On Being a Metaphorical “Bad Mother” — Işık Barış Fidaner

In these “corona years” (“corona days” and “corona months” have come and passed) when people cannot go out and physically engage with the “society” like they did in the old days, it would not be a stretch to call the social media a metaphorical “meta-breast” that assembles several metaphorical “breasts” into a single stream: It is a portal that opens to the websites that are today’s main information sources.

Despite the abundant (or redundant) uselessness of the present content of social media and Slavoj Žižek’s well-known political aversion against social media in general, these websites remain to be today’s main interactive means for knowledge generation. Even if the “subjects supposed to know” do not function as it did once traditionally, there are many “subjects supposed to post substantial stuff” on the Internet. And one of these metaphorical “breasts” accessible on the Internet is the Žižekian Analysis website. So that’s why you should understand that I feel myself a bit like a metaphorical “mother”.

This is the 116th text that I’ve written and published since I launched Žižekian Analysis in 2018 (I also published many texts by other writers). Given that Slavoj Žižek read several of my texts and called them “a necklace of most precious pearls”, this abundance is a good sign. This makes me a metaphorical “good mother” who offers a constant flow of substantial content for free. Admittedly, only a teeny-tiny fraction of the world’s English-speaking population is aware of this flow and is willing and able to appreciate its power to help generate knowledge. Note that I’m careful not to substantialize knowledge into a given material (“data” or “données”) to be transported: Every person generates their own particular knowledge-at-work (savoir-faire, know-how) by mastering their own use of signifiers (and play of jouissance) by engaging with the others and Others [1].

But there is an issue with maintaining the role of the “good mother”: There is a certain cost for sustaining this constant flow of free content. Let’s use another metaphor and say that the writer needs to have a certain amount of “coffee” in order to be able to continue thinking and writing these texts [2]. Since this writer doesn’t need luxury consumption, he can be contented with plain coffee. But due to the social existence of desire, one cannot merely call it “plain coffee”, it has to be “coffee-without-something”. This brings us to the vital crossroads: Will it be coffee-without-milk or coffee-without-cream? What shall be sacrificed for the coffee: milk or cream? In other words, how should the political-economic context of this production-consumption be framed? The issue of costs is really the issue of framing the context with a political-economic model. In other words, it’s an issue of “institution”.

To help with this issue, I initiated a new practice for my own texts in the last days of 2020: I posted the first paragraphs of my unpublished texts and offered Early Access for a little “coffee”. A few people took this offer and supported this practice. But a few other people reacted against it and attempted to prohibit this practice on social media.

Even though every text was still eventually being published on the website, I was now witholding the metaphorical “breast” even if temporarily, which made me a metaphorical “bad mother”. My practice of sharing the “excerpt” of the first paragraphs was arousing a little curiosity and then temporarily frustrating it. Most of the curious readers were content to show some patience and wait for the text’s actual publication whereas a few people got really pissed off with the metaphorical “bad mother” that I have become and demanded immediate gratification. They demanded to always suck the whole “breast” for free. They only adhered to the pleasure principle of immediately eliminating all libidinal tension and unpleasure; and they eschewed the reality principle of sacrificing a little libido for a greater outcome.

I wasn’t too surprised to see this reaction because I am quite familiar with this behavior on the Internet. Usually such demands for free and public content target the unjustified copyright profits that the middlemen like giant academic publishers make at the expense of the real authors. I know this because I am the one who translated Aaron Swartz’s “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto” into Turkish. But in the case of Žižekian Analysis such a justification doesn’t work because most of the “coffee” goes to the real author.

To give some political-economic context, let me mention some facts:

1) I sometimes do translation from English into Turkish but the publishers demand cheap translations. I recently translated an entire book for a few hundred dollars. Most book publishers in Turkey refuse to pay royalties (a small percentage of the sales) to the translators even though translators are legally authors of their work. This means that the translators only have immaterial rights. No “coffee” for the translators.

2) The university where I did my studies was recently taken over by the new rector appointed personally by the president who had nationally abolished the rector elections in Turkish universities 5 years ago. This means that “academic coffee” is under personal and private control and it cannot support the “public use of reason”.

I understand that my practice of offering Early Access arouses a little curiosity and frustrates it temporarily, but the annoyed readers should understand that the forbiddance of this practice on social media will just worsen the intellectual climate which is already not great. They should instead learn to be patient and endure the little frustration that they may experience. They should switch their “paranoid-schizoid position” (Melanie Klein) into the “depressive position” by understanding that the “good mother” and the “bad mother” are one and the same person.

Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


[1] See “Knowledge-at-work is an Effort with Real Engagement”, “The Dialectic of Castration and Jouissance”

[2] See “Sacrifice for Dead Presidents”, “Erosion by Drive (Repetition) and Erosion by Desire (Renewal)”

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