Humans have a natural desire to be validated – and to be valid, by definition, means to be right (not right politically, but correct). I would also equate this validation with a desire for meaning – to be seen by others as being worthy of attention and existence. Some folks seek meaning through external validation from friends, family, acquaintances, or the public in general. Some simply don’t need external sources to validate their existence or give it meaning – they are secure in themselves enough that they don’t seek or need any sort of familial or public endorsement to know their life has meaning, that they matter.
In my opinion, today’s climate of societal, cultural, and political toxicity has been brought about, not by individual quests for meaning or validation, but rather the desire of individuals that others be forced to accept their idea of meaning. It’s like we are mandatorily subjected to a perpetual parade of Stuart Smalley clones, endlessly chanting the mantra of “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me!”
The fallacy in this proposition is that an individual cannot be forced to accept a validation through coercion. Governments can restrict the ability of any individual to speak about a thing, they can legislate to prevent actions regarding opposition to certain ideas – both of which are examples of totalitarian and tyrannical regimes, but no action of government can control the thoughts inside the mind of an individual. Any coerced meaning or validation is false.
This is the problem I have with our postmodern, post-truth culture. One of the features (or bug) is a concept called deconstructionism.
As originally contemplated by its creator, the French philosopher Jacque Derrida, “deconstruction” was a linguistic tool that attempted to derive meaning through understanding the use of language and the meaning of words – but in my perspective, it is evolved into an ideology all of its own. Deconstructionism is now a challenge to the attempt to establish any ultimate or secure meaning in a text. Basing itself in language analysis, it seeks to “deconstruct” the ideological biases (gender, racial, economic, political, cultural) and traditional assumptions that infect all histories, as well as philosophical and religious “truths.” Deconstructionism is based on the premise that much of human history, in trying to understand, and then define, reality has led to various forms of domination – of nature, of people of color, of the poor, of homosexuals, etc. Like postmodernism, deconstructionism finds concrete experience more valid than abstract ideas and, therefore, refutes any attempts to produce a history, or a truth.
In my understanding of Derrida’s form of deconstruction, it was to be based on understanding the immediate context, i.e. the reality of the moment in which the language was used; however, the ideology of deconstructionism is somewhat more flexible, seemingly based on what Humpty Dumpty said to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s classic “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”:
The contemptuous Humpty Dumpty, sitting up on his wall, said to Alice, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—nothing more, nothing less.”
Somewhat perplexed by this, Alice said, “The question is whether you can make words mean different things.”
“The question is,” barked Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
Folks create an illusion of meaning where there is none as a defense mechanism against reality. When the search for individual meaning and ideological deconstructionism combine, it creates an environment where people try to reconcile the irreconcilable. This being an impossibility, the deconstructionist ideologue will change the meaning of words, language – and ultimately objective truth – to fit the square peg of their definition of meaning into the round hole of reality, driving the peg home with a hammer constructed of government coercion.…and in doing so, create an alternative and false reality.
Government can require me to treat a man who thinks he is a woman as a woman. It can force me to speak to him that way. It can cause me to suffer punishment if I do not act in public as if I believe – but it cannot change the fact the man is biologically a male, nor can it prevent my recognition of such a biological reality.
I am reminded of this Daniel J. Boorstin quote from his 1962 book, “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America”:
“We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so ‘realistic’ that they can live in them. We are the most illusioned people on earth. Yet we dare not become disillusioned, because our illusions are the very house in which we live; they are our news, our heroes, our adventure, our forms of art, our very experience.”
So much energy is now wasted in the maintenance of illusion that this maintenance has become the primary task and goal of society rather than the true quest for meaning and truth. That such a society engaged in such prestidigitation and suspension of disbelief can ever truly progress is the real illusion.