On Santa Claus, crimes, and religions
Zizek, in a nutshell: And so on and so on.
One of Slavoj Zizek’s fascinating inputs is the Santa Claus narrative, especially when he injects his strong what-ifs in it. Simply, a father tells his children that Santa Claus gives gifts to good children every Christmas season and dismisses the naughty kids. In the Philippines, the tradition goes where children pin socks at the door of their house right before bedtime so that when they wake up on Christmas day, the socks already have candies and coins inside them.
And here comes Zizek’s beautiful what-if: What if the father were to find out that his children were just pretending to believe that Santa Claus exists so that they will not offend their father? And that the pretension is just mutual and was just unspoken of — just firmly held and sustained so that the structure or the status quo is not destroyed?
In the same light, crimes, as we know, are indeed violations against peace and order outlined in the law. Crimes are divided fundamentally into two: those that are wrong in themselves or mala in se and those that are wrong because they are prohibited or mala prohibita. But before we even know that certain acts are wrong, we know within ourselves that they indeed are — not because they were told to us but because we just have an awareness that certain acts are indeed wrong and are punishable by law.
Here comes the lurking what-if: What if criminals — obviously the unruly ones — were just totally ignorant about the norms and conventions that most of us self-aware individuals maintain? What if all along they knew nothing about the acts that are inherently wrong and that we are just to find out that we were wrong to assume everybody does know the acts that are inherently wrong?
Religions are another case. Of course, Zizek maintains that nobody believes in the first-person standpoint. Following the Santa Claus story, the children believe not because the story is true but because their father believes, and likewise, the father believes because his children believe. Hence, the sustained status quo.
In the same light, what if members of the church are just the same? What if one churchgoer believes because another churchgoer does, and the latter believes because the former does? Hence, the reciprocation of belief that is not rooted in the first-person standpoint but on the reflected behavior that people model? Simply, “I believe because you do.”