Reminiscing on Revolutionary Guilt: Two Situations

Situation 1. It occurred to me that a certain person whom I cared about dearly has long been annoyed by telephone conversations with me. Of course, it was a shared sentiment. After many years of trying to find a solution to this problem (without inflicting unnecessary guilt upon this particular person for inevitably having to force them to ignore my telephone calls by never returning them) I decided that the best solution was to take the guilt upon myself. Surely, I thought to myself, the guilt that I would entertain would be far less than the guilt that she would entertain because it was her responsibility to keep in touch with me. It was a sort of implicit obligation that follows tradition. Perhaps, then, the best option for me was to simply stop calling her. This would permit her to blame me for not calling her in the first place. If I didn’t call her, then she had no reason to return my call. I thereby relieved her of the guilt and wholeheartedly accepted the blame for our lack of communication.

Situation 2. I  happened to have breakfast with Slavoj Zizek not so long ago. Naturally, Slavoj did most of the talking and I for the most part kept quiet. I had a coffee in front of me and on the table top. Slavoj was eating an egg. From time to time pieces of the egg flew out of his mouth, attached to his spittle. This much was inevitable: a rather large piece was projected from his mouth and into my coffee. I assessed the situation and happened to notice that he also noticed the occurrence. The moment of our shared hesitation was just long enough for me to realize that he did not intend to acknowledge what just occurred. However, in all of his commotion I doubted that he in fact noticed that I noticed. At this point it became obvious to me that the path of least guilt necessarily involved drinking and swallowing the piece of food. Immediately, this thought disgusted me; not especially because of the spittle but more precisely because of the egg. In any case, I drank and swallowed the egg and held back a gag. As I grabbed the drink I caught a look in Slavoj’s eye which indicated to me that he knew what I was about to do. What I wish I would have done was to have placed the drink back on the table so that he could think to himself: my gawt, what a weak individual this is – he gave up drinking it to save face.

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