Thursday, August 14, 2008

Secret Sun B-Side: Deconstruction

The Deconstructionists- people like Foucault and Derrida- gained notoriety in the late 80's and early 90's with the rise of post-structuralism in literary theory. This was seized upon by proponents of multiculturalism as a weapon to unseat the dreaded "Dead White Male" from his place in the ivory tower. I think that Derrida in particular was being misused, but I also think the primary motivation behind all of the controversies was to realign the university system in ways more to the liking of some of the larger foundations.

The reality of it is that many of these radical trends on college campuses actually harmed multiculturalism (surprise, surprise) with the ensuing backlash (the anti-affirmative action legislation can be tied to these controversies) and diminished the prestige and power of the liberal arts programs. The most extreme example of this is Antioch College, where every radical trend dreamed up by foundation warlocks ran amok. If you haven't heard, this once esteemed college, boasting alumni like Steven Jay Gould and Corretta Scott King, closed its doors last month.

But the more I think about what the Deconstructionists said, the more I reluctantly agree with them. Many, many people are no longer interested in facts, unless they bolster their predjudices. Science has become so arcane it's impossible for most of us to understand. The internet now allows people to atomize, and gives people the ability to say whatever they please anonymously. I'm an old fashioned idealist, raised on the afterglow of the New Deal, and it's hard for me to accept these trends.

But I think what open-minded people are doing and what they need to continue doing is what might seem counterintuitive -- organize, socialize, and publicize. We are getting lost in a data fog, and the promise of the Internet is being squandered. Anyone can call themselves anything and say anything and a real exchange of ideas is getting lost. Established fact can be tossed aside at will. You see the debates on political talk shows- no one talks to each other, none of these people are interested in learning or changing their minds. Everything today is politicized and this process is viral, seeping down into day to day conversation.

I've always believed there are other options than the dichotomies that the government, the media, and the religious and academic institutions are constantly forcing down our throats. Underneath it all, that is ultimately what I am trying to explore here. We can understand ourselves by looking at these stories we tell each other and we don't have to look at them the way we are told to by the establishment media or by Academia.