheelbarrow will illustrate the point:
Recall the old story about a worker suspected of stealing. Every evening, when he was leaving the factory, the wheelbarrow he was rolling in front of him was carefully inspected, but it was always empty – till, finally, the guards got the point: what the worker was stealing were the wheel-barrows themselves. This is the trick that those who claim today “But the world is none the less better off without Saddam!” try to pull on us: they forget to include in the account the effects of the very military intervention against Saddam. Yes, the world is better without Saddam – but it is not better with the military occupation of Iraq, with the rise of Islamist fundamentalism provoked by this very occupation. The guy who first got this point about the wheelbarrow was an arch-intellectual.
OK, I think the point is clear, except I’m not sure of the last sentence, i.e. what is an arch-intellectual?