Monday, June 27, 2011
The Business of Deconstruction
It is a philosophical theory of criticism (usually of literature or film) that seeks to expose deep-seated contradictions in a work by delving below its surface meaning. It is also a term French philosopher Jacques Derrida used to adapt Martin Heidegger's concept of Destruktion. Heidegger sought to tear back tradition and accepted reality in order to expose their "primordial sources." Derrida worked for the deconstruction of classics of philosophy and the "socio-historical totality" of our civilization, and for the deconstruction of texts of the most modern social sciences (linguistics, anthropology, psychoanalysis), and even contemporary texts alleged to be scientific. It can also be used in the context of physical construction, deconstruction is the selective dismantlement of building components, specifically for re-use, recycling, and waste management.
For all that, I would simply say that deconstruction attempts to break something down into its component parts, to determine the validity of those parts, and to suggest a changed reality on the basis of that examination of the component parts and an evaluation of their authenticity. That said, it is impossible to actually deconstruct anything other than a building or other physical creation and know for certainty its component parts and exactly how and why it came together. This is a judgement and not a scientific assessment. It is also not devoid of the prejudice of modern ideas -- not in the least of which is that the end result is a butchered reality or distortion of the promise offered by the primordial or component parts.
So we take marriage and deconstruct it to the point where the only component parts are two people who choose to be married. What we end up with is a matter of personal choice and definition and the simple request for justice so that all people may have access to this choice. And that is where we have left it in our pursuit of gay marriage. Procreation, sex, and even love have been looked at and tossed out as essential component parts (even seen as imposed upon marriage) and the only thing left is choice. Boy, do we like choice.
Now some get all bent out of shape on this but we have been doing this with the things of God since the sweet that turned bitter taste of forbidden fruit. It is the natural sinful process to take what God has given, tear it down, discard the component parts we do not like, and reconstruct it to be what we deem it to be. But we have also been doing this in a host of other arenas. History has been remade as well (don't believe me? take a look at the history texts used in your local school system or college history classes). Liturgiologists (is that a word?) have also been doing it for years (don't forget Dom Gregory Dix and the four fold shape of the Eucharist). Why, we have even been reinventing the food pyramid, wheel, plate, etc... to the point that nobody knows what we should eat. It is all deconstruction.
The problem with deconstruction is that when we are left with only the parts, we also leave it to others or to the moment to reconstruct those parts into something (and therefore leave it to another day to be deconstructed over again). The end result of this is that our social institutions and values have broken down, we are even more fragmented as a people, and even more disappointed in what we have and our future. Far from offering us stability or hope, the result of deconstruction is that we have been left divided, bitter, and captive to the prevailing wind of the moment. We have no common morality or values to bind our diverse people together and we have no common vision of what the present or the future should be.
You would think that since deconstruction has borne such terrible fruit we might abandon it. But alas, we cannot. We have bought into it with everything we have. Our whole identity is based upon it. We cannot look into the mirror without deconstructing what we see. We cannot read the Bible without deconstructing its words. We cannot trust the media without deconstructing it into its sources. We cannot look at Washington without deconstructing people and their positions. We cannot look at marriage and family without deconstructing it and separating procreation, sex, love, and commitment from choice. We should not be surprised. The very hope and freedom we wanted in the Garden has eluded us from the moment we exercised choice and we have been redefining and reworking things ever since in a vain attempt to deconstruct what led to our undoing...