Heidegger, Derrida, and a Guyanese pretender
In one of the great philosophical books ever written since the ancient Greeks attempted to understand and explain the meaning of human existence, “Being and Time,” the early 20th century German thinker, Martin Heidegger wrote; “The life of actual language consists in multiplicity of meanings. To relegate the animated, vigorous word to the immobility of a univocal, mechanistically programmed sequences of signs would mean the death of language and the petrifaction and devastation of Dasein.” (Dasein is a philosophical concept that cannot be expressed in one word in the English language, the closest is “Being”)
What Heidegger meant is that a word does not have a single determinate meaning or connotation. It’s meaning rests and is subjected to variation within the world in which it is used by people. To put it another way a word does not have an “a priori” existence or inherent substance independent of the world and of entities with whom the word interacts. As one of the biographers of Heidegger puts it; “Words and their meanings are already world-laden,” (Michael Inwood, Heidegger. Oxford University Press: London, 2000)
From the fifties onwards, Heidegger’s “Being and Time” became the Bible of the great philosophical thinkers specializing in ontological studies. In the seventies, the brilliant French philosopher, Jacques Derrida developed Heidegger’s pronouncements on language into the philosophical methodology of “Deconstruction.”
There need not be any prolonged explanation of what deconstruction means. In simple language it is the stripping of a word, or poem or text to decode its alternative epistemological foundations.
The former Guyanese politician, Ravi Dev, has no use for Derrida. For him words have their congenital substance. So he disregards items and their slippery meanings like, for example, “hate,” “evil” etc and applies them lavishly as a baby playing with a brush and ink. Two weeks ago, Dev penned a column on me termed, “Keeping Hate Alive.” I replied to that. Dev is at it again.
Last week it was; “Purveyors of Hate.” But this time, the words of mine that germinate hate are cited. Dev identifies as an example the adoption of the term “evil” in my description of the exercise of power by the PPP.
Dev commits himself to the total acceptance of the traditional meaning of evil. Dev’s lamentation is that I have committed the sin of inciting “evil” by applying it to the PPP. The concept of “evil” was long deconstructed before Derrida achieved fame by Heidegger’s student who later became after WW2, a top 20th century philosopher herself, Hannah Arendt.
Dev’s understanding is that “evil” is situated within a meaning that has a basis in a certain mind-set where death is committed for the sake of satisfaction. Dev said that it was the use of the word evil that has led to so much destruction the past five hundred years to justify slavery and barbarism. There is the dishonest avoidance by Ravi Dev of the role the word “hate” has similarly played.
Dev can apply “hate” to describe my action but I cannot use “evil” to portray the PPP behaviour.
I will resort to Arendt’s understanding of the term (see two of her works; “Origins of Totalitarianism” and “Eichmann: The Banality of Evil.” For Arendt, evil is the commission of a violent (using “violent” in the deconstructed sense) crime by a normal mind that is not evil in the traditional sense of the word.
The evil mind according to Arendt is driven by an understanding of life based on indoctrination.
For Arendt, evil acts are likely to be committed when the exercise of power is driven by fear of those you feel are likely to take it away from you. Evil acts are committed because you want to remove those whom you are indoctrinated to see as enemies. Evil in this sense then takes on a Machiavellian dimension in which Machiavelli suggested to his Head of State that once power is possessed it must be used in cruel ways to stop your opponents.
In analyzing the use of power in Guyana, particularly under Mr. Jagdeo, I have used evil in the deconstructed sense and I think that term is a plausible description for the existence of bad governance in Guyana. I make no apologies for employing it and will continue to apply it to the type of governance I see in places like Guyana, Russia etc.
For Dev “evil” is a bad word, very bad. But this same Dev sees nothing wrong in applying the label “advocate of hate” to me and others. Isn’t “hate” an evil word? The word that best describe the hateful mission of Dev is “pretender” to knowledge.