“So that to give a commentary on the text, such as we are attempting here, is to reinforce the illusion that a present meaning exists–that a text can be presented.”
—James N. Powell on Deconstruction
The Progressive age of politics began in the 1880s, and continues today. At it’s core, it is the rejection of the core principles, merit, and political philosophy of America’s founding and by extension, the repudiation of Judeo-Christian values of the Western world. It binds itself to the goal of humanity’s maximum potential through government guidance. Individualism is dismissed because it can’t be trusted.
Aristotle, one of the forefather’s of progressive thought, believed the individual parts of society were subordinate to the whole. As such, progressives hold to statism, and because individuals seek their own comforts, any true form of a progressive philosophy leads to totalitarianism. Progressive intellectuals believe to attain the perfect society, the philosophies which created Western culture must be discarded.
This is why leftists who hold to these views bother little with history, tradition, doctrine and ethics. Their interest is in a future which has never been seen, only dreamed. They bend the past, inoculate the present, and are slaves to something that will never be. A humanist utopia whose sum is greater than it’s individual parts. Any failure of their plans along the way are forgiven, believing individuals and their disparate motivations are the poison in the pond.
Progressives have used various tools to defuse individual hopes, goals, desires, even thoughts. One of these is language. But to use it, they must hone it to their image. That is, with no historical meaning tethering them to a past which must be supplanted. They are then free to redefine and reconstruct. Their goal is to make language amorphous, adaptable, alienating.
The most effective tool in their language toolbox is Jacques Derrida, French philosopher and sociologist. He is the father of two of the most damaging theories to Western thought in the second half of the 20th century, Deconstruction and Post Modernism. Both have had a damaging effect on written language and how we view ourselves and the world. Both have weaponized those who want to unmoor a concrete society.
Deconstruction is the reducing of the written word to incomprehensibility. Derrida posited that the perceived meaning of prose is impossible to understand due to structural ambiguities. A written passage may be meaningless even to it’s author because of the tension between words, the ‘violent opposition’ one must search for in texts. Individual words have no definitive meaning outside of other words, and even then, fluid.
It is a form of collectivism with words. It’s aim is rooting out and negating the ‘injustices’ of the text, where privilege over one thing causes a detriment to another. Though the theory uses many technical words and phrases, boiled to it’s core, Deconstruction allows the reader to be the final arbiter of each ‘injustice.’
In an attempt to describe the logic of Deconstruction, Joseph Virgil used a tree as an object lesson.
“Think of a tree. We like to think a tree is an easily defined object. But think of defining the word ‘tree’ to aliens who had very little knowledge on objects on Earth. How would you describe it? The words ‘leaves,’ ‘branches,’ and ‘roots’ mean nothing to them.
It would be easier to point to other objects and describe the differences between them and a tree. In other words, it’s much easier to describe something by saying what it’s not.” (http://study.com/academy/lesson/deconstructionism-in-literature-definition-examples-quiz.html)
The problem with this example is that aliens should not be our focus. People of earth should be. No matter the language, culture, or geographic location, all people are familiar with the objects and concepts of Earth because we are bound to it. Differences in the degree of focus we place on these concepts completely differs from a redefinition of them, as Deconstruction attempts to do.
Additionally, in describing something by objects or concepts it is not specifically un-defines all language. Words exist as no more than shades of color left to the viewer’s determination.
Though not initially accepted within academia, Deconstruction courses in universities became widespread by the 1980s. Before that time, it slowly began to influence scholars. First, in literary criticism, then other fields. Science, law, politics and history have felt the numb grip of Deconstruction. The critical central facet of the theory is that meaning lies with the reader, not the writer.
It’s no coincidence this acceptance and teaching of Deconstruction happened about the same time progressives and conservatives began talking past each other. There are websites which track words and phrases which have opposite meanings, depending on the political philosophy or worldview you prescribe to.
“Postmodernity means the exhilarating freedom to pursue anything, yet mind-boggling uncertainty as to what is worth pursuing and in the name of what
one should pursue it.”
Postmodernism flies far above the restraints of Deconstruction and includes every element of a worldview. It’s heartbeat is skepticism to every ideology through it’s core denial of objective truth. It believes all knowledge is socially constructed and interpretive. Feelings trump facts because facts are elusive, desires are more universal than logic, circumstance is reality.
No centralized hierarchy encapsulates the postmodernist view. Theoretically, there are an infinite number of hierarchies, all subjective, fluid, and capricious. It’s defining characteristic is ‘situatedness,’ defining identity by sociohistorical, cultural, and economic means.
It’s effects on society are almost exclusively emotional. Because everything is proportional, individuals hold to their unique natures as if they are autonomous. The only reality which matters is the one felt by the individual. There is no overarching point or narrative to the world, only experience. Illogic, Irrationality, and unreason are as viable as logic, rationality, and reason.
This creates an associative relativism with and of everything. Being a philosophy, it’s religious nature designates heretics as those who define reality in traditional terms. Words and actions have no discernible value, as all are equal. This creates a dichotomy of being, which illuminates the main problem of postmodernism.
It creates a, ‘two ships passing in the night’ relationship with the entire world. Neither ship associates, helps, or allows itself to be helped by the other. Each is completely self-possessed and unbreachable. At it’s core, postmodernism is language based and emotionally fueled. It seeks self in everything it interacts with, but doing so creates a tension which elicits unrestrained emotional reactions.
Michalinos Zembylas in discussing the increasing use of emotion in the current postmodern form of education says,
“…a culture of emotions includes both an expression of emotions and the attitudes about emotions.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cultural_Politics_of_Emotion)
He believes ‘new forms of educational spaces’ are required to deal with the challenges of an increasingly emotional postmodern culture. We have watched this play out throughout many American colleges and universities. Zembylas finds this useful for political purposes as ‘emotional capital.’
Not only does this turn education on it’s ear, it is a dangerous philosophy to pursue. If nothing is true but subjective values, the road can only end in totalitarianism. Because controlling a widely divided culture requires restrictions on speech, symbols, and ideas. This control uses language as it’s medium known as speech codes, and has been used in Marxist cultures since the Russian Revolution of 1917.
Political correctness is the societal form of speech codes, using shame and ostracism as a means of enforcement. It is primarily cultural Marxism and used to varying degrees, depending on the coercion of the dominant influencers in a society. It has been used throughout Europe for many years now, and has had increasing negative effects in the United States. It can range from a low form of restricting elements of vocabulary to actual laws which limit freedoms of expression, dress, and assembly.
Because we don’t live in a “I’m okay, you’re okay” world, postmodernism doesn’t work on any level. Our tribalism and need for association will always demand a controlling party. And, though postmodernism theoretically starts with individuals, it exerts itself through groups. Individuality dies destructively and violently on the sacrificial altar of secular humanism. When individualism disappears, freedoms are lost and our world will go dark.