I’m taking a break at the moment, to do some mental garbage collection and a bit of a flush. As an exercise, because I was just reading about Baby Boomers and Millennials, let’s take the ideas, tossed about during the recent political campaign, that America isn’t what it used to be, that there are “types” of America, that there’s a “real” America, and so forth.
Immediately as I type this, I succumb to the imposing theoreticals of deconstructionism. Echoing rather brutally in my mind are questions, allegations and half-formed sentences like, “But really, was America ever America? Isn’t America just an ideological model that has persisted but yet never truly existed in the form the model represents…” or, “Which America would we be speaking of? Is it the America of established white male privilege, is it the America of the young neo-capitalist, is it the America of the African-American community circa 1964, or is it …” and things like that. At this point I close my eyes tightly, rub my temples, and sigh heavily.
On the other hand, my current school project has me reading a debate involving a Christian fundamentalist (all the way down to six literal days of creation and an earth that is no more than about 8,000 years old), who can’t write for very long before slinging some epitaph at “postmodernists” without ever saying what he thinks a “postmodernist” is, and knows only that every single word of the Bible is literal truth and can be interpreted (by the proper faithful person like, well, him) without error. He likes to consider himself and a fairly small group of others as contemporary Noah’s, with only a few saved from the flood while everyone else on Earth “bubbles” their way into an Eternity of torment. Again, I close my eyes tightly, rub my temples, and sigh heavily.
In the midst of the usual end-of-semester mini-panic and micro-depression, I find myself thinking critical theory and deconstruction are being pushed to the point of absurdity, and concurrently musing that people who know nothing about them yet complacently condemn them are sad, ignorant little people who… well, whatever. I get irritated all around, standing right in the middle. (And by the way, it’s the complacency and smugness, not the ignorance, that bothers me.)
Life is dynamic from day to day, and as sure as the sun n the sky, it is dynamic across decades and millennia. Life is lived by us largely based upon things which have no absolute basis in fact and are, simply, social constructions we accept as Ultimate Reality. I agree with this totally, and yes I am stupefied by those who think otherwise. But, I am frustrated and confused by those who go to extreme lengths of argument to demonstrate this while leaving little as far as pieces to put together into something… human. (And, again, I am plagued by half-formed sentences concerning the meaning of the word “human.”)
What presently intrigues me about deconstruction and critical theory is that the latter is based in the former and uses its ideas, ostensibly, to better the lives of the marginalized by changing institutions. The grand question is: why?
This is a grand question for two main reasons: One, the irony that left to run amok, deconstruction itself will remove all possible motives for a why; and two, any motivation for bettering the lives of the marginalized is born of a motivation originating long, long, long ago—it’s not like critical theory in terms of feeling compelled to solve institutional ills is postmodern in this sense. It’s pre-modern, ancient, actually, and it is at this thought that I’d like to make my point for today. I began this post, inside my head, with a question of whether there are any long-standing, decidedly human, truths that exist across the millennia. Is there something that doesn’t change? Is it all dynamic or is there something at the core of us that is relatively static? (AGAIN, I’m fighting half-formed sentences; now about meta-narratives and their seeming but not actual stasis being due to their relative longevity in human history…) So what I’m wondering is this: why do critical theorists not more often come to question the motive behind their work? Why do they not more often deconstruct that? Are there, perchance, any implicit assumptions that to “better” the lives of the marginalized is unquestionably, absolutely, forever and always right and proper? If so, from whence do such assumptions originate?
For now I’m clinging to whatever it is that might form the basis of those assumptions. (And by the way, I find the pure biological model to come up wanting…)