A kind of litmus test is – this always works on all my friends – “How do you stand toward Fight Club, the movie?” All the liberals claim, “Ah, it’s proto-fascist, violent, blah, blah, blah.” No, I am for it. I think the message of Fight Club is not so much liberating violence but that liberation hurts. What may falsely appear as my celebration of violence, I think, is a much more tragic awareness. If there is a great lesson of the 20th-century history, it’s the lesson of psychoanalysis: The lesson of totalitarian subordination is not “renounce, suffer,” but this subordination offers you a kind of perverted excess of enjoyment and pleasure. To get rid of that enjoyment is painful. Liberation hurts.
In the first act of liberation, as I develop it already in The Fragile Absolute, where I provide lots of violent examples – from Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects, who kills his family (which I’ll admit, got me into lots of trouble) to a more correct example, Toni Morrison’s Beloved. But, of course, now, I’m not saying what Elizabeth Wright, who edited a reader about me, thought. I love her, an English old lady. I had tea with her once, and she said, “I liked your book, The Fragile Absolute, but something bothered me. Do I really have to kill my son to be ethical?” I love this total naïveté. Of course not! My point was to address the problem of totalitarian control. The problem is: how does a totalitarian power keep you in check? Precisely by offering you some perverse enjoyment, and you have to renounce that, and it hurts. So, I don’t mean physical violence, or a kind of fetishization of violence. I just mean simply that liberation hurts. What I don’t buy from liberals is this idea of, as Robespierre would have put it, “revolution without revolution,” the idea that somehow, everything will change, but nobody will be really hurt. No, sorry, it hurts.